Mak­ing a meal out of a life­style

Country Smallholding - - Property - Fol­low Nikki @Shell­fieldF Compiled by Debbie Kings­ley who tweets from @SouthYeoFarm and set up @Small­hold­er­sUK

@small­hold­er­sUK UK Small­hold­ers are pro­filed week by week on twit­ter @Small­hold­er­sUK

This month: Nikki Brown in Argyll, who lives with hus­band Fraser, daugh­ter Elise (two- and- a-half), six dogs (two labs and four col­lies), 500 sheep and 10 chick­ens

We are fourth gen­er­a­tion hill farm­ers orig­i­nat­ing from Sur­rey and Hamp­shire. We took over Shell­field Farm from Fraser’s un­cle in 2012. We have a spec­tac­u­lar view from the top of our hill — you can see as far as Islay and Camp­bel­town. I spend some time off farm do­ing a bit of free­lance work for a com­mu­nity in­ter­est com­pany set up to try and get Su­per­fast Broad­band into cer­tain ar­eas of Cowal and Bute.

We ex­per­i­mented with sheep breeds when we first moved here and quickly re­alised that the op­ti­mum breed for these hills is the na­tive Black­face. We tup with a Swaledale to get hy­brid vigour, length and height.

Joe is our semi-re­tired sheep­dog, re­cently up­graded to yard dog. He is only eight, but the hills are so hard on the dogs that they tend to re­tire early. A good hill dog is hard to come by — they need ex­tra in­tu­ition and in­de­pen­dence to herd the sheep across tough ter­rain.

We sold our herd of Sim­men­tal/ Lu­ing cross cat­tle last year as they weren’t prov­ing vi­able to keep. I miss see­ing them chill­ing on the shore, but I don’t miss tak­ing the calves away from their moth­ers — that was never fun.

We do all sorts of out­door cater­ing events, sell­ing our meat, in­clud­ing salt­marsh lamb burg­ers, slow cooked lamb, home-made pies and hag­gis. We’re busy pre­par­ing for our next big cater­ing event, the Islay Whisky Fes­ti­val, where we will be serv­ing whisky lovers with lamb legs slow cooked in our hog roast ma­chine.

We’ve just had news from the LEADER pro­gramme that af­ter an 18-month ap­pli­ca­tion process we can start build­ing our new com­mer­cial kitchen and butch­ery unit. We will be mak­ing ready meals, char­cu­terie, pies and food for festivals and cater­ing gigs. We’re very ex­cited.

Nikki Brown is a hill farmer

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