June 2016 on the Farm
Midsummer. Life at its most vivid and rich, the sun high in the sky, the days long, the greens of the trees all converging on high summer mid green. Growth is at its fastest, life at its most fecund, the promise of harvest the richest, high hopes based on the vibrancy infusing everything.
Always the optimist, I look at the fat nodding flowers of the wheat and barley, like impossibly heavy ears of grain, only empty, and already count the harvest. Every year, drought, pests, disease or storm dent the yield, the grains always fewer and smaller than my greedy imagination had made them. At least I had the fun of imagining the richest harvest ever, and I've forgotten my unreasonable optimism by the time we come to harvest.
GRASS - Grass growth is still driven by the spring moisture. The plants now switch over to flowering mode, surging in bulk in the drive to reproduce. The flowering stems of grass are much more ‘stalky’ than the leaves, so we graze the animals over the pasture ever more quickly, and cut again for silage the paddocks that grow too long for the cows.
HEIFERS - The heifers, young dairy females on their way to becoming milking cows, now explore the farthest reaches of the farm. I love seeing them in orchards, on the slopes overlooking woodland that makes our farm so beautiful, often grazing the high ground to catch the wind that blows the irritating flies away. They gather round, interested to see who it is and they crowd around me in the field, with interested curiosity, wondering if I might have any delicious edibles about me. I walk down the hill and they run behind, leaping, kicking and skidding behind me, that moment of fear when I hope they are agile enough not to trample me by mistake. Soon they get bored, and go back to the real and sustained interest of your very own patch of leafy grass, the clover just taking off for a bit of added interest.
DAIRY - June's milk is the favourite of Malcolm, our cheese dairy manager. I always think of him as our secret weapon in our pursuit of world class cheese. He does not tolerate anything that is not how it should be. He faces out anyone or anything to consistently create the best. I will have missed something, and I know I must listen and act when he gets on the warpath, it's always for the greater good. June milk is always beautifully balanced, that extra fibre from the thwarted flower heads giving an extra creaminess to balance the protein arising from the sweet grass.
AWARDS - It's been a fantastic start to the year with cheese awards. At Devon County Show our Extra Mature Cheddar won Show Reserve Champion/1st, Vintage and Mature both won 1st also and we entered our a 'Cheese Wedding Cake' from our Farm Shop, which also picked up 1st! A few days later Taste of the West awarded us with Gold for Extra Mature and Vintage (and finalist in it's category) and Silver for Mature. These results would not be possible without the hard working, talented people on the farm and dairy, and of course our girls for producing wonderful milk for the cheese! Cheers everyone!