Tuesday 2 January 2007

Happy New Year

Of all the vegetables that I would have put at risk from the depredations of wild animals, leeks would have to be nearly at the bottom of the list. Therefore I had no fears for my tiny patch of winter alliums and I was looking forward to making plenty of warming soup during the holidays from our own garden. Ha, bloody ha. Deer eat Leeks.

When we arrived there were no leeks, just sad little stumps in a muddy patch of deer prints. A day later and it was less cheerful than that, chewed down to ground level. It’s enough to make you take up hunting. If we did, we’d be in good company with most of the local male population. I have yet to meet a lady hunter if the phrase isn’t ambiguous. They have been out in force over the festive break and we are woken by the sound of shots on all sides nearly every day, sometimes spotting camouflage clad figures with their dogs as they hike across our fields looking for their next prey. In fact, we’re not entirely sure what they do shoot at – we’ve seen no rabbits or small game since we’ve been here, may only have heard a fox once and there are still plenty of crows and pigeons about. They might be after deer but realistically they can’t take many overtly. Hunting in the forest proper is only allowed on certain days because of the risk of shooting mushroom pickers or doggers in the carparks. Still if they manage to catch any I'm sure they'll enjoy my leek flavoured venison.

Something they don’t seem to shoot are blackbirds. Blackbirds eat holly berries and were the cause of more anguish when I decided to make a holly wreath for xmas decoration. I’d had my eye on that holly bush since October but the blasted birds had beaten me to it
The weather has been everything we might have expected, cold and foggy for the first seven days with barely 10 minutes of sun breaking through on the first day, then gale force winds and torrential rain stripping tiles from the roofs and soaking anywhere it could gain ingress to the house, mainly under every door and through every window frame. With only the big woodburner in the main room to heat the entire house our minds were naturally concentrated on the big issue of preventing frostbite.

First of all we searched out a gas bottle fired heater which necessitated buying another gas bottle as well as the heater. The man at the garage must think we’re eating them. The design of heater is the scary catalytic type which lights with a big whuff of glowing gas across a gridded surface. Like fools we bought a thermostatically controlled model, entirely pointless since even with it at full blast the temperature has not yet reached a minimum value to operate a cut off. It’s good, but only for one room at a time and gas consumption is considerable, we’re looking at 25 euros for a couple of days use.


So while we were at M. Bricolage buying draught excluder we idly wandered past the display of fancy woodburners and there we saw it, a jewel of machine, a tiny stove styled like a garden incinerator and dignified with the subtitle “brule tout”. It was the Ardenne No. 3 and it now graces our kitchen, eating small logs and all the cardboard we can feed it while it produces 2 or 3 kilowatts of heat continuously from dawn to dusk. It cost just 90 euros and was reasonably quick to install into the old freestanding chimney that looms over the house in a rather scary manner. This chimney is clearly on its last legs, cracked and leaking which has been made worse by our current use of it. It will have to be rebuilt, but like so many other tasks around here that will wait.

Thanks are due to the kind people who sent our xmas cards directly to France. It was quite unexpected to find we had mail on xmas eve and very cheering. Thanks also to Candice who sent her piano over with Roy and Xtal. It will be great as soon as I learn how to play it.

And since this posting has gone on quite long enough I’ll stop there except to say if there’s any point at all in making New Year’s Resolutions the top slot for us this year is reserved for selling the Irish House. Yes, it’s still for sale and this is because we still haven’t placed it with any agents or told many people about it. This is a genuine bargain waiting to be snapped up. Mail me now for your slice of Irish good life.

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