MARY’S DAIRY DIARY - JULY 2011
July, and the year tips into high summer, furious growth limited by dry weather and plants seeding. Animals and plants have that well fed look – house martens wheel around the house, giving us freedom from hornets coming in in the evening – do these tiny birds take those huge insects? I drove back from talking to the Exmoor Women Farming Group across Exmoor, expecting to see wildlife along the way – not much – as soon as I got onto our farm, I saw fallow deer, a fat badger, and two roly-poly fox cubs. Squirrels are eating my strawberries; last year I was getting a colander a day, this year just a handful. I’ve got electrified chicken wire and two nets around them, and they are jumping the wire and breaking the net. Next is to completely encase the strawberries in a cage of chicken wire. Too much wildlife!
CROPS - we watch for rain after the dry spring. I went to Helen’s wedding on Dartmoor , lots of farmers, and it rained as the bride came out of church – all delighted, hoping that we had rain at home too. Deer have taken their bite of the tops of the ears. Now they aren’t keeping leaves clean of mildew, but are taking crop from us – no wonder they look fat and gleaming. We’ll know more what they’ve taken as the combine rolls later this month.
GRASS - it’s easier for the cows to keep grass clean and tidy when it grows less fast, but we watch and wait to see what we will harvest for winter. We put the long grass on top of the whole crop wheat silage to make a rich feed for the winter – how much more will we get? Will it be enough? We water the pasture with all the washing water and manure we collect, hoping to keep grass ahead of the cows.
COWS - The autumn cows are going on their summer holidays to the further parts of the farm, the fields and orchards they can’t reach when they need to walk to the milking parlour every day. I love to see them, content as their calves grow large inside them, almost invisible in the dappled shade, in the wilder bits of the farm, looking as if they are sharing a secret as you come upon them. Spring cows are now alone on the cow pastures, luckily as the grass growth reduces.
Calves are now experienced adventurers. One, too white, has got sunburn and needs rescuing as she stands under a little field bridge to keep out of the flies irritating her skin. The heifers are having their last adore of Mr Angus Bull, clustering around him, before he goes on his celibate holiday next month.
CHEESE - a lovely milk at this time of year from the drier grass with that tinge of clover. Beautifully balanced, so we don’t have to work to get the right texture. Last year’s cheese has that lovely candle-like texture of the cheese-iron bore that lets you know it will be a classic. Hard work in the cheese dairy as it gets hot, spare words as people endure heat , weight and humidity. The cheese store, turning young cheese weekly, still heavy work but cool, and turning and blowing older cheese monthly, becomes popular. I’m so proud of our mite busters, keeping our stores free of the mite plague, keeping cheese clear of internal mould, while letting the mould grow and the cheese breathe to give our complex balanced flavours.
RECIPE - A lovely recipe from Merle Warner, who with her husband Raymond won the prize to name our first calf of the season, they called her ‘Frieda’, which just suited her down to the ground. She gave me her beautiful recipe book ‘From the Heart of Devon: Countryside Garden to Kitchen’ , with this recipe for Bread & Cheese Pudding.
4oz stale white bread with crusts
¾ pint milk
4oz Double Gloucester cheese
4 rashers back bacon
2 spring onions, finely chopped
3 beaten eggs
Salt & pepper
Remove rind from bacon and slice in half lengthways. Cut bread into cubes including crusts, place in shallow 2 pint oven-proof dish. Cut cheese into cubes and sprinkle over bread and onions. Beat milk, eggs, mustard, salt and pepper and pour over bread and let it soak for 10 minutes. Lay bacon rashers over the top. Bake until golden and crispy for 45 minutes, 200oC, gas mark 6. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and serve with fresh peas
QUICKES TRADITIONAL FARMHOUSE CHEESES
Newton St Cyres
Devon EX5 5AY
Tel: 01392 851222