July 2016 on the Farm
Shhhh! Tom sees a buzzard, watching patiently from the post of the washing line below my bedroom window. He sees our movement and takes off heavily. He's big, close too. A 5 foot wing span? Surely not, but that's what it looks like. An elegant little young roe buck stands in the lane, and lopes effortlessly ahead of me, ginger spice in colour with little single spike horns. I don't scare him enough to have him bounce as they do when alarmed. He is exploring to find his territory for the rut at the end of July, and we'll hear the does pipe and bucks rasp as they dash around.
This month, the landscape takes on that overblown, blousy look of growth slowing. The myriad greens of spring settle into the mid green of summer, leaves hardening and settling into the work of photosynthesis to feed the plants.
CROPS - The crops, too, on the signal from the sun passing midsummer, move from wild growth to the hard work of filling pods, cobs and ears. The natural world responds to our solar conductor, who reminds the whole of the attentive natural world that the longest day over, and we are on the inevitable passage to the shortest day. Fill the storehouses.
Barley comes ripe, awned ears picking up the least puff of wind. I love the rich malty aroma of ripe grain that arises from the fields, the promise of food and beer to come. The combine harvester clanks around the field, arranging the growing straw, cutting it with snicker-snacker knives, threshing the grain out of the ears, and disgorging the golden straw, leaving a trail in the field like a ferry through the water. It's lovely to see the grain pumping out of the grain tank into the trailer.
GRASS - The grass fields slow in growth from drier weather, and the drive to make seed distracts from making the leaf that we and the cows are interested in. This is the clover's chance. It's happier with warmer weather and less grass competition. Its roots make nitrogen fertiliser from the plentiful nitrogen in the air in little bobbles on the roots that host nitrogen-fixing bugs. I love the sweet aroma of clover flowers that scents the milk and drives bees crazy with opportunity for nectar. We are sowing more grassland to feed the cows around our new parlour. The ground is less moisture retentive, and the soils are depleted from long term arable cropping. We'll sow them to a mix of perennial ryegrass and white clover, with a few patches of deep rooting herbs like chicory, sainfoin and salad burnet to play.
COWS - The cows and heifers love to graze clover. They learn about the world from its aroma, and burying your nose in clover has its own reward. The higher protein leaves grow strong heifers, and makes delicious milk. Early pregnancy quiet reigns over most of the herd.
DAIRY - The milk in July has that lovely background aroma of the clover flowers that delicately persists through into the cheese. The curd is firm and bright with a good balance of fat and protein, and yellow from the carotene from the grass, it makes a lovely cheese. Lower milk volume allows us time to make the little truckles, 3lb wheels that will come mature for Christmas.
At the end of the month, we stop making cheese and renovate, clean and repair the cheese dairy. You can't scrub ceilings and mend pipe work when bits can fall into the vats, so we reserve a fortnight to get the work done.
We find out now what the Americans are planning to order for Thanksgiving in November, and start to choose the cheese. I love our cheese on its travels: let me know how it's tasting and whether it's doing us credit.