Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Spring Turnout of Dairy Cows, Ladybirds, Home-made Ice-cream, Poly-tunnel Veg. Growing

Yesterday was Turn-out day for the dairy cows. It always a significant point of the year when the cows are put out onto the new spring grass after having spent the winter months in the yards and cubicle sheds feeding on silage.
 It is a marvellously comical sight to see them go out; the normally staid and plodding ladies go mad and leap about like young calves and bellow with joy of being out on in an open field. After about 10 minutes of exuberance they calm down and settle into cropping the fresh grass. Putting the cows out is good for the milk yield and the flavour of the milk will get richer as the days go by and the new grass grows well in the spring sunshine.

Working in the garden and walking through the fields over the past couple of days I have been struck by the number of ladybirds that are about. Usually I don't see many and then not until well into the summer, however I have seen several lately of various kinds, the usual red with spots though with varying numbers of spots, a beautiful orange coloured one with only 2 spots and a darker orange type with no spots. It will be interesting to see whether any variations on theme will be seen and if this is going to be good year for ladybirds.

Our friend the Climate Change Expert arrived just before lunch bearing a box of home-made ice-cream that he had used some of our milk to make. Having brought pudding he had to stay for lunch, and the ice-cream was delicious being flavoured with brambles and was a marvellous rich colour thanks to the eggs from his own hens, a rich creamy yellow streaked with purple.
Ice-cream making is great fun and over the years I have experimented with various methods and flavourings.
The simplest recipe  I found was to use just a quantitiy of cream, some icing sugar, lemon juice and  fruit puree. I just mixed it all to taste and then froze it stirring it every now & then. Strawberry, blackcurrant  and plum were the best, I think.
Maybe this summer I will make some again especially if the soft fruit crops well.

The Farmer has now rotovated the poly-tunnel where we had lambed the sheep and kept the hens over winter and now it is all ready for planting with the range of vegetables that we enjoy. The Farmer has a passion for lettuce of various kinds and there be will several tomato plants, sweet peppers, cucumbers, courgettes, runner beans, peas, beetroot, sweet corn and some cabbage and cauliflower and not forgetting a trellis of sweet-peas which do very well in the poly-tunnel. I often have sweet-peas through to November.
At the end of one of the tunnels we have a fruit cage with raspberry canes, currant bushes and gooseberries which all do well, though the blackbirds find their way in despite the netting.
The worst pest we have though is rabbits who occasionally get into the tunnels and mice. Slugs are not a problem because the ground is so dry as we only water the plants not the ground all around. Butterflies are a nusiance on the brassicas and we really need to put a net across the doorways.
The Farmer is hoping to get some of the planting done in the next few days, when we have time between the gypsy caravan, visitors, and farming.

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