We are well into January now; it's a month that goes by quickly here, as we get back into our normal routines after the busy weeks of Christmas. I can't tell you how relieved we were not to have another white Christmas! I've not even complained about the continual rain which blesses the We(s)t Country! However it has caused us a few headaches lately and got into our phone lines, so I apologise if you have had problems calling us. It's now fixed! I'm also not going to grumble about the extravagance of running an Aga. It not only provides us with wonderful slow cooked casseroles and Sunday lunches but saved us over £500 in repairs to our weigh scale and labelling machine recently. When we found it wouldn't display any weights or prices in our first week back after Christmas, I discovered I was in for a big repair bill or new scales, until Ann suggested warming it up in the kitchen. After a couple of hours sat on top of the Aga, it dried out the damp and came back to life! We've used it to revive quite a few newborn lambs over the years, but this was a pleasant surprise.
Our team at Higher Hacknell Farm Butchery has some new faces, Richard and John, our butchers, to join myself and Ann who pack and keep an eye on your orders, as well as Tracy, our chef. They have plenty to do, especially now that we are making the sausages and bacon, as well as supplying meat for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Canteens in Axminster and Plymouth. Following our two awards last year-winner of the Organic Food Awards with our cottage pie and the Taste of the West Award for the beef lasagne, Tracy is building up our range of ready cooked meals which are becoming increasingly popular! I think it's hard to find anything to compare that tastes home made and uses real quality ingredients in the supermarkets. We supply several nursery schools and children's centres , as well as our footballers-Wolverhampton Wanderers-with their post match meals. We are looking forward to the months ahead, we have the Exeter Food and Drink Festival in April, and our usual Thursdays at Exeter Farmers Market and 1st Saturday in the month at Crediton. In the meantime, we hope to hear from you and receive your orders either on line at www.higherhacknell.co.uk or do phone me on 01769 560909. I'm always happy to discuss your orders with you or you can talk about a particular cut directly with the butcher. If you can't see what you're looking for on our website, it's always worth a phone call: if it's part of an animal we can usually supply it!
Out on the farm, Tim, and David, our neighbour who helps us, are also in their winter routines of feeding animals and bedding up the cattle sheds with plenty of straw to keep them clean and warm. Tim is getting slightly nervous as tomorrow we are scanning the ewes and will find out how many lambs they are carrying. Hopefully we haven't got many barren ewes or find they are mostly carrying singles, but we'll know soon enough. The scanning is pretty accurate and it helps us to feed them correctly, as a ewe carrying triplets needs a different nutrition to one with a single lamb. Wrong feeding causes problems later on, so if a ewe with a single eats too much, her lamb can grow huge, and if she's fat she'll have more difficulty giving birth than if she was fit; and obviously ewes with multiple lambs need a more nutritious diet. It also helps to know which ewes have 'doubles' so we can look out at lambing time for them. There are all sorts of little farming tricks we do! If a ewe has triplets and another is lambing a single at the same time, it can be quite easy to foster the extra lamb onto the other mother, which usually benefits them all!
I really enjoy getting outside, even at this time of year it's easy to see how beautiful the countryside is. When the weather was colder last week, flocks of hundreds of starlings flew in across the fields, dancing backwards and forwards, up in the sky, their wings catching the sun and changing colour in the light like a kaleidoscope. It's been a great start to 2012 and we wish you all a very happy and healthy year ahead and thank you for your continuing custom.
with very best wishes
from Jo, Tim and all at Higher Hacknell Farm.