April on the Farm
Wild garlic, bluebells, cow parsley; the fields, the hedges and the woodlands shout, "It's spring". The answering world shouts back: baby rabbits, born to delight the buzzard sitting on the branch, in turn feeding his young. The house martens come back one day, and the insects that dance in the air disappear, hoovered up by their swoops cross crossing the sky.
CROPS - The crops start growing, green and thriving replacing that grey yellow of leaves that have suffered cold and lived to tell the tale. Those leaves sit down below the vigorous new growth.
We plough and drill the maize, the one crop that benefits from that deep working of the soil, warming the soil to depth. It's such a heat loving plant, we have to give it all the help it can get. If the weather is right, we'll drill it and be rewarded with those beautiful pale green leaves luminescent against our rich red soil, rows snaking across the field.
GRASS - The grass now takes off, past that magic day when it grows faster than our cows can eat it. Our anxious waiting for warmth to set off growth is now replaced almost overnight by working out which fields we should cut so the cows can keep on top of the rest
CALVES - The calves are out, rejoicing in grass, evening light, each other, the milk trailer. Anything delights them, any excuse to dash from one end of the field to the other, round and round, chasing each other and anyone who turns up.
YOUNG STOCK - The teenagers are nearly as lively, and quite alarming as they skip and plunge and buck - now weighing a quarter of a tonne. You walk down the hill, and the girls thunder towards you, the ground shaking as dozens of them think you're worth exploring. Off they go to the other end of the paddock. Sit down, and they'll be drawn to you - they seem fascinated by how people change shape. They'll come close and sniff, stretch their long rough tongues to curl round anything interesting.
COWS - The cows are now well rested from calving, a great mob efficiently cutting the grass in each paddock, turning it from green to white overnight or between milkings. It's amazing how thorough they are. Not a blade of grass is standing left untouched in the whole paddock.
CHEESE - This spring so far is very milky. We had some heifers calve earlier, and their milk has shot up. That's great, we need more milk to fulfil demand. That demand is growing, thanks to the reliability of our cheese making.
GRADING - We bring in Keith our external grader, in once a month to grade every vat of cheese we made three months ago. He takes a core (sample) with a cheese iron, and tests it by appearance, texture, colour and flavour to give an assessment of how we've balanced the fat, protein, moisture and acidity and how that cheese will mature. Our last few grading’s have been wonderful, the best we've ever had. That comes from great milk, and our team of cheese makers all working together under Malcolm's expert guidance.
Selection - Keith regrades each vat at twelve months old, and we allocate the cheese by its flavour profile: buttery/ caramelly; brothy/ meaty/ umami; sharp / grassy/ oniony; and progressive. We can then find out which selection each customer wants, and which cheese will be selected to age. This has been a huge agent of satisfaction for people who buy our cheese, and great to develop our cheese making to give the exquisite flavours I can see in my head.