My cheese press was delivered Wednesday night (thanks Sheri). It came along with a huge hunk of cheese wax so I’m good to go for making hard cheese. I do want to share my experience with getting it set up.

First, I must say that the instructions were fine. The problem was me. I was in such a hurry to play with it that I didn’t take the time to read carefully. As the saying goes, “Measure twice”. Fortunately, there were no saws involved.

I assembled my tools and looked over the directions. Okay.” Looked over” might be a bit strong. Glance at might better describe it. In went the screws but it just didn’t look right. I couldn’t see how the cheese basket (not included-I just happened to have one) was going to accept the plunger without some major modification to the design. Of course, what needed modifying was my angle. I realized my mistake, took it apart and reassembled it properly. Only after it was all screwed together did I see that the plunger had to be inserted prior to assembly. I took it apart again, breaking one of the screws and stripping others and then discovering that the opening wasn’t large enough to hold the drill and that I wasn’t strong enough to screw it together by hand. Bruce took a 10 second look, unscrewed and removed one piece so the drill would fit, got it screwed together right and replaced the first piece in one minute flat. A job that should have taken about 15 minutes ate up a good hour or so and caused me to say some very bad words. (under my breath and out of earshot of my wee one who can’t tolerate cussing).

Now it was cheese time. Again, reading the directions for me is optional. Only after the milk was heating and the whole thing set up did I do the math on the timing. Because I didn’t do the timing part first I would have to turn the cheese at 3:00AM. I thought about setting the alarm but decided that an extra two hours in the press was unlikely to hurt anything and just got up and turned the cheese at 5:00.

Stupid thing number three. There was a lot of whey. Gallons actually. A bright person would have frozen it. I decided to make a whey ricotta. The last thing I needed was a huge mess and this made a huge mess right when I was concentrating on weights and timing and such. It was such an unnecessary distraction and I just ended up frustrated and overwhelmed. The volume of ricotta never lives up to expectations in my experience.

So there you have it. The cheese looks good. It comes out of the press this evening, sits for a few days to develope a rind, then gets waxed and goes to the root cellar to ripen. I won’t ever be a cheese company but at least I know that I can preserve milk during the summer glut and get to enjoy it during the hungry winter months.

There is a lesson here, at least for me. I’m mighty glad I went through this process while the lights were on and I had the benefit of an electric screwdriver. I’m glad that I wasn’t trying to figure out the basics when I was cold or hungry or otherwise stressed. I had the luxury of time to mess up, figure it out and move on. I’m afraid that an awful lot of people have things stored “just in case”, things they have never used or tried out. This includes, not just tools and equipment but also food and even relationships. I’m as guilty as the next person of believing that I’ll figure it out if I need to. I have the directions for making soap and builing a cob oven but I’ve never actually done either. (kits don’t count). How do I know I can make a barter system work if I don’t barter now. Am I really sure how that cheese powder will work if it remains in it’s mylar bag? The electric bike looks good but will I really be able to get my groceries home while riding it?

I’ll be posting some picture later (all right. Maggie will be posting pictures later) of my green house and my grape arbor. Both are really productive but took years to get figured out and become productive. The time to do is now.