The ex­perts weren’t kid­ding around when they awarded cheese­maker Amanda Good­man top prize for her cheese

TEN-YEAR-OLD EMILY GOOD­MAN has a spe­cial tal­ent. She can rec­og­nize and name ev­ery one of the 80 goats on the fam­ily prop­erty south of Mart­in­bor­ough by the pink­ness of their noses. It’s a skill that comes in use­ful when a re­source­ful kid man­ages to es­cape a pen, scale a fence, wig­gle in through the cat flap and nib­ble con­tent­edly on the scat­ter cush­ions. Emily can iden­tify the cul­prit.

Not that there is likely to be much pun­ish­ment for such kid­ding around. Emily’s par­ents Amanda and Lind­sey Good­man are com­pletely charmed by the mis­chievous na­ture of their friendly flock. “They’re part of the fam­ily,” says Amanda.

At first glance, their weath­er­board cot­tage built in the 1960s looks a typ­i­cal spec­i­men. Painted off-white, it sits close to the road on this 290-hectare sheep and beef farm. Con­crete stairs lead up to the ve­randa but closer in­spec­tion re­veals the pots of spring tulips at the front door have been bru­tally cut off in their prime. Gar­den­ing and goats are not nat­u­ral part­ners.

Amanda loves pas­tels, par­tic­u­larly pale pink and duck-egg blue, so the in­te­ri­ors with cork floors and pretty flo­ral fab­rics have a Cath Kid­ston-meets-Kiwi-ca­sual style. But be­fore set­tling into the rolledarm couch in the front room, be sure to take a sec­ond glance in case Gra­cie has made her­self at home in its cosy ca­pa­cious­ness. “Gra­cie was born six weeks pre­ma­ture so we hand reared her and she be­came very ‘humanized’,” ex­plains Amanda.

Shar­ing the sofa with the odd un­gu­late and ran­dom in­ci­dents of sac­ri­fi­cial veg­e­ta­tion does not de­ter the Good­mans. In fact, di­ver­si­fy­ing into goat breed­ing and cheese­mak­ing has been a bless­ing in ev­ery way.

‘For many, the tra­di­tional idea of goat’s cheese is tied to the whiff of smelly old socks. I re­ally get a thrill out of show­ing how mild and clean the cheese can taste’

Amanda’s par­ents, who own the farm and live in a house just over the fence, were part of the mo­hair boom in the 1980s. “I re­mem­ber play­ing with Pe­tra, my pet an­gora, who was an ab­so­lute char­ac­ter.” When the cou­ple’s chil­dren Emily (10), Sa­muel (8) and Phoebe (6) were old enough, she wanted them to have a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence. “I still had a han­ker­ing for goats so we got two as pets.”

It was the be­gin­ning of a beau­ti­ful friend­ship. All the chil­dren love the goats, but Emily is a nat­u­ral at an­i­mal hus­bandry. She keeps a spread­sheet of ev­ery new­born ad­di­tion and her grandma gave her a baby-name book to help in their chris­ten­ing. “Din­nertable dis­cus­sions around kid­ding time are al­ways very lively,” says Amanda.

Since there was no dairy co-op col­lec­tion of goat milk in the Wairarapa, mak­ing cheese from the rich milk gleaned from their grow­ing tribe of saa­nen and nu­bian goats was the next op­tion. Amanda, who has a de­gree in mar­ket­ing from Vic­to­ria Univer­sity, threw her­self into the re­search. While she stud­ied, she also at­tended a num­ber of short cour­ses at The New Zealand Cheese School in Pu­taruru.

For a while, the chil­dren were not best pleased. In­stead of the com­fort­ing aro­mas of bak­ing waft­ing from the kitchen, there were the slightly sour tones of milky mad­ness – and a sink and side­board piled high with stain­less pans. “There was a lot of trial and er­ror, learn­ing the milk and how to ad­just when there were en­vi­ron­men­tal changes.”

TH­ESE PAGES: At milk­ing time, the goats can’t wait to get onto the stand where they are fed a spe­cially for­mu­lated grain mix con­tain­ing maize, bar­ley, peas and mo­lasses; Lind­sey is fore­man of milk­ing then the rich, raw prod­uct is passed on to Amanda...

THIS PAGE: Keep­ing the goats well fed and en­ter­tained is a full- time re­spon­si­bil­ity. Here Lind­sey heads out on his four- wheeler to feed out hay. Lot­tie, a bri­tish alpine (above), takes a keen in­ter­est in the pho­tog­ra­pher. OP­PO­SITE: In the hay barn...

TH­ESE PAGES: Amanda is a fan of the shabby chic look and has dressed the farm­house with coun­try- style colour; Gra­cie grabs her chance to steal a grape from the kitchen ta­ble; in the kitchen, the butcher’s block was a wed­ding present from the cou­ple’s...

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