I am a cheesemaker. I didn't plan on being a cheese maker...it just happened. I fell in love with goats, then I fell in love with goats milk, then I started playing around with heating milk to make it into cheese and now I'm a cheese maker.
I come from a long line of farmers. My father's side of the family were all farmer's, ranchers. It was a western thing. Oklahoma, Texas. But then, the family moved east for some health reasons and settled in the New England area. They turned to farming blueberries. One of them, years later, bought a couple of goats and a chunk of land in Vermont and became the largest goat dairy in the East. Still is. Did I know this when I decided to become a goat farmer. Didn't have a clue.
A girlfriend talked me into going to a cheese making class for a weekend and I tagged along just to have a couple of days to get away. I didn't pay much attention to the class, everybody else seemed so into it, but I just kept saying to myself, "self, whywould I want to make cheese?" You can only eat so much cheese...right? So, I jotted down a few notes but when we took our breaks waiting for the cheese to do it's thing in the vat, I went outside and sat with the cat.
Now, here I am, a Maine State certified dairy with a herd of registered Saanen goats, making cheese every day and loving it. I can't imagine doing anything else. How did I get here? I made a left turn.
In 2009, I moved to Maine. I'd never been to Maine in my life. I came up in 2008 for a weekend on the suggestion of a friend. I was living in Massachusetts at the time, near my elderly Mother. I came in July, I made another trip up in September, trekked back in February during a blizzard and moved here permanently the following spring. I still had no intentions of being a goat farmer. I wanted sheep. I already had chickens, been raising them since 1999. Gotta have chickens. But goats?
Summer 2009, I saw the listing for Open Farm Day in the State of Maine, an annual event where close to 125 farms all over the State open their barn doors to the public for one day. I printed out the list of farms, and on a soaking rainy day, headed down Rt. 1, figuring I'd visit one or two that had sheep, since that's what I'd always wanted, and then come home. Simple.
As I headed down Rt. 1, I noticed a farm on the list that was closer than the ones I was planning on visiting, had sheep and I thought, maybe that's as far as I'd get. I made a left turn. That left turn changed my life.
I got to Seabreeze Farm, a small family farm which has as much crammed onto a 2 acre space as is possible and wandered into the open barn door. Inside were 14 Saanen goats, big girls, some happily chewing their cud, some laying down resting on the bed of hay, others wandering past each other, gently nudging along as they passed by. All of them, calmly watching their herdsman as he greeted visitors coming to see the farm. I stood there in awe, I couldn't speak, I couldn't think of anything to say or find a question to ask, I just stood there taking in these beautiful creatures and watching the man who tended them so gently, without words, without movement, just with his presence. It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen.
I went back to Seabreeze Farm each week after for a year, buying the most delicious milk I'd ever tasted and visiting with "the girls" on each trip. There was no decision to be made, it was my destiny to become a herds woman and follow in the footsteps of this man who has lovingly tended these creatures for over 30 years. It wasn't about becoming a cheese maker, it wasn't even about becoming a farmer, it was about wanting to spend my life tending these animals in the same way, honoring their nature, learning from them how to be gentle and kind, respecting the differences in their personalities and natures.
I am learning to be a cheese maker, but I am learning more about the nature in each one of us as we share our lives on this planet and learn to be more tolerant and patient with one another. If that results in producing great tasting cheese and milk, so be it, and as it turns out, I'm making incredible tasting cheeses, thanks to the girls.
What's the lesson here? It's not about taking a class and learning a craft and deciding to try something new. It's about following your heart and feeding your soul which is what farming and growing things and raising animals is all about. It takes my breath away every time I walk into my barn and am greeted by 6 of the most beautiful faces I can imagine who make me smile and teach me to be kind and gentle and not to rush through this world. You can't be a farmer if you're in a hurry. Things grow in their own time, animals will always reck your schedule by deciding to do something unexpected throwing your day completely off and one day will never be the same as the next.
I think I was born to be a farmer. I just didn't know it. I'm happiest when my hands are dirty from pulling weeds or planting something new, sweaty from mucking out a stall, bone tired from leaning over the sink sanitizing milk buckets. It's what keeps me grounded.
Taking a left turn turned out to be a good thing for me. I wanted to try my hand at being a farmer twenty years ago but life got in the way. I'm grateful for finally taking that left turn on a rainy day.