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Weather's a hot topic
Just about everywhere you go and everyone you speak to at the moment seems to pass comment on the weather. I try not to, but it’s almost impossible not to talk about it when it affects so much of what we do in our day-to-day lives. Compared to the last two years, lambs born this year will have had a difficult start in life; many of them, lambs three weeks old or more, will have been wet through more often than they will have been dry. In fact they will have yet to experience what it is like to have warm sun on their backs.
The spells of bitter cold we have experienced this year have really caused problems.
This morning Stuart went over to Hawes to sell a few old ewes and when he was going over the top of Fleet Moss, it was snowing. Earlier tonight it was warm and sunny and now, as I am preparing to go out to feed the lambs, it is sleeting.
But having said that, I am mindful that we have a relatively moderate climate and we should probably be thankful for that, even if we don’t know what it is going to do from one day to the next! We are down to the last handful of lambers and for once we are relieved that it is coming to an end.
Today Stuart and Eddy have cleared the last of the sheep and lambs out of the meadows below Yockenthwaite as these fields have to be cleared of livestock by May 15. Time now for the flowers (grass) to grow and the birds to nest.
I haven’t had the chance to walk through the wood at the back of Yockenthwaite for quite a while, but Stuart says it is full of primroses. They must be the stars of the moment as there are thousands of them on the roadside on the way up to Cray and I have seen lots of cowslips as well, although these are more plentiful in Bishopdale. Almost in the same league are the bluebells, great blue swathes of them across the hillsides, when I was little we used to pick armfuls of these blue nodding beauties from the wood at the back of Runley Bridge where I grew up. There were blue ones, pale pink ones and the occasional white one.
I found an old recipe for “Tart of Primroses or Cowslips” from an old book called “A proper Newe booke of Cookereye”which dates back to 1575. It is like a Yorkshire curd tart with the flowers instead of fruit and using mace instead of nutmeg.
Another food from the countryside that is plentiful right now is wild garlic (ramsons). You can use the young spring leaves chopped in salads, the same goes for Jack by the Hedge (Garlic Mustard) and this one can also be cooked as a vegetable. Ground elder is good cooked like spinach and why not try watercress soup – It’s ok to eat if it’s cooked, but don’t use the wild stuff in salads as in this sheep farming country there may be a danger of catching liver fluke!