Friday, December 02, 2016

I missed opening night

Here is the artsy organized neighbor's most recent "installation." Your guess is as good as mine. I wasn't invited to the opening, although I'm sure it was replete with the who's who of the local woodsy art crowd.

A stage set for some dystopian opera? A playground for leprechauns?

I get (as in "understand," not "receive") the firewood. In fact, it's the one thing that changes all the time what with wood being taken out for burning and new wood coming in for storage. But the rest? Stacks of discarded roof tiles, concrete blocks, old broken roadside bollards, steel barrels, rusty machinery, and piles of gravel and sand. All neatly organized and occasionally rearranged ever so slightly.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Callie channels Max

Have you ever seen "How the Grinch Stole Christmas?" It's a classic American holiday cartoon from 1966 based on a Dr. Seuss story. In it, the Grinch steals Christmas after disguising himself as Santa Claus and his dog, Max, as a reindeer. He does the latter by tying some antlers to the dog's head.

Callie with her antlers, er, grape vine.

So... the other day, Callie found a piece of a pruned grape trunk and decided to carry it home as she often does this time of year. This particular trunk was U-shaped. I couldn't stop laughing because Callie carried the stick so that the ends curled up above her head. She reminded me of Max from the cartoon.

The most famous reindeer of all? It's Callie!

Today is December 1 and it feels like it. We're having crisp, cold mornings with temperatures just below freezing. There is frost. The days right now are sunny and pleasant. It's unlikely that we'll see any snow this month; that's more of a January/February thing. But you never know...

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Chapeau !

When we hired the plumbing/heating contractor to work on the new shower stall, we included a few other items in the job. One was replacing a radiator with a towel warmer, another was to install a second outdoor spigot because the original one ended up inside the greenhouse. Also included was the installation of a cap on the chimney that comes up from the ventilation hood over the kitchen stove.

A chimney cap is called "un chapeau" (a hat) in French.

There are three chimneys on this, the south end of the house. One was for the central heating oil-fired boiler. That one is no longer in service with the new condensation boiler that vents through a new "hole" in the side of the house. The second is a twin to the stove hood chimney. I'm not sure why there are two in the kitchen; we think there may have been a coal burning heater in there next to the stove, but the second chimney is not in use. The third is the one connected to the current stove hood. Our wood-burning stove has its own capped chimney on the north end of the house.

We noticed last year, after a particularly hard rain event, that water seeped through the kitchen flue to the dry-wall where the stairs go up to the loft (close to the roof). We think that water got into the chimney, since they are open to the weather. So, the contractor sealed the two unused chimneys and added this cap to the third.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Magic mushrooms

These are not they. These are called coprin chevelu (coprinus comatus), known in English as "shaggy ink cap" and, while edible when they are young and totally white in color, they are not to be ingested if they show any pink or black at all. I never collect my own mushrooms, except from the market. Not having grown up learning about them, I would never trust myself to harvest wild mushrooms. As they say:  "All mushrooms are edible. Once."

I found these shaggy ink caps pushing up through the leaves near the artsy organized neighbor's piles of stuff.

This morning is our first dip below zero this season. The sky is clear and the stars are shining brightly, and the temperature is just below freezing. It won't stay there for long, but it's not expected to get much warmer, either. This will be our pattern through the week. The constellation Orion is in full view out the western windows in the hours before sunrise.

Monday, November 28, 2016

And through the woods

Well, we didn't go over the river first. But we did go through the woods. Callie enjoys the paths that wind around the clumps of trees. There is a lot to sniff in there. She normally leads the way and sometimes she'll get way out in front of me. But never too far.

Callie notices when I stop to take a picture and waits to be sure I follow along.

Patches of the woods around us get cleared periodically for firewood, but the trees quickly grow back. There are older trees around, especially on the steeper slopes, but many of France's forests are meticulously maintained. It's not unusual to see huge conifer forests where the trees are planted in long, regularly spaced lines.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

World's end

Saturday was foggy. It looked as though the world ended just beyond our back gate. Happily, it was all still there when Callie and I walked on through. While the fog was thick at ground level, it wasn't very deep (if deep is the right word). When I looked up at the sky, I saw blue.

Heading out for our Saturday morning walk. Callie takes a little detour to sniff something.

The fog stuck around into the afternoon, but then it cleared off and we had some sun before nightfall. Temperatures are cooling and we're expecting some light freezing in the next few mornings.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Pumpkin pie

This is the season for pumpkin pie. Given that we grew three good-sized pumpkins and nearly a dozen large sucrine squash (like butternut), we're looking for ways to use them. I made this pie for our Thanksgiving day with part of the rouge vif d'Etampes (Etampes bright red) pumpkin. We had one of those plants in the garden this year and it produced one pumpkin.

I forgot to take a photo after taking the pie out of the pan. Oh well!

I cut the pumpkin in half, scooped out the seeds, and roasted one of the halves in the oven. Ken's planning to use part of the other half for a tajine dish this weekend with leftover lamb. The recipe I use calls for two cups of the roasted pumpkin. I don't puree it, but rather mash it a little with a fork. I like little bits of pumpkin in the pie. Then I add some sugar, spices (cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger), eggs, and cream before pouring the mixture into the blind-baked pie shell. The resulting pie is rich and tastes of pumpkin. I usually reduce the amount of sugar and spices that the recipe calls for so that the taste of the pumpkin is not totally masked. We often just eat it as-is, but it's also good with a dollop of crème fraiche or whipped cream.