The story of Alexander Krekhalev
How farmer uses chapel calendar to make cheeses
Kenozero's Vershinino-born Alexander Krekhalev is a progressive farmer. His Ayrshire cows are the best of their kind and his sheep are of the newest breed of 2013.

His spick and span machines, from tractor to pasteurizer, use cutting-edge technologies. Connected to the Internet is every corner of his farm outbuildings. It was on the Internet where Alexander learned how to make cheese a couple of years ago and where found recipe for his first homemade cheese.

In Northern Russia, cheese is not a part of the traditional cuisine. Krekhalev, however, has a natural talent. Caciotta, Ricotta, Chèvre, Philadelphia, Belper Knolle, Burrata... the entire world cheese platter, he learned all the recipes.

Last year Krekhalev started to host cheese making classes, treating visitors to his freshly made cheeses that never fail to make them exclaim, "so delicious!"

Many carry the "cheeses, milk and cream by Krekhalev" home hundreds of kilometers away.

"Stracciatella never tasted this good even in Italy. Alexander must know a secret…"

The secret is, however, not Italian but descends from generations of the Kenozero people.

Alexander Krekhalev
Some people organize their lives around episodes of their favorite soap operas, some around holiday trips. Alexander Krekhalev organizes his around chapel calendar.
"What's that?" you may ask.

Well, here's what it is. There used to be more than 50 chapels in Kenozero, each dedicated to its own saint and holy day. Each holy day had its particular custom or tradition to be observed concerning work, meals, and leisure. The early generations of Kenozero would go to worship saints, God and Holy Mother on their holy days at their churches. Organized around ecclesiastical calendar and its harmony was the life of every rural resident. Krekhalev's was no exception.

Was? It is. The tech-savvy farmer has been observing the chapel calendar at all times.

May 6 is the Day of St. George the Victorious. Is there a St. George chapel in Kenozero? A few. How can a farmer stay at home on St. George Day? St. George is the patron of cattle, and May 6 has traditionally been the day farmers get their livestock out to graze for the time after the winter, hence another name of this holy day – shepherd's day.

On July 21, Kenozero people get into their boats and paddle to the village of Minina, where they stay for a day or two to praise the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God in the local chapel.

Our Lady is our protectress, say the people of Kenozero. She is the one to address prayers to for healthy marriage and children. She answers them.

August 28 is the day to visit the villages of Tyryshkino or Hernovo and their chapels dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Assumption Day marks the end of the summer lent and the start of the summer feast. The crops would be already harvested and there's plenty of fish in Lake Kenozero. The Assumption Day is the perfect time for fish pies.

The day of St. Parasceve is observed on November 10. On this day, the people of Kenozero would go to St. Parasceve Chapel to pray for prosperity and health of their livestock.

February 24 is the day of St. Blaise, or "cow's day" as was its popular name – time to go to Medvezhy Island and its St. Blaise Chapel. Every year on February 24, cows and sheep would be sprinkled with holy water.

... So goes life in the large family of farmer Alexander Krekhalev. And not only in his: the traditions and the chapel calendar are known to every household in Kenozero.

Alexander is more of a strong, silent type. Here is how he sees his cheese plan to evolve:

"I want to get good at making 22 varieties of cheese. And since cheese is not a traditional indigenous food here in the northern parts of Russia, I want to develop my own recipe – the recipe of Kenozero cheese. Just like Mediterranean herbs are used for cheeses in the south, I might be using northern berries.

And although there is no patron saint of cheese-making in the Kenozero chapel calendar, there is every reason to believe there might appear one.