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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PST

Cindys Curds & Whey
Cindys Curds & Whey

Fresh, pasteurized milk coming from the dairy, to be cooked down into curds & whey.

Cindy’s Curds & Whey

Artisan Cheese-Making in North Idaho

by Kathleen Mulroy of Sagle, Idaho

Having donned a hairnet, tied on a clean plastic apron, slipped on rubber shoes, and washed her hands thoroughly, Cindy Burgess is ready to do something she loves: Make artisan cheese!

About a year ago, Cindy, her husband Vince, and two young-adult sons moved from Chewellah, Washington, to a 112-acre dairy farm complete with 100 head of dairy cows. The couple’s two married children and four young grandchildren visit regularly.

Vince had been in the dairy business for over four decades, but he’d always dreamed of owning his own farm. So when an opportunity in North Idaho arose, the couple decided to go for it. Located in the lush, quaintly-named Hoodoo Valley, not far from the popular resort town of Sandpoint, Idaho, the property included a cheese factory which hadn’t been used for a few years. Cindy says she and Vince planned that “one day” they would produce artisan cheese as well as milk. But the national economic downturn pushed “one day” to “right now,” as milk prices dropped from $16 per hundredweight in November ’08, then to $13, and finally to the current, all-time low of $9. The Burgesses figured they could just make a living by selling milk at $14 per hundredweight, but below that price, running a full-scale dairy farm just wasn’t feasible. So, sadly, they made the decision to sell most of the animals through a government-sponsored herd-reduction program. About five months later, their 13 heifers had freshened and would produce enough milk to start Cindy’s artisan cheese-making business.

Cindys Curds & Whey

Cindy checking the consistency of the curds during the cooking process.

Cindy was well-versed in the business side of dairy life, having been married to Vince for nearly 30 years. And, she says, they have “always been 4-H parents, along with helping out with Future Farmers of America. It got so that county and state fairs were our family vacations!” But Cindy didn’t have any training in cheese-making; her formal education had been in the field of social services. Having enjoyed working with nursing home patients for over 10 years, she was comfortable with talking and listening to people from all walks of life. Those people skills would definitely help out when it came to marketing “Cindy’s Curds & Whey.” First, though, she would have to learn how to make cheese!

Cindys Curds & Whey

During the winter of ’08-’09, Cindy taught herself the art and science of this ancient craft. All it took was lots of research, countless hours of experimentation, plenty of milk, and, she grins, “Lots of praying!” It was nearly six months before she had products that she felt were ready to be sold at the Sandpoint Farmer’s Market. Fortunately, she says, “I didn’t lose a lot of batches, though there were a few that went to the pigs!” She adds, “Every time I go through this process, I learn something.”

The first cheese Cindy made – using two gallons of milk – was cottage cheese. According to Wikipedia, this is a cheese curd product with a mild flavor; drained but not pressed, so some whey remains and the individual curds remain loose. Also according to the online encyclopedia, The term ‘cottage cheese’ is believed to have originated because the simple cheese was usually made in cottages, from any milk left over after making butter. The term was first used in 1848. Curds and whey – made famous in the Little Miss Muffet nursery rhyme – is a similar dish.

Cindys Curds & Whey

Dry chipotle mix, prior to being stirred into curds.

To get the cheese-forming process underway, a starter – Cindy prefers fresh cultured buttermilk – must be added to the milk. The starter converts the lactose in milk to lactic acid, which produces controlled ripening. Next, a coagulant called rennet is added. Available to home cooks in the form of junket tablets, rennet can be purchased at drug or grocery stores, often in the pudding section. One fresh tablet will coagulate five gallons of inoculated milk. There is also a liquid extract for larger-scale operations, available only from cheese-makers’ supply houses.

Cindys Curds & Whey

Cindy spreading fresh, warm curds on a flat “colander”.

Rennet’s properties were discovered long ago, when, presumably, the first cheese was produced by accident. After milk had been stored for about a day in a bag made from the stomach of a young goat, sheep or cow, the milk would curdle, yielding solid chunks (curds) and liquid (whey). When the ancients discovered that the curd-chunks could be separated out and dried, they realized that milk – an extremely perishable food – could be preserved for later use. The addition of salt preserved these dried curds for even longer periods. Until 1990, rennet was produced the old fashioned way, either from calves’ stomachs (abomasums) or from various “vegetables,” some of which include the microorganism Mucor miehei. Homer suggested in The Iliad that the Greeks used an extract of fig juice to coagulate milk. Other possibilities include nettles, thistles, mallow and Creeping Charlie. These days, rennet is often produced from genetically engineered bacteria.

Cindys Curds & Whey

Vince Burgess shoveling curds into a bin.

Now that she’s making cottage and regular cheese on a larger scale, Cindy has switched to vegetable rennet. She says, “Many health-conscious folks prefer it, and, of course, vegetarians require it.”

“I was astonished by how much science and math is involved in producing cheese!” Cindy says. When she started the process for getting the factory certified, she admits to being “a little overwhelmed by the mechanics – not being particularly mechanically inclined!” But she overcome these obstacles, and today she and Vince sell several artisan cheeses: Farmstead (“Made on the Farm”) Plain Cheese; Chipotle, Gallant Garlic, Farmer in the Dill and Lil’Jack -LottaHear Cheeses; plain curds; and Farmsted cottage cheese.

Cindys Curds & Whey

Hand-cutting cheese.

Eventually, Cindy would like to make raw milk cheddar, which takes two months to age. But for that she’ll need more time, a different type of shelving for aging, and special brushes. Why brushes? In order to stop the cheese from molding while it’s aging, each day one must gently brush the outside of the cheese with soft brushes. Eventually, a rind forms where the cheese has been repeatedly brushed.

During their first long, snowy winter in the Hoodoo Valley, besides learning how to make cheese Cindy and Vince were kept busy caring for heifers and getting their farm up to speed. They even had to be on-the-spot plumbers when, “Nearly every pipe on the farm broke because of the low temperatures. We spent plenty of time and money at hardware stores last winter!”

Cindys Curds & Whey

The Burgess dairy farm and cheese factory are sustainable operations, meaning that nearly every by-product is re-used or recycled. For example, the usually-discarded whey goes to feed their own pigs, producing an exceptionally tasty, lean pork. Whey is the liquid portion of milk that develops after the milk protein has coagulated, and contains water, milk sugar, albuminous proteins, and minerals. Lots of hot water is used in the factory, and it’s recycled to the dairy operation. Why so much hot water? Well, as Cindy says, “It’s all about cleanliness in a cheese factory.” Pausing, she grins, “Which is funny, because cheese is all about bacteria!”

Since the Sandpoint Farmer’s Market ended in late-October, Cindy has been spending the fall months traveling around North Idaho as a “sample lady” – sharing her cheeses and cottage cheese with the curious and the hungry. She says, “For some reason, most people who taste my products are amazed that I’m both the owner of the business and the cheese-maker. I love the interactions with people; especially seeing how much they like our products!” Fortunately, Cindy took copious notes while perfecting her cheeses, making it relatively easy for Vince to step in as head cheese-maker when she is traveling.

Cindys Curds & Whey

Vince & Cindy.

Cindy and Vince hope to be able to sell their products on-line soon. In the meantime, if you live in or travel to the Inland Northwest, look for Cindy’s Curds & Whey in supermarkets and natural food stores.

If you’re interested in making your own cottage or fresh cheese, Cindy suggests reading “Home Cheese Making” by Ricki Carroll. But be prepared to spend many hours in your kitchen!

Spotlight On: Livestock

Littlefield Notes Making Your Horses Work For You Part 2

LittleField Notes: Making Your Horses Work For You Part 2

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from issue:

Every beginning horse farmer at some point will find himself in need of procuring that first team. After land, this is certainly one of the most critical purchasing decisions you will make in the development of the farm. The animals you choose can make your farming glow and hum with moments of blissful certainty, or contribute to frustration, bewilderment, loss of resolve, and God forbid, horses and people hurt and machines wrecked.

Happs Plowing A Chance to Share

Happ’s Plowing: A Chance to Share

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Dinnertime rolled around before we could get people and horses off the field so that results of judging could be announced. I learned a lot that day, one thing being that people were there to share; not many took the competition side of the competition very seriously. Don Anderson of Toledo, WA was our judge — with a tough job handed to him. Everyone was helping each other so he had to really stay on his toes to know who had done what on the various plots.

American Milking Devons and the Flack Family Farm

American Milking Devons and the Flack Family Farm

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On a sunny early September day I met Doug Flack at his biodynamic and organic farm, just South of Enosburg Falls. Doug is an American Milking Devon breeder with some of the best uddered and well behaved animals I have seen in the breed. The animals are beautifully integrated into his small and diversified farm. His system of management seems to bring out the best in the animals and his enthusiasm for Devon cattle is contagious.

Ask A Teamster Round Pen Training

Ask A Teamster: Round Pen Training

When we ask a horse to follow us in the round pen we can help him succeed by varying things a bit – changing direction and speed frequently, stopping periodically to reward him with a rub (“a rub” or two, not 100), picking up a foot, playing with his tail/ears/mouth, etc. In other words, working at desensitizing or sensitizing him by simulating things he will experience in the future (trimming and shoeing, crupper, bridle over the ears, bit, etc.).

Collar Hames and Harness Fitting

Collars, Hames and Harness Fitting

Farmers who are good horsemen know everything that is presented here: yet even they will welcome this leaflet because it will refresh their memories and make easier their task when they have to show hired men or boys how to adjust equipment properly. Good horsemen know from long experience that sore necks or sore shoulders on work stock are due to ignorance or carelessness of men in charge, and are inexcusable.

Livestock and Predators No Easy Answers

Livestock and Predators: No Easy Answers

by:
from issue:

Since we’ve raised sheep commercially, we’ve been committed to trying to live with the predators in our environment. Over the years, we’ve lost just a handful of sheep — several to coyotes, at least one each to mountain lions and rattlesnakes, and four in one night to a neighbor’s dog. Mostly, though, our commitment to nonlethal predator protection tools has worked. A combination of electric fencing, livestock guardian dogs, sheep selection and grazing management has allowed us to co-exist with the predators in our environment.

Plant Poisoning in Horses & Cattle

Plant Poisoning in Horses & Cattle

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There are hundreds of plants that can be toxic to livestock. Some grow in specific regions while others are more widespread. Some are always a serious danger and others only under certain conditions. Poisoning of livestock depends on several factors, including palatability of the plant, stage of development, conditions in which they grew, moisture content of the plant and the part eaten.

Ask A Teamster Tongue Length

Ask A Teamster: Tongue Length

My forecart pole is set up for draft horses. My husband thinks we should cut the pole off to permanently make it fit better to these smaller horses. What would be your opinion? Like your husband, my preference would be a shorter tongue for a small team like your Fjords. The dynamics and efficiency of draft are better if we have our horse(s) close to the load. A shorter tongue will also reduce the overall length of your outfit, thereby giving you better maneuverability and turning dynamics.

Living With Horses

Living With Horses

by:
from issue:

The French breed of Ardennes is closer to what the breed has been in the past. The Ardennes has always been a stockier type of horse, rude as its environment. Today the breed has dramatically changed into a real heavy horse. If the Ardennes had an average weight between 550 and 700kg in the first part of the last century, the balance shows today 1000kg and more. Thus the difference between the Ardennes and their “big” sisters, the Brabants in Belgium, or the Trait du Nord in France, has gone.

Big Logs at Tarn Hows

Big Logs at Tarn Hows

by:
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Simon and his elder sons Simon, Keith, and Ian, with their Belgian Ardennes horses, work good timber in bad places. The felling and extraction operation at the Lake District beauty spot of Tarn Hows was done in often appalling weather, and in the full glare of publicity. It must rank as one of the most spectacular pieces of horse logging, or indeed of commercial horse work done in these islands in recent years.

A Greenhorn Tries Draft Horses

A Greenhorn Tries Draft Horses

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from issue:

We have tried a workhorse, and for our needs he has proven quite satisfactory as well as satisfying to use. Thus we feel it is possible for someone with little or no experience to learn to care for and use a horse or a team for farm and woods work, although, obviously, this is not a process to be undertaken lightly. One of the basic aims of the farm operation for us is self-sufficiency, and we thought that the horse would be more efficient than a tractor in achieving this aim.

The Milk and Human Kindness Caring For The Pregnant Cow

The Milk and Human Kindness: Caring for the Pregnant Cow

by:
from issue:

Good cheese comes from happy milk and happy milk comes from contented cows. So for goodness sake, for the sake of goodness in our farming ways we need to keep contentment, happiness and harmony as primary principles of animal husbandry. The practical manifestations of our love and appreciation are what make a small farm. Above and beyond the significant requirements of housing, feed and water is the care of your cow’s emotional life, provide for her own fulfillment. Let her raise her calf!

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

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Our farm, here in the center of New York State, consists of 101 acres, about 90 in grass, the rest some woods and swamp. It is inhabited by forty-six jersey cows, twelve breeding ace heifers, one bull, and because it is calving season — an increasing number of calves. Also, four Belgian mares and a couple of buggy horses. Last, and possibly least — the farmer, farmer’s wife, and five grown children.

How To Dry Up A Doe Goat

How To Dry Up A Doe Goat

You are probably thinking why would I want to dry up a doe? If the plan is to rebreed the doe, then she will need time to rebuild her stamina. Milk production takes energy. Kid production takes energy, too. If the plan is to have a fresh goat in March, then toward the end of October start to dry her up. The first thing to do is cut back on her grain. Grain fuels milk production.

The Milk and Human Kindness Stanchion Floor

The Milk and Human Kindness: Making Friends with Your Wild Heifer

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So let’s just say this is your first experience with cows, you’ve gone to your local dairy farm, purchased a beautiful bred heifer who is very skittish, has never had a rope on her, or been handled or led, and you’re making arrangements to bring her home. It ought to be dawning on you at this point that you need to safely and securely convey this heifer to your farm and then you need to keep her confined until she begins to calm down enough that she knows she’s home, and she knows where she gets fed.

Developing Draft Colts

Developing Draft Colts

During October, 1910, The Pennsylvania State College and Experiment Station purchased a group of ten grade Belgian and Percheron colts and one pure bred Percheron for use in live stock judging classes. An accurate record of the initial cost, feeds consumed and changes in form has been kept in order that some definite information as to the cost of developing draft colts from weaning to maturity might be available for farmers, investigators and students.

The Equine Eye

The Equine Eye

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The horse’s head is large, with eyes set wide apart at the sides of his head; he seldom sees an object with both eyes at the same time and generally sees a different picture with each eye. In the wild, this double vision was a big advantage, making it difficult for a predator to sneak up on him. He can focus both eyes to the front to watch something, but it takes more effort. Only when making a concentrated effort to look straight ahead does the horse have depth perception as we know it.

Sheep A Logical Choice

Sheep: A Logical Choice

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Sheep have numerous uses on a smallholding. They are excellent grazers and are ideal at revitalizing old pastures as well as an excellent follower of the cows in a rotational grazing system. Cropping the grass at 2-3 inches that the cows have left at 8 inches encourages new growth in the spring. Their manure is usually in pellet form and is spread throughout a pasture as they graze. A sheep shares a ton a year of fertilizer with the earth.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT