Summer leaves hang heavy. We’ve had a long summer, starting as we went into lockdown in March. Long warm weeks have left the fruit dripping from trees and bushes. Butterflies are everywhere on the long grass, scattering as you walk. The house martins are enjoying the hatches of flies, and swoop balletically keeping our house fly free till they fly away, always a sad moment. Baby rabbits dart crazily out of cover. The buzzards and foxes are languid and well fed with such easy prey.
A lovely side effect of the anxieties of this crazy time is taking a walk (or even a run) on the farm every day. I’ve visited corners I haven’t seen for years. I’ve been walking with my brother in the woodlands he has tended for 30 years and more, and we have witnessed for sixty years. We have seen trees from planting through to noble, cathedral-like groves. We have even seen some of those felled, and most gratifying of all, to see the next round of trees growing again, regenerating from seed or coppice in that miraculous cycle.
The rain, so far, has come just at the right time, when the soil has asked for it. The more organic matter in the soil, the better its water retention, which helps in both drought and flood. We are growing grass and clover for preference, rather than maize, on our arable soils, to put more organic matter into the soil. We are spreading our manures to the most distant parts of the farm. With both animals and crops on the farm creates a self-sustaining cycle.
The heifers now have all the best views. They are grazing in all the little fields nestling amongst the woods and hills. It’s a privilege to have their sassy adolescent sociability, up for an evening chat.
The autumn calving cows are on their summer holidays, enjoying r&r before they calve this month or next. They graze, cud and mainly rest, socially sitting with their friends, their glistening coats warm in the sun.
We are now rear all the calves born on the farm. We use an Angus bull to sire calves that won’t come into the dairy herd. Other breeds aren't as tasty, and people know Angus tastes good, and they grow well on pasture. The farm team have taken rearing these extra animals in their stride. Grass grows more the better it is grazed, and these extra mouths will help us manage our grass better.
We do all our maintenance work in the cheese dairy in August. When we come back, we need to know how much cheese to make for 15 months ahead. Our crystal ball is a little cloudy: Brexit? Covid? Tariffs? We have no idea how these will all play out, and we will end up making cheese for the best guess we can.
We’ve been working with German cheese producer Albert Kraus and our matchmaker Kaeskuche. They mix our mature cheddar into the vat of milk they use to make their Alpblossom cheese. It’s made a stunning new creation AlpenCheddar. It has the best of both styles of cheese: nutty, rich with even an apricot overtone and a gloriously funky rind. All three cheeses are available to buy online or from the Cheese Box. Shop here
WEST COUNTRY CHEESE BOX
One of the lovely things about the Covid-19 is the way cheesemakers have cooperated. We’ve made a West Country Cheese Box with handmade cheeses from Devon. Each cheese has been chosen for its outstanding seasonal flavour, diversity of milks and textures, creating the perfect summer cheeseboard. Available to buy online or from the Cheese Box. Shop here