Creamery Construction Begins
The forecast is calling for 2 inches of rain in the next 48 hours, which would be great, if it were February. Sadly it’s June, and 2 inches of rain means more delays getting hay off the field and less than ideal conditions for construction progress. Thankfully we did get a break in the weather a few weeks ago which dried the ground out enough that we were finally able to break ground.
Construction started with the excavation of the foundation lines. The general layout of the creamery is based upon Fumailles, where I trained in France. With the lumber now in place it is possible to visualize the milk receiving room which extends out toward the vineyard. This room will house the pasteurizer, dairy sink, and washer and drier (to wash cheese cloth) on one side. The other side of the room will contain the raw milk cheese vat and cheese press. Doors flanking the sink will lead into the raw milk aging room and the incubation room for the pasteurized cheese vats on the other. Passing through the incubation room takes you to the long main cheese making room, also with views of the vineyard, where pasteurized milk curd will be drained for chevre or placed into molds for surface ripened cheeses. It is also the room where packaging will take place. After mold ripened cheeses have drained they will be placed on racks and go into the drying room and from there to the surface ripened aging room, both of which open up off the far end of the make room. The bathroom and vestibule (a CDFA requirement) round out the rooms in the creamery and will ultimately form the entrance to the tasting/retail space which will be completed in another phase of construction.
The entire creamery occupies 1587 square feet. Dimensions for the rooms were calculated to handle peak production for 108 dairy goats. Since my herd was in its infancy when I started work on the business plan I used Dairy Herd Improvement Association (DHIA) records from the UC Davis herd, whose genetics I’ve used to start the herd and whose management practices I’ve followed. Animals in the DHIA program are monitored each month for milk production, percent protein, and percent fat. I analyzed data compiled over several years for UCD does in their first lactation and does who had had several lactations. I then created an estimate of milk production for my own herd assuming a 10% turnover rate in the herd (10 older animals leave the herd each year and are replaced by 10 first freshening does). I tried to estimate how much milk would go into each of the styles of cheese I plan to make, and using a rough yield estimate for each style came up with a production prediction for each cheese and from there dimensions for each stage of production. Here’s hoping I’m in the ballpark!
Drainage pipe, plumbing materials, trench drains, and floor sinks are currently being moved into place. We will have two systems of drainage, a primary one to handle rinse water, and a second one specifically for whey removal. Drains on draining tables will have a manual diversion to this secondary system. This will allow us to keep the high BOD content whey out of the septic system and utilize it as animal feed (we just purchased a breeding sow and plan to feed pigs with the whey). Before the slab can be poured we’ll also install tubing for radiant heating in the floor and foam insulation. We’ve designed insulation into the flooring and foundations as a means of creating a thermal barrier between the two aging rooms and the processing rooms. The goal with the additional insulation is to reduce the degree to which the cooler aging rooms are influenced by the adjacent warmer processing rooms. This is more energy efficient as it reduces the amount of time the air conditioning units run, and also benefits the cheese since the act of cooling the air also dries it out and reduces the ambient humidity.
Finally starting construction has also spurred equipment acquisition so we know that framing will match where wall mounted pieces will be located and that electrical conduits and water lines are correctly placed. We’ve been down to visit Cheese maker Kuba Hemmerling at Point Reyes Farmstead to look at his pasteurizer and after rounds of dialogue with the manufacturer (C van’t Reit) are on the verge of putting in our order. Here’s to cheese making equipment and finally breaking ground on a place to use them!