Sunday, 25 October 2009

Nuts, Nuts and More Nuts

Now this is when we need visitors - to help with harvesting.

The walnut harvest this year has been spectacular with 18 kg hulled so far and maybe another two to come. In total we have 4 walnut trees - one in the field to the east of us and I think the squirrels reckon that that's theirs as not many nuts were collected from there; one by the solar tunnel that's quite young yet still gave a good crop, almost all nicely popped out of their hulls; and two at the drive-side of the orchard. Now these last two are annoying because they overhang the drive so if the fallen nuts aren't picked up pronto then they get driven over and crushed. So it's a constant job collecting them and that's where we need the visitors' help.

Then comes the sweet chestnuts. Now this is a crop that I had never tasted until last year when our neighbours' son and his friend brought us 'un petit cadeau' of an enormous bucketful of them. I tentatively tried cooking with some and they were much enjoyed by all the family. Very high in protein so great all round really. So this year we were out collecting like mad. As well as the two trees in our garden, many of the trees down the drive to us are sweet chestnuts so we have loads in the freezer. As for cooking/baking with them... Hugh Fernley Wittingstall makes it sound easy to roast them in the oven and the skin just pops off but we've found that the nuts inside seem to go a bit hard - like rock! - so we prefer to boil them for a few minutes. Guinea fowl slow cooked with them followed by meringe with creamed sweet chestnuts and sauted apples is just autumn heaven in my book. Mmmmmm. Anyone coming next autumn???

Useful link

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Power to The People

Or not as the case is at present. We have had a power cut every day for the last four days, ranging in duration from 10 hrs to just 1 hour. The annoying thing is that they always seem to occur at cooking-of-meal-times. The first day I had literally just switched off the hob and was serving up. Rowan said, rather spookily, "Can we have candles?" and lo and behold the power cut out and we needed candles! The second night I had just started the tea so we had to abort and go to McDonalds (yuk). The boys thought it was a great treat. For me it brought back too many memories of not having access to the internet other than via Mac's WiFi. Yesterday it cut at lunch time but that was no major issue as we were just having baggette and a myriad of cheeses. Today again it cut at lunchtime and that made me furious because we had fired up Jesse the Esse just to check that all was in order ready for when the colder weather arrives.

Now Jesse is a wood-burning range that does our cooking, hot water, and various heating systems. She was bought as part of our carbon-neutral, not-having-to-rely-on-external-power-sources drive. Rather irritatingly she actually needs a Laddomat gismo that keeps her water circulating because Roger, the water tank, is higher than she is by 50cm due to the layout of our house. If she didn't have that on the circuit, the back water boiler would boil dry and Jesse would be shafted so to speak. And irritatingly that gismo runs on electricity. And guess what we didn't have today - sigh. So, having got her up to a nice hot test temperature (and all the windows and doors open because it's still warm here), with food lined up for cooking, we then had to 'dump the heat' ie waste all our hot water, and put the fire out tout suite with wet sand. I was less than pleased with EDF, France's electricity provider. However, we're back on now.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Interesting Visitors

Late this afternoon, just as Ben was opening the gates to go off to La Ferte for some DIY stuff, a car arrived with two unknown occupants. They explained something to Ben who then told them that his French wasn't very good and that they should come down to the house and speak to me. So the first I saw was this older couple following Ben down the drive with Ben mouthing that he had no idea what they wanted.

Anyway, it transpired that today was the couple's 49th wedding anniversary, they had been in La Chapelle du Bois at the chiropractor, and that the old man's Grandma used to live here at LPM in the 1950s and he wondered if he could visit his old memories. And it turned out to be very interesting.
Our bedroom used to be two cow byres and the other downstairs bedroom and bathroom was a cave (a darkened store room for preserved foodstuffs and drinks). Our living room encompassed their entire living area of bedroom, kitchen, dining room and bathroom! The patio doors hadn't been there. All the fields were in cultivation and the old man used to come over to work in the fields - he'd lived with his mother and father 6 miles away in St Germain de Coudre. He would ride over on horseback, but walk home over the hills along public footways that are sadly no longer passable due to brambles having taken over. The lady used to live at Le Soucheray at the bottom of our fields and that is how they met.

They were SO touchingly grateful to have been allowed to visit and have said that they would find some old photographs and bring them over.