September 2016 on the Farm
Leaves hang heavy on trees, fruit hangs heavy in the orchards and in the hedgerows. The accumulated sun for the whole summer is collected in the abundant life all around.
CROPS - We had an easy ride for harvest, with dry weather. Nationally yields were a little disappointing. The work we put in on soil structure and getting all the timings right, and little deer pressure mean we were content with what we got. Now we start the task of reseeding. With the spring herd of cows going to their new home on the South side of the main road, we are putting much of the crop land there down to grass and clover.
HARVEST - We've still got maize to harvest this month. We use it to add some starchy richness to the cows' diets which helps lift the diet in the dull days of winter. We always want to harvest maize early enough to get a crop in and growing before winter, even though that loses us a little yield. We go back to the maize field as soon as possible after harvest and sow wheat or a cover crop to protect our soil from the winter rain.
I love seeing the forage harvester gobble up eight rows at a pace faster than you can walk, chop it up and throw it into the following trailer. Then the trailers race back to the pit and tip it, where the big loader can pile it up, mix in some oilseed rape meal and roll it down tight to exclude air. Then the lactic acid pickling of the crop happens, and the fresh plant becomes a fermentation like sauerkraut, and just as tasty to cows. It is a good feed to take us through the winter, when we have low grass growth and tender, ungrazeable soil. The maize plus oilseed rape meal (left over from crushing for vegetable oil) makes a balanced feed.
COWS - The Autumn calved cows are doing well. The maternity ward is outside. We keep the cows out of sight of the main road, it's a private time and all interventions have cows recover more slowly from calving.
CALVES - You can see the new calves already finding their feet in Mill Marsh, the field in front of the shop. Just a few weeks old, and they are already a herd, suckling from the milk trailer, resting together and especially in the cooler evenings, playing the funniest games of tag. Their mothers and cousins and aunts walk past, to and fro to milking, and say hello.
DAIRY - The cheese dairy loves the new milk that comes from that little surge of Autumn grass, beautiful, balanced and complex. The weather is a little cooler, which helps with the hard work - easier to work in all that humidity when it is a sensible temperature outside. We always cool the cheddared curd with fans, to avoid putting it into moulds too warm, (part of making a good rind). Part of the consistency we now have in our cheese comes from cheddaring (turning and piling the slabs of curd) for much longer - 5 or 6 turns rather than the 2 or 3 we used to do.
PACKING - We are cutting, packing and dispatching a lot of cheese at the moment, going for Thanksgiving and Christmas orders in the US and beyond. We've been selecting the cheese to go, and I'm really pleased with the flavours we have in store. It is busy in the packing department - we have 3 1/2 more people in every day until Christmas to get our cheese out for people's enjoyment. I love the idea that the fruits of our pastures here leaves us to go right across the globe.