The Farmers left the goats and Bubba in the care of Adam and flew away to Massachusetts. Barb participated in a two-day cheese making workshop in Shelburne Falls, and Steve poked around his heroes' stomping grounds. Pictured is our quest: a perfectly formed Cacciocavallo --
the first cheese "we" learn to create in Jim Wallace's basement cheesemake room.
The milk was heated, renneted and now the curd is ready to cut to "hazelnut" sized pieces.
Jim is an expert, for sure -- and Barb learned so much -- but especially pleasing was his skill at adapting cheap, er, inexpensive tools. One doesn't need expensive curd-cutting harps when Jim is around with his bent wire whisk with an attached stainless handle to make it longer. Ingenious!
He cuts the curd, stirs while gently heating, and talks the whole time about how and why.
Then the finished curd is packed into expensive molds (dime-store colanders) and left to acidify for about 6 hours before an overnight chill.
The next day, the pH of the curd is tested. If just right, we're ready to stretch.
Jim gently heats the curd with hot water. He sees that the curds are beginning to congeal together so he pulls and pushes with a wooden spoon (water is very hot) and then finally see it's time to form the cheese.
With deft (and heat-resistant) hands Jim shapes the cacciocavallo (cheese on horseback) and slips it into the brine before it is tied to another cheese and hung over a pole in the aging room (hence the horseback).
Another fun part of the workshop was tasting (and analyzing characteristics) of cheeses that participants had made along with some that Jim brought along from his recent trip to France and Italy.
Here's yummy caccioc that Jim made a month ago, with smoked jalapeno peppers from his garden -- and then the cheese was aged for a month. Delicious.
Over the two days we made three different Italian cheeses, learned lots to take home to try, met many new friends, laughed, ate wonderful lunches courtesy of Jim's wife, Robin, and shared our dreams and aspirations in cheesemaking.
Here's downtown Shelburne Falls, where there is a nice little coffee shop for Sunday morning coffee to take along on a little walk before class begins.
Shelburne Falls is on the Greenfield River. When Hurricane Irene dropped 15 inches of rain on NW Massachusetts, the village (and many others) was inundated -- the river was over the bridge and carried away a building.
Large trees still hang from the pilons of the famous "Bridge of Flowers"
A town resident told me that the falls disappeared in the deluge --
the water was so high it just shot straight out.
It's a beautiful village and we'd love to return to another class and spend a little more time in town also. (Don't tell the goats though).
Meanwhile. as Barb cheesed away on Saturday, Steve hopped a bus to Amherst
and toured Emily Dickinson's house
(here she is on the side lawn chatting with Robert Frost)
and the Dickinson family graves in nearby West Street Cemetery.
Mount Sugarloaf was within walking distance of the Red Roof Inn luxury suite
so while Barb was cheesing on Sunday, Steve decided to climb to the top of this long-popular tourist attraction (postcard from the early 1900s).
It was starting to drizzle when he arrived
so he started up the steep hiking path with an umbrella in one hand and camera in the other
toward the observation tower at the top, which offers "a commanding view of the Connecticut River, the Pioneer Valley, and the Pelham and Berkshire Hills"
and gorgeous panoramas such as this one by HP R817.
That day, however, the view was less than spectacular.
The weather was more cooperative on Monday, when the Farmers drove across the state to Concord, visiting the Old Manse (home to Emerson, Hawthorne and other luminaries)
Emerson's subsequent house
The Wayside (home to the Alcotts and then Hawthorne and Margaret Sidney)
and the Alcotts' Orchard House
with its adjacent Concord School of Philosophy. None of the authors were at home that day
but they could be found in nearby Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, which was designed according to Emersonian principles by landscape architects Cleveland and Copeland.
Along its drives and walking paths are impressive monuments
and Authors' Ridge features the graves of Emerson
and Thoreau. Some visitor had left sunflowers at the graves of these famous Concordians;
Thoreau merited a pumpkin, too.
That afternoon the Farmers headed for Walden Pond
peeking in first at the visitors center replica of Thoreau's cabin
and then crossing Rte 126
for a stroll around the Pond
to the site of the cabin
and the adjacent cairn of rocks brought in tribute to Thoreau.
Barb thinking Transcendental thoughts, with the view Thoreau had of the Pond from his cabin.
Unfortunately, there was not enough time to visit Thoreau's favorite package store. Maybe next trip!