Maple Field Milk — the idea is catching on

21st November

Fortified in our new barn under a roof of corrugated ‘anduline’ sheeting (compressed old tyres mixed with resin; pressed into a ‘corrugated mould’, and sound for 25 years) – we lie in bed and listen to the continuous stream of winter rain. It rained all day yesterday and all night – literally without a break – and then all day  today.

I said to my American friend from North Central Wisconsin, when she came to live in England – “It rains yes……..but seldom all day.” Wrong again. Despite this friendly advice and the subsequent deluge she has become a British Citizen.

Despite the ever present rain, my friend John Hooper and I walked the Maple Field pasture in order to apply his extensive knowledge and experience to the land under our feet. How to improve it? How to turn it into a churning ‘mob’ grazed field, trampled and shat-upon and mulched from within.  We decided to sprinkle clover seed and mixed herbs and grasses (from Cotswold Seeds) in the spring. We might even feed the chickens (meat birds) clover seed so they can act as our ‘precision seeders’. Wherever the poultry have been the grass is Irish green and tillering like can-can dancers.  If we move one hut each day for 365 days it will cover one acre of ground. With three huts – therefore………..you do the maths!

So this is one source of available nitrogen – admittedly ‘bought in’ fertility as we buy in wheat and growers’ pellets to feed them; this plus the Niagara Falls of dung and urine from the Dairy cows; this plus the lacy underground work of the nodules on the legumes – we shall have grass waist high by the 4th of July (mid-west American farmers need their maize to be ‘knee high’ by the 4th of July……..or else).

In the dairy room we have repositioned the refrigerated bulk tank (272 litres). Now we have much more room thanks to Chris. Why didn’t we meet him 18 months ago? The Pasteurizer Model MR500 is recalibrated and finally positioned. We have added modern ‘digital’ thermometers to the control system to enable us to reach the top ‘accreditation’ levels. The balance tank to operate with the cream separator is away being modified and some cobbly welds are to be ground off for smooth hygiene.

Steve-the-fridge reset the cold room digital control panel as we had lost the set of instructions in a trench of liquid concrete left for future archaeologists to marvel at our incompetence. Steve wants us to cut another air vent on the cooling tower outside and advises us to use ‘pet mesh’ to stop the wood pigeons from sharpening their beaks on the rotating fan.

We now have four dairy farms within 10 miles of Maple Field who have expressed an interest in processing milk through Maple Field Milk. In addition we have three ‘new-start’ micro-dairies looking at the business plan we provide ……to perhaps start a micro-herd themselves brought on by the enabling influence of MFM  processing on their doorstep (so to speak).

Milk will be in abundance. Customers we hope will follow..

Just to go on about the rain again. One of the jobs yesterday for my daughter Tess and I was to untarp and carry 30 sheets of 8’ x 4’ plasterboard into the safety of the cabin. To do this we needed a pause in the rainfall. At 4.15pm we dashed out and took a chance –  still under a shroud of drizzle we hurried the awkward heavy sheets inside. Everything is made difficult by the rain.

We despatched the trial batch of 30 ‘salad bar’ meat chickens last week and passed them round the village to people with an interest in outdoor excellence and fab poultry. Back came the answers and the orders for the future. The salad bar chicken is the most delicious bird you can imagine. It spends its 14 weeks of life sprinting around Maple Field gorging on green grass. They are killed in the village and ‘dry plucked’; hung for three days and eviscerated and delivered on the Saturday. This is without doubt the answer to chicken eating. We aim to sell a 2 kg  ‘salad bar’ bird for £10.

Rachel Hosier – the great grand daughter of A.J. Hosier has agreed to open the new dairy when it is finished . This is most exciting and it will serve to extend this most useful dairy innovation into this century.

Nick Snelgar

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