Tuesday, January 24:
Four inches of wet snow on Friday night gave the children a chance to go snowboarding on the south hill; lying in a heavy blanket over the low tunnel where the carrots are growing, it weighed the six-mil plastic covering right down to the ground. Constrained by many loads of laundry, the necessity of churning two-and-a-half gallons of cream, and a disinclination to venture out into the soaking rain, we did not get out yesterday to drain the slush off the tunnel cover and straighten the hoops of PVC. Then last night the wind got up, gusting hard enough to be felt as a force even down in our protected valley. It shuddered under the eaves, shifted the wicker furniture on the front porch and, as was apparent this morning, lifted the cover right off the low tunnel, pulling up one of the stakes with which it was fastened down at the ends, and working it out from under the sandbags which weighed it down along the sides.
This afternoon conscience drove us out in boots and scarves and thick coats to pull a colander of carrots and mend the tunnel.
It is one of the perfections of the low-tunnel that it is so easy to build, and to restore. Counting the five minutes we spent pulling and topping the carrots, the job took about ten minutes. Lifting the plastic sheeting to drain it, drawing the cover back over the hoops, taking up the slack and driving in the displaced stake with which the whole thing is pegged down, then replacing the sandbags, is a fast and simple job for a single man – or woman. It carries with it a satisfaction not always to be met with in farming, or keeping house: once done, it tends to stay done for a while.
The carrots are of excellent quality, crisp, tender, and sweet. Our little burrowing friend had been under again, and one fat carrot was reduced to just a shell, completely eaten out from beneath. Smart little guy, he must be glad God sent him his own solar-heated greengrocery for the winter.
In the kitchen a four-pound Paysano – our house Colby cheese – is draining in the wall press under thirty pounds of leverage. The wall press was made by S-1 before he departed for Minnesota, and is a very clever and convenient arrangement, consisting of a bracket on the wall over the counter, an adjustable pin in the bracket, and an oak lever five feet long, marked with grooves at one-foot intervals, which hangs when not in use inside the basement door. Our cheese ring is set beneath the bracket on a tray with a drain in the side, under which we place a pie dish to catch the expressed whey. We fill the ring with curds and a chessit, position a follower on top, wedge the lever under the bracket pin and over the follower, and add weight at intervals along the lever. The grooves on the top side of the lever let us know how far out to place our weights; the further they hang from the follower, the greater the pressure placed on the curds.
We have used this press for years, and find it the most convenient way of applying a steady, unvarying pressure to our cheeses. With as many opportunities to make mistakes as there are in cheesemaking, it’s nice to feel that some aspects of the process, at least, are consistent.