anniversary of a lifetime

So it's our 15 wedding anniversary this year and, being the hopeless romantic Joel is, he offered to take me back east to the wonderful capitol city of New York, Albany. And not only would he fly me there round trip, staying in a 3rd class motel and eating dinner at chain restaurants every night- he would also throw in an all expenses paid 3 day Dairy Sheep Association of North America Symposium!!! That's right folks, I know they say your 15th anniversary is supposed to be the crystal anniversary but Joel tells me it is actually cheese.
We actually had a great time, it is something we are both interested in and feel as though we need. Information is what we were lacking when it came to building a cheese business from the ground up. This was a wonderful event and offered such valuable information for people just like us. We came home completely drained every night as we learned everything from how to design a well organized milking parlor to nutrition for prepubertal ewe lambs and genetic markers for milk production. A funny little happenstance occurred on the second night we were there. We got to our room and were trying to figure out where to go for dinner, since we had to walk everywhere we wanted something close. There was a funny Chinese restaurant next door and, being as tired as we were, this was exactly what we needed. I got a warm bowl of noodle soup and Joel got a rice dish. We finished our meal and got our bill and fortune cookies. I opened mine right away and on one side it had my fortune and on the other it had the Chinese word to learn- gooseberry. Joel then opened his and as he cracked open the cookie half of the fortune was showing and there was only one word... "sheep". That's right, the Chinese word to learn was sheep! I take these things as a sign, Joel takes them as an interesting coincidence. Either way you see it, these little "coincidences" are adding up. We saw it with every step in our home buying process, the people we have met who are lined up ready to help us in areas we didn't know needed help. Something is pulling us in this direction and no matter what it is, it's still nice to have a path laid out for us... all we have to do is follow it.

we made cheese!

Excitement is in the air as we purchased out first gallon of milk that is designated specifically for cheese. Joel spent the first night with his new cheese recipe book. He flipped through the pages as if they were antiques, as to not disturb their pristine condition. Hours went by on that Friday night as the milk sat in the fridge just waiting to be morphed into something better. We decided to begin easy and make a fresh cheese called queso fresco. It is a mexican-style cheese that is great on tacos. We got up first thing on Saturday morning and sanitized everything. We were ready to begin. As we started this process we soon realized we were going to be in the kitchen for a very, long time. Cheese making is NOT simple or easy. There is a point at which you have to raise the temp up 2 degrees every 5 minutes over 45 minutes time, or you have to keep the temp at 116 degrees for 45 minutes. There are half a dozen different steps before you even cut the curds. Once it is drained, you have to put the cheese curds into a mold and set 10 lbs. of weight for 30 minutes then add another 30 lbs. for the next 6 hours. Once in the fridge some cheeses have to be rotated once a day and brushed with olive oil and salt, some have to be brined for 12 hours. Needless to say, it is a process! I helped with the first two batches and anytime we try a new one I get involved but I can be the first to say that I am a bit impatient. I am a baker and I love baking new things but the benefit is that I can taste my product and make sure it is good right after I am done making it. Well cheese is different- the manchego cheese has to age at least a month so you have no idea if it even tastes good. Joel is amazing and he has all the patience in the world when it comes to his cheese and as we broke into his first aged cheese, although he was very nervous, he tasted it first and his nerves soon turned to excitement as he found that it actually tasted great! Every evening when we are cleaning up the mound of pots and pans and he has been on his feet for literally 8-12 hours, he finishes up and states, "I can't wait till next saturday to do this again."

nursery gets a makeover

With the loss of the bikes Joel felt a void in his heart and garage. Since we made some money from the bikes we decided to only use it for cheese, hence the name "cheesemoney". He knew he was completely ready now to begin filling both heart and garage with cheese stuff. "I have been looking online and I found a cheese making kit- I need to buy, I have to start making cheese." The following week, "Hey Rach, I need to buy a mini-fridge, I have to age the cheese at 55 degrees and 85% humidity so we can't use the one in the kitchen." Our Friday night date nights were all centered around cheese for weeks and weeks. Sears was our go to place where we found most of our supplies. "Hey do you know where I can get a thermometer and a hygrometer (to measure humidity)?" Once we had everything set up in the garage and working properly we moved on to the next purchases. "Here is a list of supplies we need; a 20 quart stock pot, utensils, bamboo mats and cheesecloth." Now when you walk into a store and buy 10 packages of bamboo mats the question always comes up, "Oh are you taking a sushi class?" "No we are making cheese". 99.9% of the reactions are "What! Really! You can make cheese!?" It's pretty fun to see people's reaction and what we find is everyone loves cheese and really wants us to succeed, not to mention they'd be really happy to test our products. I have a feeling we are going to have to start being more social in order to get our product out there, which is hard for us since we are the opposite of social. You can find Joel sitting in a beach chair tending to his cheese more than hanging out with friends. "Babe- I need to order a cheese trier. I LOVE making cheese!!"


too many sleepless nights

In July we began our journey and worked on buying a house that we cannot move in to just yet. Joel works at a plastics manufacturing company and has committed to working there for at least two more years. So we now have the chore of having our mortgage and our rent due on the same day. This could be a problem since Joel is the only one of us that is working for the time being. Therefore it is my job to make his paycheck stretch to fit our needs. The stress can get to Joel, he doesn't want to hear about our finances at all. He generally can't sleep at night when monetary stress comes about, he has done this our entire marriage and it's funny to see how far we've come. The first sleepless night he had was when we were newlyweds, pregnant and as poor as really poor white-trash dirt. We couldn't even come up with money to pay for the bus ride to work (50 cents). One night I was craving an ice-cream cookie sandwich like nobody's business and I was in such despair over the fact that we couldn't gather enough money to buy one at the local gas station. Being the guilt ridden romantic Joel is, he took his precious bus money, that was given to him by his boss for the next morning, and started over to the gas station. I told him specifically, "if it is over .75 cents don't buy it!" He walked the long, cold, snow covered streets to the station. I watched through the window with fear and anticipation as he slowly walked back, he had a bag in is hand and pulled out the most beautiful sight I had ever seen... an ice-cream cookie sandwich. "How much was it?" I asked with death in my voice. "Just eat it- we can't return it cause it will melt" he responded. I knew it was bad so I asked again and he quietly stated, "it was $1.49." The pit in my stomach sank past my pregnant belly and settled at my feet. I couldn't send it back, I had no choice but to eat it. He sat there and watched me gag this ice-cream treat that was dipped in guilt and wrapped in gloom. We then proceeded to figure out how he was going to get to work in the morning. It all worked out but that was the first night he lost sleep over a purchase. The second time was over a year later when we had our cute baby boy. We were missing out on so many precious moments since we didn't have a camera so I sent him to buy a disposable camera, something we could use for a while and only take photos of the most adorable moments so we could make the camera last. When he came home he handed me the bag, walked into the bedroom and laid down. He didn't buy a disposable camera, he spent $30 on a mediocre camera AND film. It was enough to make a grown man cry. I, on the other hand, thought it was a good financial decision and made more sense than to keep buying disposable cameras. In the end it is good to see that we have come along way and now when we go to the movies I get a ice-cream sandwich just because I can. In order to keep his sleep patterns positive with this looming new mortgage over his head- he made a very bold decision... he was going to have to sell his motorcycles. Now if you know Joel then you know he LOVES riding motorcycles. He rides everyday and it is the best therapy for him so when faced with our new budget challenge he decided to sell his 1973 Moto Guzzi and his 2007 Bonneville Triumph (Bonnie). Now he isn't going bikeless, we still have a Honda so he will ride that for now. It was actually a pretty cool experience because, as we all know, the economy is down and buying motorcycles is usually the last thing on peoples mind but lady luck was on our side and within 1 week of putting the bikes on the market they sold for asking price. The nursery (garage) is empty now but it leaves room in the budget for his new love and not to mention he is sleeping like baby.

let's get movin' into action

A major milestone and first step to becoming famous cheese makers has occurred. We took a family trip to Utah for the 24th of July festivities. For those who are unfamiliar with the Utah customs, I will give a quick history lesson to bring you up to speed. There is a special holiday set for the pilgrimage that started in Illinois in 1846 and and ended in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. The Utah pioneers walked for nearly 1300 miles and for the first group it took over a year to accomplish. My great-great-great grandfather Edwin Whiting came with the first group and once they made it to the valley, he was asked to move on and establish another city due south. He obliged and headed out with a group of 180 people, including a man named John Lowry. They traveled along the mountain ranges and came to a small valley. When it was all over, the little town of Manti was established. Edwin Whiting was the 3rd mayor of Manti and had to handle the Indians and the anti-Mormon US soldiers, he was even shot at for trying to protect the members of his town... but I digress. Joel and I had been looking very diligently in California for our first home, for the last 10 years we have been living in a two bedroom apartment with 5 kids, so this was our big chance to become homeowners. The months passed by and nothing came about, we had offers on two homes that never amounted to anything. We tried looking closer to Huntington Beach but all we could get was a 3 bedroom condo with a grass patch and competing with 10 other offers all of which were higher than the listed price. Frustrated and ready to move on we looked at a few places in Manti, like we do every year and came across this little number.
I knew it was older and that it most likely didn't look like this in its current state but bringing an old home back to life was something Joel and I have dreamed about for years. Long story short, we got into town on the 23rd, looked at the house on the 24th and put an offer in by nightfall. It took 2 long months but on October 2, 2009 we were officially deemed, homeowners... of a home built in 1850 by a well known, colorful character named, John Lowry. One step down, many to go.


sheep milk... for the win!

For example: yogurt

Protein in sheep milk yogurt is double that of yogurt made from cow's milk and the calcium content is 50% greater. Sheep yogurt is highest in the B vitamin group, particularly B12, as well as vitamins A, C, D & E. It is also highest in niacin, riboflavin, iron, phosphorus and zinc. There are no dangers from growth hormones with this yogurt. It has low sugar content and is 1/3 lower in sodium when compared to leading yogurt brands. Calories in the sheep milk full fat yogurt are similar to most low fat yogurts on the market and has significantly fewer calories than full fat cow milk yogurts. It is gluten free. Sheep milk is higher in total solids than cow or goat milk, resulting in a natural, thick creamy yogurt made with only milk and active cultures. Yogurt is an ideal addition to meatless or lacto-vegetarian diets as well as a great cooking substitute >for creams, butters and milks. It does not break down at high temperatures. (British Sheep Dairying Association).
- blacksheepcheese.com

The following graph shows nutrient content per 250 ml (1 cup)

The charts below taken from E. Renner, 1974 shows a comparison between sheep and cow milk in relation to the human daily need in 1 litre of milk from each source.

• A well-tolerated, non-allergenic protein source is very important for people who are healing, athletic or growing.
• Calcium is responsible for relaxation, bone density and cavity prevention.
• Magnesium is very critical for the relief of muscle cramping.
• Sheep milk contains twice the amino acid lysine than cow or goat milk. Lysine is one of the most important nutrients in the treatment of viruses such as herpes simplex.
• A diet high in Vitamins B12 and C, magnesium and zinc, is recommended for people who suffer from
Chronic Fatigue or Immune Dysfunction Syndromes.


so many benefits, so little time

If I am going to put a stamp on a food product I want to make sure that it is something I would feed my own children. I am a big believer in standing behind a product because it is worthy and not just because it makes money. As Joel was digging into his studies he came across so much good information that everyone should hear about. I feel it is my job to get it out there and hopefully someone can benefit from it. I have complied a list of benefits from various sources and hopefully this will continue to build as we continue on our journey to cheese.


Sheep milk also contain a higher quantity of medium/short chain saturated fatty acids and it is believed that this leads to higher lactose absorption which is of benefit for those who are lactose intolerant. Furthermore, sheep milk is not as high in saturated fatty acids in comparison to the other types of milk. 45 % of the fatty acids in sheep milk is Mono or Poly-unsaturated fats.
The medical and nutritional values of medium chain fatty acids or triglycerides (MCT) are well-known and its benefits has been proven in a wide variety of diseases like heart diseases, epilepsy in children, cystic fibrosis, gall stones etc. because of its unique metabolic ability to supply energy. MCT also limits or inhibits cholesterol deposits, it dissolves cholesterol gall stones and it plays a role in normal growth of babies. MCT is unique because it doesn’t follow the normal lipid route through the lymph system. It instead goes where it is oxidized into a fast available energy for the body. The unique content of approximately 25 % MCT in the fat of sheep milk is not fully utilized yet. The daily recommended intake of 15 g MCT can be provided by approximately 60 g sheep butter.


Up to seventy-five percent of the world’s population has some degree of lactose intolerance, making it difficult for them to drink milk without symptoms of gassiness and diarrhea. Many people who suffer from lactose intolerance are able to enjoy sheep’s milk without symptoms even though they’re unable to drink goat’s milk or cow’s milk. Sheep’s milk as well as yogurt and cheese made from milk from the sheep may give the lactose intolerant individual the chance to enjoy milk again. -healthmad.com


Large consumption of sheep milk is thought to lead to longevity. Bulgarian shepherds are noted for their exceptionally long lives, presumably from a diet of the produce of their sheep. Because of its high calcium content, sheep milk is also very good for the prevention of osteoporosis and for those people already suffering from it. Both these minerals are higher in sheep milk as in goat’s and cow’s milk. Calcium combined with lactose and the high amount of Vit. D is critical in the prevention of Osteoporosis. Bone density is formed during adolescence and the huge amount of soft drinks consumed by children nowadays instead of milk predicts nothing good for them in old age because soft drinks destroy bone density. Sheep milk provide in 254 % of the daily requirement of calcium of 800 mg while cow’s milk provide only 170 %. Stilton cheese (cow) provides only 320 mg / 100g in comparison with Roquefort (sheep) 530 mg / 100 g.


Sheep milk contain double the amount of butterfat in comparison to goat’s and cow’s milk. The fat globules in sheep milk are smaller than those in either cow or goat milk. Therefore the milk is more homogeneous. The smaller fat globules are more easily digested and are less likely to cause high cholesterol. Sheep milk also contain a higher quantity of medium/short chain saturated fatty acids and it is believed that this leads to higher lactose absorption which is of benefit for those who are lactose intolerant. Furthermore, sheep milk is not as high in saturated fatty acids in comparison to the other types of milk. 45 % of the fatty acids in sheep milk is Mono or Poly-unsaturated fats. The medical and nutritional values of medium chain fatty acids or triglycerides (MCT) are well-known and its benefits has been proven in a wide variety of diseases like heart diseases, epilepsy in children, cystic fibrosis, gall stones etc. because of its unique metabolic ability to supply energy. MCT also limits or inhibits cholesterol deposits, it dissolves cholesterol gall stones and it plays a role in normal growth of babies. MCT is unique because it doesn’t follow the normal lipid route through the lymph system. It instead goes where it is oxidized into a fast available energy for the body.-sasheepdariy.co.za/benefits


you do what with sheep??

At first thought most people don't consider milking sheep. They don't mind eating sheep or looking at sheep but when you suggest milking sheep and making cheese out of that milk you can get some very interesting looks. What people don't realize is how many products are made from sheep's milk and shipped from all over the world to your local grocery store, put into your basket by your hand and eaten by your family. There are many varieties to choose from such as the most popular bleu cheese but here is a list of the other products made with sheep's milk:
Ricotta Cheese
Manchego Cheese
Feta Cheese
Pecorino Romano
Drinking Milk
Sour Cream
Heavy Cream
Anything else that you can make with cows milk

Many producers in the US will make these products out of cows milk for price and convenience but if you have had them in the traditional form you will agree that sheep milk products are much better not only in taste but also in nutrition.

Sheep milk is highly nutritious, richer in vitamins A, B, and E, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium than cow's milk. It contains a higher proportion of short- and medium-chain fatty acids, which have recognized health benefits. For example, short-chain fatty acids have little effect on cholesterol levels in people. They make milk easier to digest. According to a German researcher, sheep milk has more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than the milk from pigs, horses, goats, cattle, and humans. CLA is a cancer-fighting, fat-reducing fat. The fat globules in sheep milk are smaller than the fat globules in cow's milk, making sheep milk more easily digested.- Sheep 101: Dairy Sheep

I've - got - a - plan....

Joel is what we call a... nerd. He does in depth research on the most unusual things like the social organization of ant hills, or comparing the writings of Emerson and Nietzsche, or the philosophical problems with teleportation. So when interest piqued in Roquefort bleu cheese, he found something that caught his eye... it is traditionally made with sheep's milk. Joel has always been a great provider but living in Huntington Beach was never a good fit for him, he always felt he was a man without a home. Every year as we vacationed in Sanpete County we felt the hills calling us. We loved the old homes and the laid back feel of a small town and it certainly helps that both our families live there. He knows this is what he wants but he doesn't want to be financially stuck in a place were jobs are scarce. While researching the geological layout, water rights and weather patterns of Manti and the county he knew he could farm and he knows that sheep are very popular to raise for meat but we need a twist. He came to the logical conclusion of cheese making with sheep's milk rather than the well established cows milk. Having this priceless piece of information is what is sending him spiraling out of control, neck deep, into everything sheep. He has found all the health benefits, the sheep cheese recipes and how the U.S. imports millions of dollars worth of sheep products every year. All of a sudden we know more about sheep than we ever thought possible. He keeps me up to date with his information as it comes in and together we are realizing that since no one has heard of this yet, it just might be the ticket.


i want a farm

Joel and his brother have discussed on many occasions the need for a family farm. The question was where? Joel has family that lives in Manti, Utah and he spent nearly every summer there growing up helping the family build and remodel their home. I, on the other hand, lived about 20 miles away from Manti in a small town called Mt. Pleasant. I lived there till I was about 9. Since we both have family nearby, we feel very comfortable there, almost like a second home. We were married in Manti and feel as though it has been calling us for a long time. Joel's ancestors moved near by and helped build the Manti temple. His great, great, great grandfather put the main doors on the temple upon completion. My great, great, great grandfather Edwin Whiting came across the plains with a man named John Lowry (you'll hear more about Mr. Lowry in the future) and together they settled Manti. My g-g-g-grandfather first lived in a cave dugout in the side of the mountain where the temple now stands. We always knew we would move there some day, it was just a matter of when and what would we do for a living. Joel was doing his research into farming he found that this all just might work, in Manti, Utah.

how it all began

We have a dream to become artisan cheese makers. Join us on a real-time journey to see what happens. We are coming up with ideas and putting together a plan, whether it works or not we will put in the effort and if anything, walk away knowing we tried our best. We haven't ever attempted anything this big, we usually try and stay pretty safe and neutral (boring). But I think this is something we can do and since we are in it together, hopefully it will work. This is our story.
Joel and I met in May 1994, we were married by November 1994. We had our first baby in June 1995 and our fifth baby in December 2002. We put ourselves through college while raising our children; Joel got his degree in History and I got my degree in Studio Art, both, at the University of California, Irvine. Joel has always had a love for cheese. Bleu is by far his favorite and when his 31st birthday came around I asked him what he wanted for his cake, he simply answered "Cheese". I take things very literally so I was on a mission to find him some great cheese. I found a little shop in Orange, California that had a fantastic selection so off I went. Upon entering this wonderful shop I was greeted with the smells of molded, stinky cheese. I had a specific idea in mind for his cake and cheese worked perfectly. I wanted to take several wedges and put them together to create a cake shape. I had to get 4 different types, that were about the same height. I found my cheeses of choice; Roquefort, Humbolt Fog and a couple others I can't remember. I sampled most of them and the Roquefort was by far the most exciting, it had a numbing effect on the palate and so I knew he would love it. Being fairly proud of myself I went home and set it up along with the finishing touch... candles on top. He was truly surprised and it was definitely a cake made for Joel. We all dove in and spent the night trying all the different cheeses. That was the first time we had a true "cheese" experience. It was from then on that Joel dove into the world of cheese and as he investigated his beloved bleu (Roquefort) he found out why it was so remarkable and which marked the beginning our journey...it all begins with sheep.