July 22, 2014
They were putting hay in the barn when I got up to the Elm Lea Farm at the Putney School this morning.
A long frame elevator stretched from a flat bed hay wagon to tan opening in the barn twenty feet up. Second cut hay (rowan hay as the oldtimers say).
Sam Frank, one of the apprentices working with us, backed up the haul tank and set to work loading on 2,300 pounds of milk. Sam recently obtained his hauler/samplerlicense from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture. I am about to turn him loose to pick and sample milk on his own.
Rachel also passed her exam so there are three of us qualified to do this important job.
The extra help for this job, among many other changes, make this year of cheese production a far cry from last year when Rachel and I, with parttime help from sister Alex, did all of the work.
In addition to Sam, Vito Forte and Emily Aldrich are apprenticing. This provides Parish Hill Creamery with a work force of six available people. Rachel, Sam, and I are working fulltime. Vito works the front half of the week, Emily works the back, and Alex floats. We are able to operate the business with more precision and also allowenough time for Sam, Emily and Vito to learn the craft.
We are still catching up on sleep and restoring energy levels after going to the fifth annual Vermont Cheesemakers Festival two days ago. We had success at the fest! There were 110 vendors including us. The event was held at Shelburne Farms in the Carriage Barn and surrounding lawns at the edge of Lake Champlain. It was a beautiful summer day: breezy, sunny and warm. There were 1750 people in attendance, arriving at 10 am and staying until 4 pm. We had a table outside under the big tent between Grafton Village Cheese and an apiary.
The response to our cheese was very positive. It still amazes me that the West West Blue is going over so well, as it is one of the strongest Blues out there.
The quality is excellent. I guess I had no idea that there was a crowd that enjoys eating really strong Blue.
Our whole crew came up to the festival, including Gus, who has come every year since Rachel started running the show 4 years back.
Every year Gus volunteers, helping set up, getting vendors where they need to go, and generally helping things run smoothly. This time he also worked at our table for a while.
We took turns so that we could all go exploring. There are always some good eats and drinks. I enjoy visiting my cheesemaking friends and trying their cheese. There is always something new being made. After clean up Rachel, Gus, and I went up to the Inn for some time in the formal gardens with a drink. We sat on the wide stonewall surrounding the flower beds and felt the reward of a job well done.
After that we stopped at my brother Sam's house just a bit up the road for dinner with his family. Sam is the dairy farm manager at Shelburne Farms. He lives in a house overlooking the Inn and the lake with a great view of the Adirondack mountains to the west.
The Putney School cows are producing enough milk so that we are making a big vat of Humble and a small vat of a new cheese that we began working on last year, Little Blue. Last year's attempt turned out similarly to West West Blue so there will be a few tweaks to the recipe.
I am mentoring Elsie Gawler, a young farmer from North Branch Farm in Maine, who will begin making cheese commercially in 2015. She is staying at house and making cheese with us for a few days. Her program is sponsored by MOFGA. Elsie is a lovely young woman with ties to our area, her grandmother lives in Marlboro and a sister lives in Brattleboro.