Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Where is that freakin' pot of gold?

It's amazing how time flies while simultaneously seeming to drag on day-to-day. I had set the goal of late November for having the dairy completed and up and running, with cheese to sell some time in February. However, equipment deliveries got postponed and delayed, the concrete floor got poured incorrectly and needed to be patched and repaired, and the set-up of the equipment became increasingly complicated the closer we got to installing it. Now it is within the realm of reality to think that I will have a finished product (cheese) to sell some time in April. (Which means just two more months of no income! yeah!?!)

Looking back over the last couple of years to when I initially began planning my dairy operation and setting goals and timelines I think of the number of projected starting dates for the dairy and the number of times that date has been moved back. I can't help but also look back over that stretch to the start-up funds that I started-up with and have exhausted getting to this point (what can I sell on E-bay now?). I feel like I have been chasing the proverbial rainbow which continues to escape me the further I travel in search of it. While I believe that I really am in range of touching, smelling and tasting my goals, on a gut level it all still seems like a pipe-dream that will never truly come to fruition. But, every day another challenge is overcome and another task completed. When I look around the farm and the house and the dairy I can see how far it's come and how close it is to being complete. And every day now there are at least two or six lambs born--adding to the romping, tumbling mass of legs and fuzz in the corral at feeding time every night. So don't worry, I am nowhere near giving up! I'm just looking forward to the load lifting a little.

Sooo, I am expecting to receive the bulk tank (which cools and stores the milk) and press, the controller to the cheese vat motor, and a heat exchanger by the end of this week, enabling the cheese room to be completed. Last week Pete (my full-time assistant shepherd/cheesemaker-in-training) and I put together the stanchions and platform for the milking parlor and tested it out with the three ewes we've been hand-milking. I am not particularly excited about the task of training all of the lactating ewes to the parlor. It is going to be a trying few days dragging them one-by-one up the ramp and enticing them to stick their heads in the stanchions for their grain reward. Fortunately (like most of us) they respond quite readily to treats and rewards, so once they make the connection between the parlor and grain we'll be good to go. At least I know better than to try to train the ewes to the parlor and milk them for the first time on the same day. I've heard the tale of intrepid souls who attempted such a feat and the word is it's not pretty!

With the decent rains we got in December my pasture planting germinated well and has started to fill in. It actually looks green from the road now. Hopefully the forecast for rain tomorrow will hold true. Although I have personally enjoyed the balmy January weather, and like to believe it has encouraged my grass to grow, I do not particularly relish irrigating in the winter. The purchase of new, special order gaskets for my used pipe has made the task incredibly easier, with a lot less kicking, swearing and tweaking. However, it has not eliminated the need to walk up and down the hill repeatedly, carrying 30ft lengths of pipe. I'm going to have buns and calves of steel to show for it, without the nuisance of a gym membership.

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