holdenfarmdairy holdenfarmdairy

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Hafod Cheese  Made by the Holden family and their herd of 63 Ayrshire cows on the home farm, Bwlchwernen Fawr, Wales' oldest organic dairy farm.


Due to Cheese People holiday and milk tanker collections not quite syncing up, the first post-holiday Hafod cheese make involved the milk of six milkings! An IMPOSSIBLE number! I feel like a LUNATIC even writing this. But, as every US presidential press conference shows us: Reality truly is stranger than fiction. And so here we are, the stranger than fiction day in which the Cheese People were called upon to employ all the Hafod cheese moulds for a single make. They will have their work cut out today, clothing and larding them all! I won't! I've got the day off! I might taunt them by drinking spectacular quantities of strong tea and reading acres of fascinating books in front of them as they toil. That will show them.

I had the pleasure of welcoming Max from Mons back to the farm, along with six attendees from Cardigan's Fforest Gather festival. Max was teaching these intrepid gastronauts about the unglamorous early morning, dirty end of cheese production. After a post-milking tasting of the liquid fruits of the morning, they left with 30 litres of our raw milk, a whole 10kg Hafod cheese, some kefir and a little rennet, off to experiment with cheesemaking at Fforest Gather.

At last, the watched kettle that never boiled, finally boiled! Here is stumpy little Pots (named by relief milker Melissa) with her first calf, a Hereford heifer, this evening. For some many months, Pots ( a member of the Cuckoo Flower cow family) has been virtually spherical and we had all begun to grow edgy with concern about how enormous her calf would be and what devastation the calving would inflict on the poor young mother. As it happens, while it was a very lube-heavy assisted calving, during which I gave thanks to the genius who invented the Calving Jack, it all ended in success. In the very least I expected a dead calf born via caesarean section, leaving behind an impossible-to-get-in-calf-again sad little heifer. Indeed, so terrible did I envision the calving to be, I had promised myself that the first sign of a calf then I would panic dial the vet. Oh well, all's well that ends well. A much smaller calf than I expected (and I had a good rummage around inside to seek out a sneaky twin, and Pots was quiet as anything to milk for the first time. I am especially glad this all went well because I vividly remember helping ease Pots herself into the world, 27 months ago in May 2015. Seeing her successfully join the milking herd in excellent health makes all the million awfulnesses of a farming life pale to insignificance.

The scene on the farm drive this afternoon. A fitting tribute to the recently departed Glen Campbell I feel.

My Mum came and helped me cow herd after milking this afternoon. If only she had helped me milk too! For shame!

Now these are COWS! The neighbour's Welsh Blacks. They sounded their way into my presence as I was setting up our milking herd's first daytime graze in the Gelli Fach hinterlands. Ayrshires "moo" and sometimes "bellow". Welsh Blacks do a mountain thumping "¡¡¡ROAR!!!"

I just helped Snowy (pictured on the right) ease a big fat Welsh Black heifer calf into the world. She was greeted by our Milking Welsh Black, Grassy Tail (on the left). That was until Grassy Tail spied me and hunted me down, demanding ear scratches, the terrible hedonist! Snowy is from a high yielding family of cows and so I think that this calf's yield potential mixed in with the hardiness and fertility of the Welsh Black breed will mean that she'll join the milking herd, two years from now. By then she'll be the third Welsh Black X Ayrshire in the herd....yes, this cow breeding malarkey IS a slow process.

The first blackberries of the year for us and very early too. They tasted wonderful.

Finally! The sun makes a very brief appearance before the misery and the doom return. It started off as a text book summer but it is now a good old Welsh summer.

The first of the experimentally cloth-tubed Hafods, made two days ago. Doris Saker, writing in 1917, referred to these cloth tubes as 'laced-bandages'.

The cheese people have been experimenting with a new clothing technique in which a cheese cloth tube with draw strings at either end is placed in the cheese mould. Usually the mould is lined with blue plastic 'cloth' while the cheese presses for 36-ish hours, whereupon the cheeses are taken out of the moulds, blue plastic cloths are removed and traditional cheese cloth is larded on. This new method means that the fresh Hafods are pressed in the cloth tubes and the cloth adheres to the cheese via some of the butter that comes out as the cheese is pressed. 36 hours later, the already clothed cheese is turned-out of the mould, cloth caps put on each end and draw strings are tightened followed by a minimum application of lard wiped over the cheese, if needed, and off into the store it goes for 10 months or so. See me here for the results in 10 months. It is a slow business this cheese business.

What a busy, busy day it was today on farm and in cheese dairy! So busy that I had to reconstitute the day in a flare of multimedia expressive creativeness because I never took a photo of all the events swirling around me. A two pound coin? A pen and ink sketch of a cow foot? Pour quoi??? For why??? Well, I'll tell you for why. We had Cerdin Jones, our brilliant and lovely cow foot trimmer on farm, after the morning milking, to give 23 cows a foot trim. I was busy standing by Cerdin's side, talking serious, insightful farming talk...how everyone uses too many antibiotics in farming now, how undersowing grass leys beneath cereal crops is a very good practice indeed, is there a best cow breed for feet?, how Charolais and Simmental cattle are either lovely or mean (no in-between), how fat molecules adhere to protein molecules in cheesemaking, how we are glad that all we have to moan about is the Welsh uplands rains and not have to worry too much about the rural crime that benights so many other areas of the UK, the magnificence of wise mountain cow sage Evan, what's a good disc to use when angle grinding cow feet, when was the last cause of a three-day hangover in each of our lives (Food & Harmony conference party for me, Belgian beer festival IN BELGIUM for Cerdin...smaller drunk carbon footprint for me [this is an organic farm after all!]), whether bad feet skip generations, and so on and so forth. And because we were so caught-up in these important discussions, I never got a chance to capture the presence of a couple of car and van loads of people from some wonderful customers of ours: Buckinghamshire's No.2 Pound Street. And I grew-up in Buckinghamshire! And my MUM goes to No.2 Pound Street! With her friends! I never got to tell them that I bought some Gubeen from them in 2012! It doesn't all end in tears however, for Cheese Person Tess helped the visitors select a Hafod for their counter and even Cerdin walked away with some Hafod. Trebles all round! And that is the reason why you are looking at a photo of a two pound coin and a drawing of a cow foot, a focused, learned flourish of ink that would make Albrecht Dürer himself weep in crazed wonderment.

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