Three years ago, Julia and Frank McKeon bought a house and some land and moved from Albany to Danby, Vermont. Their goal was to have a farm where they could grow their own food and raise their own livestock.
They make their living doing consulting work to train businesses in environmental health and safety – Tortuga Solutions, so they just wanted their farm to be a labor of love. Of course, it became a second full time job for both of them and now it’s a “hard labor” of love!
They raise all kinds of farmyard animals – chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, guinea fowl, pea fowl, hogs, Icelandic sheep, and rabbits. And, for their efforts, they have their own meat, fiber, milk, and fresh eggs. They sell shares of their pigs and they recently opened an Etsy shop to sell socks and hats made from their wool (click here)
They have 10 sheep right now, and they are growing their flock (so they are not currently milking them in order to prepare for the breeding season). In the spring, 8 of them will be giving milk and their lambs will be available for sale.
They are selling pasture-raised pork, Berkshire pigs or piglets and whole or half shares of their hogs. At some point, soon, they will be selling sausage and bacon.
A main source of income for the farm is the eggs from their laying flock of free range hens, fed non-gmo grain.
They sell heritage breed Turkey poults from their flocks of Bourbon Red and Beltsville small white turkeys.
(He’s one of a kind!)
When they were still living in Albany, Julia and Frank attended the annual Washington County Cheese Tour. Julia tasted a sheep’s milk ricotta and became completely enamored with the “symphony of flavors.” They were handing out recipes, and she thought to herself, “This is easy!” So, she bought Ricki’s 30 Minute Mozzarella Kit (from us!) and began making cheese.
Now, she makes a wide variety of sheep’s milk cheeses and she sometimes combines her milk with raw goat’s milk from a nearby farm. She has made Greek style feta with 75/25 sheep/goat milk, as well as Iberico and Gouda.
Julia rarely drinks the sheep’s milk, because, as she told us, it’s so thick, it’s like drinking cream. (Sheep’s milk has twice the solids as cow’s milk.) For most cooking purposes, she makes quark with both a yogurty consistency and a drained, cream cheesy consistency. She prefers quark to yogurt because the milk is only heated to 86F, thus preserving the beneficial bacteria.
Iberico is a Spanish cheese that is made like Manchego, except Manchego is made with 100% ewe’s milk, and Iberico is made with a combination of ewe and goat’s milk. Julia’s Iberico is 75% ewe and 25% goat milk. Julia said it is “monstrous weight!” and she loves the yield of the sheep’s milk.
Julia has made two different kinds of 100% sheep milk Caciotta; one with crushed red peppers (and the rind rubbed with marc from making red wine vinegar), the other with crushed black peppercorns.
Using our 30 minute recipe, Julia gets close to 2 lbs of cheese from a gallon of milk.
Her aging room is also their wine aging room, egg storage room (for incubating eggs) and a root cellar.
She has turned a mini fridge into an aging room for her mold ripened cheeses.
She ages her cheeses in different sized Tupperware tubs and it seems to work well.
Using Her Whey
Nothing is wasted at Otter Creek. Julia uses her sweet whey (from the hard cheeses) to make ricotta and ricotta salata. She uses her acid whey (from the soft cheeses) in smoothies, in pasta and rice, and for the dogs and pigs.
Contacting Otter Creek
For more information: