Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Who Cut The Cheese: The Farm Report 01/17/2024


Who Cut The Cheese

The Farm Report

First off: I stole this picture from the internet. Yes I did. But this is a picture of the road I drive on to go to town for groceries and stuff. I often kid about the beautiful balmy weather we have here in vacationland - southwest Iowa. Here's a for-real example of it. Brutal! The USDA has recently updated the gardening Zone Maps. According to them, we're now in paradise: Zone 5b. They think it only ever gets down to -10F here. Maybe -15F on a bad year. Well, having lived here and grown up here, I call BS. My house thermometer had -22F the other morning. Couple that with winds around 35 mph, and you've got some weather that will make you want to stay indoors and play. 

I stole this picture too. It pretty much fits the self-image I have of myself, and that I think a lot of my readers who don't actually know me might have. (Maybe even the ones who do know me!) I can't stop laughing about this one. The more I look at it, the better it gets. Look at his shoes! Converse basketball shoes. Look at his pants. This guy's all about comfort. I think those are bibs he's cut off. But instead of cutting the legs off for shorts, like I used to do, he has cut off the top so he can use his best suspenders - which makes it easier when a guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do. Comfort definitely exceeds vanity for me and this guy, too. The Mason jars of spent grease for lighting the fire sitting under the stove just make it that much better. Since there's been so much in the news about the perils of plagiarizing, I thought I should just openly admit it. I'm not planning on writing any scientific papers anytime soon, and Harvard won't be calling me to be their new president. So, why not play a little?

So, speaking of playing: I'm the one who cut the cheese! It has been so brutal cold outside, I decided it was perfect weather to stay inside and make some fancy cheeses. I didn't live in Wisconsin all those years to not have an appreciation for good cheese. I can't grow any seeds outside now, so why not grow some fancy bacteria indoors? They say cheese is milk's journey to immortality. The older it gets the better.

I'll spare you all the details, but after adding some special bacteria and rennet to make the milk curdle, then you literally 'cut the cheese.' I made my own cheese harps of course. Bent wire and nylon fishing line. I have two; this one cuts vertically, and the other one goes the other way. With both of them, I get cheese curd cubes.

Curds and whey. All I'm after is the curds. Annie Oakley gets the whey.

Cheese ain't naturally orange. You add dye to make it that way. Annatto is the natural dye for the job.

After the timing and the heating and the stirring and the waiting, the curds get pressed out into a cheese mold. I made the spring press, and the mold is a swimming pool skimmer basket. You don't need to break the bank to do this.

A few days later, and my new Parmesan cheese is ready to begin it's aging time.

Some people vacuum seal their cheeses now. I prefer to do it the old fashioned way most of the time. Wax lets the cheese breath a little and expand. Parm should age for a long time. I also made some Caerphilly (Welch Miner's Cheddar) at the same time. It only needs to age a few weeks. 

Christmas has come and gone. For all of you who sent me a card or good wishes, here's the same right back to you. Merry Christmas, and boy oh boy oh boy, do we ever need a happy new year.

A new clock, some Annie Treats in her sock, and we're feelin' the spirit!

My 'Christmas' cactus need repotted. They've been in their current digs for 5 or 6 years now, and they want their home remodeled.

This one is growing in a wicking pot I make from old coffee cans. These cactus plants love this system.

This one is my prettiest red. It reminds me of the one my grandmother gave us when we were first married. Unfortunately the rabbits ate it one summer a long time ago - so this one is a proxy.

I'd love to have a white one. Anybody???

"Tim! What the heck?!" Those are racoons, Annie. Somebody brought them over for the eagles to enjoy.

Annie - They're dead. They can't play with you anymore.

"Tim. This thing is as dead as them 'coons up in the timber."

Annie's Ranger has been dead too. Grump Grump Grump. My antique Farmall M and my antique Ford 8N were both designed a long time ago to be 'easily repaired on the farm by a man with limited knowledge and limited tools.' Emmie is 2 years older than I am. Henry Ford is 3 years younger. They both start every time. If they break, I can pick up parts right in town - cheap. This Polaris piece of junk? It's only 14 years old; designed to be NOT repairable by me or anybody else except a dealer; and the parts are crazy expensive. How so? A fuel pump from the Royal Polaris Dealer is over $750. The exact same pump shipped in from eBay or Amazon is $55. They make Chinese clones of these rigs now. I could buy 3 of them for the price of one of these name brand outfits. You can find Chinese parts on them, too.........

Since it is all electronic, and there no 'consumer' test device to let me know what the problem is, I have to guess. I'm guessing one of these little twisted wires is 'almost' twisted off. Meaning: sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Our company computer manager used to refer to this situation as a 'continuous intermittent fault.' Horsefeathers!

"Do you think you can fix the Ranger, Tim? Or should we just go get us a new one?" I'll tell you Annie votes for a new one. She votes with her heart. I have to vote with my wallet - so we're going to see if we can get the old one to go. 

Annie, what's all over your nose? Have you been out burying dead things in the mud? 

"I ain't been doin' nuthin. Why would you even think that? Did Miss Kitty tell you something she shouldn't have? I'm innocent!"

So even though it is cold and snowing - and drifting like crazy...

Yes. Annie has been out burying things in the ground. Her nose shots came when it was raining last week. This is her idea of cleverly hiding her deer skin. Nice job burying. Poor strategic location work though. This pile is right outside the shop door! Who would notice? 

The greenhouse is dormant. The brown plants are mostly strawberries I'm trying to winter over. Some of the bottom plants are peppers. They ain't got a chance.

And that's what it's been like out here at Oakdale Farm. Sunset happens around 4. Dark at 5:30.

It is that time of year to enjoy early evenings and order seeds and plan for the garden year ahead. Read a little, watch the news a little, snooze a little (lot).

"Tim, you'll have to tell 'em I don't like TV. I'm going to snooze out here in the living room in my own chair. I'm going to be dreaming about good things, too."

All is well and warm here at Oakdale Farm. Best wishes from me and Annie and Miss Kitty - and a hope you'll stay warm and safe yourselves!