MARY’S DAIRY DIARY - DECEMBER 2010
Light is seeping fast out of the shortening days, spectacular days are so short, overcast days have twilight at noon. This is the time of year my father died, making the dark days darker. Little birds fleet over the cold landscape, escaping the hungry eyes of the buzzards who wait on the telegraph poles. The deer get more and more inventive about how to get into my vegetable garden (what about a now 7 foot high electrified fence with a proximity alarm don’t they understand - it feels like we are training them to steeplechase).
CROPS - The crops are coming up well using the minimum tillage machine. The soil is firm underfoot, even after a fair amount of rain. The idea is that it will develop a good structure with more organic matter and less disturbance of all the myriad creatures that live in soil, and they give the plants access to nutrients that otherwise we have to add in. Soil left undisturbed produces huge amounts of vegetation, so feels like there is a lot to understand about the way soil works, and we literally are just scratching the surface.
COWS - The autumn has been kind, and we hope to graze right up to Christmas. We stop milking the cows to calve in February ‘dry them off’ to allow them to rest before calving and the next round of milking. Then we’ll bring in any animals that need a little TLC, and graze the fatter animals on crops we’ve grown to hold them. I was talking to a remarkable farmer from Somerset, Matt Bolas, who does the opposite and says that the lean ones thrive better outside. I’ll have to try that out - there is always something to learn. The autumn calving cows are going to the bull, so we bring them in a little sooner so adverse weather doesn’t affect them getting in calf.
CALVES AND HEIFERS - They are all tucked up in the barn now. The spring calves went down with IBR, like a heavy cold that leaves some prone to pneumonia - they had been looking so well; so it’s sad to see them looking poor. We treated them, and all but three came through. We will now vaccinate - we think we brought the disease in when we brought in a few animals when we set up the autumn herd, even through the vet had given them a clean bill of health. We’ve got the rest of the winter to get them back up to scratch, before they go to the bull in May.
CHEESE - We’ve been playing around with some ewe’s milk cheese - I’ve always wants to develop one. We are beginning to think we are getting somewhere - taste it in the shop and give us your feedback. The challenge is to make a cheese that doesn’t taste of fleece, and instead has our hallmark creamy complex balanced flavour with a long finish.
I’m so pleased with how the mite busters are doing - as long as we keep at blowing the cheese with our invention, the mite is there but not that visible. Will we be able to keep the mite from going under the cloth where we can’t get them? Wait for the next instalment…….
PRIZES - At the World Cheese Awards we have provisionally won a Gold for Quickes Traditional Vintage Cheddar, Bronze for Quickes Traditional Mature Cheddar and Bronze for Quickes Traditional Extra Mature Cheddar.
HAVE A CHEESY CHRISTMAS - We are packing ready for Christmas, and we are making up baskets and selection packs - send a taste of Newton St Cyres to your friends, order by email, phone with a card. We can send cheese to the UK, Europe by arrangement with the shop 01392 851000. Last orders for posting to be in the shop by Wednesday 15th December.
ALAN JENKINS - Alan is leaving us at Christmas time after 26 years as Farm Manager. Over the years, he’s been a great contribution to the farm. He & Trudi have bought a farm in South Africa near the Garden Route, it is brilliant he’s done so much here then is leaving to fulfill a dream he’s had for many years. The new Farm Manager is Adam Reeves.
RECIPE - I’ve finally worked out how to cook the cardoons that Clarissa Dixon-Wright encouraged me to grow - you can get the seeds in all the vegetable ranges, but it’s taken me about 10 years of puzzling what to do with them. They are such a good vegetable - they grow vigorously from November through to February in all but the hardest frost, and deer and other wildlife don’t eat them. They are a variety of globe artichoke, but you eat the central part of the leaf. I pull a couple of leaves off the plant, and cut off the green bits. I chop the core of the leaves into about 6 inch lengths, then pull out a few of the strings. Chop into about centimetre lengths, and put on lemon juice for flavour and to stop them discolouring. Braise in a saucepan with a little olive oil, a few chopped anchovies and some chopped garlic. I serve as a vegetable or as a snack with a little grated Quickes Traditional Mature Cheddar on top. They are bitter and crunchy and completely addictive.
Newton St Cyres
Devon EX5 5AY
Tel: 01392 851222