A record of our adventures between Pipit and her successor...
I'd like to say the photo above is of dawn on New Year's Day, but it was actually taken in early December when we'd had a few days of very stunning sunrises. We also regularly see mini murmurations of rooks and jackdaws which seem to come up from Trevince Wood, often filling the sky, and periodically roosting in the trees below and opposite the house. I'm not sure if rooks and jackdaws actually murmurate, but we've heard subsequently on a couple of Radio 4 programmes that this behaviour of these corvids is a known spectacle and there are a few places in the UK, such as Buckenham Marshes in Norfolk, where people go to see them. How lucky we are that we can watch the show from our lounge windows.
A regular morning show of rooks and jackdaws
We published an update at the end of last year which was something of a reflection on our last decade, so this one is more of an update on what we've been up to since our previous update of 23rd November.
Our first Christmas in our new home was absolutely perfect. Christmas Eve was spent listening to Carols from King's as we prepared some of our Christmas Day lunch and made a fish pie for Christmas Eve supper - fish pie with soufflé crouton topping (Mary Berry recipe) which we've made several times before, delicious and highly recommended!
We feasted on roast goose with all the usual trimmings on Christmas Day, all absolutely delicious and prepared at leisure in our dream kitchen. Having plenty of space meant less of our usual shuffling and having to do things in stages, so I think it was the earliest we've ever eaten Christmas lunch. Although we didn't finish before the Queen's Speech, a pause between the first and main course allowed us to hear about the 'bumpy' year.
The proper use of an asparagus steamer - mulling wine!
Christmas Day starter: crayfish, endive and avocado cocktail with crème fraîche and horseradish dressing
Our traditional Boxing Day lunch of gammon, this one simmered in ginger beer then glazed with ginger in syrup and orange, was also delicious.
That brings me onto another subject and, although I'm not normally one for 'plugging' products, I do like to give credit where it's due. If you aren't interested in cooking or cookware, you can glaze over (pun intended) this paragraph. We've recently bought, after being impressed with our earlier purchase of a small frying pan, some Neverstick roasting dishes, a wok and a lidded casserole. I've had dozens of non-stick pans, roasting dishes and other baking trays over many years and depending on what had been cooked in them, they tended not to be completely non-stick after a while and occasionally required soaking and scrubbing. They all eventually completely lost their non-stick ability. So I was at first a bit sceptical about these new wonder pans but so far, even better than so good. The bits of glaze from the aforementioned gammon which burnt onto the bottom of the roasting dish literally just wiped clean with a bit of kitchen towel, followed by a quick wash with hot soapy water.
We had time to relax and thoroughly enjoyed our festive break, listening to music, watching television, and lazing in front of the log burner. That was interspersed with a bit of work in the garden including levelling the ground beneath and around the last of the four raised vegetable beds, having done the others in previous weeks. The next stage will be to get the soil brought in, all of which will need to be wheelbarrowed up to the beds, as will the gravel for between them. More hard work but perhaps that will begin to help us work off the additional seasonal calories!
Not content with one new house we now have another... It's not for us this time though, but for our hedgehogs. A Christmas gift from Ian and Gill, it should make a snug winter home for our little hoggies next year as they've already gone into hibernation for this year, hopefully not too far away.
We relaxed and enjoyed a lovely meal at home on New Year's Eve, listened to some music and watched from our windows the fireworks in Cornwall and the London fireworks on television.
Exercise on New Year's Day, instead of our usual walk, was digging the wildlife pond in the garden. The following weekend we did more digging, shaping and setting of levels so we're ready to get the next phase under way - removing all the small rocks, putting in sand, underlay and then a liner. We've made a list of plants, including oxygenators, floating and emergent plants to make the best habitat for wildlife and keep the pond healthy. We've already had the offer of some plants which are on the list - thanks Penny!
The advice we've read everywhere says to use rainwater instead of tap water to fill the pond to avoid algal growth, so last weekend we installed water butts. We've linked two 227 litre ones to the downpipe which runs from the roof guttering at the rear of the house and following just a day of drizzle and night of showers, both almost completely filled. All we need now is a pump to get the contents up to the pond... We have a third butt which we'll probably feed from the guttering on the greenhouse but that's a project for another day.
Another Christmas gift from Ian and Gill was a pot of planted narcissi bulbs, aptly named 'Pipit'. We're pleased to say that 'Pipits' are already popping up! The row of crocuses we planted on the slope leading up to the garden, visible from our bedroom window, are also just peeking out and the daffodils and aliums (or alliums if you prefer) we planted on the bank beside the wildlife pond are already well up, so despite our garden currently having only those and the bee-friendly shrubs we planted during last summer, we should have at least some colour in the garden soon.
As there are quite a few trees, including several conifers, nearby we've always been a bit surprised not to have seen squirrels, particularly given the temptation of peanuts in our bird feeders. We had a domed squirrel guard to prevent them climbing up the feeder but that was smashed recently when the bird feeder blew over in a storm. It looks like we're going to need a replacement now as we've had the first nut raid attempt:
Effective dome in Minchinhampton
The raider doing reconnaissance
Cheeky Tufty easily climbing the bird feeder pole, so another plastic dome needed
Not game enough to climb down the wire on this one - if attempted, the stainless steel sleeve slips over the nuts
We don't tend to make 'New Year's Resolutions' but do set what we think are realistic goals for ourselves. As well as looking forward to continuing the work on the garden, which must be good for both our physical and mental health, concentrating first on the wildlife pond and the veg beds, we're experimenting with various non-alcoholic drinks - really!
One of the accessories we bought with our Neff appliances was a griddle which sits across two 'zones' joined together on the induction hob. It works fantastically well and we've had some spectacularly tasty griddled mackerel, bass, salmon and various vegetables including broccoli (yes, really), as well as steaks.
OK, not as healthy as oily fish, but a delicious Friday night treat
Griddled Cornish scallops, served on pea puree with crispy chorizo and sautéed potatoes