While we have recently harvested our crop of barley, we (and the cows) await the new maize harvest that we normally take at the end of September. This is what the maize clamp that held last Summer’s harvest looks like now – nearly empty, all eaten up by the cows along with the barley and other silage during the winter months.
Come September this is what will happen to the fields of maize that are now vigorously growing. Harvesting and chopping up…
… and putting in the clamp.
… and covering over and storing
… to be munched by the cows
… and repeat. They don’t half eat a lot those cows!
On this misty morning it was time for the cows to go out into the fields for the first time this year. It was grey and cool first thing but the girls didn’t seem to mind as they headed out towards the fields.
Some of them get a bit carried away and prance about the fields and kick out with their legs.
… and after all the excitement it’s time to munch on some fresh grass.
The girls will be out on the grass now until the Autumn, but will stay in their covered barn at night until the temperature gets a little warmer.
We have intended to re-commence a regular blog for some time. The recent world wide events mean that there’s a lot to cover right now, so now is as good a time as any to re-start. We will try to keep it regular from now though, promise.
Many things carry on much as normal at the Farm with the daily routine of milking and feeding. The cows are, of course, oblivious and looking forward to going out very soon onto the grass for the summer. The ground is firming up nicely now that the earlier rains have reduced and there is lots of fresh grass out there in the fields.
Our Dairy Shop continues to be open to the public every day although, like all shops now, the use of it has changed in accordance with the social distancing rules explained on the notices outside. Demand had risen as more local people are using the shop of their doorstep, rather than the supermarket – one of the few positive things to come out of all of this. The same goes for all the farm shops that we deliver to as most of them are experiencing unprecedented levels of demand. We have been working flat out since the middle of the month to provide what the locals are now demanding from those shops as they make their short, essential trips. A lot of milk but Mooberry (our small van) is doing her best!
We have had a number of enquries as to whether we do local deliveries. We don’t currently do doorstep deliveries from the Farm, but are aware that some of the shops that we deliver our products to do local deliveries for those in isolation. Flour and Spoon Artisan Bakery in Leigh on Sea deliver every Friday, including our milk, to the Southend area as far as Benfleet. All orders are via their website at www.flourandspoon.com and are contactless delivery only – you need to leave your phone number. Lathcoats Farm shop in Baddow, Stockbrook farm shop in Stock and Jamie’s Fruit and Veg Box in Bicknacre also do local deliveries, now including our milk. In the Braintree area Deersbrook Farm, Littles Lane also deliver. Do contact any of the above if you are in their area.
As some of you may know we have for the last couple of years been donating any spare milk to the Chess homeless night shelter in Chelmsford when we have any available. Spare milk is somewhat of a rarity at the moment but we still trying to make sure we get a delivery to them every week and we have also started donating milk to the Benfleet community helpers food bank who are supporting the vulnerable people in isolation in the local area.
Further afield into London, we have made the decision to take a break from the London markets for at least the next week and probably beyond that. Of course, we want to keep serving our customers with their weekly essentials, but have also to be aware of the potential risks, both to them and to us. We will miss our customers at Blackheath, Parliament Hill, Pimlico and Wimbledon markets, but hope to be back there soon. It’s not just a question of safety but one of capacity too – we have had to split our small team into two separate halves to give the business some resilience and this has reduced our capacity for making all the extras we take to London.
We will post on the website and on Facebook with any updates about what we are able to do when. For now, we are massively busy trying to meet the local demand and will do our best to do so. These are truly strange times and, like everyone, we will see where it takes us.
No blog since Christmas – shocking! Well overdue for an update, so here goes…
A lot has happened in the last four months. We celebrated our second birthday on 1st March. In many ways, 2 years is not a long time and it feels to us as though things have changed a lot over that relatively short period. Also and more significantly, although he won’t want us to mention it, Farmer Nick was 80 on the 9th February. Still working seven days a week of course and up all hours, as he has done for the last sixty plus years, but now also regularly happily chatting to customers. Many Happy Returns Nick!
We concentrate most of our effort on the farm and spend many hours there hidden away making things, but some big changes for us recently have been our weekly forays into London to attend markets there. We have been going to Blackheath market each Sunday since last May and are now attending two weekly Saturday markets – at Pimlico and at Wimbledon. Our first ones were on Saturday 2nd February. It’s early days there yet but they are very good and we have enjoyed going to those.
We have a new colleague joining our team, Douglas de Sousa, who has a background as a chef and also making cheese. Douglas is originally from Brazil and we will be adding to our existing range of cheeses. This will include more variations to the cheeses and also a new range of Brazilian cheeses, including some for those summer barbeques … watch out for further information – more on this very soon!
We will be going there in our recently aquired, larger van, “Heffy”. “Heffy” is the larger sister to our small van, “Mooberry”. The names come from the winners of the “Name the calf” competition from 2 years ago, although “Heffy” is short for “Heffalump” (and she is a bit of a lump).
All of this weekend activity has meant that some of us are not always around our farm dairy shop as much as we would like. However, we get to see our customers regularly and are always delighted to see you and continually grateful for your support. It is always lovely to hear that the products are appreciated and we get a lot of positive comments, but it is also important that we hear about any problems or any suggestions as to other things that we can do. Many of you will have noticed the problems that we have had with the electrics in the shop – mainly caused by a power surge that happened one evening in March after the power lines in the road became entangled with moving tree branches. All the Farm electrics that were switched on at the time went out and we have been slowly getting back to normal ever since. We thank you for your patience while we have been fetching and carrying milk around while the shop has been affected. We have been getting the vending machines back to normal, but are still experiencing glitches.
The cows went out on to the grass when the weather warmed nicely at the end of beginning of April. There’s plenty of good grass for them to munch at the moment they are eating it quickly and we could do with some rain soon.
This is will be the second Christmas for the dairy as we have been open for over 18 months now. It’s been a good year for us – we really appreciate your support and hope that you have enjoyed our products over that time.
We are finishing off our preparations for Christmas now. All the batches of hard cheese were made some time ago are now maturing in our cheese store. We have two new hard cheeses for Christmas – Bradfields’ Blackwater is a Gouda style cheese and Bradfields’ Chelmer is our first batch of Caerphilly style cheese. Neither of these have been on sale before. Do ask us if you would like to try a sample.
Christmas is a very busy time with all of the products being made but also, on the farm side, the cows need to be milked twice a day every day of the year. They can’t be turned off, so there is no time off on Christmas day. Just all hands on deck to try and finish a little early so we can have family Christmas dinner in the evening once milking is done and the cows are tucked up for the night.
The 17th December is the last day on which you can order cheese if you want any for Christmas. We can take orders for cream up until the 20th. Both Extra Thick and Double Cream are available in a range of sizes, including larger pots. There will only be a small number of cream pots made unordered so if you do want some we strongly recommend that you order some. There is a limited amount that we can produce and we are likely to run out!
As we did last year, we have prepared some Christmas Gifts and have put some examples on our Christmas Order Form. Another new product is Bradfields’ own Membrillo Quince Jam. David’s Kitchen, who makes our chutneys, has made this for us from quinces grown on the Farm.
You can place an order by printing off the Order Form and returning it to us, or by emailing the details of what you would like (and when you would like to collect it) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Orders can be collected from the Farm between 10.00 am and 4.00 pm on 22nd, 23rd and 24th December. We will deliver locally on these dates (within 5 miles or so of the Farm) for a small charge of £3 for delivery. Do write this on your order form, or email, if you want your order to be delivered.
We will also have a few little bottles of ‘Santa Milk’. These special little milks are just right for Santa to have to wash down his mice pie. They aren’t on the Order Form as the elves brought them too late for us to put them on.
The shop will be open over the festive period so if you do run out of milk you can pop in. We won’t be pasteurising fresh milk on Christmas Eve or New Years Day, but there will still be plenty of shelf life left on the milk available.
We will get the shop a little more in the Christmas spirit with some lights. They would be up now, but we found that the ones that we have weren’t working. We will have them up soon.
It’s been a really busy late summer at the Farm. Since Open Farm Sunday and the Orsett Show, we have done the local “Party in the Park” and event at Mill Meadow, Billericay. We have made quite a few new products, all of this culminating with our customers nominating us for the Essex Life Food and Drink Awards 2018. We were very honoured to attend the Awards on the 27th September and absolutely delighted to win the Best Newcomer category. We were pleased, but very surprised, to be one of the three finalists for Best Essex Producer in only our second year. It was a bit strange to see video footage of ourselves on screen during the presentations, but it was a lovely evening attended by quite a few of the farm shops and restaurants that we deliver to. If you will spare us the indulgence, we’ve added quite a few photos of the evening and afterwards.
A rarity to be out in our posh frocks, rather than wearing hairnets. From the left below – Clare, Carol and Lynnette.
The view from our table. Scarily large screen.
With our awards and banners outside the dairy shop – Lynnette, John, and Clare with William and Chelsea who do the proper work looking after the cows.
We are also delighted to have been awarded a Great Taste star for our Bradfields Farm Extra Thick Cream in this year’s competition. Receiving a one-star rating means judges dubbed our cream a food that delivers fantastic flavour, simply delicious. The cream is always on sale at the Farm and has also been on the menu for delicious cream teas at The Barn Restaurant at RHS Garden Hyde Hall.
For some time we have been trialling and testing Crème Fraiche, made from our thick cream. We have now settled on a recipe and have small pots for sale. These are 142ml, the same size as the extra thick cream.
We now have the new printed bottles for our probiotic drinking yogurts and milkshakes. We are looking into options to get these products on sale regularly in our Dairy Shop.
We will probably need a new vending machine for this so do bear with us. Meanwhile the Crème Fraiche, probiotic drinking yogurts and milkshakes are available by pre-order so do let us know if there’s anything that you would like.
The Farm is now a collection point for Sarah Green’s Organics Vegetable Box Scheme. This is a weekly delivery of a wide selection of seasonal organic vegetables grown on their Farm in Tillingham. Sarah delivered their lovely collection shed last week, it has now been forklifted into position and is now being used to store the vegetable boxes, ready for collection. You can pre order online at the Sarah Green’s Organics website, so why not check out what they have and register with them. Simply order your veg or veg box via their website and it will be delivered to the collection shed on Friday for collection for you to collect whenever suits you. The boxes can be collected during dairy shop open hours 8am to 6pm.
Meanwhile, out in the fields, the occasional downpour and the lovely recent sunshine has meant that there is some nice fresh grass growing for our girls to eat.
You may have noticed that we have had a lot of ducks at the Farm now. A duck population explosion has happened as Mrs Mallard has had lots of chicks and other mallards have flown in and had chicks of their own. The young chicks soon grow into juvenile adult size birds and we suddenly have a pond full. They do like it here and the constant supply of grain from the nearby hopper certainly helps.
The duckhouse is duck central
and there are quite a few baby moorhens around at the moment.
The white ducks aren’t always white, particularly when they’ve been off foraging
Back in early April in our blog “Can we go out soon?” we talked about the very wet weather, with water bubbling up out of the road drains and the girls not being able to go out into the fields because of all the soggy Essex clay. We posted a photo of the mud bound track out to the fields. The photograph on the right shows what it looked like on July 27th, the so called “Furnace Friday”.
It’s been the same everywhere.
You will notice that there is quite a difference in the grass in the fields. Effectively, there is very little. Farmer Nick has been telling people that the cows are on ‘coconut matting’ and just nibbling at whatever they can find. As I write this we have had some storms and some some sustained rainfall. Even with this we, like all other dairy farmers whose cows rely on outdoor grazing, can expect further tough times ahead.
The cows would normally be enjoying a large proportion of fresh grass at this time of the year. Grass would still be growing and the cows would be enjoying large amounts of it as a big proportion of their diet during the summer months. Also, we would expect the make a second cut of grass sileage during the summer. Not only in this unlikely to happen, with the result that there will be less to feed to cows during the winter months, but also we are now having to use the sileage that we cut in the spring. The cows are eating 90% of the ration that they would eat in the winter (mainly sileage) a day at the moment.
The clouds have been gathering and we are hoping for further sustained rainfall, ideally after we have got the straw off the fields.