I write this before rain has had a chance to slake the thirst of the soil. The drier land pastures are completely ochre in colour, the river meadows a little more green, the elms already deciding it’s autumn hedgerows dry almost to a crisp. Birds gather round the water troughs, and the river is low. There is more rain in the forecast for this month, and it won’t bring back the growth that’s lost. Hotter drier summers are a prediction of climate change that seems already upon us. The other prediction is warmer wetter winters. Individual seasons won’t follow the pattern, and it feels like the weather is changing faster than we expected and already is coming in lumps rather than our maritime pattern of alternating weather.
The land is still dry. It was terrifying to see the fire in our neighbour, the Browne’s, field. That could so easily have been us. We are still scared of fire, we are particularly worried about sky lanterns: pretty in the sky, and terrifying when fire hits the ground. We’re also worried about campfires and barbeques, particularly in the woods with the ground tinder dry and where fire can hide for weeks before it breaks out somewhere else.
The crops in the barn showed the drought with slightly less plump grains than we hoped, and the yields were OK: the crops had been looking very even all the way through the growing season, each plant and ear in place; enough grain was in the ear before the dry weather hit. We will put some of the arable land into fast growing grass to eat in early spring, to replace the winter fodder that we are feeding the cows now. The maize is looking happier after the hot summer, its preferred weather. We’d hoped to do without it, and that looks too risky. We want to keep our resilience to dry weather. We will look after the soil it grows on by using animal manure and getting a crop of wheat growing after we harvest this month to avoid bare soil over winter.
We’re topping up the young heifers with hay while we wait for the grass to grow. The old farmers say cattle do well in a dry summer, and we hope that’s so. We have a little more leeway now: our future milk cows will mostly come from the Spring herd. The spring grown heifers grow better than the autumn born animals: they enjoy two summers of grazing before they get in calf. That gives the less well grown ones the chance to catch up with those few extra months to get to the right size to calve comfortably into the autumn herd.
Cows are enjoying the cooler weather and hoping for the grass to freshen up. The river meadows never completely gave up growing and are coming back faster for the freshly calved autumn cows. The spring cow have been on brown pasture, and are been going into fields just for a change of scenery. We hope to see some grass growing back this month. We even fed the cows some potatoes to keep them going when the grass disappeared. It will be interesting to see the impact on the cheese, there is no effect on the curd in the vat.
The milk is a little lower from the hot summer. We’ll see how the autumn cows milk is this month. It’s lovely to be in the refreshed dairy after its annual deep clean and maintenance. The cooler weather is easier, too for the heavy work of making cheese.
GREAT TASTE AWARDS
We are really proud of our Great Taste Awards results this year – we won 2 stars for Mature Cheddar, Vintage Cheddar, and Lady Prue Butter, and 1 star for our Hard Goats Cheese. I have judged at these awards (not our cheese!) and I know the care they are judged with and excellent feedback we as producers receive. Stars really mean something about the quality of the product.
The Cheese Shop have been really busy sending off Celebration Cakes - a cheese tower with our’s and others’ cheeses, great for all the parties people are catching up with. At the other end of the scale, we are also busy with our letterbox cheese: smaller pieces, perfect for gifts or smaller households. that will go through a letterbox. We’ve added a new letterbox cheese hamper to the range - our Vegetarian Taster Letterbox, containing our five vegetarian cheeses: Goat, Oak Smoked Goats, Elderflower, Devonshire Red and Double Devon. They are available in our shop and online at www.quickes.co.uk
We’ve also have got our AlpenCheddar back in the counter in the Cheese Shop: it’s a funky aroma, great for melting on potatoes.