Updated: Oct 5
Hello! I'm Natasha, new to Flint Hill Farm as of mid-September. I'm here trying to develop useful skills related to my passions in food and social justice. I've worked with cows and goats for short periods before, but now I get a chance to learn everything that goes into cheesemaking and see if small-scale dairy production is what I want to do with my life. Hopefully, I will use what I learn at Flint Hill Farms to train others in farm skills and dairy production.
I'm incredibly happy to be here, and I'm most excited about learning cheesemaking! Other goals include: cow and goat care, creating baked goods for the farm store, and teaching bread or crafting classes,
Milking is the first and core farm routine I'm learning- which makes sense! Cheese starts with milk, after all.
After cleaning and disinfecting the cows' udders, we use milking machines (thankfully). We only milk by hand when we're finishing up each goat. So far, it feels like I need another arm to successfully manage all the tubing involved in setting up and attaching milking machines- Kathy and Alli make it look so easy! Once I have a good understanding of the milking, I feel like I will have my feet under me at Flint Hill. That, and adjusting to starting work at 6am are my first challenges!
I did my first work with cheese today! So far it seems that there are a number of farm tasks that take a lot of learning, checklists, and my full attention. Then there are farm tasks that are more simple-- straightforward chores that need to get done.
Cutting and weighing cheeses is one of the latter! I enjoy the process- it gives my brain a much-needed break amid all this learning! Plus, I can taste the cheeses-- BIG bonus!!
I also got to flavor some of our soft sheep cheese. Getting to be creative with flavors is one of my favorite things, so this was quite fun. Fellow intern Jay and I made a batch with blackberry, basil, and honey. So delicious!
I'm in my third week at Flint Hill now! I definitely feel like I've settled into a rhythm, now that I can successfully milk cows, goats, and sheep on my own :-) I'm getting to know the animals better too- the cows especially. Since we have only four adult cows right now -- Belle, Dotty, Trixie, and Valentine -- I'm learning their distinct personalities. Dotty is the sassiest, but a bit of a bully. Trixie is my favorite :-)
I've learned how to do some basic health checks on goats! We check them for anemia regularly by looking at their inner eyelids and comparing it to the FAMACHA score chart, and administering Iron shots as needed. We also take stool samples and observe them under the microscope to make sure our goats don't have worms or parasites. I was surprised by how technical and vet-like the animal care is.
I've also already made my first cheese!
I learned chevre first, the soft goat cheese that I love so much. Today we're making a goat Manchego, which is much more complicated. After pasteurizing and inoculating the milk (that's the term for adding the cultures!), and adding rennet to help the milk coagulate aka form curds, AND many specifically timed periods of waiting, it was time for me to cut up the big block of cheese that was slowly forming. Breaking the curd up like this allows for the whey to separate more easily. After this there are more periods where we will let the cheese sit, and then stir it, and let it sit again. Manchego is an all-day process.
October has already started- it's wild to think that this is already the 4th week of my 3- month internship! I've got a few fun projects in the works, and I've got to plan out my time so that I can get everything rolling. It's hard to set aside time for projects, special tasks, etc when there's literally always more farm tasks that need doing., Kathy calls it the "tyranny of the immediate."
First up is Fall Fest! Since we have so much outdoor space, we are uniquely able to offer fun
events this fall, as long as we make sure everyone is social distancing and surfaces are regularly sanitized. Alli and Lindsey and I are working to throw a fall event on the farm where families can come pet the animals, pick pumpkins, and do fun fall-themed games and crafts. It will be a lot of work to pull off, and we'll need a number of volunteers to support us, but we have some good plans in place and I think we can pull it off :-) Event planning has about a billion factors, and I think it will be really good experience to be one of the folks running this event start to finish! We're selling tickets here https://www.eventbrite.com/e/fall-fest-2020-tickets-123703866595 if any of my readers are interested!
Also!! I'm working on a business plan to sell my caramels in the farm store! For the last year or two I've spent much of December making Vanilla Bean Caramels and Cardamom Caramels for my friends and family. Now that I work on a farm, I can use fresh cream from our Jersey Cow milk! I'm so excited to see the difference that this key ingredient makes, and I hope that our customers will enjoy the option of a sweet treat when they visit.