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January, 2010:

The last throes of winter.

Last night’s full moon was magical, it finally broke through clear after a few hours and everywhere was bathed in the brightest moonlight I’d seen in ages.  A quick peek out onto the terrace at 4:30 this morning and long shadows were being cast across the garden. Impressive.

Blue Moon 2

Up at 8am to a huge surprise as I find everywhere was 6cm deep in snow and it was still falling strongly! At last, a slice of wintry looking weather!

snow on the pine tree

Snowy branch

So, by the time we were fully fuelled up with coffee and marmalade toast it was off out to play in the snow.

Three sheep under an oak tree

Snowy Oak, home of the little owl

Goldfinch

Not a new bird exactly… but the very first time I’ve had a chance to snap one up close. A pair were happily feeding up and down the driveway for a good five minutes and I managed to take some pretty close up snaps of them doing their thing.

Goldfinch II

Goldfinch shot through glass II

Is it Spring yet?

Having been ensconced all Winter infront of the fire and TV I was beginning to wonder if Spring would ever arrive.  Temperatures have risen over the past few days to above 0 degrees and even the bathroom is a tropical 7 degrees today.

After finishing my daily chores of cleaning out the chicken coops and checking on their well being, I wandered around the garden to see what jobs I would be doing in the (hopefully) near future when spring has sprung and the weather has warmed up a little more.

Plenty of weeding and chopping down/back of overgrown bushes etc., digging over of new beds for new crops, removing dead plants and basically a spring clean around the garden.  The mole hills across the lawn will need to be levelled and hopefully our little kitteh will receive some moleing lessons from the neighbour’s cat and we  won’t be troubled by these little black beasts much longer.  She is already an expert on catching mice and other small rodents.

Just before returning back to the comfort of the warm lounge – what is this? – Oh JOY – my heart skipped a beat – a wonderful sight which raised my spirits and made me rush in to get my resident professional photographer.

Signs of Spring on its way !!

First snowdrops of the year

Coming up for air

The brutal cold spell that held much of Northern Europe in its grip for much of December and early January managed to reach down to Bellebouche for a few days so we had an excuse to enter deep hibernation with our tried and trusted survival strategy. It’s customary on these occasions to stock the woodburner full of oak, set a pan of slow-simmering stew atop and then run through the entire 86 episodes of the Sopranos boxset. Those winter nights fly by.

Xmas came and went with plenty of superb goodies. Our geese served up the highlight meals of the festive period and were just superb. More of the same next year. An insanely huuuge cast iron wok was something of a struggle to buy from a particularly belligerent source: Gamm Vert. Purchasing trauma aside it has been a triumph in combination with our electromagical induction hob. The very first time in sixteen years I’ve been able to properly stir-fry. It’s all about the power.

Further culinary(ish) shenanagins will abound later in the year because I also bought a 10Kw, three ring propane burner at the same time. I can stir-fry for a whole army with that, use my half metre paella pan without a big log fire and…make it the throbbing heart of a pico-braserrie. All blog material for 2010.

A superb new years evening spent with friends was a real triumph and a great thrill for everyone to get a little dressed up. There’s not much call for that normally so it was great. First time I’ve worn a tie in over a year.

Instead of hibernating by the fire all day I had a day out walking up at the Lac du Cebron. It was minus 3 at the warmest part of the day and so dark and grey there was very little to see or do, but with a little perseverance I turned up some interesting finds.

A world with no discernable colour

A frozen lake in January

I trekked to the part where last October we’d seen an Osprey fishing and found his feeding site, four piles of big fish remains, bones and scales was pretty much all that was left. The area where he feeds is out of bounds for five months during the breeding season so it’s a rare chance to spot this.

Scales and bones are the remains of an Ospreys lunch

Remains of an Ospreys lunch

Back to our birds, our last two hybrid coq’s are gone and we waived an adieu to them just after Xmas. We’ve pure bred Brahmas raised in October and we’re hoping to sell on the males. One female is spoken for with a neighbour and the two fluffy legged ladies will enter the Bellebouche breeding program with a fresh injection of new blood. All of the immature ladies that we’d brought on last year are now giving us eggs… tiny cute little ones.

A superb xmas gift of a camera radio trigger shows huge promise as I was able to take some cool snaps of the garden birds here .  It brings with it some real inspiration for more wildlife photos this year.

Great Tit

Great tit feeding on Bellebouche Bacon

Talking of xmas gifts,  Joan bought me Heston Blumenthals Fat Duck Cookbook. Three Michelin stars and one of the doyens of the molecular gastronomy world his book is a stunning read. Guests this year can look forward to (!) Sardines on Toast sorbet and the like. Bring it on 2010!

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