Monday, 15 February 2016

Twin Ewe Lambs for Lily

Twins Rosie (l) and Lucy (r) only an hour or so old. 
After the worrying dog-related events of the last post I am hugely relieved and delighted to be able to bring you, in this one, some happy news; being the birth of twin ewe lambs to our 5-year old ewe, Lily on Valentine's Day (yesterday). Regular readers will know we had been anticipating a happy event for a few days now and my timings were based on the almost immediate "bond" (this is a family show!) between our loaned ram, 'Rambo' and ewe Lily on his arrival back last year.

Brought indoors against a frosty night.
We had been getting plenty of clues in the days prior - Lily sitting in far corner of the field well away from her 'sisters', looking uncomfortable and even 'star-gazing'. This is when they must feel the stirrings and get uncomfortable so they tip their head all the way back till their nose is pointing straight up. Then on Sunday morning the crunch-clue, no interest in breakfast. This is unheard of for Lily except on lambing day. The girl likes her grub. We were into hourly checks by now and the binoculars LIVE on the dining room table, so that we can sneak quick peeks in between the proper, up close, checks. I walked the dogs early as a relief from pacing and returned just as my normal dog-walk alarm went off at 11:45. It was at that Lily-check that I noticed the first signs of action - membrane and dribbly fluids.

Lizzie does 'shepherdess'
She had no problems passing the enormous ram-lamb Feste last year, so I was not expecting any this time and pretty much left her to it and kept a close eye. The first lamb slipped out fast and efficiently at around 13:00 - as I walked down the drive to get the gate for Liz nipping to town in the car, I could see Lily now licking intently at something on the ground. I sprinted back over there and could see lamb #1 getting a vigorous licking but already on its feet and trying to find some udder. This was a very dark lamb and looked like a ewe from my carefully distant viewpoint.

It was quickly clear that the show was not over. Lily continued to pace about with her back arched very uncomfortably, turning round and round to get at all sides of the new lamb, and soon passed another big 'balloon' of amniotic sac full of fluid; surely the 'waters' for a 2nd birth. Liz arrived home and quickly spotted that the 2nd lamb had now arrived (14:30), this one another ewe but beautifully spotted, blotched and streaked with black and white. Now we could see that this was the lot - Lily relaxed back into a normal spine-curve and started to shed the bloody, gloopy, membrane-y afterbirth(s). Well done Lily (and Rambo, we guess!) - 2 beautifully healthy ewe lambs and no problems all done and dusted in just 2 and 3/4 hours.

We'll call that a strikingly beautiful looking sauce -
Black Spring's Nan's Pork Hock
With the forecast giving a hard frosty night and our 2 resident hooded crows hopping about the East Field, plus the risk of foxes who will happily carry off a new born lamb we had decided to move the family indoors to the safety of the (now) turkey house. This is easy enough - I pick up the lambs while Mum looks on a bit curiously, and then walk slowly 'home' across the field with Mum following her anxiously-bleating babies and Liz managing gates to stop she-goats and curious other-ewes  from wandering. The new family are now safely penned into my sheep-hurdle rectangle on a nice dry bed of clean straw, warm out of the frost and safe from crows and foxes (and dogs!). They survived their first night and today we did the necessary iodine-spray of navels and (dock) banding of tails. The babies have already been visited and admired by 3 people.

Black Spring's Nan's Pork Hock with simple rice and cabbage
With good timing, the happy event and the should-be-celebratory weekend of Valentine's Day has coincided with the stock-control department here lifting the embargo on using 'new' food from the freezers. The freezers had become a bit over-run with tinfoil trays, 1 litre yogurt tubs and old plastic milk bottles full of portions of left overs from former meals, sauces and stocks. These all needed using up so we'd done a month of lovely but long forgotten curries, cold roast meats, risottos, stir fries and veg plus starting a goodly batch of "hedgerow" wine and creating a few fruit desserts. I also unearthed some brawns and patés.

Mucking out the nanny goat.
The end of this very enjoyable campaign happily coincided too with the Chief Chef having done a weird work-week on a First Aid course Mon-Weds, so that she got Thursday right round to Tuesday 'off' and was keen to get back into the kitchen and at the 'new' meat in the freezers. 2 superb cakes were followed by lovely bread, multiple pots of paté, roast lamb (which then yielded several follow-up meals), a salt-cured leg of 2014 Tamworth (bacon and cabbage plus a lovely Tuscan 'bean and bacon' soup). Crowning glory of this burst of Domestic Goddess-ery was probably a family favourite which I have mentioned before, 'Black Spring's Nan's Pork Hock' but this time enhanced.

An army marches on its sticky toffee pudding?
The recipe calls for "chilli bean paste/sauce" which is something we had never managed to find in Ireland so Liz had been trying to substitute in any kind of chilli 'stuff'; the dish had been delicious but we had no way of knowing if it was delicious 'enough'. Then at the last trip to Macknades Deli in Kent, Liz had found some of the real McCoy, so this try got the right amount of the correct ingredients and the sauce was blow-yer-socks-off gorgeous! A real lip tingling winter-warmer, which only needed simple white rice and steamed savoy cabbage to accompany it. The sauce also LOOKED rather spectacular bubbling away in the pan. Add to all that a heroic dessert of sticky toffee pudding (with ice cream or cream and extra toffee-sauce) and I will happily recommend this restaurant to any prospective customers. Bring your loosest waist-band trousers. No pressure on the sous-chef then, when the boss goes back to grafting and relinquishes the saucepans and the hob.

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