• Michael Martin

Milk & Honey


I have been making a lot of cheese.


Over the past two weeks, I have made roughly fifteen pounds of farmer cheese, a mild variety that requires only vinegar for separating the curds from whey, about three pounds of ricotta (which is made by almost boiling the leftover whey), five pounds of queso blanco, and five pounds of manchego, my absolute favorite, though it won’t be aged enough for at least a month. I’ve also been making butter when I get a chance. It’s pretty easy to tell we have a cow, a Jersey named Fiona.


Fiona gives about three gallons of milk a day (we milk by hand, btw), which is far more than we can use, and that’s why we offer a milk share through our CSA. Even though we have eight shareholders, we still have far more milk than we can use. Which is okay with me. I hope to get enough cheese and butter stored by Thanksgiving to last us through the winter. But it takes time. Making soft cheeses is relatively quick—just a few hours including hanging and drying—but making aged cheeses is an all-day affair, and this is without considering the aging process, which can last anywhere from one to six months (even more in the case of Parmesan).


We also raise honeybees on our farm. Right now we’re down to two hives, but we’ve had up to six. Bees are hard. If I lost a quarter of my animals over the winter, I’d think I was an abject failure; but if a beekeeper loses a quarter of his or her bees, he or she will invariably say “I only lost a quarter!” Varroa mites, GMO crops and glyphosate (not on my farm, but I can’t keep the bees inside a fence), and the DNR spraying for mosquitoes (IN NOVEMBER!!!) provide incredible challenges to the beekeeper. Nevertheless, we usually manage to put up enough honey to last us through the year; and I’ll be pulling the last of the honey for our use next week, just before the goldenrod goes into full bloom and the honey starts to smell like damp socks (I’m not kidding). After the honey harvest comes in, I’ll try to put up another five gallons of mead that will probably be ready around Twelfth Night


All of this, of course, coincides with the way the agricultural year begins to wind down in the Northern Hemisphere at this time of year. I have to get out to the gardens and pull the field onions and potatoes (including sweet potatoes), and get ready to process our surplus animals, not to mention that I need to prepare for the coming hunt of the deer this November. Being part of Creation requires this of me. I’m a farmer.


It is almost impossible, at this time of year, for me to not think of Waterloo Township, the hilly Michigan countryside where I live, as a land flowing with milk and honey. Because, quite literally, it is.


On the other hand, so, at least potentially, is every other piece of land. We all know the biblical promise:

And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:7-8)

The land the Israelites came to, however, was not as fertile as one might think: through the help of God, they made it so. As Ellen Davis writes in her wonderful Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible, the wager of the Israelites in their partnership with God is characterized by the requirement “to imagine their land as blessed precisely in the fragility that necessitates and therefore guarantees God’s answering attention.” [1] There is no reason to believe the same isn’t possible in any other geographical context.

Meanwhile, I have been haunted by something I bumped into while I was preparing Jesus the Imagination, Volume 3: Christ-Orpheus for publication. It was a reference to early Christian liturgies, before the codification that always accompanies State approval and morphs into a late-classical version of the “best practices” sloganeering that so infects academia and business today. Apparently, milk and honey were used sacramentally in liturgies just as much as bread and wine were. [2] I will definitely be following up on research in this direction when time allows, but I do know of people experimenting with the reintroduction of milk and honey as sacramental elements in modern liturgical settings, clandestine though they be. At first I didn’t like the idea, I must admit; but it’s grown on me.

Clearly, the image of milk and honey (both products of the female of their respective species) bears an appreciable amount of sophiological heft. And this is as it should be. It’s what’s missing. And for a culture essentially waging war on both the feminine and fertility, it has never been more needed. So much of this is described in the celebration of divine and human eros that is The Song of Songs:


Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat the fruit of his apple trees. I am come into my garden, O my sister, my spouse, I have gathered my myrrh, with my aromatical spices: I have eaten the honeycomb with my honey, I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends, and drink, and be inebriated, my dearly beloved.” (5:1)

Our own culture exhibits an incredible degree of insanity regarding farming. The assumption that agriculture can thrive without animals is one aspect of this nightmare only a bureaucrat could devise. And the promotion of insect protein and, yes, that acquired via cannibalism (but a softer, gentler cannibalism) to replace that from animals (including their milk) would be laughable were not the Archons pursuing it so aggressively.


So think of me, gentle friends, eating farmer cheese with basil, tomato, salt and pepper, sipping on a draft of fresh mead. Think of the feminine and fertility and how scarcity is the myth that tries to replace fecundity. For there is a richness to life the Archons will never comprehend.


Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God.” (Amos 9:13-15)


Michael’s latest book is Sophia in Exile. He can be reached at director@thecenterforsophiologicalstudies.com See also The Center for Sophiological Studies' available courses. Also check out the latest volume of Jesus the Imagination: The Divine Feminine. Twitter: @Sophiologist_

1. Ellen F. Davis, Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible (Cambridge, 2009), 27.

2. Everett Ferguson, Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy (Grand Rapids, 2009), 20.

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