We have had fun this year with a new toy – egg incubator – and have successfully raised 3 batches of chickens (plus one duck). The first batch of chicken eggs turned out to be 4 cockerels and 2 hens. One black and one brown (baby blonde) hen, which we are keeping as layers. It’s a different story for the cockerels. One lucky fella escaped the chop and is now shacked up with some new girls over at our neighbour’s house.
Driving down our lane, I noticed that the hedges are full of beautiful bright red berries. After talking to friends, these berries can be made in to a delicious syrup which can be then made into a soft drink, poured over ice-cream, pancakes or even made into a wonderful wintery cocktail …
Despite a lifetime’s happy snapping I’ve never really had the opportunity to invest some proper learning in taking better pictures. Until this year when I’ve worked to try and improve my pictures and take better photos. I’m pleased with progress so far but would really like to connect with other photographers and pick up a bit of knowledge. So, imagine my excitement when only about a fortnight ago did I see a poster for a ‘semaine de l’image‘ – a week long exhibition in town by the local Parthenay camera club. What wait, who….we’ve been here knocking on five years and I had no idea there even was a camera club. Could be new or could just be that they like to keep low profile and they’re breaking cover with a public event. So, with great anticipation I went along to see their wares.
Or, preparations for Christmas and New Year libations.
Two beers bottled up this afternoon. #1 A Belgian pale ale. I’d given this one three weeks on it’s lees after the primary fermentation – aiming for some of the yeasty character you get in Duvel. Time will tell. It has a good colour and clarity right now.
Started out at OG 1070 and stopped somewhere in the region of an FG of 1018. Slightly perplexed by this as it tasted bone dry. I’m guessing that it’ll be close to 7.5% when it’s done. The yeast flavour was there – hope it gets going in the bottle. I’d primed at a whopping 10g/litre with dry malt extract and dextrose. I’m using small 250ml and 330ml heavyweight belgian bottles and crimped on caps for these so not too concerned about them blowing up (it’s winter too – which will help). First taste, Christmas Day.
First opportunity to use a new (to me) bottle drying tree. I thought I’d get clever and steam-sterilise the bottles as it’s a first try and that went quite well too. Hand filling and then capping 50+ bottles was a bit of a chore – very time consuming but then again… you’re not going to be drinking pints of this stuff so small Belgian bottles it has to be.
#2 My “Fod-n-Back MDH edition”. The MDH being Massively Dry Hopped. I put an insane quantity of 2yr aged hops into a 4.5 litre carbouy and left it for 12 weeks of secondary fermentation with added Brettanomyces yeast from bottles of Orval. It’d fully fermented out and has been still since the ambient temps dropped – time to put it to bed.
Here, the MDH is at left.
Primed at 6 g/l with a mixture of spray dryed malt extract and dextrose, I gave the priming solution a couple of pinches of yeast (a beer yeast and a high attenuation wine yeast) just to give it a little in-bottle sparkle when it conditions. I have to say – the flavour of the cheeky little sip I had was astonishing – massive bales of hop waftyness and aromatics and still a lot of the sour characteristics of the underlying beer. I’m very excited and hope this finishes out well.
Full marks to Brewers assistants PommePierre (supervisory role) and Joan (bottle capper).
Kitchen smells wonderful this evening
I make a start on mine and whip the top off one of the home grown whoppers this year. Mine is an 8Kg monster and when I knock the top out I’m surprised by just how much solid flesh is in it.
So, once the top was off I recovered the stringy guts and pumpkin seeds – that’ll all go for food for the hens, geese and neighbouring pigs. With an ice-cream scoop I set about paring down the walls of the pumpkin from the inside – I really had to reduce all that flesh down to seomthing a little more sensible that I could illuminate from the inside. I got a huge quantity of flesh off it – three large pans full. That’s all good as I started to whip up a pan of pumpkin curry at the same time – I don’t need much of an excuse for a curry and it’s a good job it’s popular at chez moi – In the end 11 litres of curry was knocked up and we have a freezer full of the remains that was blitzed down for a hearty winter warmer soup.
Now, carving time. Our year has been punctuated with cat shenanagins and moon comings and goings (January, October and More October) so I decided on a cat-and-moon theme for mine. First job is to freehand on the design. Got the fat belly not quite right – needed just a little fatter and my kitten head was wrong… that also needed to be fatter.
Then set-to with carving. Hacking out the design goes very quickly with a small serrated steak knife and I then embossed in the shadowy moon with a wood carving gouge. Joan followed on with her own design and we were all set for halloween.It looked promising, just had to wait for nightfall to put them out and light them up.
Nothing to do now except wait for it to get dark and prepare goodies for trick-or-treaters.
I was quite proud of my little sweets – wedges of apple drippping in luminous candy-apple-red blood toffee!
Also, in honour of the august meteors and keeping up with my space/halloween theme some full on meteor toffee apples were made.
And now, nightfall and time to get our spook on…
And that’s it. We ate a load of sweets as we had no little callers just the odd tractor that slowed down for a driveby… and had a pumpkin curry for supper. Loved our Jack-o-lanterns so much that we brought them indoors and lit them up on Sunday night as well!