We arrived at 7:30 am, as planned, and things were just getting started. We found Deborah and she walked us down the hill to the big barn where the cows were still in their stalls.. Alex greeted us as he put away the portable milking device. We then turned our heads to see the small calf in the corner stall. This barn was a steel building with concrete floors – it could’ve been on any farm in the United States. As I mentioned earlier, all the cows wear bells so they’re easier to find in the mountains. And within the confines of steel and concrete, their bells seemed even louder. There was easily space for at least five times as many cows, which was great, as Deborah and Alex were planning on growing their herd. A few years back, Alex left his construction job in a nearby town. Deborah grew up working in her parents’ restaurant in a nearby ski village. They were following their life’s passion by currently renting this small farm and building a future…one newborn calf at a time. Alex informed us that their newest addition was a male; slight disappointment showed in his eyes. No milk from that calf.
The cows were released from the barn and the four of us began walking them through the paddock by the house and up the hill to a different paddock, which is where the cows stay for the day. The paddocks were formed by old rock walls and a light version of an electrical fence. We guided the cows to the paddock and I touched the fence – a slight jolt, but not too much. We all had a good laugh as I recounted a story from my drunken college days in Wyoming of pissing on an electrical fence and the shock that occurred and where.
Walking back to the house with the warm sun beaming down and the cool mountain air blowing, I could see how much they loved this life.
We went back to make cheese. The volume of milk roughly equated to 50 liters a day, which warrants making cheese every other day. Fifty liters creates two to five kilo wheels that need to age and be turned every day for up to eight months. Roughly two kilos of ricotta is created after the cheese has been filtered. The remaining mixture is fed to the hogs.
This process took almost four hours. Alex explained how he learned to make cheese from an old timer. He was proud and exuded passion when discussing his craft.
During our time, we talked in detail about the craft of cheese making, business, hunting, immigration, the economy, the EU, and Italian and US politics. We had a ball making both alpine and ricotta cheese. When we were done, we went back upstairs and ate the same lunch as the day before: wine, cheese, speck, and bread.
After lunch, Deborah and Alex invited us to go out to dinner later that evening. They wanted to take us to Zoppe, a village that’s a one-hour drive on the main road; however, they knew of a shortcut through the mountains. We agreed to join them for dinner in a few hours, bought some cheese, and insisted on paying for lunch.
That evening, we arrived on time – a slight cultural misstep. Alex teased me, asking if I was Swiss, not Italian, as our early arrival required us to wait for Deborah to finish getting ready. A few minutes later, the four of us and their dog loaded up into the tiny 4×4 and we took off down a dirt road behind the farm.
At dinner, we enjoyed horse salami pizza and other local favorites. Everyone in the restaurant knew them and came to sit with us. When the check showed up with limoncello shots, I indulged.
During the drive home, we learned firsthand of Deborah’s affection for driving fast and Johnny Cash. On our ride back through the rain and switchbacks, we saw dozens of deer. I could see why Alex enjoyed hunting here.
As I was enjoying my morning coffee the next day, I reflected on our time here with Alex and Deborah. I did some rough calculations on how well the business was doing financially and quickly came to the conclusion that things were likely financially tight; however, I also came to the conclusion that these were two of the richest people I know. They both genuinely love doing what they do and couldn’t see themselves doing anything else. They’re winning.
The point of this story is that there’s no reason we all can’t be passionate about what we do and still be true to who we are. Reka loves counseling, helping people, adventure, and running; I love working with business leaders, writing, adventure, and talking. Deborah and Alex are scratching out a life with animals, hunting, manufacturing cheese, Johnny Cash tunes, and making new friends.
My question to you is this: What do you really love? What brings you authentic, unyielding joy?
When you know the answer, you can begin building a plan on how to go out, get it, and live it. Remember, this should first start from within – with genuine passion. Once you’ve pinpointed it, you’ll become the happy master cheesemaker.
Deborah and Alex will be our friends for life. I may even do some hunting with Alex in the future. Reka and I are so fortunate to have met these two souls and to learn from them. We’re truly inspired by how they’re choosing to live their lives. By spending time with them, we were able to experience their goals and dreams because they’ve fully embraced their passion. They’re living their Best Life.
This experience was so captivating and enthralling because it strongly resonates with what Reka and I are doing. We’re currently in the process of finishing a book to help couples identify their passion, dreams, and goals; the book contains information and activities to guide readers in putting their dreams into action. Further, we plan on providing and facilitating workshops to kick start the implementation of those dreams and to help couples find and live their Best Life.
If you’d like to learn more about Your Best Life, or if you’re interested in making cheese, please reach out. We look forward to hearing from you!