January on the Farm

Another turn in the great cycle of life.  Spring started back in December, when it was so warm.  The forecasters tell us we’re in for a cold blast, so all the primroses, roses, fuchsias, grass and even camellias that  strutted their stuff in December will get a rude shock!


A hard frost is tough for the wildlife too.  Deer can nuzzle away snow to get to the grass (and crops) to feed.  Animals that dig for worms, slugs and assorted yummies that are hidden under long-term pasture start finding that a challenge.  So we’ve revved up our protection of our animals to stop any sorrowful badgers getting close to our cattle.  Foraging birds look for our untrimmed hedges, and a bold robin follows me around as I turn soil over in my garden.


The crops can shrivel with cold drying winds; a blanket of snow keeps them safer.  The roots will be safe either way; mostly the frost acts as a fungal treatment, shrivelling any diseased leaves.  We ‘store’ the grass that grew in the warm time pre-Christmas on the pasture to feed the cows when they calve in early February.


Our milking cows are all inside keeping warm and dry and feeding on silage.  They stand by the gate, sniffing the grass growing on warmer days.  Patience! As soon as the ground is strong enough you will be out, end of this month or early next, we hope.  They are busy getting on with the pleasurable business of milking, that intimate and generous time when as a milker you provide them the relief they need and they give their bounty to you.  No wonder the Hindus worship them.


The dry cows and heifers are half in buildings, half out feeding on crops.  They did so well last year outside, despite atrocious weather.  We wanted to see if we can take the steps to keep any unwell wildlife away from the cows outside so we have triple electric fencing and don’t put down any hard feed.  We’re hedging our bets, so half of the cows are inside. 


In the cheese dairy, we make much less cheese in January as many of the cows are dry.  Our breed mix of New Zealand Friesian, Swedish Red and Montbeliarde maintain a rich, flavoursome milk through the year.


Breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, these tasty Brioche offerings would be a delightful treat any time of the day!

Ingredients (for 8 loafs);

  • 250g unsalted whey butter
  • 420g T55 flour
  • 22g fresh yeast
  • 42g sugar
  • 17g salt
  • 5 whole eggs
  • 8 slices of pancetta



  1. In a kitchen aid bowl measure out yeast, flour, sugar and salt. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  2. Dice the cold whey butter.
  3. Attach the kitchen aid bowl, pour in the eggs and start the mixer. Once combined start feeding in the cold diced butter.
  4. Once all the butter is incorporated keep mixing at high speed until you have a strong elastic dough. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours.
  5. Line 8 individual brioche moulds. Cut the dough into 16 equal pieces.  Place one piece of dough in the bottom of each mould then lay a slice of pancetta on top. Place a second piece of dough over the pancetta. Allow to proof for one hour or until the dough is bulging over the top of the mould.
  6. Preheat the oven to 175°C.
  7. Glaze with egg yolk and place in the oven for 12 minutes until golden brown.
  8. Turn out onto a wire rack and cool.

Something to do on a cold January day!