I wrote a long post this afternoon. It included an explanation of the quadrants of my brain which, if you were wondering, is divided evenly between the following:
2. Doing Things
4. Watching Friday Night Lights
The fourth and final quadrant is embarrassing, but I’m nothing if not honest here. In this long post I explained that my Emotion brain quadrant was hibernating for the late winter, maybe into early spring. It had a rough time, kids – give it a break. The Doing Things quadrant was moving at a rate equivalent to running under water. There was no point in bothering it with trivial tasks. Which leaves the final two quadrants, kicked into overdrive and whizzing along at double speed.
Anyway, the post disappeared. I hit save and then “poof” it went into oblivion, floated through the interwebs, gone to some better place. Probably it was divine intervention that the post – the first from me in a month – not be the one I present here as a re-introduction into our crazy-town farm world. Late winter was cold and rough to us out here at Bee Tree Farm where our efforts emerge like modest buds on a tree. There is so much stirring within the tightly bundled little leaves. Give it time, give it time. A little sun and water, hopes and prayers. There’s much to come.
For now, I’ve recently overcome a devastating bout of cheese failures; an extravagant concern on the face of things but a terrible blow for someone who re-lives every cold morning of bottle-feeding, shots administered, tears shed, babies birthed, hooves in the milk pail, each time she goes to start another batch of cheese. Every drop of my goat milk is hard won, precious, precious, spectacular stuff. After a month of beautiful cheese, the milk changed, and I lost my bearings. Cheesemaking is some ancient alchemy I will never completely decipher. It’s influenced by the animal’s diet, tempered by her stage of lactation, riddled with her natural pH, her basal temperature, and (I think) temperament. It feels like sorcery at this point to procure anything consistent from raw milk which is, by definition, inconsistent. Gallons of milk has been wasted in my novice attempts to diagnose the changes, and it wasn’t until last night that my limited research yielded some (FINALLY) positive outcomes, the results of which are now brining away in the fridge. How did I suddenly figure it out? Who knows. It probably has to do with the full moon or some other witchcraft that will never, ever make sense to me. Regardless, I’m forging ahead. I’m all in – or – in too deep. I sighed for weeks over spongey, useless curd and watched the little goat herd jump and graze out the kitchen window. What are you doing? I thought this, repeatedly. Then I ate some homemade yogurt and the world was right again.
Starting out, back when I perched on the back porch in the Austin house, spending time with pet, backyard chickens, I read stories written by people who’d gone “back to the land” – written years after they went back out. The beginning parts of their stories were always cast in an adorably rosy hue, with “aw shucks” sorts of realizations. Whatever they were figuring out got figured out fast; stories were wrapped up in cute little morals. It was darling but probably recalled by the authors from a distance that healed the rawness out of things. The reality of beginnings is more painful. Out here, it’s the willingness to fail repeatedly that propels you forward but, no matter how I tell the story, beginnings stink – they just do, usually.
I’ve learned a lot about dairy this month only because the milk changed and the cheese failed. We’ve poured countless hours of sweat equity into these animals; the return on investment being something intangibly valuable – something far greater than homemade dairy. What is it, exactly? I’ll let you know as soon as I can articulate the concept. The point is that I want it – badly. Enough to withstand the gut punch of curdled milk – useless, wasted, beautiful milk. Last night I talked to the cheese, I stirred with reverence, I tiptoed around the sacred steel pot while the rennet battled culture.
I tried again.
Pretty soon we’ll have a sign on the fence, something more useful then what sits there now. Probably the sort of advice I should have taken nearly five years ago (!) at the beginning of all this:
“Leave your pride at the gate, son.”