Maple Field Milk — Finding New People

1st December

The first line in the new book I am reading by Isobel Losada reads……..’I  am blessed with wanton curiosity’. I am the same.

I was driving along the Havant Bypass on the south coast and saw a sign to Warblington Church. It looked curiously placed between a viaduct and the open sea of Christchurch harbour with Hayling Island beyond. I took the turning which within moments reduced to a cow lane between dark green fields of pasture.

The church was at the end of the lane standing guard over a ‘spoon’ of tarmac. A cul-de-sac sign told us to head for the sea on foot. Next to the church is a farmyard of immediate interest with well-worn concrete, old barns and runnels of fresh cowdung from the morning milking. I saw  green milk crates propping up some dangerous looking timber – I dropped the church idea and went in search of the ‘milk’. I questioned the farm boy above the din and fuzz of ‘ the kings of Leon’ in his earpiece and walked down the lane to find the ‘boss’.

What a find.  I met the most engaging and easy-going herdsman, in his mid sixties. He stood on the step in blue overalls with his feet in what appeared to be a bucket of foam – he was wearing hebridean socks made from the wool of a thousand sheep.

His family firm S.H.Young and Son started selling bottled milk to the townsfolk in 1920. He is the grandson of the founder and still milks 70 cows, processes the milk and sells to the doorstep of 1000 customers. How about that.

He was so pleased to find someone actually going into ‘dairy farming’ combined with processing and direct selling. He couldn’t have been more helpful and generous with prices, techniques and suppliers’ information. I came away marvelling at the continuity of the family firm – managing continuous milking, twice a day every day since 1920. The painstaking work and husbandry surrounding it, unceasing, like the offering of prayers in the church on the next door plot.

We were two men fascinated by the magician’s task of wrestling protein and profit from the bare grass.

So back to Maple Field. We have our 68 horse power tractor to fiddle with and to find out about. We have already discovered an enthusiast for International Harvester tractors with a locker full of spare parts and a fistful of barked knuckles and much experience of colliding pieces of cold metal. Next we shall set about the new acquisition with a wire brush and bring it into the shining  new team as our 68 hp fellow.

The rubber mats have been fitted to the floor of the milking bail. The food hoppers are finished and look like outdoor American-style mail boxes. Chris has made a remote catch for the exit gates to allow the cows out after milking in a speedy fashion.The vacuum pump has been cleaned and oiled and Geoffrey Newman the dairy engineer will be next in line to fit the pipework and to train the ‘staff’. This is all totally new stuff. Will it all work? Will any of it work?  Will the cows, easily and keenly, go into the  shiny new bail ?

The book of the week this time is Real England by Paul Kingsnorth – I really think you should read it. And here is another: The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment by Isobel Losada.

Next instalment deals with progress on the Processing Room

Nick  Snelgar

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