Wednesday, 5 December 2012


Long time no post, as usual.
It's been pretty hectic but I finally got sheep! They are 4 beautiful specimens of friesian sheep, 2 hoggets and two ewes at second lactation. We were lucky enough to find them this late in the season.

Aren't they beautiful P?
I have a few problems, including the fact that the 2 ewes are likely still milking and I haven't managed to milk them yet because the set up is not optimal, they are still pretty shy and don't like their temporary dorm.
They seem in good health though and they are getting friendlier and less scared by the day.
Tonight they went running after me when I got in with the red bucket (the red bucked brings good stuff), and they even entered the tiny stable. There is hope I'll manage to check the udders tomorrow.

The decking is finished too, and is a big plus for my living space:

While the stable is sort of stuck in a half finished stage. Big mess with the order for the sheeting by the coop.

More soon

Sunday, 11 November 2012

There will be mud.

It's starting to look like a stable. It is insanely high, I know, but we are going to get a loft in there too.
There are also exciting news about animals. I gave a call to the lady that seems to be the source of Friesian sheep in Ireland. You can see animals and place here: Millhouse
Well guess what, she still has animals for sale, 2 hoggets and 2 ewes. I won't tell you what's the price but it's in line with what I was hoping for.
I'll have to get them in two weeks and going to Tullamore tomorrow for a deposit.
This has given a big push and of course now the stable work needs to be sped up and I need to get other things ready like feed, fencing, water facilities and so on.
Cross your fingers for me!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Barn if you can.

It has been ages since I last posted some news but life has been busy and I really have to make an effort to write on the blog and there is so many things to tell that I get overwhelmed and end up not writing at all.
The barn is getting there, the mobile home too, porch starting in 3 weeks, water well more or less the same...
I will make an effort of posting at least a few pics more consistently.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

My life, or most of it, in a van.

I have been busy saying good bye and packing boxes. I have thrown away so much stuff!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Rainy day.

It has been raining since last night, a bit of a disaster in central Italy. Peps is sleeping on his bed and I am trying to figure out what to pack first. I have sorted out a few issues like the expiring driving licence and speaking with the boss, getting rid of an old motorbike I had and posting ads for things I don't really want to carry to Ireland...
Packing your stuff is a little bit like going through your life. You come across long forgotten items and it can be quite emotional at times. That is a picture of my first dog. Never forgotten. It was taken by a friend visiting me in Scotland with a film camera. He was my only constant point of reference for many years. He would have been an excellent sheep dog.

Monday, 3 September 2012

The last few touches

So there she is, all pretty and fenced off from the fierce cattle that will be there in a few days.
There is also a sad note today, just when I thought everything went alright with my supervision of the farm, I lost a chicken. It was actually pretty early when I put them in but the fox has been around this past week and I'm afraid she got me. The only hope is that she is roosting somewhere. I have been finding them up in the trees recently but I have little hope.
With all the people cutting hay in the past few days, the foxes have been pretty active, perhaps because they don't have their usual hunting grounds.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Delivery day!

The mobile home arrived on Thursday!! We did need the tractor in the end but it all went pretty smooth and apart from a bit of gutter, the light on top of the door and a piece of water pipe, it was all ok. I doubt I'll manage to sleep in it before I leave for Italy though, I'm leaving the day after tomorrow and I could sleep there tonight but I guess I'll just stick with Whizzie's cabin for the last 2 days :)
I have been on my own on the land for the past couple of weeks and I have been very lucky with the weather, the ducks have started laying and the new Mr. Rooster, who still has no name, has been behaving very well. I guess he just needed some time to settle down and he's not as nervous and mean as he was when he arrived. The bees are very happy too, for what I can gather with my limited knowledge, and are taking full advantage of this spectacular end of a very wet and cold summer.
I will leave with sadness and cannot wait to be back. I hope I will resume to a more constant flow of posts and pictures in october.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Getting smaller

In the end I had to choose a smaller mobile home. The guys from the place in Cork came and checked out the place, they were pretty much happy about everything, the width of the lane and the access to it but they were not happy about the slope of the ramp to access the field. Too steep for a 30 ft long monster, with tiny wheels in the middle it would have got caught and stuck.
At this point the alternative was to either get the digger in again and try to sort out the ramp, with the risk of fucking it up again and delaying the delivery, or to choose a shorter and narrower mobile home. I went for the second choice. I called another guy from Shanagarry because the smaller mobile homes in Cork sucked. He had a very nice one from an old couple who had it for 20 years or so. It is quite smaller than the first choice, it's 10 by 26 ft while the first one I had put my eyes on was 11 by 30 ft. A difference of almost 5 sq meters. Oh well, at least it will be here next Wednesday. I got delivered an extra load of 4 inches rocks and the site will be ready by the weekend.
I've been left to look after the few ducks and chickens, the hedgehog and all the rest because Whizzie, Sir Linux and Tom went for a trip to the UK.
First night has been a bit strange but cozy. Peps was a bit sick but he's fine today and all the animals are too.
The situation with the computer and access to internet has improved a lot, first of all because I'm on my own, secondly because Whizzie got a satellite connection. Nifty!
Some more pics soon.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Settling in

It's been a while since I last posted and many things have happened and many more are still happening.
I have been trying to get quotes for the sheep barn and at the same time looking for a mobile home.
I have found one but I have spent a good part of the first two weeks making the site accessible and ready for the delivery which as you can imagine can be tricky on a farm. Clearing the overgrown lane  in order to get an 11 feet wide mobile home through was quite a task for the city boy that I am.
After that I had a lot of help from my neighbour Mike who has a big digger, he took down a ditch, placed drain pipes down and covered the whole thing with 40 tonnes of 4 inches stones from a quarry nearby.
I am surprised by the number of quarries in the vicinity...
The quotes for the stable have been coming in pretty slow and apart from two outrageously expensive ones, the others seem to be more in line with our expectations...
Let's say that it seems to be cheaper than what budgeted.
Crowly: 6300 euro without groundwork.
Antony, who speaks with such an accent that I can understand one word every four, 5K without groundwork, 6.5 with groundwork.
Tumi & C: 6.5 with groundwork.
We'll probably go with them because they are the only ones who did not get scared by the groundwork and seem to be intelligent guys who build barns on a regular basis.
I haven't moved on the sheep front yet, but I have called a person or two about Zwartbles and should be able to visit and go a bit more in depth with the breed this week. Zwartbles are 3 attitudes sheep, that means they perform well on lambs, wool and milk but they are definitely good milkers. I have started to consider this breed as a potential alternative to East Frisians as a starter flock because of some practical advantages like having a docile and less delicate breed, the potential of changing direction of selection should things not go as expected, but above all the potential of growing in numbers quickly without worrying too much about the volume of milk. In case the volume will be inadequate we can always buy a Frisian ram.
The van, after much fuss, is going very well and I am happy with it, so much happy that I am sleeping in it :)
Kira has already come to visit and she's coming again tonight. Her cooking will be much appreciated by the farm.
The only bad news, if we can call it bad news, is that the works for the stable won't start until October, so that I'll be here again to supervise the lads. In a sense is bad news because it will delay the electric connection application of a month but it looks like we won't be able to get our first sheep before late spring, so it won't make much of a difference in that sense.
The work to get the lane accessible has been tough and my body healthfully hurts in correspondence of all the muscles I haven't used in the past 5 years.
But I guess what most of you will want to know is if I regret my choice and if I am happy.
I feel good. I feel like for the first time of my life I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. I enjoy every moment of it, the pain, the disappointment, the expectations, the sweat, the chills, the great feeling of reward and achievement in getting a job done, coppicing, clearing the lane, preparing the site for the house and stable, getting prices. I feel real for the first time after a long time.
More soon.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Day 3

Hallo Ireland! It took me a while to recover from the trip, also because yesterday it was quite a busy day, unloading the van and going to cork to get an Irish sim card and a tarpaulin sheet to cover the bike...
I'm still at Whizzie's because she's out with the Bfriend for a couple of days and I am house sitting for her, including a baby hedgehog and Anoukely of the straight tail. By the way, she totally loves Peps, who in exchange totally loves her back.
I'm starting to get busy with quotations for the stable and the mobile home but I came down with one of my famously nasty colds and I think I'll be stuck inside until Monday.
This is pretty frustrating :(
The mobile home is my priority because I'll have a place only until the end of the month and I can't wait to be able to put my stuff into drawers and wardrobes and have a place of my own.
The weather has been miserable and switching from 40 to 15 is never nice. 
Thanks to all of you who posted comments of encouragement and support!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Back to square one.

You're all probably expecting a nice post on how everything was tough but ended well in the end and how beautiful it feels to be in Ireland "hands on", posing the first stone of my new life.
Well, it's not what you are about to read...
The past 2 days have to be listed in the short list of the worst days of my life.
I left on Friday night. All seemed to go well but after 60 or 70 miles the van started to gasp and bounce. WTF. The problem came and went.
I decided to go on, after all I had a ferry to get on and "He who dares, wins".
Around Imola, I realize one of the tires is loosing pressure. Not a big issue but it adds up. I stop a couple of times to check it. When I start again after the second stop, just when I was about to shift in the 5th gear, the van dies. And I mean it DIED.
There I am, at 10 pm, in the darkness, in the middle of the motorway, 30 degrees Celsius, sweating like a fountain, the van fully loaded with my motorbike and even my dog... and the van refuses to start again.
It is soon clear that it won't start ever again.
It is the first time in my life I am let down by my vehicle.
It is deeply unpleasant.
Sweet Chiara gives me the Italian AAA number. I can't really give them my position, it's dark, I don't have a gps, I can't read the road km signs. They put me on hold. In the meantime the police arrives. I'm still on hold, I gesture to them but they keep shouting "PREGO" from their loudspeakers. I explain, half naked and covered in sweat, that my van died. They look at me with a mix of sufficiency and pity, and give me my exact position: Km 0+600, A14, north.
The recovery guy comes shortly after. He is super nice but wants to charge me 260 instead of the 130 they told me on the phone. He says the van is more than 25 tonnes.
He drops me out of the motorway, in front of a garage that will be open the next morning, a Saturday.
After much debating and phoning to some people that might have an answer to the weight conundrum, he agrees that my van is in fact below 25 tonnes and charges me "ONLY" 130 euro.
I sleep, I try to sleep. Peps is very hot and keeps panting, at least there are no mosquitoes. But there's plenty of prostitutes hanging around.
In the morning the mechanic comes, he manages to start the van again with some magic spray but says that I should wait for the guy for the electrical diagnosis. I wait and wait.
In the meantime Chiara is coming to pick me up. To me, it is pretty clear that the problem won't be fixed on a Saturday, we are in Italy after all.
He comes, in double, they are two huge twins, I can't pick who is who. They tell me to follow them, I do but have to leave poor Peps behind in his crate at mechanic's number one.
After much diagnosing... he suggests I change the fuel pressure thingy. He has a second hand one from an engine sitting there. He also fixes my tire. At this point we take a long test drive, very long, the van is cool as a cucumber. Another 120 euro. Excellent -I think to myself - now I only need to get money because half of my budget has vanished in the past 12 hours.
My brother does what I request and I am fit to race again.
I tell Chiara to turn around. Her help is not needed any more and I WILL FUCKING MAKE IT TO IRELAND!
I remember to get Peps.
What a fool. After a short while the van issue comes up again. WTF again.
Luckily I am not on the motorway yet, because there you can only be rescued by the expensive AA guys who will drop you again to the next mechanic. I can see from where I am that the motorway in the "home" direction is completely and utterly congested, all cars are still.
What to do? After much driving around in circles with the van gasping and threatening to die again any moment, I decide to try and make it home through secondary roads, driving VERY SLOWLY.
6 hours later I complete a 300 km return trip to home, at an average temperature of 34 degrees. The son of a bitch runs as smooth as a baby's bottom for the last 150 km. For all that time Chiara keeps waiting in Senigallia because after all I might break down again. Luckily she is at friend's and has a nice day out.
So here I am, back at square one, as I was just hinting from the title. Peps is still recovering. Ferry to be rescheduled. Van to be totally unloaded and thoroughly checked.
But don't you worry, difficulties like these make me even more determined.
Updates to come.

Friday, 15 June 2012

About Gorgonzola and Vivaro clutch issues

I know, not much in common between the great Gorgonzola cheese and the clutch issues by which Opel Vivaros seem to be riddled.
But it is actually because of the failing clutch of my Opel Vivaro that I am able to post this pictures of my last creation...
You see, dear readers, I'm actually about to leave for Ireland, this time almost for good. The ferry I had to take with my Vivaro van was scheduled on the 20th and I was supposed to leave on monday. But the clutch failed and the part needed didn't come in on time. I had to postpone the ticket a few days. This has meant that I am not panicking like a little kid on the day of his dentist appointment and I can unveil what I think is my second best creation ever (out of two, clearly).

I followed the recipe in the video and the cheese I got is definitely good. The only thing I have to suggest is that you go easy on the salt (original recipe is for 15 liters but I doubt anyone of you will try this with more than 5) and, above all, when you make the holes, don't use toothpicks, they are too thin, use something thicker. Without thick enough holes the molds won't be able to penetrate and grow because of the lack of oxygen.

 As you can see I look happy with my cheese, having my photo taken

 My baby!

Now, keep your fingers crossed for my trip. I wish I had more time to keep you updated about things in tha last weeks but it's been way too busy. Ciao for now!

Friday, 11 May 2012

Mozzarella !

There you go, with precious help from Chiara. Still a lot to improve but we got a pretty decent result :)
Got ya Mozzarella!
I'll post a recipe when I'll get it perfect.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Latest experiment

This was done following a recipe for pecorino but with less milk (4 liters).
I barely managed to take the picture because it was finished in a blink of an eye :)

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Hi all, still kicking.

Hi all,
it's been a couple of rough months. I haven't stopped either planning or cheese making. I just stopped blogging for a while because my energies and my time were needed somewhere else.
Someone very close to me died after a relatively short fight against cancer. He will be missed very much.
But life goes on and he would have wanted me to give it the best shot. This annus horribilis has to finish somehow and I hope I can rise again from my own ashes like a Phoenix.
Time is tight, money too, plans will probably be totally inadequate and impossible to stick with but I'm going to give it a real go.
Peps and I have tickets to Ireland for June, we'll go by ferry with the van and I'll bring my bike too.
In the meantime I had a chance to work on my cheese making skills and I have to say the latest results are excellent and, unless everyone is lying to me, it is fecking good.
More soon,


Wednesday, 22 February 2012

About how many cars and dogs you should own

I am exhausted. It's been a few tough days and it's still not finished. I've been trying to make my life a little simpler. Yesterday I managed to sell my 3 year old car for 6300 euro (I had two cars since the break-up). Now I am going around with my 15 years old, fart propelled, 235000 km worn Skoda Felicia which, if the God of cars will assist us, will carry me around until this summer and beyond.
In a couple of days there will also be another big change in my life. One of my two dogs, Cleopatra, will leave me and will be adopted by a dear friend who lives in Malta. Cleopatra will be enjoying beach walks, boat trips, lots of swimming but above all a close relationship with her new owner, something she never got a chance to experience with me, having to share all the attentions with the other crazy dog, Peps.
So next week I'll be quite lighter... it will be like in the old days, a dog, me and the Skoda.

On the other side of the channel, Whizzie is trying to purchase a neat and fine running Van, an Opel Vivaro 1.9 turbo Diesel which will hopefully be very useful in case the Skoda dies suddenly of old age but will also be useful for the farm and my move.

On the Cheese world... well, not much news there, apart from the fact that my new cheese press is a treat. My new creations will be available for test only in a couple of months.
So the routine for the Pecorino and ricotta duo seems very much acquired by now and I'm pretty happy with it. I should write a post to sum up all the critical points in this specific recipe.

My new challenge is mozzarella, which is proving itself to be more challenging and difficult than I thought. Damn you Mozzarella! I will get you!

Monday, 30 January 2012


I'm almost in shock. I guess I knew it but when you actually see it with your own eyes it's another thing. As I wrote in the last post I've had troubles getting a decent curd recently with the store-bought milk I was using. At first I started doubting temperature or cleanliness of tools, then the efficacy of my rennet, but after some reading it was clear that it was the milk's fault. Store bought milk is poor in CaCl2 (Calcium Chloride) because it gets depleted by pasteurisation. That's why most cheesemaking factories working with pasteurized milk need to add CaCl2 to their milk.
Last night I went to visit a farm nearby that sells raw milk to people and apart from the amusing old farmer and his equally amusing son, I got the pleasure of going back home with 5 liters of udder-warm raw milk from beautiful Simmental cows.
I processed it right away and "Oh My!". In 1 hour I had a curd so firm I could have played football with it.
No more store-bought milk for me, thankiuverimucce.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Latest trip to Ireland...

Dear friends!
I was back from Ireland on Monday the 9th but life has been busy and full of unexpected things, some of them very sad, time has been very limited. It has been a different stay this time. The enthusiasm which left us elated at the first farm visit (entirely justified by the beauty of the place and the existence of a common project) is still there but the fear of having a hugely immense task in front of us is creeping up.

The situation is in continuous evolution and the more we read the legislation the more we have to adapt to different contingencies. The timetable we thought of will still be the same, I'd like to stick with it because of the seasonality of sheep lactation but we might have to reassess other parts of the plan. I still would like to get the first animals this next autumn but I'd like to keep the initial investment under control because there are still too many technical questions which I need answers to.

These are technical points that mainly involve a series of food security checks that are compulsory by law, both on milk and cheese, and might be too heavy to sustain for a small production like ours and another series of technical issues linked to how the cheese facilities need to be designed and planned and where they can be built (on farm vs off farm).
There are also other minor issues like the possibility that we might need to pasteurise milk for some of the cheese we intend to produce...

Anyway, apart from all this, I got my hands on a very nice starter culture used to make caciocavallo and "strong ricotta" and I gave it a go last night. Unfortunately, the store bought milk I have been using for my trials has recently been giving really poor curds, too weak to get a clean cut. I had the feeling it was a question of temperature but after much trial and error it seems that it's the milk's fault.
It's time to get some decent raw milk or Calcium Chloride. I also ordered some new cheese mats and a Cheese Press! I could have built one but I simply have no time at the moment.
I'll open the second dry cheese experiment in a while...

In the mean time I'm trying to get rid of a bitch and a car (I've got two of everything!)