THE WHISKEY HILL CHEESEMAKER
Diana Dyer has raised goats for more than 20 years. The love affair began when she was asked to look after the neighbor’s kids; after that she had to have her own. Making cheese happened just as serendipitously when a friend dropped by and to Diana’s surprise, told her she actually had milking goats. That milk had to go somewhere so she learned the craft of making cheese.
Years later she left her job as a nurse and moved from California to the Pacific Northwest where she established Whiskey Hill Farm. The process of making goat cheese is thousands of years old as this was how nomadic cultures preserved their food. Today cheesemakers like Diana consider this a craft to be carefully and lovingly carried out from the raising of kids all the way to the product she sells at the local farmer’s market. It is also hard work.
The day we visit Whiskey Hill, Diana has been up until the early hours of the morning delivering three new kids who seem to have found their land legs very quickly. There is no rest for her because the goats still needed to be milked before we arrive and now there is cheese to be made. Her grandson and his friend help out but she pretty much runs this farm all by herself. Most people by her age are enjoying their retirement years but not Diana. She is involved at every stage of the process from milking to sterilizing equipment to separating the curds from the whey and then pressing and waxing the cheese.
The work is both physical and mental. Milk cans, once full, need to be moved from the milking area to the preparation room. Curds wrapped in cheesecloth and heavy with whey are hung on hooks to drain. Diana knows the routine and works quickly but as a former nurse, she is conscious of health and safety standards in food preparation. She is very careful to maintain pristine equipment and an equally clean kitchen area.
Whiskey Hill Farm is a small operation, an artisanal shop. Diana sells Alpine and Nubian goats along with cheddar and feta cheeses and to supplement her income, periodically she offers classes in cheese making.
It’s hard work but it’s good work.To visit Whiskey Hill Farm, click here.
Images by Sabrina Henry and Raymond Ketcham
Text by Sabrina Henry