That Mild “Lamb” Flavor

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About two years ago a pair of sheep farming friends of ours, who shall remain nameless but happen to have one of the largest grassfed lamb operations in the state, live about two miles away and are amazing people, knocked on our door one evening. They held up two zip-lock baggies labeled “A” and “B”, asked us to cook up the contents and let them know which we preferred.

 

Inside each bag, of course, was a small portion of ground meat and while we were pretty sure what our friends were asking, after all we had raised a few lambs ourselves by this point and wondered the same thing, we were more than happy to play along in the hopes of finding the answer. The question they were looking to answer, of course, is rather important on a sheep farm, perhaps even the ultimate question when raising lamb for meat. And, just in case you haven’t already guessed from my title and lead-in, the question is:

 

Is “lamb” distinguishable from “mutton”? If so, which is honestly (in a blind taste test) preferable?

 

There. I said it. Mutton! Mutton, mutton, mutton! And let me tell you all, when Gabe and I cooked up our friends’ fresh samples of ground meat, we chose (remember this was a BLIND TASTE TEST) the mutton. The meat was less fatty than its lamb counterpart and had a very mild flavor. Yes, that is right, the mutton was LESS fatty than the lamb sample and had a MILD flavor! These two descriptors go hand-in-hand, of course, as it is the fat in the mutton or lamb that makes for the flavor. The more fat, the stronger the flavor.

 

Wait, wait, wait, you may be saying right now. Back up a minute. Mutton more mild than lamb? Impossible! Well, if that is your opinion, I have news for you and, if you are willing to keep an open mind (and mouth), you just may be persuaded…

 

There are a number of reasons why mutton may be found to be more mild or more delicious than lamb…first and foremost, is grass. When animals are fed grass their meat is automatically less fatty and while lambs are grazed alongside their flock elders they are also generally afforded partial, and sometimes unlimited, access to grain. The grain aids in the development of the lamb’s digestive system, provides extra calories needed for rapid growth and (surprise, surprise) puts fat on the animal. An older sheep usually receives far less grain than a lamb, only in and around lambing time on most grassfed operations, and will in turn develop a healthy, lean physique. That said, upon slaughter, an older sheep (to be clear, once an animal reaches 2 years of age it will be classified as “mutton”) frequently has a lower fat content than a lamb and, if properly conditioned on grass, will be quite tasty upon reaching your dinner plate.

 

Now, if I were to scour the internet on “mutton misconceptions” (or have Gabe put in his two cents right now) this newsletter could go on indefinitely, however as I am going to do neither of the aforementioned, I will conclude with this: Mutton has been unjustly given a bad reputation. JUST TRY IT!! 

 

Sincerely (from a born and raised 31-year-vegetarian who now prefers mutton or lamb to all meat),

Hayley

 

Oh, and for those of you out there that do NOT receive lamb in your farm shares, don’t worry you will not have mutton forced on you from now on. Lamb lovers however, your September shares will have your first mutton installment. You have one month to scrounge up some mouth-watering recipes! 

Planning – July Newsletter

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I have a hunch. I am pretty sure most pregnant women do not spend their third trimester fretting over where to house the sheep for the fall, how many beef cows to overwinter, how to manage pig farrowing in and around one’s due date or what milking the family milk cow will look like upon the baby’s arrival, but lately my mind is a swirling wash of such questions. And so, even though it is late-July, and I should be focused entirely on summer grazing rotations and hot little boys, October is at the forefront of my every decision.

Sheep preparations: By October 1 we aim to have the sheep in their breeding groups. Provided I don’t go into labor early, we should be able to accomplish this pre-baby. The big question is, how will the grass hold up? Will we need to truck all 60 animals home or will they continue to have enough feed up the road. Hmmm, no way to know!

Beef cow preparations: We just received word that the herd of 11 cows I mentioned a few newsletters ago will be ours as of September 1. This will bring our herd total to 28 animals for the winter. Again, will there be enough grass in the remote pastures to carry all of these beasts into October or should we plan to truck them home early? And, as we count up our growing pile of hay bales, exactly how many bales will we need this winter?

Pig preparations: Here’s one area I THOUGHT we were all set on however Gabe informed me last week that two of our sows are due to farrow in early-October. Now, if I had realized this was the plan when the boar was put in with the girls I would obviously have voiced my disdain, but alas, times are busy and the pig gestation was poorly, or perhaps not at all, planned. Good luck Pansy and Posey, you might be on your own this time!

Jeannette preparations: Perhaps the most planning, at least this moment, revolves around my milking schedule. Usually I milk around 5:30am and 4:00pm, not exactly 12 hour intervals, but Jeannette doesn’t complain and it seems to fit into our family’s daily rhythm. There is no way however, I will be trudging out to the barn come October for an early morning milking AND I have decided that milking just once a day would be much more convenient as we enter this new phase of our lives. This means, I am in the midst of transitioning Jeannette to once a day milkings. Her morning milking will remain unchanged for the time being, but each afternoon I milk her a bit earlier. For example, the past two days I milked her at 1pm and today I will head out at 11am, just 5 hours after her morning milking. What this means: In a few short days (if all goes well) our girl will be down to one milking each day and I will be resting with my feet up come 4pm…well, at least the former will be true, as for resting with my feet up…we’ll see.

So, yes, while it is July and we are moving animals about on grass, checking watering troughs vigilantly and squeezing in trips to the beach with Eben and August, October 10 is my focus. Perhaps the so-called “nesting” phenomenon so common among late-pregnancy women is simply manifesting in a slightly different way for me – scouring the house, not so much…animals all snug and accounted for, a constant concern.

Enjoy your summer,
Hayley

Open House Sunday, May 4th, 1:00-4:00 pm

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Join us for NOFA-VT CSA/Farm Share Day

  • Meet the farmers.
  • Learn about our Pastured Meat Farm Share.
  • Sample and purchase local, sustainably raised meat at the source.
  • Special open house pricing for lamb roast, pork roasts, and pork ribs
  • Learn about rotationally raised, grassfed and pastured meats.
  • See baby lambs, piglets, cows and chickens.

Directions: From Bradford, VT: follow Route 25N for ~7mi. Turn left onto Brook Road. Follow Brook Road and turn right onto Center Road. Take the second driveway on the right, “Towle Hill Lane”. We are up the drive to the right, #138.

Fall

IMG_3595 (800x600)Fall is my favorite season but it is also the one that I get the least time to enjoy. Fall is a foreshadowing, bringing the prospect of winter and 7 months of frozen ground and cold. To be ready for winter we must have all of our winter animal shelters ready, water, hay and fencing all lined up properly. I am not going to pretend that I am ready or that it will be smooth. We were overly ambitious this summer and the roof needs to be put on the new barn, the new water system needs a pump and winter pig area needs a bed of wood chips. Oh and the house addition needs a chimney, insulation and a roof.

We are just beginning to think about bringing our cows and sheep back from their summer pastures. The sheep have another 3 weeks of grass but the cows need to be brought back and put on hay. This week will be our last summer farmers market and we will say goodbye to our last batch of meat birds and turkeys. I like to think that with these things wrapped up I will have time to finish the barn and our house addition. The truth is I am not so secretly hoping for a glorious and long fall, another three months before snow and frozen ground please. This is a dangerous thing to do with our increasingly unpredictable weather but this is my favorite season and I would like for it to last.

Fall and False Hope

If it wasn’t for the trees turning and the leaves blowing I am not sure I would know its fall. The warm weather has given me a false sense of hope that we can get everything finished in time for winter. I doubt we will get it all finished but here is a list of just the building projects:

-Milk house for our first dairy cow

-Cow shed for our growing herd

-Three farrowing huts (not really needed before spring but it would be nice to give the pigs a little more protection from the cold) Image

Hello for September

Hello for September,

Fall is upon us! Our first frost has come and gone, our bright green leaves have been replaced by brilliant orange, red, and yellow, and we are wondering how many more days of fresh grass there will be before we transition our animals over to hay. Our sheep, outdone in grazing by the cows alone, will likely be rotated to their winterquarters in a few weeks to both give the grass a break and to prepare for the breeding of our ewes.

At the moment, our sheep number ten and are grazed in two groups: the rams and the ewes. The rams will be used for breeding this fall but are primarily raised for meat. Our flock consists of Shetlands, a heritage breed known for their beautiful and varied natural colored fleeces, and Romneys, a larger dual-purpose breed raised for both fiber and meat. This fall we plan to breed out two mature Romney ewes, Nettle and Myrtle, and next fall Grace and Gretel will be added to the Romney breeding list. Helga and Purl, our two Shetland ewes, will be bred this fall to a Shetland ram(we can’t seem to resist those adorable little lambs!). Hopefully all will go smoothly as our two groups of sheep grow to three and then four groups to accommodate separate breeding quarters for all and finally back to one group by the holidays for overwintering and spring lambing.

Enjoy your September share as well as this wonderful fall weather!

Best,

Hayley and Gabe

August Greetings!

Welcome to our new customers and hello again to those of you on your second month with us. August has proved to be a very busy month for us. Between consistently moving our nine animal groups to fresh grass and preserving the bounty produced by our 45 tomato plants, we have been moving non-stop. However, as you will be enjoying our first pork of the season this month, we thought we should take a break from our work to tell you about the many pigs on our farm this year.

This season our pigs have been rotationally pastured and fed a twice-daily ration of whey from Blythedale Farm (if you haven’t tried their cheeses, you should!) along with a serving of locally milled grain. Our numbers this year will total 15 feeder pigs, those raised from 8 weeks to 7 months on our farm, and three sows to be bred this fall for the first time. We are very excited about our sows. “Gibbous” and “Crescent” are Tamworths, a heritage breed we are quite familiar with, while “Luna” is a Berkshire, another heritage breed that is new to us this year. All three girls enjoy daily ear scratches from Hayley and the occasional “wild chicken” egg from Eben. Stay tuned for more sow and piglet information as we approach farrowing time in February and March!

We hope you enjoy your farm share this month, particularly our featured pork products and new sausage links. Take care and enjoy these last precious weeks of summer!

Best,
Hayley and Gabe