Thursday, 28 July 2011

July ramblings

True to say that a week was going to be far to optimistic in doing a follow up blog however I think that in current times five weeks is not bad going for me.

Enjoying a French evening
Summer as described in the prior update has now fizzled out, the scorching temperatures of earlier months has now returned to the norm of grey, moist and humid days, the occasional glimpse of sunshine equated with torrential rains. Needless to say it plays havoc with your tomatoes if you are growing them outside.

At the end of June we went out to Limousin to visit my sister and her partner who have very happily settled into the French way of life. While we were in the lovely little town of Le Dorat it really was exceptionally hot but glorious, the downside being that for a couple of nights sleep eluded everybody due to the heat and a bloody black redstart that insisted on calling at 4am for about an hour! All of our adventures are in husband's excellent blog, just click on the Max and Millie link opposite.

What I wanted to mention was how lovely and completely unspoiled the entire area is, for me it recalled country lanes in the Cheshire of my youth and a pace of life that somehow I think I want to embrace. Needless to say its not a fast process however I do feel that we shall be spending more time in Limousin.

While we were there we did visit a very large country market which not only had the most amazing selection of goods from stunning pre 1970's nylon leisurewear to mattresses, tripe sausages (which we accidentally bought and manfully tried to devour but failed miserably) but lots of stuff for the garden from plants to mini-tractors and livestock. You literally could by anything from a horse to a hen.

On the practical side of it husband wasn't overly happy with the way ducks, geese and chickens were dealt with, crammed into cages then boxes, dignity and welfare out of the window. It's a farming community with little time for compassion, in real terms it looked worse than it was in reality. Once you left the utility area however there was a good selection of fancy poultry, silkies seemed very popular, and lots of other odd pets. If you wanted to buy a chocolate labrador well you were in luck along with a good selection of ferrets, budgies and indeed all manner of creatures that were not going to end up on the table.

All in all it was a very interesting and fun experience though despite my general happiness at eating most things apart from celery I very much doubt I will be having andouillette (tripe sausage) again.

Recipe with eggs as promised in last blog is as follows and not only is highly seasonal but of course uses eggs. My sister made this for us (the cherry version) and it was delicious (and apparently from the Limousin anyway)
Cherry (or in this case, plum) clafouti
Firstly bear in mind that this is a kind of sweet Yorkshire pudding and secondly make sure your baking dish is big enough as if the batter is too deep it gets stodgy in the middle (not a bad thing but the idea is summer and not stodge)
You need a 22cm dish in which you put 2 tsp vegetable oil and get it into a hot gas 7 oven
In a big bowl mix 75g plain flour and 50g caster sugar (or more if the plums aren't ripe) then whisk in 5 bantam eggs (or 4 normal sized ones I guess) along with 250ml milk (full or semi-skimmed).
Stone and chop 400g plums, small plums got chopped into quarters so take it from there. You do need them cooked after all.
Once the oiled dish has hit the required temp quickly mix plums into batter then whip dish out of oven, pour in plummy batter mix then get back into oven asap!
Cook for approx 30 minutes - don't peek!
After the prescribed time you will have a lovely golden puffed clafouti which will collapse within 5 minutes but no matter as it tastes better after waiting around for 10 minutes.
Dust with some icing sugar and serve with cold cream - delicious

Needless to say you can use cherries. It also tastes great cold

 The chickens have of course been feeling the seasonal desire to go broody. Harriet as reported, did eventually finish her spell only to be followed by Tallulah who I managed to persuade to finish slightly early, Ruby who got finished off within two weeks so hopefully all have now had a broody attack which will see them over the summer. All have gone into a huge moult apart from Nigella so the garden looks as if it is suffering the remains of a major pillow fight. We did have a most odd week when there were no eggs at all. At one stage I thought that maybe the eggs were being taken but no, laying resumed this week. It's odd not having any eggs!

Small snippets of information. Winter always causes a problem with trying to provide the birds with some greenery or forage. I know that they will do well on just pellets with the occasional scattering of mixed corn but I do like to keep the girls as happy as possible. I have just been reading about feeding them nettles in the winter. I know on various poultry forums there is always debate on nettles, some people say their chickens eat fresh nettles others say that the chickens never touch them. I have been looking into using nettles as enrichment fodder for giraffes of all creatures. Once the nettles have dried the stinging mechanism in nettles is deactivated and giraffes LOVE the stuff. A little research has revealed that if you go and collect your nettles (without getting stung of course), dry them out and bundle them up they can be used to great effect with your chickens and if you have the room and place to keep the nettle bundles dry you could store some for the months when greenery is at a premium. I am going to trial some but not sure quite yet how I am going to make some extra space in the already packed shed in the garden.

Allotment is doing okay - of course failed on erecting the polytunnel again this year but with what I think is going to be another disaster with tomatoes I have to promise myself that it will go up this winter! Harvesting is early this year on various crops and we have in mid July already had some bumper crops of blackberries and plums. Have made two batches of bramble jelly so far and jolly delicious it is as well. The most amazing thing is that the jam actually set!

Okay - enough for now. Hopefully I will manage to do another update before Christmas.