Thursday, 24 December 2009

The Best Laid Plans

Yes well you know what they say about the best laid plans! Here we are, Christmas Eve. The plan had been to head off into Le Mans through our couple of inches of Christmassy snow, go to Buffalo Grill, go into the city centre and see the light show at the cathedral, have a wander about, then head home. Pah! At mid-day the heavens opened and sheets of heavy rain began falling and just didn't stop. The snow was washed away within hours and the drive into Le Mans was treacherous. Not to worry, Buffalo Grill awaited us - but no, it was Christmas Eve and it was shut of course. So was Hippo Grill, Courtepaille, Flunch, the list went on. The children's spirits were falling fast as were mine thinking that we'd need to go home and start cooking!!! Fortunately DelArte the pizza place was open and humming so we actually had a very nice meal in there. Then it was off to see the lights from the shelter of the car (the wander about was called off due to bad weather). But no, it was Christmas Eve and the light show wasn't on because folk were filing in for midnight mass of course. You'd have thought that they'd like to see the light show too, or that at least the programme of events would mention that the display wasn't running whilst worshippers were on the scene. Sigh. So home we headed to see what Father Christmas's progress was via the Norad Track Santa site. Oh goodness, within half an hour of us being back, Santa had reached Germany so it was a quick scuttle off to bed for the boys leaving Mummy and Daddy to wrap up the final few presents.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Winter Arrives

Well it has suddenly turned into winter here and the trees have been finally forced to give up the last of their leaves. Last Friday was still chugging along at 14 degrees C like the lovely mild autumn we've had, then we woke up to a frost that covered the windscreens on Saturday, the wind changed to a biting easterly and it's been icy tundra since Sunday morning. If I were a bloke then I'd say that I'd frozen my proverbials off this morning feeding the hens and geese and de-icing their water troughs. The thermometer is reading -7.9 degrees C and it's now 9.30am. Brrrrr. Thermals now retrieved.

We had a large delivery of wood and looked forward to being all organised for when we needed to switch the heating on (which only happened on Saturday!). Pah, not so. The wood isn't seasoned and Jesse huffed along with her ovens only going up to moderate. It was weird because the fire itself was roastingly hot, so hot as to singe and melt the leather gauntlets we have for tending the fire, yet the heat wasn't transferring over to the ovens. We have since found out - via surfing waves on the internet that were almost tsunamis in our desperation to find the answer to our problem - that if the wood is unseasoned or wet, the moisture basically puts out the gaseous burn in the bottom of the flue. We need this secondary burn for a clean burn and super hot temperatures to transfer to the cooking bit. Plus this moisture allows for creasote/tar to form around every nook and cranny so needless to say, we spent 3 hours degunking her. We live and learn. She is now happily doing her stuff as we made a mercy dash to our local hardware store for some 'proper' wood. The other stuff will be good for next year so you could say we *are* organised.

Fortunately today dawns sunny and calm, released from the grip of the icy wind. We can open the volets (shutters) again and let in the light.

Today's activity - Christmas shopping.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Cider Makers

Next crop - apples. We have one tree that gives a fantastic crop of green slightly tart apples and this year we have harvested them to process into juice or maybe even cider. That is, we harvested the ones that the geese didn't eat. One of the geese, Nibble, just adores apples and would 'jump' up at the branches to make the apples fall, then they'd all chomp the resultant bounty.

Our neighbour brought 3 massive fruit boxes of their red apples and my Uncle invited us to come and raid as many apples as we liked from his orchard (sadly he's moving to Canada so we won't have that perk next year).

Anyway, here you see the boys with the apple chopper and press below. We have made 12 litres of juice so far and still have 10 fruit boxes to process. Plus more set aside for eating apples. It's time-consuming but fun. It also feels great that we can teach the boys through example how things grow, how to look after and improve your crops, how to harvest and how to process and store food supplies.

This was my first ever taste of freshly pressed apple juice and it is very different from the shop-bought apology. We have frozen lots so hopefully there'll still be some for lucky visitors in the spring.