All In

Down here at Black Welsh Lamb we are relieved to have a barn full of hay to see us through the winter. Being grass-fed means that we have to rely more than most people on a good store, as we can’t fall back on cereal-based feeds if the hay runs out.

Haymaking; a hugely romantic, traditional aspect of farming is one of the most stressful times of the year for us.

2016 Hay
2016 Hay

Our participation in the Glas Tir environmental scheme means that we cannot cut grass until after the 15th July, which as any parent knows, is when school holidays start and good weather ends. Sometimes we can take advantage of young farmers’ need for cash the week before the Royal Welsh Show to get our permanent hay meadow contract mowed, turned and baled before the rain sets in. This year, however, the RWS dates meant that it didn’t happen, but neither did the rain and we finally cut in the first week of August.

It takes three or four days of decent sun to make really good hay and so the combination of good weather, perfect grass and decent availability of kit and labour is vital to getting things right. The idea of making good hay is that it bottles up sunshine to bring out in the winter. Any rain on it will grey out the sun and make the crop dull and lifeless.

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Plenty of grass at the moment

However, no matter how carefully you choose your week to make hay, there is an unwritten rule that the weather forecast will change about ten minutes after the grass is cut. We had a guaranteed week of sun this year, but as the mowers left, the clouds gathered and the threat of rain grew real. A few spots here and there, but the clouds subsided and we moved back into glorious sun. After a couple of sleepless nights, our beardy neighbour Tom rowed up and baled 350 bales of the best hay we have ever made. A few hours later we had it in the barn, where it rests, gently putting out a glorious hay smell and sitting ready for the winter to come.

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And the odd thistle

The sheep haven’t noticed yet, as we have plenty of nice late summer grass to concentrate on (and the odd thistle), but soon they will welcome it as a reminder of when days were long and and the sun shone bright.

For us, the hay is a passport to making sure we can offer the finest pasture-fed lamb and hogget for our loyal customers. Without it, life would be dull indeed. So here’s to a barn full of the finest and a successful winter ahead.

“There is no reason to fear the wind if your stack of hay is well tied” – Traditional Irish proverb

Our hoggets are available to order from the end of August. We supply whole of half sheep and the average weight is around 15-20Kg (including bones). We can deliver anywhere.

Drop us a line at baa@blackwelshlamb.com to enquire.

Caroline’s lamb blanquette with barley

This is a recipe from our French friend Caroline, who writes….
“As promised, I’m coming back to you with a recipe using the beautiful lamb shoulder you offered us to taste, when we met you end of september just off the Offa’s Dyke, by your farm.

I made a simple stew on a slow cooker, and thickened the stock with a roux just like you do a blanquette.
It was really flavoursome and tender. It reminded me of the lambs meat of his tiny 15 animals herd, my grandfather use to give us every year, that would pack my parents freezer full for the next 6 months…”

Lamb blanquette with barley or brown lentils:
Organic or biodynamic grown vegetables would obviously be best to match the beautiful quality of the meat

750g lamb or hogget shoulder
150g barley or brown lentils
3 carrots sliced
1 turnip diced
2 branches celery diced
1 bay leaf
1 branch thyme
1 onion
2 cloves
2 cloves garlic
1/2 bunch parsley: leaves & stalks separated
salt, pepper
For the roux (optional):
30g butter
30g flour
(100g cream)

Place the diced shoulder in a pot and cover with cold water, bring to the boil, keep simmering for 10 minutes and with a ladle skim the surface from the impurities foaming.
Remove the pieces of meat, pass the liquid through a fine mesh sieve and let it cool.
While it’s cooling, prepare your veg, wash, peel and slice or dice them.
Separate leaves and stalks of the parsley, peel and cut in 2 the onion, pick it with the cloves, peel and cut the garlic cloves in 2.
Place the meat, the veg and aromates (leaving the parsley stalk for the last 15 minutes to save the vitamins) in the rinsed pot, cover with the stock, bring to the boil and leave to cook for few hours (about 2) on a slow cooker, barely simmering,and checking meat and veg regularly, add the lentils or barley 45 minutes before the end. If you use lentils, only add the salt at the end of the cooking or they will explode. Earlier when using using barley.
Prepare the roux:
Melt the butter in a small pan, add the flour and cook it few minutes without browning.
Strain half a litre of the cooking liquor, and add it in few times to the flour mix, stirring with a whisk, and cook it few minutes, add salt and pepper, then the cream if you wish.
Pour this white cream over the meat and veg with the remaining liquid if you want a fluid stew type liquid, or strained for a richer finish.
Scatter the chopped parsley like green confetti over for a good dose of vitamine C!

Pasture for Life

imageWe take producing pasture-fed lamb very seriously here at Black Welsh Lamb and are delighted to be one of very few pasture-fed accredited farms in Wales.

Whereas on the face of it you might expect most sheep to be pasture fed, this is far from the truth. The difficulties of raising sheep on a mixed farm mean that most lamb is fed with imported, wheat-based concentrate feeds (many of them containing GMOs), or at best is fed root crops or grain that could be used for human consumption.

Where sheep are fed grass, it is generally fertilised with artificial, nitrogen-based products that stimulate rapid growth, but which can cause problems for water courses and are made unsustainably from oil or mined minerals.

That’s why we decided to go for a totally pasture-fed regime. OK, it takes three times as long to mature our lambs, and we have to take care to nurture our series-rich pasture, but we feel better about it. No fertilisers, no sprays, no artificial feeds. Just lamb.

Oh, and it tastes better too.

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