After so many years in Sweden, where temps can be extremely extreme, to move here where it's often sunny and warm takes a bit of getting used to; nevertheless, it's amazing how quickly you become accustomed to the overlying theme of warmth outdoors. So that, when the sun decides it's not coming out to play, the temptation is to carp on about it. So I'll move on, I think.
We've been toying with the notion of upping sticks (again!) and moving up to the Hebrides. It's quite appealing really. And for family reasons, concerning our daughter and family, seems to make some sense. In the course of our deliberations, I've been online checking out property prices and all that sort of stuff. It does appear pretty reasonable, especially given the quality of life that comes with living in that region on the edge of the UK.
However, to my surprise, not to say astonishment, I've been offered some online work, law related, from a firm based in the northern tip of Scotland and with offices in Orkney. I'm very interested in the proposal which requires me to check out some land lawy things online on a regular basis. It can be done from anywhere - including here in France - but it has made me research living on Orkney, a group of beautiful islands off the northern tip of the UK where, again, property prices appear reasonable and the quality of life looks great, albeit windy at times - ie., a lot of the time! So, who knows......
Charlie was in last night but went off, hunting presumably, in the early hours of morning. He then returned noisily, but without fresh food in his jaws/paws, at about 02:00 and demanded attention, with a bump on the nose for me thrown in for good measure, and much padding on my slumbering chest. Just to let me know he was around, I'm sure! I heard him giving Jack a hard time, as usual, till Jack with a loud snuffle and sigh, dragged himself from his basket and off to the floor by the far side of the bed - J's side, where he huffed and harrumphed before settling back down for a good night's kip. Charlie. mission accomplished seemingly, then left again. He hasn't been back since but I expect his arrival anytime now! He's not had his cream supplement yet, so must be getting peckish!
J is due back tomorrow. I'm collecting her from Nantes airport at about 09:40. It's a bit of a pain at that time. It's virtually impossible not to hit the Nantes - the capital of Brittany, and a lovely city on the Loire - rush hour traffic. So I'll have to be up early and off with some time to spare in case of traffic jams on the dual carriageway airport ring-road approach. Since we had a power-cut a few days ago, I've been unable to reset the Sony cube radio/alarm clock. It's just too complicated and, having lost the instructions for the damn thing, I can't remember how to do it. Crazy thing!
The Spanish house is still not on the market for sale. The agent concerned is going up to check it out on Tuesday, after which she'll give us her view and hopefully put it up for sale. It's a fine place but we just don't really like Spain enough. The Swedish place, however, is now up for grabs:
Hopefully it might sell fairly fast, and probably to a German. The Krauts are busy buying up Sweden at the moment and that would pee-off our Sweedle neighbour who behaved greedily when trying to buy it privately from us! We shall see.....!
Both Hens have started laying, though we still get only one egg on odd days. The first from one of the Chooks was more like an enlarged Kinder Surprise offering than a real one though.
Here it is alongside its mate's pretty conventional product:
It is lovely to have fresh eggs and Hens around again. They're always generally fairly trouble-free animals and quite easy and fun to keep. Well worth the effort and normally rewarding.
In one of the local supermarkets I recently spotted smallish jars of Cepes/Mushrooms for sale, at a horrendous cost: about 18 Euros the kilo, it worked out at. I've little doubt they'd be even costlier in the UK, when they can be found!
In Sweden, we had huge amounts of these things, growing wild on footpaths and lakeside tracks and verges. We even had them in the garden at times. Our German neighbours, who hailed from the old Eastern block side of the country, were determined foragers and used to collect them in vast quantities. They would carefully thread them together with a needle and festoon the kitchen with the things. Hanging them from the ceiling to dry out for dispatch to family and friends back home, they also vacuum packed them for use throughout the year till they're reappearance next Autumn/Fall.
Here's one we picked up next to the house:
We, too, collected them in considerable quantities and luckily still have a fair load, ready dried, in the kitchen cupboard. They taste great in stews, sauces etc. Marvellous, nutty, smoky sort of flavour. Very 'Flavery' indeed, as J would say, with her specially coined - and apposite - expression! Not too sure about the spelling of it though!
As far as possible, we try to grow as much of our own Veg as possible. Many moons ago, in the Brecon Beacons, we were almost self-sufficientish: we had loads of veg; Hens and Ducks for meat and eggs; Goats (Anglo-Nubians) for milk and meat; Bees (with little success, it must be said); Sheep and Pigs, a variety of breeds from Berkshires through Saddlebacks to so called Oxford Sandy & Blacks - a breed that I always felt to be little more than Tamworth/Glos Old Spot crosses in reality. The great advantage was fresh food from animals that were free-ranging for the most part; and the provenance of the tucker was known to us personally.
In Sweden, we tried as far as possible, but the climatic constraints were limiting. Nonetheless, we were able to buy meat direct from our neighbouring farm. As a dairy enterprise, they invariably had Steers to dispose of each year and we always bought one from them. The only difficulty - and one which I never enjoyed but viewed as being part of the deal - was that Håkan would kill the animals (humanely, with the right equipment, all very rural Swedish) himself on the farm, and I would be roped in to help move/cajole or just plain drag the beasts out into the field area before slaughter, and then also to assist with the skinning and gutting of the thing. Later, after it had hung for a sufficient time, J and I would have to hack up the carcase into useable - if not necessarily recognisable - joints of meat:
Here's J playing at being a butcher, with John Seymour's old 'Self Sufficiency' for reference. Eat your heart out Hugh Fearnley-Whittenstall!
Another welcome source of excellent quality meat in Sweden was the local, village hunting syndicate. Each year the Swedes long for the beginning of the Moose - known as Älg (pronounced Elly) - season. They go off with their wildly barking dogs - Älghunder - into the forest and sit on hunting chairs and try shooting these elusive and enormous beasts for meat. The meat is not at all gamey, being more like a very lean beef, if anything. It's absolutely superb and highly recommended. It also makes a mean curry! And what more could you ask for!
The dogs are bred to sniff out the Moose and when they find one, they just stand and bark at the thing, attracting the hunters to it for the kill. They are huge dogs and can be a bit intimidating at first sight, though generally they are fairly friendly, albeit in a powerful, knock-you-over kind of way:
Håkan's Älghund, Birk.
We used to pay a moderate price for this wonderfully welcome meat, which always came not just on the bone but generally as a complete side of meat. Out with the knives, saws and the John Seymour again!
Once when we had been out collecting a load of timber for the stove from a nearby hamlet, Håkan received a phone call advising him that there was a newly killed young Älg/Moose by the railway line at the bottom of the village. As this was on a stretch of track that was bounded by his hunting ground/forest, he was entitled to the body. We all went down to see it, where it had been hit by a passing train, which had caught/slit the poor animal's back leg tendons. It had then presumably tottered a bit before collapsing and giving up the ghost:
Don't know what I was thinking that day - no gloves!!
Given the temp was about minus 20 at the time, and the train driver had phoned in the kill, the time of which was therefore known, the meat was pretty fresh (though almost frozen) and Håkan generously offerred us half of the meat. That was the first time I was drafted in to the gutting process (done on the spot) and the skinning, which we carried out at his farm. The price to be paid for what turned out to be a good amount of excellent meat! Now easily one of our firm favourites. Don't think we'll be having any soon, though! Drat!