Lamb

To Wean or not to Wean

Observing a mother and her new born is a heavenly site.  We respond  based purely on emotions,  whether we've actually "mothered" or not.   At the moment you lay your eyes on this site all the world around is a blur and all that matters is the true love that halos around them.  It is such a pure connection that under no circumstances one should want to come between them, right?

 

A lot of the methods used in sheep farming  are about "management" of the flock.  The larger the number your trying to manage the harder it is to keep "order".  Orderliness becomes a goal for efficiency.  Efficiency adds to profits.  Follow me?  This is a slippery slope.

Weaning is one of those "management" tools.  According to reference books,  lambs should be removed from their mothers at 8-10 weeks old.  The reasons are mainly that the needs of the lambs for maximum market potential are different then the mamma's.    Growth of the lambs requires richer, higher protein grasses or grains which the mamma's don't need.  The only way to accomplish such a task is to separate them.  The other argument we found (didn't read it in a reference book) to support weaning  is the mothers will give and give until they are basically spent.  We find the heat of the summer, coupled with the very selfless nature of mom's takes everything out of them and begins to compromise their own health.

For these reasons one might wean.  

 

Wean:accustom (someone) to managing without something on which they have become dependent or of which they have become excessively fond.

 

Now that I've given you a bit of knowledge about weaning I'd like to share our journey with this decision.

We began this farm knowing we would make choices about the care of our animals based on our experiences, not just because everyone said so. Many topics of care and handling were researched and we found enough disparaging information that we felt strongly our decision to observe first was a worthy one.

Many of our farming practices were established by observing,  educating ourselves, then we'd established our way.  Weaning the lambs was one really challenging task.  Now 8 years later, after going back and forth, this year, we're not weaning again.  The first three years we didn't wean.  I wish I could tell you why we decided to wean the 4th year but I'm betting we succumb to the "text" book ways.  Most other shepherds around us weaned which made us question our decision even more.  Our farm was growing and as often happens after you've immersed yourself in something you loose some of your "curiosity" or better yet, the luxury of time to remember to be curious and ask questions.

So, we spent a few years weaning.  It is a very difficult task, not physically challenging, just heartbreaking really.  They cry and baa for easily 48 hours.  The mothers also.  Eventually they all settle in but gosh it never felt right.  As often I'm guided on this farm, if it goes against nature my heart cannot find peace with it...this is one of those lessons.  

With most industrial farming models, maximum growth of the lambs became the  shepherds primary goal in order to get those lambs to market fast and efficiently.  Is fast and efficient our ultimate goal.  Those that know this farm know our answer to this question is NO.  We strongly believe you sacrifice so much in order to achieve those fast/efficient goals.  It is this very reason that so many breeds of livestock are in danger of being lost for good...they don't meet these industrial models!

In summary, we've have some of the best looking, healthiest lambs ever, happily growing on mothers milk...there must have been some divine wisdom in that!

 

 


What I know now....


Before I begin the real content of this post I want to dedicate this to a couple that came to our farmers market booth last week-end.  I had the perfect opportunity and a willing audience and so the discussion began.  They were looking through our coolers for some lamb.  As it happens from time to time, she looked up at me and said, 
"how can you do it?" 

here it comes, get ready for it, the predictable yet perplexing comment..........

"I could never eat an animal I raised."

Before farming,  I never really thought about how food got to our local grocery stores.  Through that  plastic wrapping at our local SUPER market I felt confident I had enough experience to spot freshness, what else should matter?  




Now, as a farmer growing sheep, pastures, eggs (no worries, I'm not laying eggs), and vegi's I have a whole new perspective.   I truly didn't have any idea what was involved. I didn't have to know how the food got to me,  the choices were provided and available to me and I knew no other options. 

 My bet is many of you can relate.

 I remember once my family was in England for the holidays and we decided on prime rib for our Christmas dinner. We went to a local butcher because that's often the way they still do things in England.  He presented Bessie, photos; family photos, and all. The butcher and his family loved Bessie. Needless to say I couldn't eat Christmas dinner.  



If I knew then what I know now! 

Through my journey I have concluded, we as consumers are so disconnected from the whole dang process.


 Every time we take a few lambs to the arbitrator to be processed, we shed a tear, we hold hands and say a prayer, then we bless them ...it never gets easier.

I have really wrestled with this.  I've contemplated my options. We could stop raising lamb and I could become a vegetarian. For a variety of personal reasons I won't go into, vegetarianism isn't for me.  So, what would I do if I stopped processing our lambs because it was difficult?  If I didn't give up meat would I go into the grocery like most of America and buy those hermetically sealed packages of meat from animals pushed through a food chain living uneventful lives with no tenderness or compassion for their uniqueness on this earth?  

This is an example of where most grocery store meat comes from.


It would certainly have been easier to do.  

And that... would be so hypocritical.


If folks had to engage in the process there would be a much greater respect for the animals and the food on their tables.

If folks would engage in the process or at least be aware, they couldn't eat meat raised in the horrible conditions so many are raised in.  

If folks would engage in the process and be aware, fewer people would be eating meat.

In our house, if we are going to consume meat/fish it will be humanely raised which I also believe is difficult (not impossible) to do if not from a small farm and definitely not from a factory farm. 

Because of our new found respect for meat and how it gets to our tables, we don't eat a lot of it.  
When we do eat meat it is only from healthy happy animals and farms that strive for that.  Yes, it's more expensive and that is part of the reason why we eat less.


Regarding the interaction with the customers last week-end, I followed up her comment sharing the content of this soon to be realized blog, in a few less sentences of course.  They were so thankful that I shared the experience.  I truly believe they will be more respectful of the process.

I want to thank them for reminding me there are people out there that want to know....




Lamb Ribs


I can almost hear those lips smacking...

Who can resist finger lickin, napkin grabbin, fall off the bone, sticky ole ribs?


 All the talk of fabulous food bites for the upcoming Super Bowl got me motivated.

How about something that might, just might, draw the attention away from the big screen for a bit?  



potato skins, chips & dip, wings...how about something different? 


Today I'm sharing a recipe for the yummiest, easiest, most impressive little morsels...EVER

LAMB RIBS!

Think you don't like lamb?  Think again.  I have gained lamb lovers over this recipe time and time again.  I'm convinced anyway, folks that think they don't like lamb have either had a bad preparation or an older sheep.  If you consider yourself a foodie you need to give these a try.  If you want to impress your guests, this will do it, I assure you.


Finding lamb ribs will not be an easy task. I would suggest you find a lamb vendor at a farmers market, they'll have them!  Not only will they have them but lamb ribs are a very economical cut...double bonus!  As is often the case buying direct from farmers, you'll have access to cuts of meat you'd never find in your box stores.  

So enough discussion...Here's the recipe!

Lamb Ribs


ingredients: lamb ribs, spice rub, BBQ sauce


Spice Rub lamb lends itself to so many flavor profiles, Asian with soy and ginger, Mediterranean with coriander and oregano, Mexican with cumin and chili...and always garlic!  If your not feeling very creative Old Bay seasoning works great

your favorite BBQ sauce  I like a honey/molasses/mustard based sauces but I usually create something that marries well with my rub.  I'd recommend one of your ingredients be honey, molasses, syrup or even a jam you have sitting on the shelf.  Again, if your not feeling too inspired, a store bought sauce will do.   It is honestly hard to go wrong.

Remove as much fat as you can from the ribs.
Rub the ribs with dry rub and refrigerate over nite or at least 8 hours


First, we'll cook the meat.  Remove ribs and place on a foil lined baking pan.  Cover and bake at 250 degrees for 1.5 hours.  Sometimes I place them on a rack and place about 1/4 inch any fruit juice (i.e cherry, cranberry, apple, blueberry, grape) in the bottom of the pan and follow the same cooking.  







Next remove the cover and cook for another 1-1.5 hours.
At this point you could place the ribs on a grill but my oven method works great

Next, baste with your sauce every 10-15 minutes  for the next hour.  

Remove from oven.

Do you see the GOOEY?

Voila!

Too easy? 


Printable Recipe


Lamb Sliders





Requested again and I'm finally getting "round 2 it".  It wasn't until I saw our recipe published in another newsletter that I felt the boot in my backside.


We all have a few favorite recipes in our collection.  Why do we love one recipe over another?  Is it all about taste?  I think not. Preparation being such a huge part of the creation plays a huge role in my liking a recipe or not.  I've made a few things in my life that tasted good to me but I just didn't enjoy preparing.  If a recipe is too technical or requires too much of my attention it's usually not for me.  Like, puff pastry....why would anyone want to slave over such a process when you can buy such an excellent option as Dalfour?  I know and respect those cooks out there that love the preciseness of such an endeavor it's just not me.   Long story short, you won't find a recipe like that in my collection anywhere.
Some might argue that I love making breads, preserves, and pastries and they require thought.  RightO, but I've learned that with practice you become more adept at these and therefore less thought is required.

So, here you go.  A recipe we've served at many functions, weddings (mine included), art events and just round our table.  Hope you enjoy!
Recipe of the Week
  With summer time comes summer grilling! This week's recipe comes from Olga Elder from Stoney Mountain Farm.

Stoney Mountain Farm Lamb Sliders
1# Ground Lamb
1 link Italian sausage, casing removed
3-4 cloves garlic, grated or minced
¼ C grated onion
½ T cumin
½ t cinnamon
1 t fresh chopped cilantro or ¼ t coriander
1/8 -1/4 t hot pepper flakes
1-2T fresh parsley, chopped
1 egg
½ Cup oatmeal soaked in milk
S&P to taste
Feta or Chevre cheese 

Place all ingredients, except cheese, in a bowl and mix well (I use my hands).  The mix will seem wet.  Form into 1" balls, place on roasting rack or prepare for grill.  Flatten the patty gently, then press dime size ball of cheese into center.  Cover with just enough additional meat mixture that the cheese is sealed in.  Roast in 400 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes or starting to brown.  You can turn to broil if you like a crispier texture.  I also like to grill them.  These are also great regular burger size but the sliders are fun and trendy!
Serve in "slider" rolls now available in most groceries.  "Hawaiian Bread "Slider" rolls are a great option. I serve these with a tomato and onion relish but any one or combo of these would be great.
Experiment; there are many condiments and such that really compliment lamb!