Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Farm diary: August

The month of August started on a high, with our win with Longhorn cattle at the Ryedale Show: Breed Champion and Reserve Champion, with Primula and Maisy respectively. It would appear our first ever show, The Great Yorkshire, only a few weeks previous, was not in vain! Another wonderful thing to come out of the Great Yorkshire Show was Lohengrin, the Longhorn bull we bought from brilliant Longhorn breeder Nicky Luckett. Now installed in our fields with his lady-cows, Lohengrin is getting to work on growing our Longhorn herd even more.

The cattle weren't the only animals going places this month. Two of our young shire horses, Harry and William, have gone even further afield - approximately 370 miles away to Devon. They're being broken in and taught to pull a cart, with the hope that we may use them to plough some of our land (very old school - we like an old tradition and a challenge). Next task will be to find someone who is enthusiastic about traditional farming methods and willing to spend a bit more time with them - perhaps Martin Clunes is up for the job!

August brings with it the glorious game season, starting on the 12th when the first of the season's grouse may be shot. We are very lucky to have the moorland only five minutes away, with our sheep grazing alongside the game birds. Luckily the weather this year has been much better than last, which means the grouse are thriving on the abundance of heather. The heather in their diet makes for bags of flavour and succulence - a really rich and robust bird, quite lean but really packs a punch. Here's our Creative Food Director, Nicola, tackling a few of her own (warning: graphic). For any owners of the Meat Book, there's Fran Warde's wonderful roast recipe on page 313.

This month has seen an army of combines, tractors and trailers in the fields as harvest commenced. We are known as a mixed farm; rearing livestock as well as the crops to feed it. Harvest time is one of the most crucial times in the rural calendar, as we have to ensure we get the crops in when they are ready and before they get ruined by the rain. Combining the barley gives us two vital products on the farm: barley and straw. Our barley is milled to make the grain on which we finish cattle - without a little grain incorporated into the animal's grass diet in the final 3-6 weeks, they simply won't get the covering of fat required to dry-age the meat. Straw is then baled up and makes bedding for the animals - if they come in from the wet fields they need a dry bed for the night.

Elsewhere on the farm we are preparing for the approach of the winter months. Mike our joiner is busying himself making the crème de la crème of chicken accommodation, which so far has taken him three weeks and still needs a few finishing touches - this will be the Bellagio of the chicken world! After all the hard work that has gone into this elite chicken house, we are hoping that we do not have the same problem that Sir Peter Viggers had and it does not just ‘vanish'...

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