August 2016 on the Farm
August is harvest time for farmers and wildlife. Warm days and nights barely hint at the chill to come. The accumulated warmth and sunshine ripens in heavy ears of wheat, fruit on the trees, and hedgerows. Hardworking leaves look weary after a season turning sunshine into sugar. A late fox cub skitters across the path in front of me, fat belly showing there are lots of late baby rabbits to feast on.
Exciting - Martin just saw a polecat; at first he thought it was a ferret, and then its pong and bandit's mask made him think again. Great to welcome a creature nearly driven to extinction in Britain back again.
FARM - Out comes the combine harvester. You can hear it clanking across the valley, see the dust that rises behind it. Whole villages, entire families, used to come out scything, stooking, pitch forking, carting and rick building. Then everyone would spend all winter threshing and winnowing the ears. Now there’s one huge machine that greedily cuts and threshes the grain and pumps it into a trailer then to the grain store, whole fields cleared in hours not days. Harvest is still a time of watching the weather, long days, hard work and the satisfaction of the summer's bounty safely stored. It's now a quiet time, shared with just a few people, not a whole community engaged in the common endeavor of keeping bellies full all year long.
GRASS - So much grass grew in the damp early summer, we have all we need harvested. Now we use the cows and heifers to keep the clovery richness under control, keeping leaves lush and rich. Some fields we don't get to, and they will be deferred grazing for later when we need it, good for letting flowers seed and small mammals thrive.
COWS - Dry cows and heifers explore the further reaches of the farm, on their holidays before calving later this month. It's lovely to come into a field of late pregnant animals, coats glistening, chewing the cud with their herd mates, often clustered at the top of the hill to catch the breeze. A field or two away, there are their cousins, sisters and daughters, younger animals, curious and lively, chasing around in the evening cool, playing tag and exploring the world. Then they will sit down, grouped, miniature versions of their mothers.
We are renewing the fencing on more of the farm, and laying water pipes in preparation for our new parlour on south side of the main road.
PARLOUR - The new parlour gets under way this month. It's come all the way from New Zealand in a container, a stripped down open air version that will sit with not much more than a bicycle shed for a roof. The cows will live almost all the time outside. It's real simplicity and alignment with natural processes that I've wanted for years, and is really exciting to see it finally happening.
DAIRY - The cheese dairy has its annual closedown while we clean bits we can't get to, like the high ceiling, and mend things we can't do while we are working.
STORES - In the store, we taste cheese both at 3 months and a year old, and work out who would like each flavour best. Delicious work and demanding on a grading day to taste eighty to a hundred different cheeses, stay the right way up and keep distinguishing the flavours. We are guided in this by our expert grader Richard who comments on flavour, aroma, body and texture, as well as having a disciplined vocabulary of flavour words. And his word is law about how long to mature a cheese for the perfect flavour.