Art, Stars, Sheep, and CHEESE?

A Hot July Day

The art and the star part of this journal is getting short shrift. I promise to make it up in the near future. You might want to just relax until the 11th. There are some annoying aspects flying around up there now and after the 11th we should have a much easier time of it!

The art thing – well, I have managed to set up my new, used, sewing machine. I haven’t managed to get the laundry sink installed yet and that’s a Shepherd job so I can’t EVEN know when it will happen. He’s not to chuffed that I spent money on 1) the sink and 2) fabric and dyes. He asked me today if I have everything I need NOW. See, I’ve been power shopping the month of January because it is my birthday MONTH and we had some extra cash.

I’m not sure what part of “I dye fabric.” he didn’t understand back in 2018. I have dyed fabric precisely once since I’ve been here (since the 26th of July 2018 ) and it was OUTSIDE because I do not want to make my kitchen look RATTY with dye stains all over the place. I am NOT NEAT. In fact, he bitches about me having spices and odd pieces of garlic on the countertops when I cook. Can you imagine his comments if turquoise blue dye was all over???????????????? I ask you. So, I must go into my absolute nagging stage because the closet that was supposed to take a week at most is still not finished and it’s been 7 months. I have to climb over carpeting that’s just laying in there. He doesn’t want to cut it because he thinks he will screw it up. I say screw it up is better than me tripping on loose carpet to get my damn clothes.

We’re in the middle of lambing at the moment. We have 6 babies from 3 ewes and only 7 ewes left to lamb. These girls look like – I can’t even describe it. A picture would be better.

The Moms

I’m not sure how you would describe these lovely girls. You can see, we take great care of our sheep ladies. We feed them a nice sweet feed supplement and they get all the grazing they can do. We have been letting them graze the whole 52 acres for the last two years. This year, I am going to keep my damn flowers because they are beautiful and I am sick of them landing in sheep bellies! They will have an electric fence put up on the south field which will keep them in the south and west acreage this summer.

We will hay our fields across the road this summer as well as the west field. We need quite a lot of hay but less than we needed this year. I figure we will have 20 babies plus the 11 breeders and two rams. We have two rams because I didn’t want to slaughter one more lamb. I just get sick of it. This is why:

These little people, okay sheep, are just too adorable for me to slaughter. I try not to think about it, although I know my husband’s whole point was lamb chops. He started this farm from less than scratch in 2017. This is a man who has traveled, lived abroad, had the happiest times of his life in a kibbutz in Israel, served in the Israeli Army and had his three lovely children while he was there. Then he comes back to New York, eventually goes to law school, practices for 12 years while putting his daughter through med school, the middle son through college and the baby through college and grad school. He has earned the life he wished he’d always had.

I feel so bad for him sometimes, although I try not to. His early years weren’t good, spent in foster care with his brother and sister. I haven’t met their brother, but I know from the two of them that happiness has been elusive for both of them. I came into his life in the third act, after we both were over 60. My life was good as a child, a middle-class WASP upbringing with no major traumas. That is, until I married at 26. THEN the trauma started and didn’t stop until two months after my husband and I were married. I endured 40 years of hell, but it’s over. I too, deserve the life I always wished I had.

When I think about this pandemic, which I seriously try to avoid, I imagine myself as a 40-something mother with two or three kids, who’s husband probably got laid off because of the shut down, and I try and figure out what we would have done. Not much. It is impossible to raise a family these days without pulling your hair out and crying yourself to sleep. What in God’s name is everyone supposed to do for money so they can 1) pay the mortgage 2) feed the kids 3) get medical treatment and 4) keep from blowing your brains out? No wonder the socialists have caught on! I’m sorry but watching Bezos and Zuckerberg try to figure out how to spend their money is ANNOYING WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE ANY. And the internet puts it all right in our face. When I was growing up, we had one TV station and a newspaper. That was it. No 24-hour news cycle, no internet, no personal computers, no cell phones, no flipping nothing. And you know what? Life was good then.

We both pinch ourselves every day. Not a day goes by that one or the other of us doesn’t say how glad we are to be here, in this place, on this farm, in the northern part of Maine where the lower 48 doesn’t bother us at all. Unless they come for a vacation and thankfully most of them stay Down East, not here. Even a short visit from city folk gets us hyper. It’s so nice when they come but better when they leave.

And we’re older. We get paid to do nothing. We sell lamb through an online farmer’s market. And that’s where the cheese began.

The head of our Farm Drop here in Houlton has cows, chickens, blueberries, raspberries, eggs, etc. She was throwing out milk because she just couldn’t use it all and she has 7 children! You can imagine how much milk they use, right? Well, she mentioned that to The Shepherd and he was all over getting the milk, cream and yogurt she had for enough lamb to feed 9 people. So ………….. I get to make cheese.

You see, The Shepherd always thinks about making money. This is good because I never think about making money. I gave up money for time when I was 35 years old, some 34 years ago. I decided that I would much rather do without things than knock myself out working for lawyers who thought their shit didn’t stink. And the lawyers were only half the problem – the other, larger and more obnoxious half, was the women who worked for the lawyers. I went to university with the express purpose of going to law school, only to decide about 6 months before I graduated, that I would rather “pick shit with the chickens” as my lovely mother would say. I did not go to law school. I grabbed a deck of Tarot cards and started reading people. LOL, not at all like law school. I made more money than a baby attorney made! They didn’t pull in $60 bucks an hour!

My shepherd has great ideas. The sheep were a great idea, although now he would just as soon have 2 sheep and lamb chops for us and give it a rest. They are a huge responsibility because they always need attention. He has to feed and water them every day and check on them from time to time. Plus, we have to load them into a livestock hauler and take them to a butcher. Neither one of us are happy about that. We spend 8 months to a year with these babies, get to know their personalities and it is not a fun thing to kill them. In fact, that’s the number one reason he’s looking at bee keeping. You don’t have to take bees to the slaughterhouse.

I’ve never made cheese before. I do know my way around a self-sufficient kitchen. I’ve canned about everything you can think of and I make as much from scratch as I can. I haven’t bought a cake mix in 45 years. I have a great book called Stocking Up which is over 600 pages long and has methods of preserving everything you can think of and some you can’t. There is a chapter on butter and cheese making and I figure, what the heck. Now The Shepherd wants to take the cheese to the farmer’s market this summer, along with our lamb and whatever else we produce. That’s good, but I did let him know that I don’t want to be doing this 7 days a week. He was quizzing me on how much milk we would need a week in order to make cheese. Duh. What I have I will make but I’m not putting in a standing order for 50 gallons of milk a week!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have to remind him that, besides breakfast, lunch and dinner, making the bed, doing the laundry and running errands, I also knit, need to quilt a top that still needs to be put down, dye fabrics for my quilts, make clothes, dolls and I need time to read too. So see, me making cheese as a major dairy production isn’t going to happen. He said he would help. Well, the only help I need is for him to get my laundry sink installed, my closet finished, the seedling house finished, the greenhouse built, etc. See what I mean? The guy has plenty to keep him busy and he’s getting excited about CHEESE. He wanted to make sheep cheese, however, the sheep are NOT COOPERATIVE. You can barely get near them, they are so skittish and they will only voluntarily come up to you 1) if they know who you are and 2) if you make no sudden moves. These guys and girls know the final move is to visit some guy with a taser who’s going to cut them up!

My first ever batch of cheese is making curds in the kitchen. Can you hear it???? No? Me either. Jen

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