“Want to take a picture of my ass?” Charley of Jollity Farm asked me. Sweet, reserved, Charley. I’m smiling, but I’m not getting it. Turns out Charley is pretty darn funny. Because then he showed me his donkey, “Otie.” Get it? Don Quixote. Donkey Otie. Yeah. I’m slow.
Charley bought 13 acres – his “Shangri-La” – in 2006, in Gold Country. His place is just a few short miles from the original Sutter’s Mill where gold was first discovered, and the American River, where hoards of fun-lovers come to raft and fish. (half an hour from Hwy 50 or 80 as you make your way to Reno or Tahoe).
The property, located on a gloriously wooded mountain, is covered with oak trees and manzanita. Of all the goat farms I’ve seen in California, this one is truly a goat’s Shangri-La. Goats prefer scrub and brush over pasture. They love the oak leaves and branches, the bark on Manzanita (which regenerates), and even the invasive Scotch Broom. The slightly dried green oak leaves on the ground are their “potato chips” and the acorns are their candy. They’ll scramble to find them amongst fallen leaves.
Charley took this treed property, with its own abandoned gold mine, and built the barn, the milking parlor and the creamery. He has about 40 goats, which include his original Alpine. His fiancée MaryLisa – whose exuberance and graciousness bowled me over – recently brought over her award-winning herd of Miniature Nubian, which has increased the butterfat and adds a creamy element to the cheese.
Charley makes chèvre and feta, and starting mid summer, an aged cheese that becomes wondrously nutty due to the acorns the goats eat. Because his milking parlor adjoins the creamery, the milk is never jostled. Jostling the milk is one factor in creating that “goaty” taste. Charley’s chèvre isn’t “goaty” at all (Not that “goaty” is bad. It’s just a matter of preference). The cheese is rich and creamy and full of flavor. After I left I couldn’t keep my hands out of the feta. It was my candy for the rest of my drive.
You can pick up Jollity cheese locally in Placerville and at various farmer’s markets close to the farm. Plus, the farm is open Tuesdays from 9am-noon. You can peek into the creamery and see the goats and purchase cheese. Or if you come by when the farm is closed, at the bottom of the hill, you can park your car and pet goats hanging out close to the road.
Charley, is a really nice guy, and he makes some really nice cheese.