Jonathan & Denise >
The principal natural product of these islands is grass. Grazed by deer, cattle and sheep, the grass is converted into meat and other animal products. But, as Autumn turns to winter, the daylight hours become shorter than the list of things to do, the skies are more often darkened by cloud, and sunlight is as low in energy as it is in the sky. The grass stops growing, and what is left standing will soon be gone unless most of the livestock is sent elsewhere, after the late autumn gathering.
For most crofters, their lambs and calves of this year are sold at the marts, going to the mainland to be finished off on lowland farms until they are ready for the butcher’s hook. We follow an older, traditional practice of keeping most our lambs over the winter (providing supplementary feed as necessary), and through a second summer and autumn, to produce a slower-grown, leaner, and richly-flavoured ‘hogget lamb’. (A hog or hogget is a sheep more than twelve months old, but not yet two years old.) So, for us, this is the time of year to say goodbye to our lambs born last year.
But we’re not selling them on for others to profit from. No, we have them professionally killed and butchered and packed for us to sell direct to personal customers who come to the walled garden, here in South Uist. Most of our customers are visitors to the islands, and many of them are ‘frequent returners’. These days, most find us first on the internet.
The 2017 growing season was blessed with plentiful warm sunshine, a good measure of rain, and winds rarely more than a stiff breeze, and every living thing felt better for such a year. And that certainly goes for our Hebridean Hogget Lamb! This has proved to be our best year for numbers of lambs born (from the same number of breeding ewes as in previous years), their survival and growth, their finished weight, and the quality of the meat.
The only downside is that we’ve had to buy even more freezers : and even then they are packed full to the point that we have to be very careful in positioning the topmost layer of packed meat so as to ensure the lid goes down properly or the drawers can be opened and closed without jamming!
This year, we’ve widened the choice of joints and cuts, to cater for requirements varying from campsite barbeques to big friends-and-family dinners.
We’ve had to lend one of our own domestic freezers to help out with the glut, so to help us recover this freezer space for our own needs, we’re offering a 10% discount on sales between now and 3rd January 2018. This is, obviously, for customers calling in at the walled garden, as alas postal sales are impracticable. Just one thing: you need to say you read this post online!
For full details or products and prices, see Hebridean Sheep.