Visit to Everona Dairy, Virginia
Recently, Elaine and I took a trip to Rapidan in Virginia to visit Dr Pat Elliott at Everona Dairy, where she has been producing both raw and pasteurized sheep's milk cheeses for the last fourteen years.
Dr Elliott is now in her eighties and in addition to making some award winning cheeses, is still a practicing MD at her doctor's office adjacent to the farmhouse. Her adventures in the dairy world started after first buying a small number of sheep to keep her Border Collie occupied. Then, while researching ways for the sheep to earn their keep, she tried her hand at milking them with a view to making cheese on a commercial scale. In the late 1990's, after taking a cheesemaking course and traveling overseas to learn more about cheesemaking, Dr Elliott began cheese production in earnest at Everona.
Milk for prodcution is sourced from Everona's herd of 170+ East Friesian milking ewes. In 2009, the construction of a brand new creamery and aging cellars took the cheesemaking enterprise to another level. Today, with the help of her son Brian and daughter in law Carolyn Wentz, Everona produces a wide variety of both aged and fresh cheeses that are sold both at local farmers' markets as well as shipped to cheese stores around the country..
At the time of our visit, Everona was in full swing with spring lambing in progress. The lambing barn was very full of new arrivals and, as you can see from the photos, of both the ovine and feline variety. tons of barn cats all magically appeared when it was feeding time - ie the milk was brought out for the lambs - causing Circle, the Border Collie to literally end up "herding cats".
In the cheesemaking room, Elaine helped Carolyn to make a batch of Piedmont while I went down to the cellar and spent a very happy time inhaling the wonderful aromas and marvelling at the fabulously rustic wheels lining the walls.