November 2013 on the Farm
The summer was hot and dry, and the autumn is cooler and wetter – seasons are in the right place. That is so reassuring for a farmer – you realise how much we need everything in place. We had the finest harvest of field mushrooms for years, soil warm, good rain. We ate them for almost every meal, even dried them and froze them – I’ll report back on how that works. The hedgerows are still full of fruit – the sign of a warm summer, not a cold winter, we hope.
We have had a battle royal overhead with ravens and rooks scrapping, aerial acrobatics, cawing and croaking! The buzzards also joined in, and were wheeling around and calling. Are they fighting over territory released from the summer birds leaving? Or are they playing in the autumn sun and crisp air? The one solitary fallow buck roaring in the rut was drowned out by the battle.
Our CROPS - The last harvest gave us the lowest yields we’ve ever had, and lower than our neighbours. Already this season, our wheat and barley are well established, with that lovely even velvet sheen across the fields that promises yield. We are really pleased with the minimum tillage – fast and less fossil fuels, leaving the soil structure intact. I’m hoping for it to up our organic matter content, doing our bit to take carbon dioxide out of the air – arable farming mostly releases it, unlike grassland farming.
Our HEIFERS – We are weighing the little ladies, making sure they keep to weight. Some of the older ones, from before we started weighing routinely, are a little underweight, and will not be big enough to calve at two years old. Calve older, and their udders will be fatter and less milky which might explain why bra sizes have gone up in humans! We start serving to calve next August, always a jolly sight, with a gaggle of hot girls’ attention on finding a bull to do the necessary. We brought them inside last month so they don’t have to cope with getting in calf and dealing with a feed change at once.
Our COWS – The autumn calving cows go to bull as well this month; they are milking well and we’ve got them in at night to look after them that little bit better. The spring cows are still out day and night, depending on the weather. Enough grass to keep them out, and they’ll stay there; too wet or too much damage to pasture, and we bring them in. Even a few hours of grazing gives those lovely distinctive grassy flavours. The work we did to get the milk pumping super gentle seems to be working, the milk looking just right in the vat - I can’t wait to taste the cheese at 12 months old.