March 4, 2023

Sharing my struggles & triumphs in hopes of inspiring others to seek hope. I am on a continual journey towards a simpler life - filled with opportunities for growth.










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Morning Coffee with Rhonda

Rhonda is the owner/operator of the quaint little establishment just outside the city of Lloydminster called The Cheesiry. She learned how to make cheese in the motherland of cheese making – Italy! At the gorgeous farm Podere il Casale in Pienza, she learned hands on how to craft beautiful and delicious cheese. After having twins, Rhonda and her husband decided to scale back from 120 sheep to 15 in order to balance family life while continuing to operate the cheese business on a smaller scale. You can find her yummy creations on their farm…located inside their honor fridge. In recent years, she also began growing flowers and now offers fun you-picks starting in the late summer.

I came to know Rhonda after she hired me to capture images for her business. It was such a memorable photoshoot. Getting to capture her in her element through my lens, walking through rows of flowers, hopping in a pick-up truck and parking in the middle of a field with wine and cheese in tow – surrounded by sheep and cows (and even a llama!) as the sun set on our faces. Afterward, she invited me into her home to sample her incredible creamy creations and share in some delicious vino. I absolutely loved our conversation and came away inspired by her stories. I’m convinced that everyone who crosses paths with Rhonda would draw inspiration from her and want to be her friend.

Click on this link here for some soothing ambience, grab your cup of coffee, and continue to read to hear some wonderful tales and to learn more about what inspires her. 

Rhonda! How do you like to begin each day? Do you have a morning ritual? And if so, has is changed over time?

Such a good question.

How I like to begin and how I actually begin are two different things! Haha! I usually begin each day by waking up late and then just rush, rush, rush – and I have always been like that. I’ve never been a morning person.

I love lists…so after getting the kids off to school, I’ll have a coffee and make a list of things to do for the day (that was usually too long and then would result inn me feeling defeated at the end of the day when I didn’t complete the list).
Needless to say, I knew it wasn’t a great way to start the day – especially with children and a business that requires me to be a present morning person. However, a couple of years ago, I bought a book called The Morning Sidekick Journal as well as a mindfulness journal. I read some of The Morning Sidekick but was really put off by having to wake up early. But the idea of setting your day and yourself in that first hour sounded appealing.
Two of my friends have great morning routines – one gets up early to work out and the other gets up with her husband to do projects together. So this past winter I started to get up early to workout and it worked!  It felt great just to get up and be awake and moving before the kids.
Last summer I woke up even earlier just to get some extra projects done (sometimes with hubs or without).  However, I found this summer that it ended up with me just putting in more work hours and not getting enough rest.  I was happy to get in those extra work hours but my body didn’t feel great with the lack of rest.  It’s a tough spot because in the summer there is so much I need to do first thing in the morning that it’s hard to think about doing anything else other than jumping out of bed and getting straight to work outside – but I believe for my mind and soul it’d be better to have a ritual of sorts.  Something to work on for me personally not just my work/home.
I also listened to the audio book Atomic Habits which I am hoping can help me to succeed in this area.
So long story short, I don’t have a morning ritual but I’m working on one!

Can you share with us your journey to cheese making? What drew you to it in the first place and how did that grow into you opening a Cheesiry?

When I was 27 I decided that if I wasn’t married by age 30, I was going to go on a big trip.  In January of my 30th year, I began planning my exciting trip to Italy! I don’t remember how I came upon that country – although I do remember Italian themed movies (Lorenzo’s Oil, The Godfather, Moonstruck, and hello Under the Tuscan Sun!) and a National Geographic magazine that screamed GO TO ITALY playing an important role in my choice of country.

I arrived in Tuscany for the first month of that trip and fell deeply in love with it. Tuscany is the quintessential Italian experience.  In those first weeks I visited a lovely farm, Podere Il Casale,  where they made a lot of their own products including cheese.  I was amazed at all of the local products they produced.  They used WWOOFERs (world-wide opportunities on organic farms – essentially volunteers) to work on their farm which was located in the Val d’Orcia.  You could see the field of wheat (like in the film The Gladiator) when you looked out from the terrace.

After travelling Italy for 3 months, I decided that I wanted to learn how to make cheese, how to make a special Ribollita soup (from a Tuscan restaurant), and that I wanted to work at a hotel on the Amalfi Coast so I could soak up that Italian sun.

I wrote all 3 places before I left for home. The farm and restaurant offered me volunteer positions (although the soup was a secret recipe of the chef’s and I might not actually learn it).

I had been interested in home grown food after watching my Baba’s grow and prepare all of their food. Learning to make cheese was interesting, I thought.

I returned home in December, quit my job and returned to Italy in April to learn, learn, learn.

I spent 1 month on the cheese farm and the rest of the time at other locations.

Upon returning home the second time, my Baba would tell people that I was going to open a cheese factory. I had no intentions of doing that but after Baba said I was going to, I thought: well I had better do it I guess! That whole experience was just for me to learn – not to make a career of it.

I became engaged to a farmer who happened to have dairy experience. He agreed to give it a try and in 2009 we bought 150 dairy sheep.

What decision led you to scale back your business? Was it a difficult decision to make?

I scaled back after having kids. I was just burnt out. It was make cheese during the week then drive and work the farmers markets in Edmonton on the weekends.

I was exhausted.

It was difficult because I was sad to stop this beautiful process. But I decided to keep a few sheep for myself and continue to make small amounts of cheese.

It was a relief knowing that I could breathe again.

We share the love of sweet Italia and the beauty of slow travel! I absolutely loved getting to sit down with you last year over wine and cheese to soak up all of your wonderful (and not to mention hilarious!) stories. What was the biggest thing you took from Italian culture and the way they live?

I loved the fact they live at a slower pace.

That they take the time to relax and visit at the end of the day.

That the piazzas (town squares) exist for people to convene around and play chess, drink coffee, a glass of prosecco. I remember going for a drink with my friend and the people from the bar spilled out onto the street and that street was closed to cars after a specific time. People could just enjoy aperitivo.

I appreciated that people seemed to really enjoy life like that. There is a certain energy that comes from that evening. A truly warm, relaxing and happy energy.

Let’s talk about balance – it’s most certainly a moving target! Do you feel like you have a grip on it at this moment in time?

Balance? What is that! Haha. No…I do not have a handle on it. I am truly trying to find balance. Living in the place where you work is difficult first and foremost – you are never away from work. Especially when my husband ALSO works where he lives – but his work is different than mine so we can’t try to balance together.

I am trying out some tools. The Morning Sidekick Journal is really good, Atomic Habits Audio book was also good. Taking off Sundays – I tried hard to do that this summer but didn’t always work. My grandparents on the farm worked half day Saturday and took Sunday off.


Do you have any advice for people experiencing burnout, based on your experience?

Accept help. It’s taken me years to accept and not be offended when someone wants to do my dishes. Now I just say, “Ok!”. They see I’m drowning in a messy kitchen and I’ve realized I can’t hide that from them.

Buy 3 one litre water bottles so you are never without water and take your vitamins. B complex, Rhozhiva, and GABA are in my vitamin stack.

I think it is so important to do at least one day off as the work never seems to end, does it? I really need to look at my summer right now and figure out what worked well and what was a time suck – looking at in in October while the exhaustion is still there and not in the winter when everything doesn’t seem so bad!

I think I have to go into the next season with a plan and not just wing it. Martha Stewart used to post a calendar of things she was doing for the month (cleaning gutters, pruning plants etc.) and I have wanted to do that for years now. But I only get as far as printing the blank calendar then that’s it.

Take time (plan it in the Martha Calendar!) to check in with yourself a few times a year to see how you’re feeling.

Stop. Just stop doing what is not working for you. It’s not worth hiding in the barn crying over.


What are you excited about or feeling drawn to right now in life?

Right now I’m drawn to painting. I’ve been trying watercolour painting and there is another style I am interested to try! I saw my kids’ watercolor paintings at school this year and was really intrigued and inspired by them.  So I’m trying that out a bit with my kids as an evening project. As well, I am interested in learning about Petrykivka style of painting from Ukraine.  A lady offers it in Calgary so I am looking forward to a road trip soon!


Between managing your farm, making cheese, and growing flowers for the you-pick – I’m sure you feel plenty busy! Are you working on anything new for the future or excited for something upcoming?

Nothing new in terms of introducing a new venture, but just tweaking and adding to what we have. For example, I’m excited about making a few changes at the flower gardens by putting in a macramé swing set and expanding the table area! I’m hoping to add a few workshops in the summer as well. We’ll also do another upgraded lamb cuddle session after it became wildly popular this spring.

Again, it is about making a solid plan and taking action with it in the down time so that come next year – it’s ready and waiting to happen.

How does your environment impact your perspective?

For me – a lot.  Sometimes it is a struggle as there are so many others involved in ‘my’ environment being on a family farm.  And there are a lot of things that I can’t change about my environment.  So it’s up to me to create an environment within this one that I can feel peace and calm for myself.


We live in such a fast-paced world. What do you need in order for you to feel grounded?

I need quiet alone time. Our farm is a busy one – with lots of energy around and lots of things happening. For me it’s about mentally and emotionally being able to have that quiet time at the end of the day or on the weekend. I really appreciate alone time. And time with the animals – I really love a lamb snuggle or lying in a pile of kitties.

Be sure to keep up with Rhonda’s adventures here!



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