The early frost gave a golden autumn, bright coloured leaves on the trees, which stayed late, a welcome lift in the gathering damp, cold and dark. By the end of the month, they will all have fallen, an aromatic ruin underfoot. The deer venture into the orchards, keen to scoff apples we’ve left behind, drawn by the rich cider aroma. They leave looking decidedly perky.
We saw a young buzzard playing in stormy weather, dancing and wheeling in the wind. He looked like he was having fun, flying for the sheer enjoyment of testing his strength against the wild weather. A Peregrine Falcon scythes across the view, and the pigeons flew up in panic. They see her terror not her beauty. A robin comes to check out what they are doing, drawn by the turned soil. They become much more curious and friendly as the weather chills.
The crops are all tucked up, beautiful and even with the new no-till cultivation. It’ll be interesting to see if, as promised, the soil develops its own structure with the earthworms undisturbed, kings of their underground kingdom. Traditional farming would fear that without ploughing the soils will lose the essential air and water pockets. We’ll watch and learn. So far, the crops look lovely and orderly, a reset after the droughted harvest of this year, all promise and expectation.
The heifers graze the last of their own areas, each age group having completely explored some little corner of the farm. Now they come onto the kale, interspersed with bales of wheat silage, still with the ears on it. The bales look odd, dotted around the field. We fence each group into a day’s worth of feed mixed to keep them growing. We’ve constructed a wheeled trough from big plastic barrels fixed onto an old trailer chassis so we can keep the smaller animals growing through the winter. The purist might have them grow just off fodder, but they aren’t growing quite fast enough.
The autumn born calves are now tucked up in the shed for the winter. We were very happy when one of the Belted Galloway bull’s calves turned out red, very pretty. We will rear him for beef for the Farm Shop in a couple of years’ time.
The spring herd are still languidly grazing. They can barely be bothered to come in for milking: not enough milk to remind them it’s time to come in for milking. Their calves grow big in their bellies, and they will all dry off by Christmas. It’s lovely when the last cow leaves the parlour for her winter holidays, and milking finishes.
The autumn-calved cows are now getting in calf, and they are settling into comfortable mid-lactation. They come inside, leaving the pastures to recover for as early a turnout as we can manage.
All of our cows have names, you have the same name as your mother and a different number. We gave the names to the cows who founded the black and white herd, bred from the Shorthorns my grandfather had, and the Ayrshires my father started with. Ness was a cow we had in the 1950’s, her descendants have so thrived in the herd. Ness 718 – the 718th - was born this autumn.
In the dairy, the milk is now all from the autumn cows, with a good balance of fat and protein just re-establishing as the cows eat some slightly stalky grass silage. Their milk was a little low in fat when the cows were grazing very leafy grass new-grown after the drought, apple pomace from crushed apples sent for cider to Sandford Orchards, and maize silage. Cows need fibre to produce fat, and there wasn’t quite enough, and cheese was a little too firm.
We’re packing up the last of the cheese for Christmas: it’s always crazy even till late into a December, as people remember they might want a nice bit of cheese to see the New Year in.
VISITING & ORDERING
We are busy packing up Christmas orders. Let us know if you want to send a hamper or a box of cheese as a gift. You can visit the website www.quickes.co.uk, pop into the Farm Shop or call us on 01392 851000.
If you’d like to visit the farm and see for yourself grass, cows, making cheese, storing, and of course eating, we are running tours from April-September 2019. You can book the tours here https://www.quickes.co.uk/pages/cheese-tours
Shop Christmas opening times:
The shop is open Sunday 23rd December 10am-1pm and 9am-1pm on Christmas Eve.
We're open again on Friday 28th December 10am-2pm and Saturday 29th December 10am-4pm, so you can replenish the stores ready for New Year, and then open as normal from 2nd January.
Online ordering times:
Last orders online must be made by Wednesday 19th December in order to guarantee delivery by Friday 21st December.
M A R Y Q U I C K E