Just nine days to Christmas 2011. I have to admit to been a little lazy recently about updating my blog I suppose although we have been busy with lots of activities I haven't considered them really newsworthy.
We did spend about 10 days in France at the end of November. There we spent time tidying up the garden in readiness for the winter. Several branches of the 'Calville' apple tree had broken under the weight of the fruit in the summer and they needed to be cut back to prevent the tree from rotting. The poly tunnel needed to be taken down as it is a simple improvised construction which had worked really well. We will certainly put it up again next year, but will try and get it into production earlier in the year and hope that we can get some melons ripened before the end of the summer. At first glance I thought we only had a harvest of weeds but on closer inspection found that we had lots of vegetables ready to eat. The only disappointment were the brussel sprouts which although they looked healthy the actual sprouts hadn't formed a nice firm heart. We have left them in the hope they will improve - if not they will be shredded for a stir fry.
Several wheelbarrow loads of farmyard manure have been put on the garden and all bare areas have been covered with black plastic. Hopefully the worms will work the manure into the soil and it will be nice and fertile for next spring.
We managed to get out and do some foraging for mushrooms. We found plenty to eat and many more which we couldn't identify, but that's the way it goes. It is always satisfying to comeback from a walk in the woods with enough fungi to make a meal and even better when there is enough to dry for another day.
|Magical Woodland Scene (not edible)|
We even found quite a few mushrooms along the lane where we live including a beautiful Wood Blewit.
For the past few years we have been using the SeaFrance ferries to cross from Dover to Calais. The company has been in financial difficulties for some time now but has survived as it is part of the French railway company, the EU has now ruled that the state support that SeaFrance has been receiving is not legal so the company has been put 'up for sale'. When we travelled a few weeks ago their ferry boats were tied up in the port of Calais as the company was fearful of a walk out by staff as discussions on a take over were taking place. It now appears that the take over offer has been withdrawn and the company could fold as soon as next week. SeaFrance arranged for us to travel with DFDS via Dunkirk, but that added an extra 30 minutes to the crossing and another 20 minutes of travel on the French side. With the number of ferry companies dwindling and with the increase cost of fuel the ticket prices are rising rapidly. We will have to study the various options that the ferry companies offer before we go again in January. There are definitely less people travelling across the channel - the boats are never full, so perhaps there may be some good deals to be negotiated.
December is the month of Christmas parties. I started with our Moreton Hall WI party. A really good evening with good food, craft (OK, not my forté) limerick writing which was fun and lots of chatter and laughter, in all a good event.
Then we had the Bury Heritage Guides Party, again lots of good food and good company and a chance to inspect our hosts vintage cars and drool over the more modern ones, in particular a beautiful 1956 Mercedes similar to the one in this photo.
The WI held its annual carol concert at St Mary's Church, this last Monday evening, which as usual was well attended. At this time of year I bring out my red 'fur' coat which I wear to parties and, what has become a tradition, to the Carol Concert. I think if I turned up in another coat there would be complaints from my friends. Also this week we had the flower club Christmas meeting which again saw us tackling a craft project. This time angels to hang in the Christmas tree which will be decorated as part of a tree festival. I was quite impressed by the results this time.
This year I have been a little late in getting the Christmas cake made, but finally this week I set aside a baking day, I got the cake was baked and the Christmas pudding mixed. This has now been steamed and is ready for the final steam on the day. Alexander helped me make lots of mince pies which are now in the freezer ready to dip into as needed.
|In the operating theater, sewing up the duck|
Last week while I was watching Michel Roux Jr give a masterclass I was inspired to copy his 'dodine de canard'. Basically a duck filled with a meat farce to make a duck paté which you can slice when cold. I have to say it looks beautiful, just like the one Michel Roux made. Just hope it tastes as good as it looks.
I also have a piece of beef marinating in spices which will be lightly cooked after another 4 days of curing and a piece of salmon in a gravadlax cure. Definitely feel good about these dishes, they should be tasty without being too filling. Just in case my sister is reading this - it's OK I will get a turkey for Christmas day!
So much about food - well it is a time of year to cook both traditional dishes and to try something new. All that's left to do is get a tree, that is easy here as they grow locally, just a couple of kilometres up the road and buy a couple of small gift items.
Happy Christmas to you all.