Hugh and Pippa Stables run Wandering Ewe Dairy in North Somerset. They produce a hard, unpasteurised, ewes’ milk cheese from their own flock of sheep. 2021 was their third year of commercial cheese production. This is the sixth of 12 monthly blogs, which are intended to give a flavour of the year.
Spring always come in a rush. As the days lengthen the working day gets longer. But somehow, each year, as our main production period approaches, there is always more and more to do. We are just finishing off some dairy improvements, we are checking and testing the equipment we need for lambing, milking and cheesemaking. Cheese sales are good, so we have been out delivering. We have finally admitted that a few winter jobs will not make the cut, and bumped them to next year. This all happens against a background of quite limited grass for the ewes – so they need careful management to make sure they get enough calories. For me it is always humbling waiting for the spring grass. No spring would mean no food. It is easy to forget it.
One of the highlights of this time of year is the arrival of the pigs. We use these amazing re-cycling machines to clear ground, and then to consume the whey – which is the main by-product of our cheesemaking. Feeding whey to pigs has been done by cheesemakers, small and large, for generations. Many types of charcuterie have their origins here. When the pigs arrive the ground is typically soft, and it is mesmerising to watch their snouts methodically ploughing through the earth.
For the last few years, we have been raising Iron Age Pigs. This “breed” was originally produced in 2012 for a TV documentary that re-created an iron age village in Hampshire. A 3000 year old pig type was concocted by crossing a classic UK rare breed (Tamworth) with a wild boar from London Zoo. They are smallish and a little slow growing. But they make fantastic eating.
By the time we post next, we will be well over half way through lambing. We should be starting to milk and make our first cheeses of 2022. We have no help this year. It is just a husband and wife team. Our builder, Karl, smiled when I told him this: “So you don’t have the two people who did what you asked them to do, but you do have the person who tells you what to do”. He said it, not me.
Text and Images (C) Hugh & Pippa Stables @wandering.ewe
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