Updates & Blog

Posted 5/15/2012 7:57pm by Kevin & Kristyn Henslee.

Things are moving quite fast around the farm these days. Every morning we have been up and out in the parlor by 6:00 am to milk the sheep. We are up to 39 ewes in the milk line up. We are trying to make at least four batches of cheese each week, about three cow’s milk runs and two sheep milk.

We have decided to focus our efforts on creating delicious, handcrafted blue cheeses. Yellow House cheese is committed to making a consistent, high quality product and we feel that the Ohio artisan cheese community could use a blue cheese maker.

Making cheese is an interesting production in itself. It involves much cleaning in preparation, constant sanitization and what I like to refer to as “magic.” Magic is how the milk transforms into cheese. I am quite certain that it also has a lot to do with starter cultures and rennet, but when I witness the milk turn into curds it truly seems like magic.

Our cheese is made in 30 gallon batches in a reclaimed steam kettle that we heat with hot water. The milk is warmed to a target temperature, the cultures are added, you wait, you add some rennet, you wait, you cut the curd, mix, separate the curd from the whey (insert Little Miss Muffet reference here) and finally put the curds in a mold to drain and you magically have cheese.

It’s just that easy.

The cheeses drain for a day or so, get salted and then are moved to the aging cave where they will sit and wait for 60 days for legal sale. We do not pasteurize our milk, so the 60-day aging rule is mandatory.

We are excited to roll out Yellow House Cheese soon, but until then we will sit and monitor the cave and bring you updates as soon as our first batches are ready to go.

 

Posted 5/8/2012 8:57am by Kevin & Kristyn Henslee.



Thank you for your interest in Yellow House Cheese.


We are a small acreage, family farm located in Seville, Ohio.


We have been busy over the last year preparing our farm for dairy sheep, renovating a carriage house for our milk house and creamery as well as building a milking parlor and hand digging a cheese cave for aging. Kevin and I have been proud (and exhausted) to complete the entire project ourselves. We had some help with the plumbing and had a friend pour the concrete but we were able to work together to complete the entire renovation before milking began.


We are now milking over 25 sheep with about 10 more to come on board in the next two weeks. We have been making cheese and have decided to concentrate on producing handmade, artisan style blue cheeses. I am anticipating a serious learning curve, but am committed to making delicious cheese.

Yellow House Cheese will be selling our cheeses at the Medina Farmers Market, directly to fine dining chefs and hopefully will sell in a few retail locations as well.


I encourage you all to support local agriculture and learn more about family farms. If you know anyone that might be interested in our products, please pass along our contact information, any help is appreciated.


Thank you all for your support,


Kristyn & Kevin Henslee

Posted 4/12/2012 5:24am by Kevin & Kristyn Henslee.


It has been a whirlwind lambing season here at Yellow House Cheese.

It is so interesting. The miracle of birth never gets old to me. A sweet baby lamb, or two, or three—can successfully come out of another animal is crazy to me.

We are lambing out over 40 ewe lambs (that means it’s their first baby) and a few older ewes. The process is stressful to me because honestly I am a nervous mother hen. Every night we check the ewes every two hours just to make sure everyone is happy and check on those ready to go into labor. It’s like getting up with a newborn—except the newborns are fluffy, white and ruminants. The older ewes should have no problems with their deliveries; I worry more about the ewe lambs. The sheep we purchased last year are Booroola gene carriers which increase the likelihood of multiple births. And with multiple births can come multiple problems—tangled legs, breech births, two at once… So hence the reason I get up to check! So far my overnight checking has been pretty fruitless. Most of our lambs are being born between 5 am and 10 pm.

After the lambs are born we move both the mom and baby into a lambing pen. These pens promote bonding between the mother and baby and also keep a fragile newborn lamb safe from trampling. Side panels on the pen keep any cold draft off of the lamb to help prevent early onset pneumonia. In the pens, lambs nurse their mothers for the first time. The first milk is called colostrum and is very valuable to the health of the lamb. Colostrum holds antibodies that the mother has built up and passes them along to their babies to keep them safe for the first month or so of life.

Most babies stay in lambing pens for 24-36 hours. After that we let them both out to join the rest of the flock. This is the part of the “miracle of life” that really gets to me—after just minutes lambs are up, around and nursing. After two days the little lambs are able to run, jump and skip around the barnyard. Truly amazing when you compare the capabilities of a baby lamb and a human infant.

Getting ready for lambing is kind of like packing your hospital bag… except you are actually preparing the lambing hospital into a kit. The kit includes a scale to weigh lambs, a bucket to weigh lambs (and carry the rest of the supplies), ear tags for identification, bands for tails and castration and navel clamps.

 

This year our ear tags are pink! And they have our names on them! So cool.  The first number of the tag is a 2 for 2012. That way we can figure out how old a ewe is in the flock and who their litter mates are.

You put the ear tags in with a tagger.

The bander puts on the little orange bands. We dock the tails of the ewe lambs for hygiene. Fly strike is pretty nasty and causes wool maggots. Trust me it’s gross—so this is why we band the tails. Rams get to keep their tails because they will be to the market before it should make a difference. We castrate the males so that the male and female lambs can be raised together and not be able to breed.

Navel clamps are used to close the umbilical cord to prevent infection. We also dip the cord in iodine to help sterilize the stump.

The kit also includes a tube feeder to help weak lambs that are unable to nurse, gloves for sterile delivery assistance, and most importantly the lambing record book. This is where we keep all interesting information like date and time of delivery, ewe ID, lamb ID, weights of the lambs and any interesting notes about the delivery. Kevin and I think it’s pretty important to keep good notes on how births went and how big lambs were. It definitely helps us when making decisions on flock management.

While I find this time of year totally stressful, it is truly wonderful. New baby labs to cuddle and snuggle almost every day makes it worth it!

 

Posted 3/9/2012 6:39pm by Kevin & Kristyn Henslee.

Shearing Day

Wool: Now You See It—Now You Don’t

The sheep are naked!

We started our preparation for lambing and milking today with shearing and annual shots.

Here is how the girls all looked this morning before we started.

All the ewes were worked in the chute for their annual shots and after their doctoring we treated to cool new haircuts.

George worked his shearer magic.

George is a great guy and a great shearer. He and his dog Roy managed to get all 49 sheep sheared in just under 6 hours. Which seemed like a long time, but we were busy the entire time.

Roy is a great dog and only had to work the sheep once. Most of the time he was just chilling waiting to do his job. Here's a picture of him and Ellen taking a break while we were busy in the chutes and shearing.

George and Roy recently competed in the sheep dog trials at the National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colorado and placed 9th out of 50. The results are posted here.

He has also won many awards for his shearing abilities too.

Here is a video from the 2011 Ohio State Fair where George placed first for his shearing. The video is quite long, but a great look at how shearing competitions work.

Our sheep are very pregnant right now. They looked very chubby before the shearing. And here’s how different they look now. I think they are so cute!

Most of our wool was lambs wool this year, meaning it was the first time the sheep had been shorn.

Here is a fleece after shearing.

Each fleece is then packed into a wool bag. Here are the wool bags before we got started.

Getting fuller.

And the final tally… we filled two and a half bags. Full bags weighed about 120 pounds and the half bag around 75 pounds, so that’s just over 300 pounds of wool from our 49 sheep.

George markets our wool for us and the wool company sends us a check based on the value of our wool.

After we were finished, the ewes definitely looked smaller and whiter.

They are just as happy shorn as not and are looking pretty as they get ready to lamb.

If you are looking for a sheep shearer, send a message and we’ll pass along George's info.


Posted 2/20/2012 9:21am by Kevin & Kristyn Henslee.

Things have been moving a little quicker at Yellow House Cheese over the President’s Day weekend. Kristyn was fortunate to be able to attend a 3-day cheese making class in Wilmot, Ohio taught by The Three Shepherds of the Mad River Valley from Vermont. The class was very nicely taught and I met some really nice people. Most of all the class really prepared me for making cheese in my own make room. I am now confident that I can turn milk into cheese!

While I was at class, Kevin and our dear neighbors and friends were helping around the creamery. Excavating work got done, plumbing is nearly complete, my sink leg was welded back together and the refrigerator is working again!  Huge accomplishments for us!!

This weekend I found time to take Kevin on his first tip to Menards. While that doesn’t seem like much, when you are do-it-yourselfers like us, Menard’s is somewhat of the Holy Grail when it comes to selection. While I do consider the trip to the home improvement store as a date, we also found time to go out for an actual date on Saturday night, too.

This morning we moved three loads of clover baleage to the house while the ground was frozen. That should last us another two months or so.

We still have a full day in front of us, I hope it continues to be productive!

Posted 2/6/2012 11:20am by Kevin & Kristyn Henslee.

So our first new piece of major equipment arrived this weekend. It involved an adventurous ride through Amish country in near white-out conditions. Now keep in mind the forecast called for 10 straight days of sunshine... 

So what did we get? Our sheep milking stand and head gate!

This is where the lady sheep will come twice a day to get milked. They will enter and exit on the same side, coming up a ramp to come in and going down the ramp to get out. I think it is going to take a little training to get the ewes comfortable with the system. But once they see the food in the trough, I’m pretty sure they’ll get the picture.

This amazing piece of equipment was purchased from Nelson Weaver of Trail Farm Supply near Trail, Ohio. I would recommend doing business with him anytime. He makes all aluminum and galvanized gates, headlocks, horse stalls, dairy equipment and more. I look forward to doing more business with Nelson as we continue to grow and update the barn.

Posted 1/15/2012 1:26pm by Kevin & Kristyn Henslee.

That’s right! Electric has made its way into the building! We now have power in the creamery!! Maybe tomorrow we can get it over to the milking parlor as well. Real lights, outlets and no more extension cords. I have some really cool light switches, one toggle and one light up. I wired the GFI outlets and Kevin did the rest. He is really great at that fixing stuff and making it work.

Seems like lambing is right around the corner... so we must keep on digging out the root cellar!

Posted 1/10/2012 6:11am by Kevin & Kristyn Henslee.

Work is still continuing on the creamery. Lights and electric are getting wired in this week. Buckets of dirt keep coming out of the root cellar. I am hoping that it will be an aging cave sooner than later. The sheep have been happy in the barn. Nosy & curious everytime I go into check, they always nibble on my coat yet scurry when I try to pet them.

Posted 12/24/2011 8:53am by Kevin & Kristyn Henslee.

Yellow House Cheese wishes all of our friends, families and customers a Merry Christmas! Looking forward to "Sharing Our Farm With You" in 2012. Thank you for all of your support and well wishes as we start our new business. Kevin & Kristyn

Posted 12/15/2011 6:55am by Kevin & Kristyn Henslee.

Well yesterday we took our three fall ram lambs to Mount Hope for the Christmas lamb sale. It is always a little sad to take the babies to the sale barn. But, I know they lived a happy, loving life while they were here. I hope that whomever prepares them this holiday season is thankful to a family for raising their meal in a natural, caring way.