September on the Farm
It's still warm in the day, but the air takes on a chill in the mornings. The whole of the natural world starts hunkering down for the lean time. Fruit pours from orchards and hedgerows. Creatures stop breeding and rearing, and fatten up. Leafy plants stop the race to seed and grow leaf to catch the sun to feed the roots.
We harvest the spring barley – winter barley's lower yielding and lower input cousin. We will watch the maize to ensure we cut the whole plant at just the right time to fill our silage pits. We harvest it when the cobs go hard and starchy and pile most of it on top of grass silage, to get a good mix of the fibre in grass silage and the rich starch in the maize. That will do the cows just fine in the depths of winter, when the grass is less rich and we want them to produce milk for next Christmas's cheese.
The heifers are starting to get sleek for the winter, with shiny coats and hip bones looking rounder as warmth-giving fat covers them. Young calves, born last month, find their feet and are soon rushing around, playing, teasing and leaping in the air.
The autumn mums to be will finish calving this month. It's lovely to watch them and, in particular, hear them ripping and chewing the grass, head one side then the other. They harvest thoroughly until, in 12 hours, the paddock turns from grass above your ankle to a lawn – save for the odd dung pat from the previous grazing which they have avoided. (I wouldn't want to put my nose in it either!)
I've always loved September cheese – it's rich and balanced, the cows are happy, and the grass is settled back into leaf production. The dairy is cooler and the humidity in the stores is just right, giving a lovely mould garden growing on each cheese.
We are over the moon to have received the highest accolade of three gold stars at this year’s 'Great Taste Awards'. Our Mature Cheddar received one gold star.
Our Farm Kitchen
I will get my garden geared up to grow flowers, herbs and salad leaves for the winter for the house, and for our café,. It's been lovely sharing my flavoursome, beautiful salads with our guests. I keep up the flow through the year; it's lovely to have fresh stuff to break through richer autumn food.
We are hosting our third annual ‘Apple Day’ Food Fair on Sunday 19th October: a celebration of local food, cheese and autumn. There will be a hog roast, plus spiced mulled cider and local ales to wash it down. We hope that many visitors will join us and enjoy the activities planned for the day.
Recipe: Texan-style Grilled Cheese
We had a visitor staying with us from Texas USA. Her speciality sounded like 'girl sandwiches' – it was actually the most delicious grilled sandwiches. Not for those on a diet – but we all need a layer of fat on us for winter.
- Sizzle some butter in a pan and fry two slices of white bread until pale golden on one side.
- Put on a board, sizzled side up, and place strips of Red Leicester, Mature Cheddar and smooth Goats Cheddar on one slice.
- Place the other slice sizzled side down on the cheese. Put back in the pan with more butter for about five minutes and flip over on the other side with more butter.
- Serve with a herby, flowery salad of assorted lettuce, chicory, endive, beet leaves, summer purslane, tarragon, parsley and marigold flowers, with cider vinegar and a splash of virgin rapeseed oil to dress.