Zucchini lamb taco boats

Last weekend we were part of hosting a Lamb and Wool festival in our little town for the 17th straight year.

One component of the event is a sheep shearing school. This training provides beginning and intermediate shearers with hands-on, step-by-step instruction to handle a sheep with care as it is shorn.

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Another thing that we do is offer a brief farm tour to discuss pasture and animal health. The questions that come from this tour help us consider things from another perspective.

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However, quite possibly the best-kept secret of the behind-the-scenes festival organization is our vendor dinner. Each vendor is invited to relax and enjoy fellowship with a lamb dinner. This year Sherrie came up with one of the best menus (we probably say this every year and every year it’s true).

This is one easy dish for your household…or up to 75 of your closest friends:

  • In a skillet, brown ground lamb with taco seasoning. Set aside for placing into zucchini boats.
  • Trim the top and bottom from medium-sized zucchini, then slice in half longways, scoop out center contents.
  • Shred lettuce and cheese enough to top each taco boat, and serve with salsa.
  • Serve hot.

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Add a gallon of milk to your Fitbit challenge

This weekend I worked out. OK, I worked out(side). But that counts, right?

I don’t own a fitbit. I don’t eat many fruits or vegetables. I really don’t even like to walk between my farm and my parents’ farm…and we are nextdoor – country style – neighbors. But this weekend I rediscovered every single muscle while walking more than 15,000 steps per day. Sidenote: I only know this because my smart phone knows.

Why would I do this? Because we’re having spring lambs out on beautiful, green pastures that are as tall as my waist. So here’s how the workout(side) muscle discovery goes:

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Ear tags aren’t animal fashion accessories – they’re a way to trace our animals back to this farm as a way of protecting public health

My feet ache from wearing too-small, too-old rain boots.

My legs are tired from all the walking, a little running, from trudging through tall grass and uneven ground, and they ache from floating over the electric fence as carefully as possible so as not to be zapped by the current. My thighs and knees hurt from carefully supporting lambs while eartagging each one.

My arms and abs are sore from carrying lambs when it was necessary to match up moms and babies or to bring a lamb into the barn to be a bottle baby. They hurt from carrying the equivalent of a gallon of milk – all the tools we need for eartagging, banding tails and keeping good records inside of a 5-gallon bucket this season (an awkward shape to carry anyway!). They hurt from using pressure to hold down the fence with a shepherd’s crook so my sore legs could more easily cross the hot fence.

Know what feels great? Taking care of animals. Doing my job to the best of my abilities. Being trusted by my parents to handle the responsibilities of three farms while they took time away. It feels amazing to be here on the farm while juggling tasks of my usual work routine, too.

I don’t do yoga, I farm. And that’s enough for me. But if you are into fitness, I recommend adding a gallon of milk to your workout. Either in weight carried around, or drinking it as often as possible for muscle ache recovery and to increase sales for my dairy farmer friends.

 

Growing lambs

As we prepare for another season of winter lambs, I can’t help but reflect on my trip to sell healthy, full-grown spring lambs last week. It’s amazing that these animals turn our abundant – otherwise inedible to us – pastures into healthy meat for families like ours. Here’s a comparison of the same lamb when he was newly born to the time he was ready for harvest.

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In just a few months, our lambs grow to be about 120-160 pounds. We can’t keep them all, but we can provide care and attention for each animal on our farm.

Smoked Holiday Lamb

We’ve had a lot of lamb in my 25 years. I’m pretty sure that our freezer has always contained at least 30 pounds of meat on any given day. One of the perks of being a sheep farmer’s daughter is being able to recommend a favorite cut of meat (kabobs) or a favorite marinade for it (Italian dressing [yes it’s that simple]). But in all my years, I haven’t seen my parents prepare this recipe. I’m 90% sure my dad developed it in a 1,400-mile drive to market lambs on the East coast.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours (dependent on grill and size of roast)
Estimated servings: 10-15

Ingredients:

  • Boned-rolled-tied roast lamb (3.5-5 pound shoulder or leg)
  • 1 medium-sized green bell pepper
  • 1 medium-sized red bell pepper
  • 1/2 medium-sized red onion
  • Jamaican seasoning/rub for grilling (we used a brand called Dizzy Pig, Jamaican Firewalk)

Instructions:

Preheat smoker/grill to 300°F using hardwood lump charcoal. Soak applewood or cherrywood smoking chips (this can be done up to 8 hours in advance to create the best smoke). Set up grill for indirect cooking/grilling (stone in place between charcoal fire and rack, or charcoal on either side of grill, not directly below rack).

Unroll roast lamb, season with grilling seasoning/rub. Cut peppers and onions into strips and lay strips on one end of meat. Re-roll roast and secure with string or skewers. Season outside of roast with grilling seasoning/rub.

raw lamb roast

My parents worked so fast to slice the peppers and onions for the center that this was the first picture I could capture. It’s that fast!

Place roast on rack in smoker/grill for indirect cooking/smoking. Add soaked wood chips to charcoal. Grill/smoke for 2 hours at 300°F or to internal meat temperature of 160°F.

Cooking lamb

The lamb roast looked especially pretty with the green, red and white veggies peeking out. The grill master is charged with responsibly tasting the meat (i.e., making sure SOME gets to the dinner table).

cooking lamb

The lamb roast should be 160 degrees Fahrenheit before removing it to be tented.

Rest roast with an aluminum foil tent for 15 minutes prior to carving, then remove string or skewers. Carve the lamb and enjoy with your favorite sides. Even the onions and peppers are fair game!

lamb meat

Carve the lamb and serve the onions and peppers as one of your meal side dishes. Notice the perfect smoke ring – yum.

Lamb meatballs: sloppy joe-style

This Christmas my mom threw together some meatballs for my aunt, uncle, cousins and their kids to enjoy at her home. Because they were gone within a half hour, I’m sharing the recipe with you:

Prep time: 35 minutes
Bake time: 12 minutes at 350°F
Cook time: 5 minutes
Servings: 21

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/2 cup chopped green sweet pepper
  • 1 Tblsp cooking oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt, if desired
  • 1 15-oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 Tblsp packed brown sugar
  • 1 Tblsp prepared mustard
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt
  • A dash of Tabasco®

Instructions:

  • Preheat over to 350°F. In a large bowl, combine egg, bread crumbs, 1/4 cup of the onion, oregano and salt. Add ground lamb and mix well. Shape into 42 meatballs about 3/4 inch in diameter. Arrange in a single layer in a 15 x 10 x 1 inch baking pan. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until no pink remains. Drain well.
raw meatballs

Raw meatballs ready to be baked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit

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Meatballs that’ve browned nicely and are sizzling with flavor

  • Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, cook the remaining 1/4 cup onion and sweet pepper in hot oil until tender. Stir in tomato sauce, brown sugar, mustard, chili powder, black pepper, garlic salt and Tabasco®. Bring to boiling, then reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Add meatballs to sauce.
Meatball sauce

Sauce can be created while the meatballs bake

Lamb meatballs in sauce

Lamb meatballs are a hit at my mom’s house and the red sauce looked especially festive for the Christmas holiday

  • These may be frozen and reheated in a slow-cooker, covered on high for 2.5 hours.