…but does a polar bear have a tongue like a malamute’s?
Saturday, March 31, 2012
Saturday, March 24, 2012
As Spring warmth envelops the farm, we’re doing more frequent circuits of the boundary line, giving Munson plenty of sniffing room. We also take out our “dirty hoes” to clean up brambles and thistles before they completely take over some these fields and paths.
Near the back of the farm there’s a long low ditch connecting two ponds. The first (above and below) is ringed with grassy mounds spotted with the dried remains of last year’s thistles, and a new crop about to take off. While hacking those away we ended up clearing most of the bramble that was beginning to take a foot-hold. Last year’s drought saw the water disappear so far that larger thistles spread out into the centre.
While Munson was checking out the coypu holes along the edge, Gustav found a large frog or toad amongst a nebula of spawn clinging to the grassy banks.
Moving onto the ditch, there are lots of really big starfish-like thistles taking advantage of the moisture and occasional shade. It reminds me of navigating a small underwater trench while scuba-diving.
The fields up here have a lot of mole hills of crumbling clay and you usually see big curving ruts in the ground marking where the sangliers have had their boargies. These are quickly disappearing as vegetation and busy worms start to erase the tracks of past months of activity.
The next pond I call the Sargasso as it usually has a wild mat of grass through it. There are narrow sanglier trails along the banks, leading to the large entrances to their boardellos.
|On the return journey we follow a service road between farms. There’s a powerful sweet smell of cinnamon and mulled wine as if we were passing a Cinnabon store in holiday season. It’s coming from the fermenting silage in large plastic wrappers that have been sitting on the edge of this field for at least a year.|
Friday, March 23, 2012
"When you hear the words 'fast food', you automatically think of one thing: Casserole." At least that was true in 1970s Britain, as a Look Around You special report attests. Those unfamiliar with this educational series should immediately head for the pilot episode on Calcium.
Casserole French-style is not quite so high-tech nor so speedy. Today I’m attempting a Beef Bourguignon, following a recipe by Raymond Blanc, found in written form ici, and in video la:
Yesterday I prepared the meat, vegetables and bouquet garni for marination. In the picture here I’ve reduced a bottle of cab sav on the stove and it’s just cooling off now before I add it to the bowl, cover it and leave it in the fridge overnight.
The final steps today were not complicated: draining the marinade and patting down the meat on a towel; browning the meat; finishing the sauce; assembling everything on the stove-top before adding the lid and sending to very low oven for three hours; eating the rewards.
There was supposed to be a final step of reducing the sauce further after the oven, but I didn’t have enough liquid left to justify that. In hindsight I discovered I’d been following a 95%-identical recipe on Raymond’s site for braised beef. The main difference was that it omitted half a litre of stock/water. Since I only used half as much beef the meat:liquid ratio seemed to net out quite well with the beef being very tender and succulent.
When I was poking around the “bourguignon” (stewing beef) freezer of my supermarket’s meat section I noted that some of the packages were labelled “vache laitiere” (milk cows) and some “vache viande” (meat cows). I decided to opt for the “laitiere” since I hadn’t had good experience with the specialized beef breeds.
Munson has haunted the kitchen throughout the entire process, from “creuset to gravy” but has hung back respectfully until the pan was ready for a tongue-scouring. He seems to have laboured as long and hard over this dish as I have.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Friday, March 16, 2012
Gustav made the suggestion that we should take a walk around the lake at Lupiac. As one drives down the hill towards the lake, there lies a large farmhouse which has been for sale as long as I’ve been visiting here. I wondered why a place in such a spectacular location has gone unloved and unlived-in for so long, although perhaps the million+ euros needed to buy it may explain.
A few people are already sunning themselves on the sands of the swimming beach, and more still are fishing further along its banks.
Munson’s had his first non-pond dip of the season, which gives him excuse to tear around like a mad thing. It takes about forty minutes to amble around and enjoy the range of scenery, giving Munson many opportunities to sample the water.
There are no signs yet of the frog spawn in the water although the trees are full of bird, spider and insect creations that I can’t identify.
This post’s title is a reference to the old Australian song Oh! The Springtime it brings on the shearing. That song is also apt for this time of year as Munson blows the wool out of his undercoat in quantities that defy calculation. Today’s swim will loosen the wool further for another round of spontaneous de-fleecing.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
|I don’t recall mentions of Asgard having a garden from where the ingredients of mead were cultivated or other Viking delicacies bound for the tables of Valhalla, but I’m sure their garden forks had some spellbinding Scandinavian name. In modern times, it seems they’ve concentrated mainly on garden sheds. |
Thor’s hammer Mjölnir derives from the word for crushing or pulverising; otherwise a hammer in Scandiwegic tongues is still a hammer, or a hammaren. A fork is a gaffel which is just not poetic enough – we need it to be a tearer up of weeds. That might make it Riva or in Old Norse: Rífa.
|Less melodramatically, the first blossom on my terrace apricot tree appeared today. On closer inspection, it already seems to be wrapped in threads of gossamer malamute hair.|
Saturday, March 10, 2012
Thursday, March 08, 2012
Munson finally got to check out his new neighbours in the corral today, his reactions progressing from what’s going on over there?, through dawning realization, to oh hai! I c u haz new babeez.
Another calf was born this morning and is already tottering around the corral.
I don’t want Munson gallivanting over to say welcome the new girls while they’re getting used to their new environment and thus he won’t be running around the compound to play with Legend until they’ve been moved off to pasture. Instead we took him walking while I showed Vance around the back half of the farm. Legend followed along and the two had a good romp in one of the newly replenished dams.
Monday, March 05, 2012
It’s only taken 20 months, but at last we have an Australian visitor to chez nous. I’ve known Vance since I worked for him back in the early 90s and have become part of his and partner Même’s extended family at many gatherings. It was through him that I met Brent a few months later, and so this whole farm situation in France can be traced back to him in one way.
This is the fourth country that one of us has hosted the other at – Vance remarked how I’ve duplicated the atmosphere of my home back in Sydney in this new environment. Back in Sydney I didn’t have the space to use my chaise longue (it stood upright in a cupboard for years), so I didn’t learn how convenient it is for Munson to approach a vulnerable guest caught in this comfort trap. The last time Munson saw Vance at my home, he was getting pizza crusts slid under the table - a Malamute never forgets food.
Saturday, March 03, 2012
We started the day with a morning jaunt to Nogaro, about 40 minutes as a drunken crow flies. Since Ben hasn’t seen much of the area, I thought we’d try a town I hadn’t stopped in before on its market day. There was very little going on : it’s just not a productive time for the growers, but at least we saw a little of this thousand year-old town. I learnt from a reconstruction chart on the local eglise that it was originally Nugarolium, which means “the city of the walnut trees”.
Back home we resumed our relentlessly placid pace of life on the terrace. Ben had bought a few jars of confits and terrines laced with armagnac, with Munson extremely eager to clean out one of the finished ones.
Earlier in the week Ben had mentioned that his friend Nick van Bloss had recorded a version of Bach’s Goldberg Variations which had been very well received. It’s not a piece that I’ve had a good response to in the past but I liked what I heard in preview so bought a copy of the album as a digital download. I played it through the kitchen radio during post-dinner drinks so Ben thought he should call Nick to tell him that he’d made a sale. Nick’s very quick response to the news that he was now “big in south west France” was that he’d gone rural rather than gone viral.
The rest of the evening went into a bit of a blur of bottles of Bordeaux, Gustav introducing Ben to some American rock-bands and me bashing out half of Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell album on the piano. This is an equal-opportunity household for all manner of music. Maybe one future day Ben will accompany some rising vocal stars in a Jim Steinman song-cycle.