Three little lambs: A night to remember
A few weekends ago, my family was invited to the home of our friends Andy and Elizabeth Morison in Peterborough. They own Terrace Hill Farm, which has been in Andy’s family since 1792. Back then the farm was completely self sufficient, raising what they needed to feed their own family but then transitioned into providing milk and pork for the community. Peterborough Pork was founded in 1910 and their sausage was a staple in this region. At one point, Andy’s grandmother raised and bred Afgan Wolfhounds. These days Andy and Elizabeth raise laying hens, ducks for eggs and meat and organic broiler chickens, turkey and lamb. You may be thinking that this is a lot of work for one family and it is. All of this would not be possible without the help of their son, Nathanial, who is the epitome of a farm-hand. Although they have been raising lambs for a few years, this spring they decided to make their first attempt at lambing — having a mother sheep give birth on their farm.
In the fall the family was given a ewe by a friend who was pregnant. Pinky was a kind, gentle sheep who, as the weeks went on and on, didn’t look very pregnant to novice shepherd, Elizabeth. As Pinky’s due date came and went Elizabeth was convinced that she was just a very large lady and would stay that way indefinitely.
On the night of our dinner the Morison’s nine year-old daughter, Charlotte, was in charge of checking on Pinky in the barn as she had finally begun labor earlier that day. Charlotte ventured to the barn every half hour and assessed the situation; Pinky was breathing heavy and grinding her teeth, a sure sign of heavy labor. Charlotte gave us regular updates as we enjoyed appetizers in the parlor with another farming couple who had joined us, Rob and Karin who own Summit Meadow Farm in Hancock.
In the formal dining room, the mood was warm and cozy with the tapered candles flickering softly and the crocheted tablecloth holding a mix of antique china once used by Andy’s family long ago. For dinner, Elizabeth served the most delicious lamb I have ever tasted. It was, of course, lamb that they had raised last summer. The sound of the kids eating in the other room was muted by the serious adult conversation, which revolved around meat pricing, hydroponics and the demand for local hay.
Suddenly Charlotte burst into the dining room, “Pinky had her baby!” she shouted. Every adult at the table let out a less-than-formal shout of excitement and ran out of the room, extinguishing not one of those tapered candles. We grabbed our coats and ventured out to the barn, maneuvering around puddles and chicken droppings in our high heels and polished oxfords.
The roosters let us know that we were disturbing their sleep as we turned on the lights to see the precious four legged creature that had just ventured into this world not moments before. Pinky was carefully and lovingly cleaning her new baby while keeping a wary eye on the small crowd that had gathered outside of her stall snapping photos with their smart phones.
After a little while, we ventured back to the dining room — which had not burned down — to enjoy dessert and more sophisticated conversations about the price of lamb and the growing markets for it based around the various religious holidays.
“Pinky had another lamb!” Charlotte ran in shouting. So off we went again to the barn, feeling so proud of this new momma.
After returning to the house to finish our dessert and clean up, we corralled our children to head home. But I couldn’t leave without one more trip to the barn. My son and I walked out together while the others warmed their cars and said goodbye. As I made my way into the dimly lit barn I saw Pinky with her two little lambs and then, her newest addition. “Three times a charm!” I said to myself as I walked back to the house to give the good news.
Kim Graham lives in Dublin with her husband, Jim, and their two children. She also writes the Starting from Scratch column that appears on the Food pages on the third Tuesday of every month.