Monday, 28 December 2015

A tasty Christmas

Our Christmas cake - dark chocolate sponge, layered with
blackcurrants and soaked with rum and orange juice. The
toppring is sour cream dusted with cocoa and coffee. As
you can see it was close to a disaster as the sour cream
nearly ran over the plate but fortunately stopped at the
After last week's debate over what to eat for Christmas dinner it was decided by friends when they invited us to dine with them and so we had a very British Christmas dinner with turkey, stuffing, gravy and plenty of veg, followed by Christmas pudding and mince pies. It was lovely and shows the advantage of having a flexible diary. Tim's bro, the chicken in our freezer that I mentioned last week was cooked the day before though. There wasn't a huge amount of meat on him compared to supermarket chickens in the UK, but it more than made up for it in taste and so a little goes a long way. The meat of our chickens is dark and not pale and even when boiled for a while in the slow cooker the meat retains its taste and gives lots of wonderful stock with just the addition of a few herbs and a bit of seasoning.
The temperatures dropped yesterday and we have had frosts
but escaped the snow in other parts of the country

The advantage of sunrises at this time of the year, is they
don't require getting up at an unearthly hour
Our Christmas decorations did finally go up on Christmas Eve, which is fairly normal for us. We chose a tree off our land the day before and we were going to bring it home but it was bucketing it down with rain when it was time to go home, we would have got wet just trying to get it into the car. Most of the week has been very dark and the ground is saturated - at least we haven't had the floods like elsewhere, but then again we are on high ground. Our ponds were overflowing though and our temporary lake keeps appearing and then disappearing. Surprisingly the water table is still low and so the water must be running off and not yet made it down into the ground to recharge the underground water levels.

I love the rosy glow of crisp winter mornings

A little Christmas and New Year greeting

Ian likes to follow Santa on NORAD and around 9.30pm Christmas Eve he told me that Santa was ahead of schedule. Well sure enough shortly afterwards our doorbell went, obviously Santa was not going to tackle our rather narrow chimney. As Ian had disappeared out of the room, I thought for a minute that he was playing games with me and maybe he had gone to fetch something from the car. I went to the door and instead of it being Ian it was actually a friend of ours with the most humungous box of chocolates, a bottle of wine and a candle with crocheted cover that his wife had made. He wished us Merry Christmas and all God's blessings for the following year. Such a surprise! Oh yes! Ian was actually just having a shower, so he missed the fleeting visit.

A golden glow

Brencis is starting his halter training. It was amusing to see
him come up to Ian a little while later as if to say "Please
take this thing off now!" We need him halter trained to take
him down to join the boys when he is old enough, which
won't be much longer now. We just need to know he has
been fully weaned off his Mum.
We didn't buy each other presents this year. I will be getting my new glasses soon and Ian has got new winter tyres for the car. If there is anything we need, we buy it and we are not really into buying things for the sake of it, so when I say "need", I mean "need" and not just a want. Having a nice Christmas Eve meal together, then the home-made croissants for breakfast on Christmas Day itself was present enough for us. Even so we had a few presents each to open on the day, Ian got socks from my Mum and Dad (he was very pleased with them, a good pair of socks for Ian are obligatory and Smartwool socks are some of the few he has found to be comfortable to wear), he also got some cycling clothes from our son and his family, along with a box of biscuits - all his favourite ones too. I got a book about the Duddon Valley from my Mum and Dad. I have mentioned the Duddon Valley a few times on my blog and it is one of my favourite places in the UK to visit, as well as being a place I visited often as a child because my godmother lived on a hill farm there. I also got wool to knit a hat from my son and family. Our daughter and her husband came up with a very thoughtful gift for the both of us, they have given us money, but on the proviso we go to the local hotel once a month - something we haven't been in the habit of doing as we were trying to save our money, so it will be greatly appreciated.

Eyre, our kitten, kitten likes to follow us wherever we go.
The alpacas are curious about her and we are not sure how
safe she is when she gets in, but so far she has run off before
coming to any harm. 

Ian has been busy laying new beds in the fields using some
old hay and putting manure on the top. The idea will be to
cover them either in black garden cloth or plastic to kill
weeds and then either plant into them after the weed seeds
have been killed off in spring or maybe even the following
year. We are still at the planning stage. 
Of course our days haven't changed much because it is Christmas. The animals still needed to be let out and fed, so we have been going out to the land every day as normal. The days have been mild for much of the week and so I have dug up the last of the leeks, and cleared out many of the Jerusalem artichokes from one of the two beds we have of them, as they were getting a bit overcrowded. I covered the bed with straw and layered straw onto the other bed that I will dig up in spring - they will be some of the first fresh vegetables of the new season that way. I have used some old tyres to make a clamp in the greenhouse to put the ones I dug up in, along with some potatoes that had been grown late on in the greenhouse. They have been surrounded by soil and topped off with a thick layer of straw to stop them freezing - well hopefully. It won't matter too much as they are mainly for the chickens anyway. I found some carrots that hadn't been dug up in the garden, I think they had been too small when I dug up the rest and then forgot about them. Carrots dug up in winter are often sweeter and these certainly tasted wonderful. It has been nice to have some fresh veg and maybe next year we will leave some in the ground and mulch with a thick layer of hay to stop the ground freezing on top of them and see if that works for late winter veg.
Not the best place to get a drink, that pond is only just

Winter coat 
I have had a few days off from writing another paper. That has been so slow, but I think a few days rest will be helpful to get it processed to the next stage. Instead I have been sorting out seeds for next year's growing season, dealing with a batch of honey that was still on the comb, trying to make sure the washing got done and at least a stab at the backlog of cleaning. So nothing too exciting for the Christmas season, but definitely restful for my mind and I suppose that's a good thing and something money can't buy.
Our little kitten is not so little any more

Enjoying a new bale of hay. The feeders can be stuffed with
hay and they will still come and feed off the new bale
One of the jobs I forgot to mention last week was sweeping the chimney at our other apartment. That is usually one of those marker jobs of the year, although it is usually done earlier on in the year. Normally we would go up to the other apartment at weekends to heat it, watch a DVD and just chill. It is only worth doing this once the nights get long enough to watch a programme or film at night and so is an autumn and winter treat. This year the days have been relatively mild and so not much point in wasting wood heating the other apartment, which is one reason we haven't bothered to sweep the chimney until now, also we haven't had a huge amount of time - at least Ian hasn't. The forecast was for colder weather this next week and so we needed to get a move on and sort it out.

Not the most glamourous of poses. Hehehe. It does show
the alpacas very mobile lips though. They are able to move
the two sides of their upper lips, which enables them to
be very specific about what they eat. They can move an
undesirable plant out of the way to get to the one they want

A little hard to see, as Ian had to do a lot of cropping on this
photograph, but it looks like it could be a hazel grouse. I
was quite chuffed with myself as I thought it looked grouse
like and so it gave Ian a clue in which section of the bird book
to look at. 


  1. It sounds like you had a good Christmas and how lovely to get a surprise visitor too. I always love it when people just turn up at this time of year.

    1. It was a lovely Christmas Gina and I like surprise visitors too :)


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