In a perfect blue sky, no vapour trails, three young buzzards wheel up the thermals over the wooded hill. Woodpeckers announce their presence tapping trees for insects. Owls hoot in the evenings. I’ve been walking, even running where the ground is even enough and the hills aren’t too steep. I’m exploring bits of the farm I haven’t been to for ages. I went to a wood, Blackdown - I realised I hadn’t seen it for 24 years, when I lived on that side of the farm. The trees were untidy teenagers when I last saw them. Now they are gracious young adults with cathedral-like majesty, the wind soughing in their leaves, and the ground covered with violets and bluebells.
We planted spring barley after the long wet winter, and it’s racing to catch up the wheat that we planted early last autumn. Barley starts flowering even before the ears have poked out of the top of the stalks. Wheat waits more sedately. All the green ears promise treasure. Then the grains start filling, and how much sun and how much rain determines how much of the promise is fulfilled. To my regret, we are growing maize: we missed the window to sow grass and clover in some fields in the wet. The cows will enjoy it in the winter, and we’ll be in the field straight after harvest sowing grass and clover.
The fields we did manage to sow have grown a glorious crop of grass, the new seeds surpassing themselves. The clover gets shaded by the rumbustious grass growth. Now we’ve cut it for winter feed, and the clover is starting to colonise the base of the sward. I love that sense it’s making its own fertiliser and protein-rich feed to feed our animals and so us, as well as structuring the soil and feeding soil life with its roots. We’ll cut more as moisture determines growth, and a next cut’s moisture is in the ground now.
Our heifers and our beef animals are exploring all parts of the farm. They don’t see people that often, tucked away in the folds of our wooded valleys. When you do show up, they crowd round. Partly they know delicious food comes from people, the memory of their milk feeding as calves.They are also just interested in whoever turns up, and need to give you a good sniff, and if possible a lick with a rough tongue. Like dogs, cattle learn about the world as much from smell as sight.
Spring cows are getting into calf. They are looking good, not too fat, not too thin. We always want them to be eating more and better food while they are deciding whether to get pregnant, so it works that the grass is going well. That’s nature’s way: pasture supplies what they need to be content to breed.
Our cheese sales are down with so many of the outlets for our cheese closed, from deli counters, events, travel and so many restaurants. Let’s support where we can so all of that is available on the other side of this. It’s lovely to see a slow unwind in this country and round the world.
One impact is that have closed our cheese dairy so we don’t make too much cheese. Our Dairy Team are furloughed, and we hope they can enjoy their time. Fishing trips will feature with some people, now that is permitted.
We have a film about cheesemaking on our website. It gives me a cheesemaking hit while we aren’t making cheese physically. It allows us to share the glorious complexity of everything we do. I hope you enjoy it.