Our story...

Millie and Friday

 

The idea ...

In 2012 we went to see Dave's daughter, Cara, in Europe.  While we were there we worked on a tiny dairy farm in the North of Italy.  I learned how to milk sheep and goats by hand while Dave did some building, scything and shearing (with old school clippers!).  We also took the animals out to pasture every morning and evening (just like Heidi).  The farm owners were very good with food and made their own raw milk cheese to a traditional recipe.  That started us thinking...

 

pouring the concrete


The Project...

Next Dave turned his building skills to the old stable building while I read the regulations about three times!  Bit by bit the stables were transformed into a cheese making room.  A new concrete floor went down and was covered with a smooth epoxy coating.  The doors and windows went in and the wall lining went up.  The milking shed also got an overhaul with a new floor and clean, white walls.  Our local engineers built us a shiny milking platform.  I finally conquered the paperwork pile and wrote our Risk Management Plan.  

 


 

We are Dave and Kirsty and we live in Woodville which is a small, rural town next to the Manawatu Gorge .  We have 18 acres of lush green grass with a few sheds and a collection of animals.  Dave has lived here since 1995 and has built the place up over that time.  He's always had a few animals in the paddock to keep the grass under control, sometimes calves or cows, always sheep and chickens, even a few ducks for a while.  Then I (Kirsty) joined him and introduced alpacas, cats and whatever else turned up!  One year Dave gave me a cheese making kit for my birthday and I started making cheese from local organic cows' milk.  I really enjoyed it so I went to a couple of courses to learn more.  Our friends and family liked eating the cheese I made and were usually keen for more!



Some of the girls

 

The Pilot...

When we got home we did a bit of research about milking sheep and the NZ dairy regulations while we tamed up our existing flock by feeding them sheep pellets.  Dave designed and built the Mark 1 milking platform and in the summer of 2013 we had a go at milking some of our Romney ewes.  I successfully used the milk to make feta, halloumi and ricotta.  We thought that the idea was workable so we bought some East Friesian rams and Poll Dorset ewes to get our milking flock started.   We quickly found that some of the white sheep got sunburnt ears in the summer so we started experimenting with breeding from some black sheep to try and overcome this.  


The Production...

Once the the building was finished and the paperwork was ticked off the 'real' work of making cheese began!  From September through to February we milked the girls once or twice each day.  Every 2 or 3 days I made the milk into feta, halloumi or pecorino.  We sold our cheese at local markets and in a few hand-picked shops.  In the autumn and winter I ran cheese-making workshops where I taught people how to make cheese.

Unfortunately at the end of 2017 we realised that the large amount of time and work we were putting in weren't enough to make a living so we decided to stop making cheese commercially and switch our focus.

The Present...

Now I'm spending more time running cheese-making workshops and teaching people how to make a range of different cheeses including brie, blue and halloumi. 

Dave really enjoys working with the sheep and we still have a flock of 80 milking sheep.  This spring, once the lambs are weaned, we plan to milk some of the girls for a month or so and use that milk to make a variety of cheeses for ourselves and our friends.

We also enjoy hosting travellers and WWOOFers.

If you are interested in having a go at making cheese or milking sheep you should have a look at our workshops by clicking here or if you would like to come and stay you can check out our airbnb listing here and our WWOOF listing here.

In the milking shed