June is the most gloriously flourishing, flower-filled and abundant of all the months. Days are long, the sun rising so early and setting so late you can go to bed while it’s light and sleep in after dawn at 4 am. How do the birds cope, who wake up with the light? Do they nap when the sun is at its highest? There is a quiet that falls over the landscape on the warmest days, just the mayflies locked in their mutually absorbed dance with the love of their short lives. Perhaps everything else is tucked up waiting for the cool of the evening.
Certainly, calves and young animals have playtime in the evening, skipping, darting, playing tag. I see a little fox family, tubby milk-filled cubs rolling in the dust with each other, playing hunting and fighting before they need to do that in earnest.
Plants grow, driven by the sun, and the rain that has fallen often enough to keep everything growing. The wheat and barley shoot their flowers like a rocket in slow motion up past the flag leaf, the broad top leaf of any of the grass family. That hangs elegantly facing south to harvest as much of the sun’s rays as possible. It’s a miracle that happens in front of our eyes, that the barren rays of the sun, coming millions of miles across empty space, meets something perfectly adapted to turn that and water into all those things that feed us and all the natural world.
The plants in the pasture yearn to make flowers and set seed. Cows prefer to eat soft leaves than fibrous flowering stalks. The cows graze to keep the grass, chicory and plantain leafy, while the clover can flower, giving the pasture and the milk a delicate clovery aroma. Now the mix we’ve sown in our newer pastures comes into its own as the different rooting depths harvest and returns goodness to different depths of the soil.
The spring heifers are now mostly pregnant, their desires met with the bull who will help create a daughter that will give the best milk for cheese, and small enough to calve easily. Increasingly we are using sexed semen, designed to produce only heifers. We need to rear only a few bull calves for meat in our Farm Shop, and we want as few additional calves to rear as possible.
The cows are settling into their summer routine. Morning and evening, they make their way into the milking parlour, their udders letting them know they need milking, so they wait at the paddock gate to come in: they certainly need no encouragement. There are always the laggards, who choose the furthest corner of the paddock, want to have their polls scratched and their tailheads patted and stroked, and generally want attention. It’s part of the pleasure of working with cows, to have your pets, who seek you out.
We had a fascinating tasting at the wonderful Exeter Festival of South West Food and Drink with Otter Vale Chutney. Classically chutney is sweet and vinegary to disguise some funky sharp and bitter flavours in cheese, so we found some of the classic pairings didn’t work. We liked quince jelly with our Goat's Cheese the gentle aromatics of the quince enhancing the aromatics of the Goat’s Cheese. Mincemeat worked well with our Mature Cheddar, the sweet spices and gentle sharp complementing the complex unfolding flavours of the cheddar. The sweet umami of the Red Onion Chutney allowed our Oak Smoked Cheddar to thrive. Flavours are there to play with and to see what you enjoy. For me, showing off the cheese takes subtlety rather than strength. Play and see what works for you.