Above freezing point - at last

Finally we have a reading of a temperature above freezing. Just enough to start the thaw. And with it comes that gushing sound, vaguely familiar, then you suddenly remember what it is, yes the rushing of a water through a burst pipe.


Christmas celebrations

By dint of being snowed in this year Christmas has been wonderfully quiet and reclusive. The first day of serious snow we dashed into Ludlow for provisions to see us through the severe weather. The great advantage of the extreme cold is that my fridge space has increased exponentially - I now have a "lobby" fridge, 2m x 3m at 1 degree C, a "conservatory" fridge 2m x 4m at -5 degrees C, not to mention icy bathrooms and window ledges.
So having for the first time in my life planned ahead the larders were stocked good things.

We decided that this year as the temperature varies between minus 15 and minus 6 we would have a Christmas barbeque, but in the living room. I marinaded boned rolled shoulder of lamb and we heated the griddle in our woodburning stove to searing point, put on the meat, bunged it in the hot embers and shut the door. It was great fun, like being a boy scout. It was that free adventurous cooking that you could only contemplate as a child when "Mum was out". It felt just like that. The lamb was beautifully juicy, and tender. Pink in the middle and I made a yoghurt dip to go with it with toasted, infused spices, lots of fresh chilli and mint which is somehow holding out in my conservatory.

I can thoroughly recommend it and all the better for not being a traditional Christmas.

Actually we couldn't see this but what a stunning image

Different phases during the lunar eclipse that happened in December 2010. captured from Telus world of science observatory in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.Submitted by: Mohamed Ali


2010 going out with a bang not a whimper

Here we are again, approaching the end of the year, and doing a mental summing up of thoughts and experiences over the last 12 months.
As some of you know it has been an "interesting" year for the challenges here on Planet Walcot. I think 2010 can be called "Stress Year". And being swamped by these things has been a regular experience. Some very personal, taking care of my mum as she has developed memory difficulties in her 80s, which has been pretty traumatic for both of us. Then our English manufacturing has been through a major and painful upheaval, not to mention other hiccups, which at the time I thought were unsurmountable, they all happened together this year in spadefuls.
But then after all the sleepless nights and angst and that awful sick, sick feeling in the pit of your stomach that takes you over, its sometimes possible to reach an equalibrilum and learn from the most unexpected quarters. I can't go back and undo regrets - I've just got to move on and somehow progress beyond the bad things.
But best of all has been the amazing love and support of family and friends, allowing me to put the darkest moments to oneside.
There's more I want to write but I'll have to wait a bit. The next black cloud is looming, but now I know I'll get through it. More than anything I feel disappointment in people's personal weakness. How interesting they get off on being so mean and feeble. What a shame they revert to such weedly methods to boost their own small stature. I'm waiting for my "Baron Von Espie" moment - it will come.
Then as an antidote to their bitterness come some unexpected glimpses of something that lifts your spirits.


Afternoon treat

At the weekend I managed to walk through snow to village shop for provisions. Its a tiny place with an interesting mix of foods on offer. As you'd expect a good showing in the baked bean and Shipham's department, but also a very passable selection of wine, well chosen and not too pricey. I also came upon a bag of local walnuts from Mildred's garden down the road. They are smaller than the average Californian, but particularly sweet and nutty. Andrew has been working on a good shelling technique with a split log on the edge of the hearth. The knack is in the correct application of pressure - I have some way to go yet! Anyway my contribution was making some walnut bread as shown.
85g walnuts (in rough pieces)
250g Doves Farm wholemeal flour
150g white Plain flour not strong - otherwise it comes out too poofy and light.
3/4tsp salt
just a little less than 1/2tsp dried yeast
320g water
1 tsp sugar.
Put all above ingred.s in bread maker (adding the walnuts at pinging sound so they don't get smashed to smithereens).
Delicious with stilton, but my favourite is with unsalted butter and honey eaten in front of the fire.


How long will it stay?

We're pretty much snowed in now. Being on a northerly hill our weather has its own particular qualities. In the depths of winter, Planet Walcot resembles Narnia stuck in permafrost. Suddenly one's outlook and perceptions are altered to very simple needs. How to keep warm and making sure there's enough to eat, it appeals to how I view my world anyway.

Out for my run this morning about 7.30 it was still darkish, but I reckoned I could beat the next snowfall. It is magical at those moments, no one around, even, white layer all around and stark black trees. I must have disturbed a hare as it tore past me and disappeared into the surrounding woodland.