Friday, 23 October 2015

Ram a Lamb a Ding Dong

Rambo has a lie-down while he waits for his taxi home.
In which we bid farewell, for this season, to our splendid and handsome borrowed ram, 'Rambo'. We collected this lad 5 weeks ago and he has worked his way round our three ewes, Lily, Polly and Myfanwy, showing what, to our inexperienced view, looked like an appropriate interest in each. We trust that they are all now 'in-lamb' and by our calculations ahould be each lambing at some point between the 14th Feb 2016 and 23rd March 2016.

Rambo (left) enjoys some last grass while he waits for his lift
Rambo was pure pleasure to 'own' for a while and good experience for we beginner shepherds. We are very grateful to his real owners, Sue and Rob, who came to take him home today back to his wife and son and we have made a tentative agreement to use the boy again next year. Regular readers will know that Rambo comes with a sheep's bell attached because, although he is soft as grease most of the time, when he is with the ewes he is a bit of a one for nipping up behind you and butting you in the thighs or bum. "He can have you over!" warned Sue. We had walked him to the trailer like an obedient puppy dog getting him here and he was grand with me for a few days, but soon started this butting thing.

Handsome lad.
The answer was to stop moving them from field to lawn each day and to stop going into the field to give them their 'crunch' (feed). I moved the trough over to near the fence and took to feeding them by leaning over the fence and aiming scoops of feed at the trough while trying not to let the sheep get their eager faces and heads in the way. Rambo's agressive trait seemed to fade away again (as did the musky, lanolin 'male' smell which he had started whiffing of!) once he had got around all the ewes and, presumably, they had all gone off the boil. We hope this is because they are pregnant, obviously, but whatever the reason, Rambo was as soft as grease again for today's loading for the return trip. He followed the bucket obediently from field gate to trailer ramp and made no attempts to sneak round behind any of us with evil intent.

Rob checks on the boy for his journey home.
It is the jangly bell that had me naming this post as I have. It is a lovely noise and we will miss it while we are Rambo-less; you can hear it out there in the dark and you know he is safe and well out in the field with his women. It reminds me of childhood holidays when we would all be out up some Summer Alp (French, Swiss, German - we worked our way round most of them over the years and the Jura etc) and you could hear the cow bells as the mountainy cattle wandered about their summer grazing.

The 'Ram a Lamb' thing also has me reminded of a favourite restaurant from our Kent days, Read's of Faversham. This was always (and still is) at the pricey end of things, so we'd only use it for BIG occasions, like round-number anniversaries, but we were always delighted and impressed, as well as lighter in the pocket. One such was our 10th anniversary and I can remember the lounge full of easy chairs where you could wait for your table to be ready, and also that you had your own sommelier looking after your bottle of wine; he'd nip over and top up your glasses as soon as he saw them coming empty, but then whisk your bottle away back to a chiller or the rack so that it wouldn't clutter up your table.

Filling tonight's pie (chicken, ham and leek)
I am afraid I can't remember what I had for main course, but I recall Liz was intrigued by the menu choice "Ram a Lamb a Lamb" which turned out to be a collection of amuse-bouche sized portions of six or seven lamb-based foods - a little individual shepherd's pie, a  little cutlet, small slices of roast lamb, a paté and so on. These came arranged in a little circle around the plate. Brilliant. I know that Read's is still there and going strong because a former work colleague was there recently and posted a story on Facebook, so if you are near Faversham and have a bit too much cash burning a hole in your pocket, I can thoroughly recommend it as a place to eat. You will be treated like a King or Queen.

Home made hummus.
And while we are on catering, a quick mention of our entertainment tonight. We are invited to the village's annual "Tea Party" which happens in the Community Centre and where any group or outfit takes a table and brings along food and drink to suit themselves. The local 'Active Age' gang take a table, as do the folk involved in the youth group (Foroige), the pre-schoolers, the Drama Group and so on. I don't think they go quite as mad as the parties who would arrive at the open air fireworks concerts at Rochester Castle with their wicker picnic baskets, champagne coolers and table chandeliers, but they do run to cold roast chicken salads and so on.

Apple sauce from our own orchard.
This one will be Liz's first time for going public on her catering skills under the gaze of the village ladies so if you know Liz, you can imagine that she would not like to be found wanting. "This is not some picnic at the beach," she says, "this is a FRIDAY NIGHT SUPPER". There will be no gritty 'hang sang-widges' or Thermos of 'tay'. Oh No. The catering department had gone into full swing with an impressive spread; a gorgeous looking chicken, ham and leek pie with a suet crust (our chicken and suet, obviously), there is home made potato salad, home made coleslaw, home made hummus with 'crudites' of sliced peppers and what not, Liz's famous chilli-cheese-and-bacon biscuits, chilli 'jam' and elderflower cordial. Our table will be up there, for sure.

Getting the hall ready for the Tea Party
On a related topic, the change to windy wet weather had me whizz round the orchard picking the very few apples and pears still left standing, except for the crab apples which we will get this weekend. The total remaining amounted to barely a pound of fruit but as I was cooking pork chops that night, I decided to 'render' them down and sieve to make a delicious smooth apple sauce - no sugar or spice required. Very tasty.

Finally in a bit of a throw back to the table quizzes we used to do for the Hort Soc in Faversham, I compiled a daft little anagram 'quiz' page for all the tables at the Tea Party based on local place names. It would never work unless you were local, as the place names can be a bit complicated - Corracoggil South becomes "Go Us Gothic Corral", Cloon Bunny (I kid you not) becomes "Bunny Colon" and our beloved Ballaghaderreen becomes "A Green Herbal Lad" - but all the locals seem to know the set up here like the backs of their hands. What could possibly go wrong? The prizes for anyone who gets them all are our standard Hort Soc 'Smarties' for being smart.

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