Farm kitchen: The trials of Tricia’s cream separator
- Credit: Gregg Brown
When Tricia was growing up, and into adulthood, she remembers vividly one particular contraption which became part of her daily duties.
Now aged 72, one of her jobs was operating the cream separator. She would pour in the milk from their dairy cow and, through centrifugal force, separate the cream from the skimmed milk.
Some of the cream would be used to make butter through mixing it in the Kenwood Chef, while the skimmed milk went to feed the calves on the farm. Occasionally, she would make cheese, but only under instruction from an aunt.
The rich diet, with all its cholesterol, didn’t appear to affect the family health - Tricia’s grandmother lived into her 90s.
But cleaning it was a fiddly job as there were many parts, and Tricia recalls how much she grew to hate it.
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That chore went on from the mid-1950s, when her mother bought it and used it, to the late 1980s, when the small dairy herd of Guernseys was sold.
Her parents, Bob and Phyllis Ashby, had a mixed farm at Witham, which lay right across the A12 bypass. Their farm was compulsorily purchased and, as a result, they moved to another 350 acre farm at Langham.
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Today the operation is fully arable. The family has pulled out of cattle - they once had around 150 head - about the time of the BSE crisis. There’s also a business park.
Tricia now lives with husband, Robin, in the main 16th century farmhouse once occupied by her late parents, but previously lived in a modern bungalow on the farm.
Robin used to work alongside Bob running the farm, and, in an echo of the past, it is their son-in-law, an ex-accountant-turned-farmer, who now runs it while their daughter, Suzi, works for an accountancy firm in London.
The couple’s other child, Stuart, became an academic rather than a farmer, and is a doctor of computational chemistry based in Cheltenham. The two siblings have three children between them, and grandchildren occupy quite a bit of Tricia’s time.
Her farmhouse is a busy hub where family - including in-laws - will congregate. The farm, though, is off the beaten track near an airfield, and the Goodings often play host to get-togethers, such as bonfire nights and barn dances, and might sometimes do a collection for a charity for the blind.
The kitchen is a modern fitted one, and there is a breakfast room beside it where the family generally congregate.
“If someone is really businesslike we go into the proper dining room. It’s like a boardroom, the dining room - we have got a dining table that converts from a snooker table,” says Tricia.
“My parents’ is one of those houses where Young Farmers used to meet and I think we have got one of those open houses that my parents used to have too.”
Tricia likes her kitchen, which is “very workable”, and her signature dish is her chocolate sponge cake. Although sadly there is no longer a Women’s Institute branch in the village, Tricia is still very active in social and village activities into which she manages to weave pilates and helping out with the village’s millennium garden.
She has been involved in the Essex and Suffolk Farm Women’s Club, which meets monthly, for many years and is its contact leader or chairman, supported by a committee. She does want to recruit more younger women though.
“We couldn’t envisage closing it, as so many friendships have been formed,” she says. “There’s a great atmosphere. Nobody has a set job but they’ll just turn around and do something.”