Grit Blogs > Maple Field Milk

New Year - The First Year

Nick Snelgar head shotWatch out ... the food runs away so fast. The nutrient stream runs thin, and we have bought in round bales of ‘haylage,’ which is a strike between early cut juicy silage and a later cut of hay. It is much drier, but wrapped like silage. It smells like an exotic tea, and the small holding has the scent of  a Shri-Lankan plantation in summer. My friend Gerald has loaned me a Ring Feeder, which provides a kid’s climbing frame ring around the precious bale so there should be no waste. The International Harvester 574 (68hp) beast with the ’Quicke’ fore-loader  is so used to this kind of grunt work. Feeding time is now seldom, and painless.

Awful storms beat upon the barn and caravan, last week, to the point where sleep became impossible. The cows and calves buried their heads up to their shoulders in the hedge and presented their narrow backsides to the northwesterly torrent. The pigs gave up and took a long lie in. The fouls hardly noticed and stayed inside for two days. Lets not grumble – we have only had 4 frosts this winter, and the shortest day is long passed.

Geoffrey has worked out the final answer for fitting out the ‘bail’ with vacuum lines, pumps and ... even the total answer to the power-take-off ancient ‘bronze age’ spline. Nothing is too much trouble. Everyone involved in this really wants it to work.

I think farmers work constantly against unexpected and overwhelming odds, and they learn a natural inclination to cooperate with other people in similar situations.

The calf pen is finished and ready to trap the teenagers to start the weaning process. This can’t start until the ‘milking bail’ is ready to take over the milking from the calves – will the change-over be smooth and painless? Will the mothers, bolshily, hold back their precious milk from the intervening human? Very soon we shall find out.

NOTES ON THE SIDE 

We have run out of Martin Flour. This is ground from wheat (Solstice variety), which is grown by a village farmer/craft grower in a field called ... ’Well Ground’ ... no, I  didn’t make it up!

Back-of-a-bus-ticket interesting figures: Martin consists of 164 households. If each family use 2 loaves of bread each week – Martin Parish will need 17,000 loaves per year. Each loaf, roughly, comes from a square yard of ground devoted to wheat. That means the Parish needs 4 acres to provide it with the staff of life for one year (4840 square yards to the acre). The other thing is that  our craft grower has been growing ‘bread quality wheat’ year in year out for 15 years in southern Britain; in  damp chalky soils, there you go. We have had the flour tested and baked by great bakers, and there is no need to add hard wheats from Canada or the Ukraine. Martin wheat from ‘Well Ground’ is absolutely fine; it performs perfectly well.

My friend gave me a book called "Wildwood" by Roger Deakin. I walk around in a winter trance. You must, please, read it. You simply don’t know what will happen next ... you might be given a fab book.

I have a nephew-in-law living in Han Province of China, and I hope he is going to help me with stories and with beautiful photographs of rural China. It's difficult not to be excited in 2012.