Friday 21 September 2018

Too Many Cooks?

These yellow pokers are flowering away despite the weather
and despite sitting in a 'rescue' bucket awaiting a new
proper position. 
I am just back indoors from dropping our current Help-X couple, Sonja and Asbjörn, to the bus-stop in Ballaghaderreen, for their bus to Sligo. They have earned a weekend off and there is some flavour of "Celtic" music/arts festival on where they will meet up with fellow Help-X-ers who they know from New Zealand and Iceland. They get about, these volunteers! They are away just the one night, then back with us for next week, but off to Dublin ready for Tuesday flights home to, variously, Frankfurt and Berlin.

Bramley tree temporarily propped back
upright after it was lent over by the wind.
They have proved to be brilliant and helpful hard workers, and worked way over the hours we would expect. Every day they have gone back out after lunch and carried on because they "just want to finish this last....." This even with the skirts of Storm Ali blustering slowly through so that on some days they were restricted to under-cover jobs, mucking out bird houses, clearing the poly-tunnel and splitting up kindling in the car port.

Pigs' ears and tails become dog treats.
They have achieved so much and we are delighted with them - it has quite restored our faith in Help-X after that French lad upsettingly blew us out for the whole of August. We have that mountain of kindling sacks, a clear poly-tunnel and 2 full buckets of (volunteer) spuds out of it. The geese and chickens do not know themselves for the pristine state of their houses and the new bedding. The five railway sleeper beds are either cleared or weeded and one has been top dressed with the goose muck.

Starting to prune the living willow tunnel.
Asbjörn helped Elizabeth on a mission to buy feed sacks. When Storm Ali bent a couple of trees over and knocked down all our apples and pears (fruit, not trees!), the volunteers were on hand to stand the trees back up and prop them with old fence posts, pending me being able to buy proper tree stakes and ties.

We were not quite so successful on the rescue of windfall apples, especially of the soft-ish 'James Grieves' which we had intended for frozen purée. By the time we got out there the orchard was full of rather smug looking hens and the ground was clean of all apples! We were reduced to picking what was left off the trees. Most recently we have had S+A pruning and tidying up the living willow tunnel which now puts on metres of growth each year as it tries to achieve 'willow trees' status.

Bread and carrot cake by Sonja.
When not working in the garden, they have shown as very keen to take over the kitchen and cook stuff. Sonja started this off with 2 loaves of bread and 2 carrot cakes. Asbjörn wanted to cook our Thursday supper of a very rich beef in Guinness with a topping of "scones" (not quite the same as a British dumpling or 'cobbler'; a German variant, I guess.

2 left over quarters of that beef in ale topped with scones
The beef-in-ale was made with one of the new 'retro' Guinness types, called "Foreign Extra Stout". At 6.5% this would be stronger than anything I'd choose in a pub, but gave the stew a beautifully rich flavour. The scones were actually made by Sonja, they cook in the steam rising from the stew. There was a lovely Waldorf on the side.

Just for a laugh, and because Asbjörn's most distinctive feature is his magnificent ginger beard, the shoppers had to buy a bottle of an alcoholic ginger beer by an English brewer (Wychwood, of 'Hobgoblin' fame).This beer is called Ginger Beard and the label features, as you'd expect, a man with a ginger beard. It was a good laugh but perhaps not the ideal accompaniment to the beef in ale. It was rather sweet and very gingery, more like a kiddie's 'alco-pop' and the ginger flavour conflicted with the stew's deliciousness. The real 'Hobgoblin' would have been a better choice but hey....

German style carrot-cake. 
Our kitchen is rather small, even though now extended to twice the bought size so by the time we had Asbjörn in there stewing, Sonja scone-ing and the Woman of the House still trying to nail that days lunch and that night's (stir fry) supper, it was getting very busy and there was a fine dance going on for space, movement and available time slots on the oven. Luckily not a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. Everything worked and was cooked to perfection and at the correct times.

Dry cure salt/sugar mix for pork legs. This mix included cloves,
chillies, garlic, thyme, star anise, coriander seeds and cumin
seeds, cloves and black peppercorns.
I had steered clear during the busy times (4 cooks in there might have been pushing it!) and my main 'cooking' job, applying the dry cure mix to the 'Parma ham' style legs of pork, could be done out in the Utility room where sits the fridge which will protect the legs during the 21 days of dry cure.

All you need for a game of Ten Thousand. 
We have also been enjoying the company of Asbjörn and Sonja during the evenings, when we have been invited to sit down with them for a few games of the dice-rolling, bidding game I described in the last post, "Ten Thousand". We have now got quite used to the intricate rules and scoring system and I can report that last night, with Elizabeth off at her evening class on furniture restoration, I won all three games handsomely. I was on fire for some reason, and neither of the visitors could make any points score 'stick'. All good clean fun.

Hey ho. Well, as I said, the pair are now off to Sligo for some R+R and, as I type this, I am just waiting for the boss to return from her 'Hard Landscaping' course, so that I can go have a lie down. It's bushed, I am.

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