Romping with the Goats at Valley View Farm

Valley View Farm

Baby goats are a lot like puppies. They are eager and energetic and love everyone they see. And talk about cute! Last week, the team from L’Espalier got to experience the goat-love, as 20 of us visited Liz and Peter Mulholland at their Valley View Farm in Topsfield.

Feeding Baby Goats

I first met Peter and Liz through cheese. Seven or eight years ago, Alberto, one of my reps, sent me a sample of two of their cheeses, a round mixed milk Camembert style called Essex, and a classic goat pyramid called Topsfield. I liked both, and invited the Mulhollands to be guest cheese makers at a December Cheese Tuesday.  As is the norm, I also wrote a song (to the tune of Winter Wonderland) to mark the occasion.

Valley View is home to 38 adult goats. 24 are milking now, having recently given birth, and the rest are still pregnant: Peter and Liz made sure to stagger the pregnancies, which makes life a lot easier around the farm. As soon as they are born, the kids are separated from mom, so she will give her milk to a milking machine instead of a hungry young mouth.  The kids are then bottle fed, just like a human baby, for a couple of weeks, until they can learn to drink by themselves from a nipple attached to a communal bucket of milk. That was going on today with four of the youngsters.


The goats are all Nubians, a breed developed in England from the crossing of the Old English Mich Goat and bucks imported from India, Russia, and Egypt. They are medium sized, with reddish brown hair and long floppy ears. They love to be petted. Their prize characteristic, however, is the high butterfat content of the milk, averaging 5%.  One of the treats of the visit was a tall, cool glass of raw milk. It was surprisingly rich, much more so than your average glass of cows’ milk, with a clean, sweet finish. Not at all goaty! (In fact, when Peter started making cheese in the mid 90′s, it was so un-goaty that he thought he was doing something wrong. A visit to Judy Schad at Capriole Farm in Indiana, one of America’s greatest cheese makers, set him straight on this.)

Goats Milking

The goats are milked twice a day, and each yield about 3/4 of a gallon of sweet milk each day.  This is immediately transferred to a chilling tank, where it is kept for up to three days before being pasteurized and turned into cheese.  Peter (who makes the cheese; Liz takes care of the goats) uses the slow method of pasteurization, in which the milk is heated to 145 degrees for 30 minutes, and then quickly cooled again. This low heat method, while doing everything the more brutal high heat of industrialized pasteurization does to “protect” us from pathogens, is kinder and gentler to the milk, disturbing it less and preserving more of the enzymes that are so important to flavor in an aged cheese.

Goat's Milk Feta

Peter makes cheese every 3 days. It takes that long to gather enough milk to fill the cheese vat, although he will have to switch to every two days when all his milkers are on line.  He is currently experimenting with making tommes, which are 5 pound dense wheels with natural rinds, meant to be aged several months.  We sampled a December-made wheel. The rind was lightly orange with b-Linens, and the interior paste was fairly smooth and semi-firm, with a few small holes. The flavor was mild, buttery, and fairly sweet, with just enough tanginess to let you know it was a goat’s milk cheese.  The bunch of us ate about half of the tomme. The other half was wrapped to go and will hit the L’Espalier cheese cart tomorrow night.

This wasn’t a cheese making day. Actually, Peter works at his day job by day, and makes cheese at night. I hope to visit one of these sessions soon, and Peter and Liz have promised to join us for a Cheese Tuesday in the fall. I will keep you posted. In the meantime, here is the song I wrote for the Mulhollands last visit to L’Espalier.


Louis Risoli


Valley View Cheese Song
(to the tune of Winter Wonderland)

Stomachs growling
Are you listening
I’m so hungry
That I’m wishing
That I could have cheese
So give me some please
Cheese Tuesday is our favorite kind of night

Frank’s food
Is ambitious
Erich’s wines
Are delicious
But Louis’s cheese
Brings us to our knees
Cheese Tuesday is our favorite kind of night

In the Valley you can View some farmers
Milking goats and making lovely cheese
Peter and Elizabeth are charmers
And you can take their cheese home if you please
Soon enough
We’ll be thinking
Of snowy nights
And port for drinking
May your season be bright
Although our singing’s a fright
Cheese Tuesday is our favorite kind of night


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