Monday, March 23, 2015


Clearing continues.  Uncovered the well, again.  We will need to get someone to inspect it at some point and install some kind of pump.  The tipped over stack has a 1902 date on it.  Don´t know how that all goes together.

Did some more clearing of saplings and suckers.  The majority are wild pear, I think, but some are different and I´d feel better knowing what they were before I cut them.  But they don´t belong in the veggie patch, either.  I´ll need to do some grubbing out of the bramble stems.  We need to get a burn permit for the large brush pile but the Xunta webpage won´t load.

There are several trees that appear dead, or are growing out of inconvenient places like walls, and several stumps that would be good to remove.  No idea how much of a battle that will be.  Does anyone know if young oaks can be transplanted?  I´ve been putting off cutting them down.

The general idea for the garden is raised beds, both to avoid compaction and because I like how neat they look.  But I keep going back and forth on getting someone in to plow initially or just get on with building the frames, digging the beds, filling, and planting, then putting something down on the paths.  Still need to source compost and manure.

The footing is treacherous inside the barn so we´ve made inquiries to see if we can hire someone to cut that part.  Then it will just be maintenance until we can afford to begin renovation.

Cleared a spot for next years firewood storage.  Building a proper shed is on the list, but stacking and covering will have to do this year.  We have a plague of box elder bugs in the house that I think came in with the wood.

We have blackbirds in the gutters.  They make a terrible racket, and sound like they´re eating the beams.  Unfortunately, we don´t have a ladder that will reach.  Must speak with the neighbors.

Next up are drainage and a patio area.  When it starts raining again we´ll be working inside on getting the kitchen floor finished.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Happy Pi day

Pi Day (3.14)

Apple Galette.

Used a recipe from Jacques Pepin.  And the crust is a definite keeper.  I was pleased that after maybe 5 years without makng a pie crust, it all came together so easily.

I did use something new to me - manteca de vaca.  Manteca would usually mean lard, but in this case it´s cold, clarified butter.

V has been suffering from a cough and cold, so I used some honey infused with ginger and lemon I´ve been giving him in tea to drizzle the apples.  Reineta apples are the go-to cookers here, but I have to say, I find they go mushy, though the tartness is pretty good.  I also overcooked it, but there´s time to get used to the quirks of the gas oven.

Tastes pretty good.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Bramble wrangling

I may have mentioned the luxuriant undergrowth rapidly overtaking what´s left of the barn.

These pics were from the one and only snowfall in January.  I got out there at the crack of dawn to record it for posterity figuring it might not happen again.

Now normally goats would probably be the solution to rampant brambles, but they eat the leaves and then the plants eventually die.  Not quite the fast response we´re looking for.  And we´re not set up for livestock, at all.

So I bought a sharpening stone, took up my trusty sickle and headed out for some bramble wrangling.

This is a spot I had my eye on for a chicken coop/compost area.  Already has low walls, good sun exposure.

But then the hacking revealed this:

Grapes!  They were scarmbling along the wall and climbing the walnut tree.  So I got them down (some 20 feet long) and untangled and now am considering my arbor options.  Does anyone know if grapes will root from where the canes/vines touch the ground?  There´s one good sized root at the barn end pictured, and then 2 spots further along the wall where it´s growing out of the ground.

And underneath it all was something in bloom!  I glimpsed this last year, but didn´t really investigate.  Turns out there´s a flowering bush, caught between an overzealous Elder (I think) and being crushed under a fallen chestnut beam.  I hoped it was some kind of fruit, quince or something, but when I asked the neighbors I was told it´s a flowering shrub, nothing edible.  Thoughts?

Other signs spring has sprung.  These yellow flowers I´m hoping are primroses and not creeping buttercup or other evil minion.

And the daffs I planted right after we bought the place.  Haven´t seen them since!

Friday, March 6, 2015

For blackberry, read Blackberry.

 Where is modern ¨culture¨ leading?

 From the extraordinary article by Robert McFarlane:
Under pressure, Oxford University Press revealed a list of the entries it no longer felt to be relevant to a modern-day childhood. The deletions included acorn, adder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, cygnet, dandelion, fern, hazel, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, mistletoe, nectar, newt, otter, pasture and willow. The words taking their places in the new edition included attachment, block-graph, blog, broadband, bullet-point, celebrity, chatroom, committee, cut-and-paste, MP3 player and voice-mail. As I had been entranced by the language preserved in the prose‑poem of the “Peat Glossary”, so I was dismayed by the language that had fallen (been pushed) from the dictionary. For blackberry, read Blackberry.

Just as the Inuit have multiple words to describe ¨snow¨, McFarlane has been collecting place words and unusual terms for natural phenomena.
Ammil is a Devon term for the thin film of ice that lacquers all leaves, twigs and grass blades when a freeze follows a partial thaw, and that in sunlight can cause a whole landscape to glitter.

Shetlandic has a word, pirr, meaning “a light breath of wind, such as will make a cat’s paw on the water”.  
. . .a caochan, for instance, is “a slender moor-stream obscured by vegetation such that it is virtually hidden from sight”, while a feadan is “a small stream running from a moorland loch”, and a fèith is “a fine vein-like watercourse running through peat, often dry in the summer”.

In response, Blogger Risa Stephanie Bair composed a beautiful poem, which I can only suppose according to Oxford, present/future children will have no need or ability to understand.

 A Path

Along the new trail, built by no one I knew,
acorns had fallen by thousands, more than enough
to leave creatures dazed by too much fortune.

Conkers have tumbled among them, each
experimentally chipped and then rejected
by some set of tiny teeth. Hazel nuts

were better, it seems. Should an adder pass en route
to denning, amid this rich mast, amid
this late fall of goldened leaves of ash

and beech, I might merely step aside,
unalarmed as any fattened squirrel.
Across the pasture, I remember, past

the partly shaded ferns, cowslips, bluebells,
buttercups of spring and summer, where
falling water, catkin-patterned, drowned out

the cygnet's cry in an otter's teeth (witnessed
by a kingfisher, two low-flying larks and a heron),
a willow had leaned to hide that tiny sorrow

and also shade a loafing spotted newt.
The hill behind, where bees sought nectar of a kind
from sunburnt heather, swept up to a copse of oak,

wrapped in a druid's dream of mistletoe and ivy.
There I had paused for dandelion wine.
Perhaps the trail will help some find this place.

My children, do not forget there is a world.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Lacon con Grelos

The traditional Galician fare during Carnaval/Entroido is pork.  Chorizos, ham, pancetta, heads, ears, cheeks, trotters, tails, accompanied by tender new beet greens, boiled potatoes, drizzled with olive oil and washed down with local wine, it is a time of celebration and feasting before lent.

Now that we have a functioning kitchen, with a gas stove and a sink and everything, I thought I´d try lacon con grelos (beet greens).  I bought a small lacon (the front leg sans trotter) for 2, greens and potatoes at the Sunday market, and after consulting the meat vendor and my go-to source for Galician traditional cuisine (one of V´s aunts in Coruña) de salted it in cold water for 24 hours, changing the water 4 times.

The lacon went on the boil, and 2 hours later the chorizos were added.  I pre-boiled the greens to remove some of the bitterness, and then added the peeled potatoes half an hour before serving and the greens for the last 10 minutes.

Results - the lacon was still on the salty side for our taste.  Next time I´ll de-salt for 48 hours.  The potates were a tad overdone, they really should have been bigger.  But the results were reasonably authentic for a first try.

I´ll be making bubble and squeak a la gallega today with the leftover potatoes, greens and chorizo for lunch.

Happy Carnavales everyone!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Move Phase 2

Progress. . .

Sunday, December 21, 2014