"When asked what he does for fun, co-owner of Yellow House Cheese Kevin Henslee laughs. Hard.
"[My wife] Kristyn says that I do work for fun and then I do more work," says Kevin. But where most people go crazy without a little downtime, Kevin says, "I don't like to go on vacations... I like being at my house, I like doing this work. This is what I enjoy."
Kevin is a 6th-grade science teacher, a farmer, a small-business owner, a husband and a father. Perhaps he's also a glutton for punishment, yet his wife works just as hard.
Of farming and cheesemaking she says, "I am doing this full time and being a mom and a wife on the side."
The couple's work schedule is insane. During the school year, Kevin is up by 5 a.m. to put in an hour on the farm in Seville before heading off to school. Kristyn starts milking at 6, then bounces back and forth between cheesemaking, dish washing, dropping their two daughters off at school and powering through other daily chores until Kevin and the girls get home from school. The work isn't done until midnight sometimes. When it's lambing season, they do this on about four hours of sleep.
"The way I look at myself is as a producer and not as a consumer," says Kristyn. "There are a lot of people who sit around and think about what they want to do with their life, and it's like they're always dreaming about it. I think I'm more of a doer."
Yellow House Cheese makes several types of blue cheeses with milk from their farm's 200 sheep and eight cows. (They also have a few hundred chickens). Restaurants such as Spice Kitchen and Bar, Toast and Flying Fig are starting to feature their products on the menu, and Yellow House just joined the dozen or so other producers that make up the Ohio Cheese Guild. So business is good.
"We didn't want anything kind of faddish, like... everybody got ostriches, and that kind of came and went," Kevin says. "Looking further into cheese, people have been making sheep's milk cheese for a quarter-thousand years: Okay, this is gonna stick around."
The Henslees say they never actually intended to have a sheep farm, or even to milk anything. Though they both grew up interested in farming and agriculture – the two met in 4-H camp as children growing up in Medina – they figured they'd buy a plot of land and do more conventional farming.
"We started looking into it, at what the startup costs of a farm are, and you've got to have $1 million to get started," Kevin says. So they started with four acres, bought a couple of cows, and Kristyn rescued a few orphan sheep. "And that's kind of how things went rolling along," he says.
Both Kevin and Kristyn like to make things – they can make their own sausage, butcher their own meats occasionally – basically anything they can figure out on their own. They even built the dairy themselves, right down to the framing and electrical work.
"We see things and think, 'I'll bet I can make that.' And then you try it and you can do it. And I kind of like this better than what I can buy, so I'm just going to make this for myself now."
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.