September 2015 on the Farm
Young of all kinds lay down fat for the winter. Fledgling house martens try their wings and learn to catch flies, preparing for the long journey to Africa. Maize fattens in the ear. Roots fill with goodness, against the winter ahead, leaves look tired from the summer's work.
Tom saw a squirrel on top of a shed tentatively approach a buzzard. The buzzard turned to peck the squirrel, who retreated. Then the squirrel turned and charged the buzzard, who flew away in surprise. End of Summer glorious richness, start of Autumn decline. Rich fruit hangs in the orchards and hedgerows.
CROPS - I'm so pleased that our crop yields have returned to where they should be. We've got the soil, the timings and the deer pressure right. We are preparing the ground for next year's crops, scuffling the ground to get a false seedbed, so that weeds germinate before we sow our seed for next year.
MAIZE - The maize ripens, we will harvest it at the end of the month. We find it a useful addition to grazed grass when that gets less sweet and nutritious in the shoulders of the season. It also provides home grown energy to supplement grass silage to keep up milk protein to make good cheese in those few weeks to cows aren't grazing. It's such a spectacular plant, growing eight to ten feet high in five months. I love sitting in the cab of the forage harvester, watching the knives cut and chew through eight rows at a fast trot. It turns the elegant plants into a sweet smelling, juicy mix of seed and leaf and stem, and throws it in a continuous line into trailers.
GRASS - The pastures are growing apace, in the little Autumn peak of growth. The plants have more moisture, and have given up reproducing in the drive to make seed. The grass concentrates on leafy growth to feed the roots.
COWS - To have the cows calve in August to catch the September grass growth takes rearing the heifer calves that are born then to calve bang on two years later. Calve later, slower growth, longer gestation and they would hit the magic window. They also wouldn't be served by Christmas to give everyone a break from watching and serving. So we nurture the fluffy calves, so sweet and trusting, grow them on the most nutritious grass, watch them grow into leggy adolescents, and a year later in September, make the careful calculations to see if they will be ready to see Mr Bull in November, to have the cycle continue in line with grass growth.
CHEESE - and all in service of delicious cheese. The milk is just right to make a balanced cheese, enough cream to make it buttery and luscious, and enough protein to make a firm structure to hold those lovely flavours. We grade the September cheese of a year ago, one of the treats of cheese making, if a little arduous, as we taste every vat made then and three months ago. This informs cheese making and tells us which cheese should go where as we tease out the myriad layers of flavour that come from cows, grazing, heritage starters, maturing and that indefinable something that comes from the soil, environment, somewhere, the terroir of our land.