Between the beginning of this rather late spring and the arrival of the summer (which was also rather late this year) #LaDehesaViva (the vital meadowlands) has been overcome by an absolutely frenetic activity.
All work and tasks in preparation of the summer, when the grass starts to wither, are put underway and then looking further beyond we start to prepare the terrain for the upcoming montanera (free-range period). The Ibérico pigs, which are fully mature, are allowed to free-range through the meadowlands feeding on a variety of grass, wild mushrooms and bulbs that are specially abundant during this season. Of course this diet is complemented with natural cereals and fodder so that development of the animals will be absolutely correct and to insure that nothing is left to chance.
Also, in like manner to how we guide our pigs from one Holm oak to the next, during this period the pigs are also under our direct and daily supervision. As long as the mornings tend to be cool (during the first few weeks of spring more than one morning can register temperatures below zero), we gather up the droves of pigs every afternoon and shelter them accordingly, one again taking them back out to the meadowlands every morning where they can roam freely and develop their anatomy as correctly as possible.
During this period cattle are also to be found throughout the meadowlands. It is precisely under the Holm oaks where the cattle find the perfect place to give birth to a good part of the year’s calves. While we ensure the health and wellbeing of the mothers and litters, all of us at Sierra de Codex use these months to prepare and set-up the estates for the upcoming seasons.
First of all we have to make sure that their diet is one of quality throughout the entire year. This is the reason why we first start by preparing the terrain and planting some lots that are in disuse, or that have a low density of Holm oaks, planting wheat, barley or rye. All this cereal will later on allow us to complement the diet of the animals whenever necessary. In other areas we also allow the grass to grow until it starts to wither, which is when it is harvested and packed up into bales along with the hay resulting from the cereals. These bales of grass and hay are also a good source of fodder during the leaner parts of the summer and winter.
Cattle also contribute important work with their grazing. The cattle grazing help to keep the natural grass at a reasonable height under the Holm oaks, as machinery cannot be used in this area to keep the grass short. Thus cattle help us to keep the ground clean so that when autumn comes along and the acorns start to fall from the trees the Ibérico pigs can easily find the fallen acorns during their free-range period.
So, as can be seen, spring represents a season of utmost importance for #LaDehesaViva (the vital meadowlands). Success of the next montanera (free-range period) depends on all the work and tasks that keep us busy during these months; however, as we will explain in another post, this is also the time to get ready for the summer and work on the drying sheds and cellars where our hams, shoulder hams and Ibérico sausage meats will be cured and consequently develop all their flavor and aroma.
See you soon 😉