A tangle of gorgeous spring blossoms catch my eye as I go out for my evening walk/run in a warm, slightly humid, and ever so lovely place. I’m a world away from the cold, snowy North. And also a world away from my two sons and my four-footed house pets. I’m ‘down South’ with a colleague, to consult and advise throughout this spring.
As I structure the abundance of cheese and goat knowledge I’ve absorbed over the years, a phrase that I’ve read and heard scrolls through my thoughts. So I looked it up (it and many variants) on Google recently,
“They can take everything from you, but they can never take what you’ve learned, they can’t take the experiences you’ve gained from living your life. Those are yours forever.”
In its original iteration, it was written by a survivor of the Holocaust and quotes extraordinary advice from his mother. But many many people have adopted this wise thought stressing the profound importance and value of education and knowledge. And, being in a position of looking forward towards new projects, the depths and riches of what I own inside myself, the power of all that I’ve collected in living a many layered and challenging life is reassuring indeed.
At this moment, I am tapping into my years of research, questioning and questing — my knowledge. And I am doing this to fulfill my role as a consultant, here to share, teach and advise a colleague.
On this exquisite spring day I’m headed to the creamery. The lab coat I wear when ladling makes it all but impossible to not feel the tenderness of my freshly sun-burned arms, a tactile reminder of my afternoon of plunking copper boluses down the throats (and avoiding some pretty darned sharp back teeth!) of a number of this farm’s pastured herd of goats. Most of the does have freshened and there are about 80 does milking twice daily. In another two weeks we should have the full herd on the stands – including the two mothers photographed below who kidded out on pasture this morning.
My son Leo and I road-tripped down here to arrive on April 1st (he’s since gone back to Michigan for high school). Our descent was timed for the first cheese makes. And, now that the creamery is up and running, the first priority is to get the fresh soft cheeses out to the eagerly awaiting clients, something my colleague already does very beautifully.
As I observe and question, I see where I might suggest techniques to lower the quantity of expensive freeze-dried cultures used here. It would also be possible to adjust the measuring tools for the cheese makes and offer methods to tweak and refine. I move slowly, not hastily. In my role as consultant, observing and listening is vitally important, equally on a level with advising.
I’m here at a key moment. They’re building a wonderful new aging structure with two large caves, due to be done soon. At which point we will gear up the development and refinement (some great experiments have already been done) of hard cheeses and blues. I look forward to assisting in the balancing and adjusting of the cave atmospheres, sharing my hard-earned knowledge and experience. Caves are complex to master — my colleagues around the world will agree — and I am here to shorten the learning curve. But, mastery is a too powerful word. I would be more apt to say dance, or collaboration. The best caves live and breath and the cheese maker learns to work with his/her caves; how best to encourage & facilitate the good, and limit the bad.
Much lies before us, and day by day, I take notes & make lists, and see where my knowledge can be of use.
My kids’ dad used to say that his quest in life was to share his knowledge and discoveries. It is a privilege to learn & to integrate the complexities of an art such as cheese making (or in his case Provençale Cuisine).
And in sharing and teaching, I solidify my own knowledge while offering it up to an esteemed colleague.
We all win.