About 10 years ago my father inherited land, it was his but he only got it at that point, land in rural Donegal that his family owned and that had, up until that point been vacated for 20 years. My parents with help from my brother and I tamed the angry landscape into something that merely grumbled and then put sheep on it.
Sheep are good for rural peat land because they have lots of wool, don’t mind not having the choicest of grass and they look like clouds on legs, pretty much mirroring what happens in the sky most days here. I think we started of with seven, then year after year the numbers grew, not hugely we never had more than say forty. They need to be fed, hay, sheep feed, they stare at you, it’s kinda unnerving but if you cry out ‘Here SHEEPY SHEEPY SHEEPY’ they come running.
My mother loves them, really does, and it can be a labour of love. She has stood in the freezing rain, carrying hay or feed, helping them give birth and feeling the loss when one of them dies. I’ve held new born lambs, put little yellow jackets on them, fed them. So in the 7 or so years we’ve had them, we’ve never eaten them. We don’t keep them, the ram lambs get sold, a new ram is brought in to play ‘Daddy’ or ‘stud’ and then more lambs. This year changed all that, 3 weeks ago my parents got three of the lamb rams killed for us to eat.
I’ve just eaten chops from one, fantastic, really really good and I’m not a huge fan of lamb. They are raised as organically as possible but damn they are tasty. Thing is though, our jack russell Lily refuses to eat the lamb bones/meat. And I’ll be honest Lily is a meat fiend, she loves the stuff. Mum said that when lambs were born and they were bleating after their Mum’s who were a bit poorly, Lily would come up an lick their faces to comfort them. We figure….she knows. She knows what Mum has done and figures she’s next.
So, Mum is going to test this out, does Lily recognise the lambs in choppular form the only way she knows how. Cooking a chop from a lamb that isn’t ours at the same time and seeing will Lily eat the stranger chop. And just like that we’ve turned a beautiful thing into a science experiment. God bless you nature, when we aren’t pulling down your pants and laughing.