Families with sheep band together around their shepherd every spring for a festival they call a "StÓna" (pronounced stuh-nah).
On the day of the stÓna, the shepherds begin corralling their flock as they wait for the families to join them.
Families take their children out of school for the day. It's a recognized holiday, though it's a different day for each shepherd.
We walked for five miles to one stÓna.
The head males of each family position themselves in front of the pens. Assistants wait inside the pens with the sheep.
Each man carefully digs a hole for his bucket, then stakes it in place with specially whittled sticks.
Spilling the milk would be a mini-disaster.
When everyone is ready, and all the sheep are loaded, and the bleating has reached its highest pitch, someone gives the signal to go.
The sheep leap forward, thinking they're finally free of those claustrophobic pens.
But not so fast! Men grab their legs and haul them into position.
After the first sheep get milked dry, the rest of them seem to get the idea, and things go more easily.
The sheep seem to be mouthing: 'Ahhh, at last..."
Each family has a different number of sheep in the flock, and each sheep gives their own amount of milk. When all their sheep are milked, they begin the weighing.
They pour the milk in a wooden barrel, then stick a knife in a graduated stick.
When the knife blade just shows above the surface of the milk, the measurement is called out.
One community member is selected as a scribe, and he takes down each measurement.
As the weighing continues, others start making cheese out of the milk.
First rennet, the lining of sheep's stomachs, is added to begin coagulating the cheese.
After time has passed, volunteers squish the curds together with their hands.
They strain them into cheesecloth.
(So that's why they call that stuff cheesecloth!)
Then they hang the bundle up to dry. The whey will drip into a pot to feed their dogs.
This will make what they call Cas (Kahsh): a dried sheep's milk cottage cheese. (Not like feta at all.)
But wait! It's not over yet.
They pour the remaining whey into a cauldron and boil it. This will make 'Urda,' a even more fattening and yummy version of the sheep cottage cheese.
Meanwhile, the priest is having a service to bless the sheep. The blessing is meant to help keep them safe from disease and wolves.
Being spring, sometimes it rains.
Once the cheese is underway, and the service done, the women begin unfurling their carefully packed picnics.
And as they'll tell you, all's well that ends in a party.
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