One of the joys I have in my life is preserving the produce off my own land and that includes cheeses. At one stage, Nelly the cow gave me milk in abundance – so it was expedient to use it in any way I could.
So … I made butter and ghee, ice-cream and yoghurt, which then led to Labneh and then to cottage, cream and ricotta soft cheeses.
Soft cheese is not difficult to make. For Labneh it is simply the hanging of the yoghurt until the liquid has drained out.
To make the yoghurt I got in touch with Cheeselinks ( https://www.cheeselinks.com.au ) and bought the bacteria and their excellent book.
Ricotta means ‘re-cooked’ in Italian, and after making the other soft cheeses, the addition of a little more milk to the whey (the liquid left after the milk forms curds of cheese) and heating it – you get the cheese.
The activity of milking your own cow is rewarding, but the enjoyment of turning that wonderfully fresh milk into other products is even better.
And, talking about produce on your own land, with the help of bees, you get honey as well. I have two hives, and that gives me enough honey to sell a little, and use all year. They are fascinating insects, and an absorbing hobby – and when the clover, flat-weed and dandelions flower in my lawn, it gives me the perfect excuse not to mow! (in Australia, dandelions are often mistaken for flatweeds. They are very similar. Flatweeds have multiple flowers to a stem, where dandelions only have one. )I just make sure I wear shoes, and don’t step on any of the girl worker bees as they go about their business collecting the nectar.
The beauty of the Australian bush, is that we have flowering Eucalypts, which the European honey bees adore. There are Grevilleas, Banksias and Wattles, too – an absolute cornucopia for insects. We also have many native bees, so when the Gums are in blossom, the place hums.
I started with dreams of self-sufficiency, which is why I got cows and bees and chickens. I planted vegetables with abandon, then realized bees also needed flowers. It has been a wonderful learning experience and I recommend the journey to others.
I am now in my seventies and I still garden, feed the stock, collect the eggs, rob the bees of excess honey and preserve my harvest. It keeps me young in heart and mind, as well as keeping my body healthier than I would have been otherwise.
I have 12 acres, but most of the things I do can be accomplished on a suburban block – including keeping bees.
So keep dreaming, look after your body and mind, be aware of the environment and enjoy wonderful, natural food.
P.S. Chapter 2 of ‘In search of the Elusive Panda’ is up this week. (https://readeatdream.net/free-childrens-picture-book)
as well as a new painting for sale from Mykel. (https://readeatdream.net/sweetfields-products-and-mykelcee-designs)