Sunday, December 27, 2015

Getting back to normal

Freddy being cute as usual.
Whatever has happened to Christmas weather? It's supposed to be cold, apart from one light snow fall in the middle of December and a couple of frosts it has just been wet, and I mean wet. Nothing like the awful weather that people in the north of England have been experiencing though, so many have had their homes flooded, in areas not normally associated with flooding, what an  dreadful way to spend Christmas. Maybe it was thinking about those who's homes have been affected made us want to celebrate a bit more than normal, I even iced the cake, not something I would normally do as neither of us like icing, well we have discovered that we still don't, so it ended up in the dogs. Next year I will stick to just the marzipan.
Stage one, form a ring of willow.
Stage two, accept help from a cat, Misty, Freddy's sister.
To get into the spirit of the season I made a Yule Wreath for the front door, Misty thought it was something that she would like to join in making,
The finished wreath.
I think between the two of us it turned out OK.
A bit of festive cheer.

Simon, modelling his jumper.
I decorated the fireplace in the lounge, and the candelabra, it has made the lounge look quite festive.
An excellent bird.
The bronze turkey was a beautiful bird, Justina, who reared them did a good job, it was very succulent and full of flavour, although we were hoping for a smallish bird we ended up with a seven kg one, Justina has said that she will start them later next year to get the smaller sizes. I know many people don't like turkey, we do, and for us it is something special, not something that you can buy all year round. We had friends over for a meal on St Stephens day so we managed to make a fair bit of headway into the bird, the disadvantage of turkey is it last so long if there are only the two of you.
A future Sunday roast.
We always remove the legs, then bone, stuff and roll them, they can then be frozen and used at a later date.
Today we needed to blow away the cobwebs and made a trip to the coast, mainly to get more seaweed.
The beaches were quite busy,
there were some nice waves and that had brought out the surfers. We collected another nine sacks of seaweed and had a lovely picnic which included cold turkey. I always enjoy our trips to the beautiful Sligo coast.
Roses are still blooming, we have some out in our garden,
It really is December.
but we spotted a rambler which had masses of flowers plus buds on it, not quite right in December.
A further visit is called for to explore around this old bridge.
We also spotted an interesting bridge, it looks very old, we could just make out the track which would have run over it, not far from this bridge there is also a waterfall, something we will have to explore further at a later date.
So Christmas is over for another year, and we all survived it. Now it is time to start planning next years plantings,
I hope that one of my presents will come in useful for this. When we lived in Spain all the supermarkets used to stock the Moon Planting calendars, not something you see as a rule over here. We have always planted by the moon, but it will be very useful to have a book to remind us of what we are supposed to be doing and when.
I hope you all had a good festive season and that you all have a Prosperous New Year.
A seaside pub.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Conceeding defeat.

A splash of Christmas colour.
We try very hard to ignore Christmas, it's just too commercialised and an excuse to over indulge for many people, however this year we have decided that if we can't beat them we might as well join them, whoever 'them' might be.
The first of many.
Lots of mince pies have been made and eaten already,
         and we have even made a Christmas cake.
 The  turkey is ordered, although we nearly had second thoughts on this as the farm where it is coming from belongs to the same people that have the Organic butchers shop and cafĂ© in Boyle, it was their Christmas fair that I did last week and nearly froze to death. At this weeks fair  they had some of their animals making an appearance, including two of the turkeys destined for dinner tables. We don't get sentimental about animals reared to feed people, but having once tried to rear our own turkeys for Christmas we have a very soft spot for them. They make the most delightful pets as we found out. Anyway, we were assured that neither of these turkeys were  earmarked for ourselves.
Any gifts that were to be given have reached their destination,
One finished Aran jumper.
and the jumper that I was knitting for the OH's Christmas present is now finished.
I made up a gift package for a friend containing home made goodies, I could only find a very ordinary  basket to put the jars in so decided that I could re-weave the chosen basket with ribbon, it took quite a lot of work but did look nice,
Zara did fit, just.
Zara, my silver Persian also thought it was a great basket and managed to fit herself very neatly in it. As if  there are not numerous baskets around the house especially made for the cats.
The label indicated that these lilies are Irish grown, I wonder?
It's hard to get into the Christmas spirit when it's so mild, December should be cold, not warm enough to go out without a coat, there is little difference between day and night time temperatures. Even the daffodil bulbs are well above the ground, there's even been reports of daffs. and primroses in bloom.
I have been puzzling for some time as to how supermarkets can sell jam and marmalade so cheaply, they can sell at a price less than it costs me to make and I use free fruit with the exception of oranges, so I have started looking at labels, (yes I know, sad that I have nothing better to do with my time.) Besides all the sugar and fructose that is used, there is pectin and gelling agent. Now anyone who makes their own jam knows that all you need to get a good set is fresh fruit and sugar, and possible in the case of Strawberry jam, lemons. When it comes to blackcurrant, blackberry, raspberry and marmalade they all set well without the need to add anything else. Seeing the long list of ingredients on a commercial jam it strikes me that they are missing out the main ingredient, water. It's the only explanation as to how the jam is so cheap, water which is more or less free, plus the gelling agent and pectin and you could make anything look like jam, at a fraction of the cost of the real thing.
A better shot of the pattern.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Crazy weather.

From floods to snow in less than a week. So many roads in the area have been closed due to flooding, no sooner had the floods started to retreat, yesterday we awoke to  a two inch fall of snow , and boy it was cold.
Certainly not the right weather to be attending a Food and Craft fair held in a marquee. I don't think the temperature got much above freezing all day,
sales weren't particularly good and did not warrant standing for five hours in such temperatures. I am also supposed to be doing  the same venue next weekend but I'm afraid I will be giving it a miss. I wonder how many other stall holders feel the same way. I do enjoy doing the fairs, but not when it's so cold, I will limit myself to indoor ones next year.
However you never know what you will find or meet at these fairs, one of the stall holders was the person I had done a basket making course with, I have arranged do another course with him next year, which will be fun.
Faversham Christmas Ale.
There was also a stall selling craft beers, they had the full range of our very local micro brewery,  we have already tried most of them, what we hadn't tried before was an English beer from Faversham in Kent, called 'Christmas Ale' this one throws a real punch, a little will go a long way at 7% it's a very strong ale, but it is lovely, we will probably have it in place of wine with our Christmas dinner.  For some unknown reason it was also cheaper than the local brew.
The plants in the garden  still don't seem to know it's winter, roses still blooming,
December 11th.
plus a crazy Lupin,
Three months early.
and the rhubarb has started to re-grow, we don't normally cover the rhubarb until February but we have had to put straw over it, it is after all just the beginning of winter and we will get a few heavy frosts and possibly more snow before the rhubarb should  start to awake.
Some of the carrots that we planted this year were a heritage variety, some  purple, some white and a few yellow ones,
Very pretty, but not too much flavour.
 the purple ones look very pretty, they would look great in a coleslaw, but they are not as strongly flavoured as the orange ones, I wonder if other people have noticed the difference in flavour?
When we first moved here we knew there were things that we would want to change and slowly we are making the changes, one such change was replacing the sliding French door in the kitchen. There were several reasons, not least that we couldn't lock it easily, and one of the cats is very clever at opening sliding doors, fine if we are around but not if we are out for the day,
A new cat foiling door!
so the door has now been replaced, much to Felix's disgust, he has been foiled, and he's not happy about it. Although it's the same space, it makes the kitchen seem bigger.
Poultry treat.
The hens aren't too keen on this weather either, so we have started sprouting grain again for all the birds, we had thought that the quail would appreciate a bit of fresh wheat grass but all they did was trample it down so we will reserve it for the hens.
These legs and feet belong to Freddy. You can just see an ear.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Winter Veg.

Mahonia now in full bloom.
It seems only a short time ago that we were enjoying the summer veg, well in the case of the tomatoes we were enjoying them right up to last Thursday, but now it's time to start enjoying the winter veg. Lovely heart warming as well as body warming stews,
Veg for veggie crumble.
veggie crumbles, veggie soups plus roast veg.
Heritage carrots, I think they look pretty.
Most of what we have planted has grown well although the leeks are rather slim compared to other years, maybe we planted them later, but they are still good enough to eat. The big problem is planning for the hungry gap, March until May, things that we had planted to cover us for this period came on so quickly because of the very warm Autumn. The Purple Sprouting came on months earlier than it should, that has all been eaten now, but we still have curly kale and perpetual spinach to fall back on, there is plenty of carrots,
Don't think Morrisons would allow this one.
parsnips and swede,  the turnips are now coming on and of course there are plenty of potatoes and onions in store, even the Brussels sprouts are looking good, we have had the first helping of them. There is also broad beans, French beans, peas,    cauliflower and calabrese in the freezer,  I don't think we will go short of veggies this winter despite the weather's best attempt to bring crops on early  due to the warm temperatures.
With the mild weather comes the rain, or rather 'storm Desmond', why have the 'powers that be' decided that storms now need to be given a name? It doesn't make them any friendlier  or less damaging.
No, not a lake, a field which had cattle in it just three days ago.
The rivers and streams have all burst their banks, roads are closed,
A flooded Lough Flynn.
the local lough is 40 m higher than normal.  Cattle have had to be brought in, this makes for more work for the farmers, plus more expense in feeding the animals.
In spite of the appalling weather yesterday the craft fair was well attended, there were only a dozen tables but I think everyone sold well.
Some lovely wood craft.
My table.
I did well and have covered the cost of our Christmas turkey, it's interesting to see what does sell and what doesn't, marmalade with whisky has proved popular and I have another batch on the go, and we also have to make more vegetarian mince meat, I have two more fairs to do and it does seem that people who attend these fairs are more aware of what is in commercially produce foods, in particular people seem keen to avoid palm oil which is not easy in this day and age. One out of every two products sold in supermarkets contains palm oil, what will the manufacturers do when all the rain forests have been destroyed and no more palm oil plantations can be planted?
Zara likes buckets.
Our cats are far from impressed with this weather and are doing their best to hibernate,
She also likes baskets.
the baskets in the window is one of their favourite spots as it catches the late sun, yes, we still see the sun sometimes,
and we are getting some beautiful sunsets.