November on the farm
We've now drilled all the crops this side of winter: wheat, barley and some interesting mixes of legumes to plough in next spring. We want the crops to grow well enough to protect the soil from erosion. The legume mixes will keep the soil in place and harbour wildlife until the spring. Then we cultivate them in to organic matter for next year's soil. We've lifted most of the fodder beet – which we grew to feed to cattle – to sell to an anaerobic digester, as we are concerned that it may draw in sick badgers and we must experiment to find a way to keep the cows safe outside.
The spring cows are now thoroughly bored with milking, so we bring them down to one milk a day; with good enough weather, they'll stay out until Christmas. Then they will go on their winter break, when they can devote their time to late pregnancy resting. The autumn calved cows are settling into milking. They've been frolicking well, driven by the hormones that demand them to mate. But Mr Bull doesn't get his chance just yet! We'll artificially inseminate for now and, done correctly, well over half will result in a calf.
With all the fun and games going on, no wonder the milk is good for cheesemaking! It's well balanced, with a 'grazed grass' flavour, producing some richly flavoured cheese. We're packing last year's cheese up for Christmas now. It's lovely to think of all the joy and pleasure that delicious cheese plates will add to meals up and down the country.
I nurture my food plants, filling up my garden with salad leaves, herbs and flowers that will stand the winter. I'm working on what protection they'll need as I aim to keep my garden full all year round. And the plants have to look good too, so I'm declaring a war on slugs!
Recipe: Genoese Focaccia Bread
Our Italian chef Tomasso is making some delicious Genoese focaccia bread this month.
For the dough:
12 oz (350 g) strong white flour, plus a little extra for dusting
For the topping:
4 oz (110 g) pitted black olives, halved
- Begin by sifting the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle in the yeast and mix that in.
- Pour in 7½ fl oz (210 ml) warm water, along with 1½ tablespoons of olive oil. Mix everything to a dough that leaves the sides of the bowl clean (if necessary, add a few more drops of water).
- Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and knead it for about 10 minutes. Once the dough feels very bouncy and elastic, return it to the bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place until it has doubled in size – 20-30 minutes should be enough.
- Next, roll the dough on a tray, make little indentation holes with your fingers and push 2/3 of each of the olives in.
- Add half in half water and extra virgin olive oil, rosemary, the rest of the olives and sea salt on the top. Leave for 30 minutes or so to rise again, redo the holes with your fingers then pop it in the oven at 180°C.
- After 10 minutes, take the bread out of the oven and sprinkle over the grated cheddar. Return to the oven for a further 10 minutes to finish it off.
MARY QUICKE MBE