At Nettle Meadow, cheese chaos is the rule. There are three floors of people running around, making jokes about ‘cutting the cheese’, and trying to do everything that needs to be done. There are never enough hours in the day, a common symptom of farmstead cheesemaking, but somehow everything manages to get finished. I’ve been training at Nettle Meadow for 2 weeks now, and although I haven’t dropped any cheese in the shuffle yet, I have almost fallen head first in to the bulk tank of milk many times-the floor can get slippery when you’re working with so much whey!
A ‘make shift’ starts at 4 in the morning. You arrive alone, and spend the first four hours in the cheese room moving through the first steps of the process solo. It may sound painfully early to wake up at 3:30, but I think most people think of it as almost meditative; you may be tired, but at least you don’t have to talk to anyone (other than the ghosts that are rumored to live in Nettle Meadow’s cheese aging cellar). I haven’t started doing the 4:00 AM shifts yet, but I have to admit that I’m excited to get this one-on-one time with the cheese, ghosts or not!
I’m helping out in the cheese room and aging cellar, making cheese, aging it, and wrapping it up to send out to the world. Nettle Meadow makes quite a few different cheeses, but the most popular is Kunik, a semi-aged goat milk cheese with Jersey cow cream. Its creamy, rich, mild paste tastes decadent all by itself or with a drop of honey (my new go-to after work snack!). Kunik won first place in the Triple Crème category from the American Cheese Society in 2010, and is widely recognized as one of the most successful European style farmstead goat cheeses made in the United States today.
I’m also helping out with feeding kids and lambs, which is hands down the cutest part of my job. On my third day, my boss Sheila asked me if I would drive a couple of kids over to the other farm where we keep them (separating the kids from their moms helps to stop the spread of disease between the animals). I had visions of throwing 5 bleating baby goats in to the back of my mom’s Honda Civic, imagining with mild horror the mess the back seat would be, until Sheila pulled up in her car, explaining that they had a makeshift bed in the back for just such occasions.