Last week I spent an entire afternoon out east at a large farm selling off some dairy equipment. I wrote about the visit for Broadway+Thresher, an online magazine where I contribute some thoughts on starting a farm ever Wednesday. The result of that trip was my first, major purchase for the dairy and creamery, an idea that is nothing more than just that – an idea on paper. I have no space for this equipment and bought it without 100% certainty that it is just exactly right for my needs. Yet I found myself scribbling into my checkbook at the farm where 30 Jersey cows, masticating in unison, stared straight at me with vague interest. Back when we bought the land, I started talking about moving here and building a house years before our agreed upon start date. It was a concept I couldn’t lay to rest. Knowing for certain we wanted to be here, it seemed silly not to start the process immediately. I hoped that experience would teach me a lesson, something about virtuous patience, trepidation, thoughtfulness – but probably the biggest take-away from the entire hot, flaming mess was this: if you want it, do it. Sooner is better than later. Also, in the vein of the famous (infamous?) When Harry met Sally quote: I realize what I want to do with the rest of my life, so I want the rest of my life to start immediately. This is how I felt about living here. And now this is how I feel about the dairy.
I couldn’t kick the feeling if I tried (I haven’t tried).
So here we are. A deposit on a dusty milk tank that’s been unused for some time now. A table scattered with scribbled floor plans for a dairy, spread around a binder full of laws and regulations, recipes, stopped and started plans jotted onto half-crumpled paper, all balanced atop cheese science and goat health books. I am frantic as a college kid that never went to class and is suddenly faced with finals. I need to know everything, all at once, yesterday. Producing dairy from your own animals is equivalent to approximately two jobs (animal husbandry=1, dairy production=2), but adding cheese making to the mix is something entirely other, and I have yet to wrap my mind around all of the components necessary to pull this off – the precise scale that allows it to be a one-woman show initially.
Despite all the relative chaos, I am extremely lucky to have a cheese mentor and also an animal mentor, two separate people interested in the success of this tiny, entrepreneurial endeavor. It makes the whole ship-lost-at-sea feeling a little more bearable. They have both alternately cautioned and encouraged me. On Sunday, Fran (animal mentor) pointed to her large stainless sink system in her dairy, explained that it was the first thing she bought before the building was even started, “and the milk tank is your commitment equipment!” she said knowingly. And she’s right. For better or worse, here we go.