Mary's Dairy Diary - July on The Farm

Mary's Dairy Diary July 2015High summer after a cool spring. So far we've had sun and rain about right.  It's been cool for people and good for animals and plants, the long slow build stretching out all the steps to early summer, time to enjoy every bit.  We've a rookery that has developed in the last few year in the trees across the little valley.  Their constant cawing may not be the most beautiful song, and their aerial acrobatics make up for it, wheeling and diving - flying for fun.  They seem to have driven the buzzards further away.  The daft baby rabbits have a marginally longer shelf life before they become someone's supper.
The greens of the landscape, so dizzying in their variety and rapid change through spring settle into the hard working mid green of serious photosynthesis.  Sun's energy into food for growth and winter stores, harvest it while the sun is at its fullest.
Mary's Dairy Diary July 2015 - Crops
And that's what the crops are doing.  The barley fills its ears, and starts to take sugar and life from its leaves, field taking on a yellow tinge.  We've fed and tended the crops, and cared for the soil perhaps the best for year, and the ears have a lovely even nodding quality that speaks of good yields on happy roots.  Of course, it waits for the combine to tell us that.  We are itching to get going; an early harvest, starting at the end of the month spreads the work, although suggests the yields won't be as good as if the crop kept growing that little bit longer.  The wheat follows on a couple of weeks later, flowering through Wimbledon.  Sunny, and the flowering is good, and the pollen does its work well, rainy and the crops are watered: you win some and lose some.  Think of us while you watch the tennis.
The grass has grown so well this year, fed, watered and fenced just so to give good yields.  In July the clover starts really motoring, outgrowing the grass.  It makes is own fertiliser from the air and roots more deeply than grass.  Some swards can look overwhelmed with clover: a really good feed for milking and growing, good protein, and an aromatic quality to the milk from all those flowers.
The cows have loved the cooler time - as big animals their challenge is getting too hot.  They've loved the grass and clover.  We keep it leafy by their grazing, on for half a day then rested for two to three weeks, the mob of cows demolishing the long grass in a glorious tearing, chewing, cudding celebration of all that is good about grass.  Most are now in calf, the breeding frenzy quietened into the serious business of milking and growing their calves.  The August calvers go on their summer holidays around the farm.  It's lovely to see these great beasts in the dappled shade of an orchard or a woodland margin, resting before next month's calving.  Late pregnancy gives them a contentedness that is palpable - you can almost breathe in the progesterone calm.
The calves look sweet.  They showed off for our visitors at Open Farm Sunday in June, bold and timid, skipping in the cool, basking in the heat. Now all are weaned, and they are growing well on the leafy grass.  We reserve fresh grass that hasn't recently been grazed, while they develop their immunity to worms.  We can treat them, and it's much better if we don't have to; thank you for picking up after your dogs, as dogs (however conscientiously wormed) carry a parasite we can't treat.
The milk is just lovely.  The clovery milk gives some of my favourite cheese, a good level of protein to match the richness the sun-filled grass gives.  We've been making some glorious cheese, a real pleasure to grade - check a sample from each vat.  We do that at 3 months old and 12 months old.  We bring in an outside grader who advises about the make, the technical balance of fat, protein, acidity and moisture to inform what we do in the dairy.  We bid farewell last month to marvellous Keith Plowman, who has been a great agent of us improving our consistency.  We will grade this month with Richard Green, and look forward to his advice on our cheese.  At 12 months we check the flavour lean - which of the flavour families, and so which customer we will send the cheese to. 
It's a cheesy endurance test, to distinguish the different flavours in nearly a hundred vats - and a real pleasure to immerse yourself in the flavours our farm, our grass, our cows, our starters and all the hard work that making and maturing give.
So pleased to win Best English Cheese with our Quicke's Hard Goats Cheese at the British Cheese Awards, the best of around 700.  The milk come from a nearby goat dairy farm, and we make it like we make the cheddars.  We also won Gold for Extra Mature Cheddar, and a First for Vintage at the Devon County Show.  We won a smattering of other awards for Oak Smoked Cheddar, Elderflower and Mature across the two shows. 
Thank you for everyone that visited us on Open Farm Sunday and for all the wonderful comments. We were delighted with the day, looking forward to the next - June 5th 2016!


Mary Quicke


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