Author Archives: mpressly

Homestead Fair – Thanksgiving Weekend

Homestead Fair

November 23-25, 2012
Friday and Saturday, 9 A.M. To 9 P.M.
& Sunday, 12 noon to 5 P.M.

25th Annual Homestead Fair

This year, The Ploughshare together with Homestead Heritage is cosponsoring the 25th annual Homestead Fair on Thanksgiving Weekend, Friday – Sunday, November 23-25, 2012. We invite you to attend.


Activities for the Entire Family

Everyone in the family can watch, learn about and participate in a wide variety of activities, including milking a goat, making soap, helping to raise a timber frame barn, preparing and spinning cotton into yarn or watching a master craftsman fashion a fine Windsor chair straight from a rough log. Other activities include hands-on projects, sheepdog herding, horse farming, pottery, blacksmithing, woodworking, quilting, weaving, spinning, basketry, boot making, cheese making and much, much more.

Great Food

Sample the multicultural dishes from our food court—from hamburgers to Israeli falafels, sourdough pizzas, tacos and gorditas, egg rolls and more, all home made fresh from the farm. Enjoy a delicious sorghum pecan ice-cream cone, apple cider donuts, or a bag of kettle corn while touring our farm on a horse-drawn hay wagon.

Hands-on Activities

Children especially enjoy the hands-on activities, in which they can learn to:

  • make a candle
  • weave a basket
  • build a bird feeder
  • make a toy sailboat
  • weave a coaster
  • hand-hammer a brass spoon
  • shell popcorn
  • braid a dog leash
  • or many others

Adults can try their hand, too, and one of the high points of the Fair is parents working with their children on these projects.

Seminars on Sustainability

The Fair also features a number of in-depth and practical seminars on sustainability. Most seminars last about 30-40 minutes, with a time for questions afterward. Topics are still being finalized in preparation for the Fair, but the preliminary list includes:

  • Seminars on important aspects of sustainable culture
  • Small-scale family farming
  • Sustainable gardening
  • Raising and caring for backyard chickens and other poultry
  • Beekeeping
  • Food preservation
  • Cheese and bread making
  • Sustainable energy
  • Sustainable building with local materials
  • Creative writing workshop, and more.

Music and Singing

Lively and moving music is a central part of the Fair, with our bluegrass musicians, our Homestead orchestra and adult’s and children’s choirs.

Unique Opportunities for Holiday Shopping

You will also find unique opportunities for holiday shopping with a great variety of unique hand-crafted items, from soaps to leather goods to pottery, quilts and other products made by our craftsmen and children.


Parking passes—good for all three days of the Fair—are available for $10.00 per vehicle on site, or you can pre-order them for $7.00 online. There is no entrance fee.

More Information about the Fair

For more information, including driving directions, camping and lodging information, food and events at the fair, visit the Homestead Fair website at:

We hope to see you at the fair.

Learning to Make Hard Cheeses

Hard Cheese Class

Cheeses that each person learns to make and takes home at the end of our hard cheesemaking class. Clockwise, starting at top right, the cheeses are: Colby Jack, Caraway Gouda, Parmesan, Chipotle Cheddar and Pepper Jack

My wife recently attended a class on making hard cheeses at The Ploughshare. Below is her report on the class:

Caraway Gouda Cheese

My wife holding the Caraway Gouda cheese that she made in the class. Once it has been turned and pressed in the cheese press several more times, then soaked in a salt brine overnight and aged for about two months, it will be ready to eat.

After having made soft cheeses at home I was ready to forge ahead and learn to make hard cheeses, so this past Saturday I took a class. Rebekah (one of the instructors) began our class with a very informative and thorough discussion on how milk becomes cheese that even included a brief chemistry/biology lesson on pH levels and bacteria. She then demonstrated making two types of cheese starter culture—Mesophilic and Thermophilic. She moved smoothly through each step, describing the varieties and types of cheeses, the cultures and the different processes used to make cheese. She shared stories from her own experiences along with examples of what to do and what not to do.

Cheesmaking class

Rebekah, one of the instructors, explaining about the natural rind on Parmesan cheese.

We made six types of cheeses in the class: Chipotle Cheddar, Caraway Gouda, Parmesan, Colby, Pepper Jack and Monterey Jack.

Transferring curds into the cheese press

Transferring curds into the cheese press to make Colby Jack cheese.

Altogether eight people took the class. A mother and son made Pepper Jack together, another team made Parmesan, and everyone else picked one type to make themselves. I chose the Caraway Gouda. We donned our aprons and with our recipe book in hand, took our places at the stoves. As the gallons of milk heated up in gleaming stainless steel stock pots, we chatted and peeked into each other’s pots to see how our cheeses were coming along. Rebekah and Robin bustled about us, answering questions, checking our progress, feeling the curds and giving help wherever it was needed. Although the step–by–step instructions in the recipes were easy to follow, it was reassuring to have such knowledgeable instructors nearby the first time we made these cheeses.

Bandaging the cheese

Wrapping the cheese with cheesecloth in preparation for aging it. Rebekah also discussed several other ways to prepare the cheese before aging.

By lunchtime, the milk had turned into curds and whey. We packed the curds into molds, placed them under the wooden cheese presses, added weights to the levers and waited 30 minutes. Then we pulled the cheese out of the molds, flipped it, repacked it in the molds and pressed it again for 30 minutes. We repeated this step several more times, and the curds solidified more and more into a beautiful round of cheese. Since the cheese needs to age for two months, we left them with Rebekah and Robin. But we all took home five wedges of the various cheeses that a previous class had made. In about two months, another hard cheese class will reap the results of our efforts.

Wrapping up the cheese

Cutting up the cheese and packaging it to bring home at the end of the class.

We left at the end of the day with our cheese-making manual, a bag of delicious cheeses and the inspiration and confidence to make hard cheeses at home. With broad smiles, Rebekah and Robin encouraged us with, “Call us if you need any help!”