Sunday, 11 July 2010

Drought, Cherry Ice Cream and World Cup Football

We are back in the peace and tranquillity of rural France after a few days away in the Netherlands visiting family and friends. A visit which included a party on the beach in Scheveningen where some friends were celebrating the fortieth anniversary of their meeting (I think they have been married 38 years) and the funeral of a must respected family member who had died aged 93.

While there we watched the Uruguay - Netherlands match and are now ready for this evenings match against Spain in the World Cup Final. Not having any flags or banners to decorate the house we have found a good use for some Sainsburys carrier bags, thank you Mr. Sainsbury let's just hope they win tonight! Our neighbour has just popped in to enquire about the orange carrier bags, are they for harvesting some particular fruit or veg, or as her husband thought were we celebrating a wedding here today. She didn't know that orange is the national colour of the Netherlands - the royal family is from the 'House of Orange' - now she is wiser. Once France dropped out of the World Cup that was the end of it here in France there is no interest in other nations, although I suspect the south west regions will be supporting Spain tonight.

The sun continues to shine everyday. Everywhere is yellow and very dry. No matter who you talk to all they want is rain. After many years of bad summers one would think we would be grateful for this wall to wall sunshine, but as it hasn't rained now for months it is time for some rain. Other regions of France have had severe thunderstorms but we have just missed them all.

Rob has fixed a hose pipe to give a gentle cooling mist.

The farmers were very fortunate earlier last month to have a good hay making period but since then they have had to start giving the cows supplementary feed as the grass is not growing. Our neighbours have found their milk yield down by 250l over 2 days (the milk tanker comes every 2 days) which soon adds up to a considerable loss, put that with the additional feed they are using - the economies of farming are very susceptible to the weather.

Other neighbours with a gift shop in the local town are not benefitting from the good weather either as they find tourists are seeking out cool terraces or swimming pools rather than visiting historic towns. They are due to take part in a Mediaeval Fete on Wednesday and will be in costume, they break out in a sweat just talking about their costumes.

Not all is doom and gloom in the countryside. The cherries are ripening on the trees and we are lucky to have two white cherry trees on neighbouring land and have harvested a few for our own consumption, it would be a shame to leave them for the birds, although I did see the cows nibbling at them earlier today.

I made some into ice cream yesterday a lovely way to use them, so summery, (see cookinglizzie for recipe)

We are now harvesting a variety of vegetables from the garden everyday. The heat has caused some of the lettuce to bolt, but I have cut out the tops of many of those threatening to go to seed and braised them in chicken stock adding some fresh peas just at the end - a good way to use the lettuce. The raspberries have been particularly good and as well as eating them fresh every day we also have some in the freezer for later in the year. The blueberries are ripening a few at a time and I am putting them in the freezer for use later. Everyday I get about 60g not many but the bag is filling up.

The red currents are beginning to ripen so a pavlova with a mix of raspberries, red currants and blueberries will be on the menu soon.

The courgettes are beginning to grow - I think they appreciate all the watering we have done each evening and we have had our first meal of purple sprouting broccoli. The melon and cucumber plants which I was sure were dying last week have suddenly put on a growing spurt and are producing flowers and there is evidence of small immature fruits forming. The tomatoes are also enjoying the warm weather and most of the plants have small tomatoes forming, not long now and they will be ready to eat.

The only real problem in the vegetable garden at the moment is our resident mole who is determined to work his way up and down the rows and then when I am not looking across the rows as well. Never mind it means there are lots of earth worms in the soil which is a good.

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