Monday 17 October 2011

Free Range Dairy Initiative; British Dairying Magazine Article

In this months' issue of 'British Dairying' which arived at the breakfast table this morning there was an excellent article by Neil Darwent of Lordswood Farm proposing a new intitiative to promote the image of milk & dairy farmers in the UK. Mr. Darwent is setting up a Free Range Dairy (FRD) initiative which hightlights the real value of British milk being produced by cows grazing grass in fields. This may seem a fairly obvious notion but with the recent planning applications for mega-dairies in which the cows are kept in sheds and never see a blade of grass something needs to be done whereby the comsumer is told the truth about farmers & their herds in Britain and thereby putting real value into our product. We find that with many of our visitors ther is an anxiety that milk in Britain is produced or will be produced in large mega-dairies. For those of us who are at the smaller end of the milk production scale this is very important stuff. While many consumers may believe that their milk comes from grazing cows the dairy industry as a whole may not maintain that perception as greater intensification looms. If British dairy farmers can use their integrity & build on the fact that our nutritious,wholesome & delicious product comes from  fields of grass there would be no need for added ingredients or ridiculous processing such as filtering for pseudo benefits.
Mr Darwent feels that there is a 'growing air of inevitability about our future milk supply coming from fewer and larger farms' but that attention must be returned to value in order to preserve our diverse dairy industry. How right he is.

Walking the dogs this morning I wandered through our herd of milking cows, who took no notice of us, and relished being among these large animals as they grazed on the lush aftermath on one of our silage fields,
The noise of them pulling at the grass and chewing it along with smell of grass and warm cow is something quite special at very close quarters.

Thursday 13 October 2011

Autumn, Approaching Winter

Misty autumn mornings with the hedgrows glinting with dewdrops on cobwebs and the occasional flutter of leaves falling from the trees as the dogs & I take our post breakfast walk.
There is terrific crop of acorns which are scattered everywhere. We really ought to have pig to snuffle them up as its the only way that we can make use of them! Though saying that I recently met someone who is gathering acorns & peeling them with the intention of grinding them to make 'flour'. My feeling was that its going to take a veritable mountain of acorns to make any quantity worth speaking of!
More useful are the sloes which seem to be doing well this year but the brambles are not good which is very disappointing.
The elderberries are plentiful too & they can be used for jellies, medicinal syrups & wine. The elder tree is associated with ancient magic; bathing one; eyes with the grren juice of the wood was said to confer the ability to see invisible beings and in Scotland it was said that if you stood under an elder tree at Samhain you would see the faery host riding by.

The Sons have been kept busy over the past couple of weeks with hedge-trimming both here at home & around the neighbourhood. Calving has been taking place too, with about 27 calves born over the last two weeks. It has all gone well and I am getting used to the early morning wake-up calls of the calves demanding their buckets of milk. It is another sign that winter is on the way.
We took delivery of 20 white turkeys last week which are being fattened up for the festive sacrifice in a couple of months time. Yes, we are already thinking of & planning for Christmas!

Saturday 1 October 2011

Primary School Visits Farm

Yesterday we hosted a group of 6yr olds from a primary school in Gorseinon, near Swansea.
The weather was perfect unlike on the day of the school party visit last week, and so we were able to have the children sitting out on the yard for their lunch.
The Farmer & I walked them across the usual route over the fields down to the river at the bottom of the farm and then back up top the farm-yard. Coming away from the river where the children were told about how it flows to sea and seeing all the little insects & creatures living under rocks and flying around over the water, I overheard one little boy saying to himself  'This has been the best day ever!'
That made the day for me.
On the way up to the yard they were able to see Molly the sheep-dog demonstrating her skills with group of sheep & some of the Traditional Hereford cows & calves accompanied by the bull ( a very docile creature).
When we got to field with the dairy cows the Famer separated out his 'pet' cow and she most obligingly went up to the children who were all sitting in silently in a row on the grass and sniffed and blew gently at them. They were thrilled! The Farmer showed them how she chewed the cud and they counted the number of chews (usually about 37) betweeen each swallow and then observed the bolus of grass moving down her throat.
Two of the children afterwards told me that they had never seen a cow before, only in pictures. Once again I must emphasis how important visits by school groups to farms are, for the very reason that children never see real animals at close quarters and I hope we have given them life-long memories of a real farm.

After we waved the children off the bus at 2 o'clock I had to set to and cook for dinner party we had last night. We had a very good though very late evening & one of our guests is staying for the weekend so there is a lot of food preparation going on (when isn't there actually, guests or no guests?).
Having been rather stuck for pudding last evening I experimented and made a blackcurant meringue pie, not having a any lemons in the house. I just replaced the lemons with blackcurrant puree and it worked a treat and was the star turn of the meal which was very gratifying especailly as it accompanied by thick cream from our own cows.This has in the past been described as having the consistency of axle grease...quite unlike anything one can buy nowadays when what is laughingly called double cream can pour like milk.