When my dad Tom took responsibility for our family farm (Hill House Farm) in Wyke Champflower, the farm was quite small only consisting of 66 acres and 33 fields. As you can guess, there were many fields of less than 2 acres and miles of hedgerows and ditches to maintain. However, it was a start for Tom and his new wife Ivy, and they were keen to make a success of their venture.
Tom’s first job was to go shopping for some good dairy cows. He came across ten nice Longhorn cattle which were on sale at a nearby farm; he went along to see the owner and struck a keen deal. Ten cows were one or two more than he needed really as eight was considered to be a comfortable amount to milk for one man. Milking cows by hand is very tiring especially on the forearms as much squeezing of the teats is required to milk them. But Tom was not one to underestimate his capabilities and had a bit of a reputation for biting off more than he could chew, as we say. However, ‘Tom’s Ten’, as the cows became known, settled in very well at Hill House Farm and went on to produce many gallons of first-class milk which were then made into cheese by my mother, Ivy, to her family recipe.
I remember her making the cheese in what is now my breakfast room at Hill House Farm where I live. At about the age of 3 or 4, I was allowed to watch from a specially constructed bench my dad had made. It was high enough when I stood on it to see into the cheese vat and watch. I was fascinated by the way this huge bowl of white milk could transform over the course of about five hours into curd which was then put into round moulds each holding 60 pounds of curd, yes 60 pounds; these ladies were tough guys! From that moment, I was hooked and told everyone from then on that I was going to be the best cheesemaker in the world when I grew up, never short of ambition!
Most of the cheese we made was sold locally in markets and grocers’ shops, and my dad delivered them with his tiny flat-bed pick-up truck. I loved watching him load up and I would climb up to the front seat hoping that when he left for market, he would take me with hi – thankfully, he often did.