July 2015 on the Farm
High 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 however their aerial acrobatics make up for it, wheeling and diving - flying for fun.
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.
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. The wheat follows on a couple of weeks later, flowering through Wimbledon. Think of us while you watch the tennis.
GRASS - 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.
COWS - 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 resting in the dappled shade of an orchard or a woodland margin.
CALVES - 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.
CHEESE - 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 by taking a sample from each vat. We do that at 3 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. At 12 months we check the flavour lean - which of the flavour families, and so which customer we will send the cheese to.