Friday 28 November 2014

Busby Berkeley Dust Bathing?

New trees await planting.
The new trees arrived safe and sound on Thursday 27th via the excellent courier, DPD Ireland. Courier-ing and post in general here in Ireland are definitely one job the Irish do better than anything I've ever had in the UK. Post is almost always next day without fail within Ireland. DPD send you a text to say your goods are due today, then follow up with a call 20 minutes out to check you are at the house and finally, in our case, I have persuaded the regular drivers to call at 5 minutes out so that I can go down and stand in the lane to flag them down and make sure they find the place. They are without exception (in my experience anyway, of DPD and other companies) helpful, friendly and, more importantly, careful with the goods, so that I receive my trees in their 'roll' of cardboard and straw, undamaged. I am very happy with both the courier and, in this case, with the tree nursery / supplier,

The instructions are to crack open the parcel as soon as you get it (mainly to avoid condensation damage to any evergreens), then to damp the roots but store (roots) back in the bag so that the wind does not get to them. This gives us a chance to examine the trees and they look, as usual, healthy and robust. My 'Camelot' apple was a one year old 'maiden whip', but the other 2 apples and the limes were 2 year old 'feather' (i.e. with side branches). They had good root systems with a good spread of fibrous roots still intact.

Apple trees protected from the geese.
They are all now planted. The apples I managed to squeak in to the orchard by putting them hard up against the fence which was 5 m from my 'first row'. My first plan had been to dot them along the front lawn but this would have involved creating sheep proof guards around them. Sheep are terrors for not only browsing off all the soft new tissue but also for trying to scratch their itches by rubbing their considerable bulk against your fences and posts. Your sheep guards around trees need to be made of serious wood and posts, which is not cheap. My orchard plan meant only 'goose-proof' protection, so I put some old rabbit-hutch wire into use as half-cylinders, tall enough to out-manouvre those long goosey necks. Today, at least, it worked and the trees are free from goose 'tooth' marks.

The kitchen is still in whirlwind mode at present with Liz doing a bit of Christmas cookery and some 'Autumn tidy up' cooking. The pudding mixture, Liz decided to split across 3 smaller bowls - we made an enormous pud last year but it was rather too big to use up AND it tied up the big, useful mixing bowl for all the weeks that it sat in there. This year, then, we invested in 4 smaller bowls and we are now serially steaming them in the slow cooker. The ones not needed for the festive season will keep; puds seem to keep for ever!.

Green Tomato Chutney
I got my instruction today to 'bring in the tomatoes', i.e. to clear the remaining stragglers from the poly-tunnel which were either green or part ripe but not likely to progress any further in the chill, misty days of November, so it is time to make green tomato chutney. This is one of our favourite chutneys and one which I will happy smear on every cheese sandwich I make, no matter what the time of year and weather. So, I cleared the ground and collected almost 5 kg into my bucket and all the plants into a barrow.

Busy kitchen. Bits for paté get chopped and fried prior
to being 'whizzed'. 
The chickens spotted that I was in there and that there was some dry dusty soil on this site after all! They'd been walking on the damp, November grass and wondering whether they'd ever see dust again. When I went back in to collect the barrow, I was amused and impressed by the sight of ALL our grown up chooks dust-bathing, like a bizarre Busby Berkeley synchronised swim interpretation. All chickens lie down on your left side and kick up the dust. Now change to the right side etc. The young Buffs were not there but possibly found the dust-fest later. They do love a good dust bathe these chickens and it does their feathers and old skin good.

View from the front door at 3:30 pm on Tuesday - the mist
comes up and the sun sinks down.
With Christmas looming the Hubbard chicken "gribbly bits" were rescued from the freezer for conversion into paté - hearts, gizzards and livers. These get fried off with cooking brandy and garlic before being 'whizzed' up. The late Diamond always preferred it if you sieved this several times to produce the finest velvety textures as per Nigel Slater's recipes but I must admit I prefer a 'coarse' paté with BITS in it. Now that we are Diamond-less, Liz has allowed that we do not need to sieve it (she sounds relieved at not having too, because it is a real faff!) so I am looking forward to some "Coarse Hubbard Paté" on the menu.

No comments: