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March on the Farm

NATURE 

I’ve been marvelling at trees, those largest of living things, that tower stately and unheeding over our lives. Leaves emerge, magically unfolding origami from hard wood. Blackthorn flowers first, pure white against black branches. Wild daffodils started early in the mild winter, and now the edges of fields are rejoicing with flowers. Ants lie glistening on their battered anthills, warming in the sun before they start the work of rebuilding for this year’s larvae. We saw two large foxes playing, out for a stroll, jumping the tussocks of grass in the orchard. They were honeymooning before settling down to the hard work of earth-building, cub bearing, rearing and feeding for the rest of the year. The holly is flowering in the hedge, those waxy white flowers with a holly berry-like green centre, the promise of berries to come.

ARABLE

The wheat responds to stronger light and warmth, just starting to think in its leafy heart about tiny embryo ears, just forming at the base of each plantlet. Our new seeds, spring crops, get going, little roots exploring the warming soil, little shoots harvesting the sunlight.    

GRASS

We had lots of grass left over from the autumn, that we couldn’t get the cows to eat without damaging the soil in the wet weather. The cows are busy eating that down  We have our annual game of watching grass disappear across the farm into hungry cows, while we wait for the new growth to catch up. Eat the new leaves too young and the leaves just aren’t big enough give the cows as much feed as they need, and aren’t fibrous enough to make enough cream in the milk. To protect future grass, we feed them a little silage in the afternoon. 

COWS

The spring cows are peak calving, fecundity central. We’ve had a good number of heifers. We used sexed semen on the heifers which gives them an easier calving, and gives us future cows from our youngest and best animals. This year, we have some cows that met an Angus bull. We will rear these animals on the farm as an experiment to see if this works for us. We’ll take them through until late spring next year, just when we run a little shorter of grass.

DAIRY

We are now on a good balanced milk making firm cheese, and I can’t wait to see and smell the first milk from grass, even the first day of grazing fresh pasture makes a difference.

The grass fed milk comes through into the cheese dairy.  It can be high in protein, and confuse our measurement of acidity. Our kit thinks amino acids, the building blocks of protein, are proper acids like the lactic acid from fermenting lactose that drives cheesemaking. Then we have to adjust our make to keep the cheese just right.  The milk builds up, and the team works harder: more milk, more cheese to make, to press, and store.

We graded some cheese made in the autumn from these cows’ milk later in lactation: good flavours, and softer than we’d like. I’ll be interested to see how they mature on: will they become luscious and melting?  

RECIPE

Foraged soup – pick new nettle leaves, new sorrel leaves and if you are lucky in sheltered woodland, the first wild garlic leaves, several good handfuls in total. I use  ham stock and add vegetables. Add the washed leaves for a few minutes. Add some cream, liquidize and season. Grate some Quicke’s Buttery- our youngest and butteriest cheese as a luscious topping. We only get a few of these intensely buttery-flavoured cheese a month and they are worth celebrating with this spring soup, sourdough bread and Quicke’s Slightly Salted Whey Butter.

MARY QUICKE

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