Sunday, 30 October 2011

A long Autumn

Back to serious talking... I have been thinking about a post in which I explained what is our time schedule and what are the things needed to be done but after much thinking I came to the conclusion that it is not such a good idea, because it's way too early for that. We still haven't talked with the competent offices yet and although I have been reading the relative legislation in terms of agricultural building permissions and food business, there is still too much prospecting to be done.
The only sure thing is that whatever we'll need to do, we'll have to do it at a specific time. In fact, sheep are seasonal animals and they do not have oestrus cycles all year round.
Sheep start having regularly spaced oestrus cycles (17 - 19 days long) with the decrease of daily light (short day breeders), which means in August at the earliest (in the northern hemisphere). If they are not mated they stop cycling regularly in spring when days get longer once again. This means that in the northern hemisphere the best time to mate ewes is around October-November (it really depends on the climatic region and market needs) so that they are ready for delivery in early spring after a 5 months long pregnancy.
That's when they start producing milk.
Therefore the only two known deadlines are: i) to get a stable (or a simple shed) ready by late summer and ii) a cheese cave ready by early spring.
Everything goes around this two major deadlines and if you miss them you'll lose a whole year of learning and production.
There are also of course a ton of other things to be done like a new and upgraded electric connection, refrigeration units, a well and so on. So you can understand that P. and I have our hands tied for now, and we can't even practice or help around in nearby sheep farms because they are not producing cheese at the moment.
I have planned a trip around Christmas holidays to try and get quotes for materials so that we can get a better figure of the investment needed and I would also like to try and speak with local vet services, small business authority and food business regulators. But that is it.  This was really a bummer because I feel like I'm wasting my time here, so I decided to keep myself busy and at the same time to get some experience under my belt by engaging in some cheese making at home.
The thorn apart thing you see in the picture at the top of the post is the second hand fridge that, after the due modifications, will serve as a home made cheese cave.
More soon :)

Thursday, 27 October 2011


This is NOT the kind of shop I would want to sell my cheese to :)

Monday, 24 October 2011

Super Sic

I was deeply shocked by the death of Marco Simoncelli yesterday. Today I can barely function. I do feel silly for being in such a commotion for someone I never met but anyone who ever had the chance to hear him speaking knows that with Marco you got what you saw. It was impossible to see him angry or upset. He was a crystal clear, genuine, friendly and extremely positive guy with an exceptional talent for motorbike riding. Everyone following this sport felt like he knew him. He was just emerging as one of the 4 or 5 best riders on the planet. He was 24 years old and died trying to do at best what he loved most.
It is so fucking sad.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Pecore e pecorino

It's been a bit difficult recently to post and I might have lost the line of thought I was trying to follow.
I'm trying to get back on track with this post and focus on the issue we left unresolved: sheep.
I explained in a previous post how we ended up to choose dairy sheep as our main project on the farm. An important extra reason is also the fact that I'm already familiar with sheep and small ruminants in general.
We are plenty of dairy sheep in Italy and cheese-making from sheep milk has a long tradition that goes back in time to pre-Roman times.
The two main cheeses made with milk from sheep are the Pecorino in its various forms and the Ricotta (either fresh or aged). It is a typical and abundant production all along the appennini area from north to south but mainly in central Italy and Sardinia.
People producing Pecorino are also usually producing Ricotta which is obtained from boiling the whey after having made pecorino.
Italian breeds are definitely numerous but probably not that well adapted to the lush Irish pastures and the wet conditions.
There are very few dairy breeds in northern Europe and the two that could be more easily sourced would be the ever surprising East friesian and the British milksheep (which is anyway a friesian cross).
These babies are reported to produce up to 600Kg (East friesian) or 900 for the British milksheep during a lactation of up to 300 days. These figures are probably a bit optimistic because they probably refer to sheep housed in excellent conditions and fed shitloads of protein and feed-stuff while we would rely almost solely on the grazing and hay. Also we'll probably go for east friesian crosses and not pure-breed.
If you're trying to understand how much money we can make from cheese I'll tell you right now we won't get rich but P. and me should be able to live a decent life nevertheless.
Even considering a 200 Kg yearly milk production and a yield in cheese around 17% for a price of 20 Euro/Kg, each sheep should produce a minimum of 600 Euro/year. It is an estimate taking into account expenses such as vaccinations and treatments, electricity and such. It is also quite pessimistic, because in fact milk production, cheese yield and selling price should be quite higher. I've seen industrial sheep cheese in supermarkets in the area sold at 35 Euro/Kg!
Then there is the little extra from lambs and wool, although there is little money in there.
It's late, I should go to bed. More soon :) Enjoy the video

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

It's all about passion.

Life is short. We shouldn’t live it in a rush but we shouldn’t sit on our arses either. It’s all about trying to do with your life something we enjoy. I’m not talking of mere self fulfilment or the pointless search for one’s own happiness. I’m talking about doing something useful for others, leaving something for the next generation, doing something that will make your qualities shine, something you are passionate about.
The ethics and passion involved in such a project to me are essential. I believe a more sustainable approach to life is possible for everyone and passion should be the driving motor of your life. After all, change usually comes from the bottom and, if you want to make a difference, a critical ingredient is passion. If you are not passionate about what you do you won’t get anywhere. 
Not everyone is lucky enough to fulfil his desires and I have to admit that I find myself in this position for the first time in my life. I never thought I would have the chance to give it a shot and I am extremely glad about it.
Here's a video that says "PASSIONATE" all over it.

It's a clip from "Victorian Farm" which you can watch on youtube.