Double 8 Dairy is one of only a few water buffalo dairies in North America, and it happens to be 10 miles from our creamery. Run by our friend Andrew Zlot, Double 8 Dairy was the first company in the United States to launch water buffalo gelato into the marketplace. When they are not busy turning all of their milk into gelato, we get to buy some of the excess milk and make our Buff Blue cheese with it. We think this is a pretty sweet deal.
Marshall Home Ranch & Dairy supplies us with 100% of our organic jersey cow milk, and in 2014-2015 around 50% of our sheep milk. Bleating Heart's creamery is also located in the same building as the dairy, so the milk only travels about 20 feet before reaching our cheese vat.
Our big trip in the Spring of 2011 was spending two weeks on the amazing and beautiful island of Corsica, where most of the cheese is made from sheep milk, along with some goat too (no cows there). We were just blown away by the dedication to local products in every shop and store we visited, even supermarkets, which all had completely dedicated sections for Corsican cheeses. In Corsica they have their own "brebis du Corse" or Corsican ewes, which are very similar to the Sarda sheep that inhabit Sardinia, their neighbor to the south.
In December 2009 Seana took a big and risky leap of faith and purchased a starter flock without really knowing where or how she'd get a licensed dairy going. The ewes came from Swedish Mission Farm, a sheep dairy in Wisconsin (they have since shut down) and member farm of the Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Cooperative. These ewes were crosses between the East Friesian and Lacaune dairy breeds which are common throughout Europe.
Folks often ask: how did you come up with the name Bleating Heart®? Well....cows moo, goats and sheep bleat. From the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
bleat : to make the natural cry of a sheep or goat
It is a pun, a play on the term "bleeding heart" which is defined as "a person who shows extravagant sympathy especially for an object of alleged persecution." We certainly have extravagant sympathy for American food artisans, but mainly we just thought this name was funny. After all, our motto is making seriously good cheese without taking ourselves too seriously. All of our cheese names are conceived with that same spirit. Our basic rule is that if a name isn't sort of funny, we're not using it.
From the start, we chose to break from convention and not use our own given names, or the names of places within our region to identify our cheeses. This does not diminish the quality of our cheese, or the profound respect we have for the dairy farmers who work so diligently every day to produce the milk that goes into our cheeses, nor does it mean we don't take immense pride in our region. We just decided to take a non-traditional, more humorous approach. It's actually no different than how most craft brewers name their beers (and we are BIG fans of craft beer).
Here is the story of my journey from the Bay Area of California all the way to River Falls, WI to pick up my sheep. Along for the ride was my sister Jennifer, who was equally lacking in experience with driving a big ass 4x4 truck or driving in snowy/icy road conditions, let alone with livestock on board. So here's the lowdown on the 1 truck, 2 girls, 5 days, 10 sheep, and 4,200 miles that were......Operation Sheep-O-Rama. This is the initial map I put together for the trip, with tentative stopping points along the way.