June on the Farm
Midsummer magic gives wild growth at its fullest extent. Blink and plants everywhere reach for the sun at its highest in the sky. Leaves that started spring as every conceivable green all become mid green, as every one concentrates on the serious business on converting sun’s energy to food. Hatched chicks fledge. Baby rabbits explore daftly, tasty morsels for foxes, buzzards and ravens. A goose nesting up the valley honks mournfully, I haven’t yet worked out where she is.
The farm shares in the plenty of midsummer. The flowering barley makes the wind visible as the heavy heads and spiky awns sway, heart-stoppingly beautiful when I give myself the time to notice it. Wheat, more bluey-green, and without the spikes, flowers at the end of June. We hope for some dry weather during each crops’ flowering to get the best set for the wind-borne pollen.
CROPS - The crops we sow for winter feed, maize, fodder beet and kale look exquisite as they come up in green rows on our red soil snaking to the end of the field. Even rows and even spacing means the most yield, orderliness giving a visceral satisfaction that we can provide for our animals over winter.
Grass grows in front of the cattle, faster than they can eat it. The pastures the cows keep eating stay rich and leafy, perfect food to grow meat and milk just as it is. Humans can’t eat grass; pasture-produced meat and milks as well as being delicious are the animal proteins that use the least human-edible food: eat it and feel virtuous.
Let the surplus grass start sending its flowering stalk up, and you can choose what balance of protein, fibre and sugar to harvest for winter feed. Harvest in June, as late first-cut silage or hay, and you get lots of bulk and fibre, as the plants throw up unpalatable flowers supported on stalky stems. Good for a winter bellyful, less good to produce growth and milk.
HEIFERS - The heifers are growing the best they’ve grown for years, making compensatory growth on the rich grass. It’s good to reassure ourselves that their soggy outdoor winter did them no harm. It is a triumph of the fencing work we’ve been doing over the last year. We can get them to graze properly, so the fresh growth is the cleanest and most nutritious (no old leaves left behind). In the past, we would have to move them before they had finished up properly, giving them rank old leaves to eat next time round. They had learned our fencing had weak points and would lean on them to get to more interesting pasture.
COWS - Most of the spring cows are served by the beginning of the month, and most are pregnant by the end. The riot of lust leads to embryos settling nicely into their beds of crimson womb-beds, that delicate time just ten days after serving. We don’t change anything just then, for fear we could knock out the tiny bundles of cells, future calves.
CHEESE - The milk settles into a lovely milk for cheesemaking, Malcolm Mitchell’s favourite. His depth of knowledge and skill, garnered over the years, is the killer app of our cheese quality. ‘Just do it as it’s meant to be done’ he says. And he knows what to do, and when. He’s trained and shaped the whole cheese dairy team, and leads from the front in the heavy work of making our 27 kg / 60lb wheels.
In the store, the quiet work of maturing continues, powered now by our photovoltaic panels sited on the cheese store roof. Just the sweet spot, as we use the most power in cooling the stores at the time of year when the sun’s rays are at their most powerful.
AWARDS - Delighted to announce at the British Cheese Awards 2014 we picked up gold & Best Cheddar for our Vintage! As well as silver for Smoked Goats and Elderflower and bronze for Mature and Extra Mature. Extremely proud of all the Quickes team.
QUICKES FARM KITCHEN - Soooo excited to launch our Quickes Farm Kitchen, our pop-up cafe and restaurant, featuring all the delicious foods we stock in the shop, so many of them the products of the sun, soil and water of this valley. The menu is designed and prepared by distinguished local chef Deborah Custance Baker, fresh from making a real success of the Cafe at the Innovation Centre of the University. It’s the opportunity to try the products, foraged by Alice Blatchford, who’s worked hard to seek out most delicious local and artisan foods.
Try it out at Open Farm Sunday on Sunday 8th June, 11am-4pm lots of fun for all the family, including trailer rides, cheese tours, machinery, grow your own farm, and a hog roast. Admission is free!
Quickes Farm Kitchen will be formally opened by the Earl and Countess of Wessex on Tuesday 10th June. We are really honoured to be chosen as part of Prince Edward’s 50th birthday tour of the ‘Best of Wessex’.