Sunday 30 November 2014

Crocodile parsnip

That's not a parsnip!

That's not a parsnip either!

Now that's a parsnip....
Nearly 1.5kg of parsnip, actually. The variety is "Guernsey", I've been sowing successfully from the same packet for three years, which is meant to be impossible (always use fresh seed for parsnips, "they say") and despite our extremely stony soil, few of them are forked. This is the same batch that appeared in a post of  April 2013. Despite their size, they are not woody, except where those side roots join in. Just sweet and delicious.

In France, panais tends to be somewhat looked down upon, as a humdrum dish for starving peasants, but lately they have come back into fashion. So far we have made an excellent sausage and bean hotpot covered with slices of parsnip, potato and carrot; a parsnip and pumpkin soup, with Sweet Dumpling and Gold Nugget squash; and a roasted vegetable accompaniment to a roast chicken (thanks Gaynor and Tim, it was meaty).

The big one remains, challenging and taunting us. We'll put him in a sand box in the barn to keep him moist and juicy until we're ready to eat him. There's another sowing for Christmas... and the chicken we called Marion Morrison is turning out to be John Wayne...

Friday 21 November 2014

Chooks - at last!

As a city girl born and bred, I didn't know the first thing about chickens, except that Old Dai Cox, my dad's farmer neighbour in Cowbridge in the twenties and thirties, kept Sussex hens, and logically referred to a singleton as a Sussec. Dad, from whom I inherited my love of words, thought this was great fun. Gradually a desire grew in me, to have a Sussec too. Which is why we are now proprietors of a trio of cross-bred Orpingtons.
The henhouse is a little palace, supplied by HRH Hill Ltd of Hounslow who wholesale chicken houses, and Amazon France, who retail poulaillers.

"The Monmouth", or possibly "The Devonshire" with Tim at the wheel
Of course, there had to be modifications to it - a solid base with wheels at one end and handles at the other, so that the whole thing could be moved from one place to another. Various reinforcements, particularly the replacement of most of the hinges with more solid ones, and the addition of catches at the front of the roof to stop it lifting in high wind. The stencil "hut 17" on the side is to come.

Releasing the wheels

Des. res. - the roosting area, with hay for home comfort.

The roof lifts off too. The metal handle is to close the internal door and shut them in.

Roger brought the hens over today and we settled them in the new house. He has six to part with and these were the easiest to catch on the day. While I went to get the camera they took themselves up the ramp into the roosting box where they couldn't be photographed. Problem: one, or possibly two, of them could be a cockerel. We don't want a cockerel, and no way do we want two. The neighbours have more than enough cockerels for us, thanks. The prime suspect is the biggest and boldest of the three. They didn't have names, but garden chickens should have names. I suggested the name "Shirley" for the possible male, after Shirley Crabtree, alias Big Daddy, a well known British wrestler. The others had to have a female-name-that-is-actually-male too. Welcome Alice (Cooper) and Marion (Morrison, aka John Wayne). We shall see.

Get off your horse and drink your milk!