Glorious May, everything growing and alive, making up for the dead time of winter. Greens of every shade, life popping out everywhere. We watch to see how many deer we have. We used to rent the deer shooting out, and it made sense for the stalker to ensure there were a lot of deer to pay the rent with. When we said we’d do it ourselves, as a present, the stalker shot as many deer as he could. We are very happy to see only 20 at a time, not 200, which decimated the crops. I’m expecting the roe deer to revive in numbers; they were crowded out by the bigger deer. They hide up in little bits of scrub, less than you think could hold a beast. I walked in the Arboretum, and one jumped out and ran to another bit of undergrowth, hidden from my view.
The wild boar also took a hammering. They are bright and very mobile, so left the farm while the stalkers were so active; we’ll see how long they take to return. They and the large badger population have made life difficult for hedgehogs. With less boar, it will be interesting to see who gains, badgers or hedgehogs. For myself, I’d love to see more hedgehogs, quiet, snuffling creatures.
CROPS - after the wet winter, just like in the garden, the soil took ages to be able to handle without damage on the clay ground. We got spring barley drilled in March on the lighter red land, and then some we put in last month on the heavy clay. The later crop will never yield as much, so we changed our plans on some and put in a very early growing grass, Westerwolds, and we’ll cut that and turn the cows out on it early in the spring next year. I’ve always wanted to grow it, and it’s never fitted our rotation. The wet spring gave us the opportunity to try something new.
The maize is drilled, and just coming up, pale green lines threading across the red soil. In four or five months it will give about fourteen tonnes to the acre to feed to cows. Looking at the seed, and then the little plants, you can’t imagine it could do that, trapping so much summer sun to produce winter milk.
YOUNGSTOCK - The heifers are growing on. We calve cows in February and then in August, and heifers take two years to become milking cows. That means we’ve always got at least four lots of heifers to think about. We have the baby calves exploring the world for the first time; self reliant nine month old heifers, the fifteen month old teenagers getting in calf themselves, and the heifers to calve in August, now getting a little slowed down by the calves inside them, due this August. Each group has its own needs, and James has taken on their responsibility. It works much better to have someone whose first job is the heifers, and they are benefiting from the attention, growing better and shiny with health.
COWS - The cows are in a comic chaos of lust. We delay serving them till mid May, so almost all the spring cows have their minds on sex for three or four days out of each twenty-one. They ride each other, alluringly rest their chins on another’s flank, and stand with what must be frustration while another cow jumps, making pelvic thrusts. ‘Bulling well’, we say, and it is funny to watch. We serve them to dairy bulls, straws of semen at this stage. They will meet our Belted Galloways later, for now we want calves that will come into the dairy herd. We are trying out some Jersey bulls, for the creamy full flavoured and firm-proteined milk, as well as the efficiency of those little cows. We’ll see how they look next February as calves, as cows in February 2017, and as cheese this time four years’ away.
CHEESE - It’s the busiest time in the cheese dairy, with all that rich milk from the fast-growing grass. Our little hybrid cows keep the richness of their milk even with just a grass diet, unlike the big Holstein cows, whose milk goes thin if you don’t feed them lots of corn. So the cheese stays in good balance all the way through the year. Our gentle handling of the milk now means we keep more of the solids in the cheese, and the cheese has been grading beautifully for the last year since we put in very measured pumping. That all means even more curd to handle in the coolers. In the warmer weather, we use large fans to cool the curd while cheddaring, salting and moulding. We want to put the curd away in the moulds cool enough so that the cheeses do not generate carbon dioxide – we aren’t making Swiss cheese.
More cheese made is more young cheese to turn by hand, so the work increases in the store as well.
We cut, pack and box cheese to send all over the globe. Now about a third of our cheese goes abroad, mainly to America and Australia, and also to all places in between. I’m very proud to hear of it on its travels, so please send me pictures of our little bits of Newton St Cyres if you see it anywhere.
We are excited to announce the opening of Quickes Farm Kitchen with an official Royal opening June 10th. Quickes Farm Kitchen will be headed by local celebrity chief Deborah Custance Baker and offer a delicious array of local artisan cuisine.
Dates for your Diary – The first event being held in our new kitchen will be Quickes Cheese and Wine Evening taking placeMay 29th
Open Farm Sunday June 8th 11am-4pm, we will have a variety of activities, including trailer rides, cheese making, cow milking and much more!
AWARDS – In the process of writing this diary, I received great news from the Taste of the West Awards 2014, we picked up two golds (Vintage & Mature) two silvers (Smoked & Goats) and bronze (Buttery) this result is a real testament to all the hard work from the Quickes teams!