May on the Farm
Glorious May, everything growing and alive and making up for the dead time of winter. There are greens of every shade and life popping out everywhere. We watch to see how many deer we have. I'm expecting the roe deer to revive in numbers. They hide up in little bits of scrub, less than you think could hide a beast such as these. I walked in the Arboretum, and one jumped out and ran to another bit of undergrowth, hidden from my view.
The wild boar also pay us a regular visit, they are bright and very mobile. They and the large badger population have made life difficult for hedgehogs. With less boar around this year, it will be interesting to see who gains, badgers or hedgehogs. For myself, I'd love to see more hedgehogs, quiet, snuffling creatures.
CROPS - after the wet winter, just like in the garden, the soil took ages to be able to handle without damage on the clay ground. We drilled our spring barley in March on the lighter red land, and put some in last month on the heavy clay. The later crop will never yield as much, so we changed our plans on some and put in a very early growing grass, Westerwolds, and we'll cut that and turn the cows out on it early in the spring next year. I've always wanted to grow it, and it's never fitted our rotation. The wet spring gave us the opportunity to try something new.
The maize is drilled, and just coming up, pale green lines threading across the red soil. In four or five months it will give about fourteen tonnes to the acre to feed to our cows. Looking at the seed, and then the little plants, you can't imagine it could do that, trapping so much summer sun to produce winter milk.
YOUNGSTOCK - The heifers are growing on. We calve cows in February and then in August, and heifers take two years to become milking cows. That means we've always got at least four lots of heifers to think about. We have the baby calves exploring the world for the first time; self- reliant nine month old heifers, the fifteen month old teenagers getting in calf themselves, and the heifers to calve in August, now taking things slower due to carrying the calves inside them. Each group has its own needs, and James has taken on their responsibility and our cows are just loving the attention.
COWS - The cows are in a comic chaos of lust. We delay serving them till mid-May, so almost all the spring cows have their minds on mating for three or four days out of each twenty-one! They alluringly rest their chins on another's flank, and stand with what must be frustration while they wait to meet our Belted Galloway bulls later.
CHEESE - It's the busiest time in the cheese dairy, with all that rich milk from the fast-growing grass. Our little hybrid cows keep the richness of their milk even with just a grass diet, so the cheese stays in good balance all the way through the year. More cheese made is more young cheese to turn by hand, so the work increases in the store as well.
In addition to this we will be participating in Open farm Sunday on the 8th June 11am-4pm, we will have a variety of activities, including trailer rides, cheese making, cow milking and much more so there’s lots to be getting on with.
And just to add - In the process of writing this diary, I received great news from the Taste of the West Awards 2014, we picked up two golds, two silvers and bronze for our cheeses, this result is a real testament to all the hard work from the team!