July. Phew, almost as soon as the sun hits the solstice, the plants take on a different phase. No longer is everything growing at full pelt. It was almost triffid-like the way when you next looked at a plant it was noticeably taller. After that standstill of a cold dry April and a cold wet May, a warm wet start to June sent everything into overdrive. Hedgerows exploded with flowers. Now, it’s quieter, the greens merge into the mid green of high summer. Birds sneak in another family: never sure if these ones will make it through the winter. Young adults try out their new wings. Is it teenage high spirits that has clouds of house martins zoom across the sky, seeming to chase each other, scything across the sky? You can hear the rustle of wind in their tiny feathers and they fly overhead.
In the pond, the thousands of newt eggs have become tens of teenage newts, still in the water, feeding on all the wriggling things in the water till they are big enough to venture onto the pond side.
I’m so happy to see the wildflowers in the churchyard again. There are some quite unusual flowers, like ‘Fox and Cubs’, a russet coloured, dandelion shape flower. I remember seeing the flowers there when I was a child, walking to school, before the monthly mowing started. It’s amazing how the plants have survived close mowing for so long. For me, it seems a wonderful celebration and honours my predecessors buried in the churchyard to have it be such a rich haven of the natural world.
At the beginning of the month, wheat and oats crops look splendid with heavy green flowers that rustle against you, the promise of great plenty. By the end of the month, the ears start to fill. Then comes the reckoning: is there enough moisture to swell the grain, are the roots deep enough to harvest it?
On the pastures, spring famine turned to feast. Did we cut too much? Have we left enough for our bountiful cows? It all depends on those heavy showers of rain. When others say, “Miserable weather”, I inwardly cheer (and not always inwardly); the rain is reaching the roots, visibly making leaf.
In July the autumn calving cows are full of calf. They are in a blissful late pregnancy dream, friendly and curious if you come to meet them, and so not bothered. They are all on their summer holidays, no milking, just eating more stalky grass and resting, flanks and heavy bellies warm in the sun.
For play, I visit the young heifers, their pastures are in hidden valleys on the farm, and they don’t see many people. They will gather round, curious and dash from one end of the field to the other, joyful under the echoing skies.
It’s hot in the cheese dairy. The job of forking cheese after salting is popular, in front of the fans that cool curd (and people). Turning cheese, in the cool of the cheese store, suddenly becomes the place to be, even though it is heavy work turning the young 27kg cheeses.
I love the way Italians turn homely delicious treats into delicacies. Bruschetta is how to retrieve bread that’s going stale and give it a second and more glamorous life. We’ve made some more Lady Prue, our cow and goats mixed milk cheese, in honour of my mother, who built our cheese dairy. Slice and lightly toast some elderly sourdough fairly thickly (ideally the sort made with no added yeast). Rub with some fresh garlic and some tasty olive oil. Top with chopped fresh tomatoes and basil. Lightly and finely grate some Lady Prue, finish with sea salt and pepper. The cheese gives a delicate umami base to the flavour, and the cheese has a lovely melt in the mouth.