MARY’S DAIRY DIARY - JULY 2012
The rainy weather of June has everything growing, breeding, putting stores by for winter. The trees, fields & hedges are dripping with the heavy tresses of well-watered leaves, using July’s peak sunlight. Plenty is everywhere, including lots of insect life. I love watching the house martens ceaselessly combing the high air, the swifts scything across my path, inches above the ground, then swooping up. The birds keep us free of insects - the midges come out when the martens go to bed.
CROPS - The richness comes on the back of the rain, very few days free of rain in June. Will July give us easier weather to call? We watch the weather websites, one shows us the band of cloud and rain whizzing round the pole, trailing showers like a constant stream of confetti (www.sat24.com). To do any field work , you need half a day of dry and more to dry the crops before you can think of starting to harvest anything. Straw and grass won’t cut when it’s wet, grain won’t thresh out of the ear. We could do with the rest of the promised drought for the harvest months, although we’d soon be complaining about lack of grass and growth of maize .
WHEAT - The wheat pollinates at the beginning of June, ears with little stamens on them pumping pollen out, at its height in visible clouds. Then immediately the hollow grain-like flower starts filling with white milk that thickens through the month to soft dough then hardens dough to hard to flinty hard and ready to harvest end of this month or more likely next, with the wet.
GRASS & COWS - Grass is rich as the best cake when young and leafy, but hard and rewardless like straw if you let it go too stalky. That’s why we pile all the cows into a paddock, get them to graze down to the ground, let it grow back and graze just when it’s at its sweetest and juiciest. It keeps the cows keen to follow you - follow the two-legs, there be yum. The spring cows are now almost all in calf, settling down into the steady routine of eating and milking without sex to disturb them. The autumn cows are all on their summer holidays, hiding out in orchards and far corners of the farm as their bellies swell, a bit of bovine ‘me-time’.
CALVES - The calves go on looking very sweet, but they grow inexorably, turning into gangly teenagers. Their older sisters, pregnant now, enjoy their last summer of roaming the higher fields. We’ve been really impressed how some new grass leys fed them all through the spring, so fast growing. Young is vigorous.
MILK - The milk is settling down into a good summer balance. We’ve fed the cows almost entirely on pasture all the way through the mating time. The cows got in calf, and the milk was good for cheesemaking. Cheesemakers worry that the milk won’t be the right ratio of protein and fat unless you keep feeding silage and cake, but our Home Farm cows, with Friesian, Swedish Red and Montbeliarde all crossed together make a lovely rich grass fed milk.
CHEESE - We work in the cheese dairy to manage the differences that the weather brings daily and the seasons bring quarterly. When it’s richer we cut the junket more finely to let moisture and a little fat out to keep the right flavour. That means more of our lovely hand-rolled butter made from the cream left in the whey.
I’m very excited at our mite control - our sucking and blowing machine - we can now age our cheddar longer in better condition than any of the other naturally matured cheddars. It’s a lot of work, but lovely to know those amazing complex flavours of aged cheddar are safe for the future.
We’ve been cutting a lot of small pieces of cheese for all the celebrations and parties of this summer. Despite the weather, despite the mad economics of the world around us, we all remember that a good party, good food, drink and good company makes the world a jollier place.
RECIPE - We want to enjoy the fun, not spend too long preparing. I love this Florence fennel and Quickes Hard Goats Cheese salad from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s wonderful ‘Veg Everyday’ book. Slice a fennel bulb in half vertically, then slice fnely. Add lemon juice and a good olive oil. Grate Quickes Traditional Hard Goats Cheese over it, seson with pepper. It makes a refreshing addition to the buffet or to accompany a light lunch or supper, and best of all stays good as a leftover.
COMPETITION - Enter to name our cheeses - we are looking for memorable names that describe the cheese really well. We will give a prize to any name that we use – a fun day out at the farm to make the cheese, plus a goody bag from the shop, and taste all the cheeses. Responses on an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or to Quickes Farm Shop, Newton St Cyres, EX5 5AY
We are looking for names for Quickes Traditional - Mild Cheddar, Raw Milk Cheddar, Extra Mature Cheddar, Vintage Cheddar, Smoked Cheddar, Herb Cheddar, Red Leicester, Double Gloucester, Hard Goats cheese, Ewes Milk Cheese and Smoked Goats Cheese. Closing date 31st August 2012.
QUICKES TRADITIONAL FARMHOUSE CHEESES
Home Farm, Newton St Cyres, Exeter, Devon, EX5 5AY
Tel: 01392 851222
Fax: 01392 851382