May 2015 on the Farm
This spring seems more beautiful that any spring I remember. The slow build with the cooler weather tantalisingly stretched early spring out. Then we had the bright dry middle, when buds burst, grass grew, the hedges flowered. Now we have the grand finale of spring. The May, the hawthorn flower, covers the hedges with blossom. The trees drip with new leaves of every green that you can imagine, and few you hadn't believed possible, and young of every kind ventures out into the big world.
That has the buzzards and other birds of prey very happy: daft young rabbits sniffing the growing grass make the job of rearing a clutch of hungry meat-eating chicks considerably easier. A young buzzard waits for me to pass down the lane, knowing rabbits, field mice and voles will startle into his waiting talons.
CROPS - In the fields, the crops grow. Warmth and moisture drive the dance of their growth stages. The stately progression of growth through winter and early spring now gains pace to become the wild bacchanal as ears emerge in barley and wheat, and the rape flowers its vivid yellow. The crops use the soil's precious moisture to grow and flower, harvesting the sun's energy to set seed, to ensure their species' future.
PLAYGROUND - In the farm playground, it's lovely to see children connecting with this process as they play with the tractors and our pretend cows, and see the grass grow and the lambs and calves eating it. Children know how to play, and we gently inform them of the facts of farming. The children seem to relish the connections they start to see
GRASS - The cows are day and night at pasture, now there is plenty of grass to feed them. Last month's anxious wait to have enough grass available for them almost overnight changes to measuring how much we need to cut to avoid the grass going long, stalky and unpalatable in front of the cows. We close up the paddocks they will never eat in time, and cut it for winter feed.
COWS - The plants drive to reproduce. The cows do too. At the beginning of May we watch all the spring calving cows to see if they are keen to breed. In the middle of the month we start to satisfy that desire. In the first 3 weeks, almost all the cows will enjoy a service, and about two thirds will become pregnant if we've got everything right with our fertile little cows.
CHEESE - the cows are milking very well, which means words are sparse in the cheese dairy. We have to take care to make great handmade cheese every day, even when muscles ache with the sheer weight of curd to handle.
GRADING - We've just graded last year's cheese made at this time, and I'm proud to say we've had the best result ever - 98% in the very top category.
We are fortunate to be hosting some resourceful and hardworking interns from South Africa, Niel Neethling and Elzahn Nel. They were homesick for a proper South African braai - barbecue. They spent the morning preparing a delicious lunch, mushrooms stuffed with caramelised onions, lamb chops and sausages, and pumpkin, all prepared on the barbecue, as well as a delicious malfa pudding (like sticky toffee pudding) and proper custard. They made delicious Braaibroodjies - toasted sandwiches - on the barbecue.
Braaibroodjies - cut white bread generously. Butter well, right to the crusts. Fill well with your favourite food. I loved their apricot jam & our grated Mature Cheddar braaibroodjie. Then they made sliced tomato, caramelised onion and again used our grated Mature Cheddar, and that was glorious. Toast well on each side on the barbecue and eat hot. Enjoy!