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Friday, 18 October 2013

You live and learn......

The last five months have been a huge learning curve, with things here being done so much differently than we are used to. Today was one of the days when I look back at the last few weeks of worrying (about the walnut harvest) and finding out I have wasted my time! I worried and read up about how to tell if the walnuts were ready. Worried about all the black and wormy ones, thinking we had a real problem with them. Worried that throwing a stick to make them drop was a dangerous thing to do for the odd bowlful of useable nuts. After last night I am now worrying about what I am going to do with all the flipping walnuts that have dropped when I thought the few kilos I have in the freezer are enough! We have eaten them all ways now. When we first started to pick them and they were soft and low in tannin they were extremely moreish raw. We have had them candied and spiceed as snacks. In cake and bread, baklava and pasta. With cheese, given some to hens (the browner ones and those with residents) and trodden on them to crush them for wildlife. There are still plenty for them over winter, and I have a feeling the buckets I have picked up the last couple of days will be shelled for the birds in winter. Next year I will be patient and wait for them to drop on their own!

I hope we do get some birds in winter! At the moment all we see are a few tree sparrows and the odd flock of starlings flying over, the woodpecker, occasional jay and magpie. I have to admit I miss my favourite song birds. The blackbird and robin take some beating, but we don't seem to have them here.

The leaves are falling now. It is a beautiful mild day today but breezy. Dave has put his pool away and is missing it. Most people have had their plots ploughed but we are behind. We thought Angel would be doing it but he and Peppa are still in Italy picking grapes. Their son is being looked after by Venka in VT so we have seen nothing much of her to ask, just see her rushing up and down at the weekends. We need to get onions and garlic in before the end of next month.

We have acquired some chain link fencing so Dave is busy erecting that so that the village dogs cannot get in through the neighbour's garden. He has brought it in a few feet from the old broken down wall as a good thicket of rhus grows there in summer giving us plenty of privacy then. All that needs doing is the broken down wall between us and Venka and Jordan, to stop their dogs coming in and our's going out. I have to say I am quite impressed with our two. Bella has had a little foray into the thicket as Dave is doing the fence, but apart from that they are very good and just hang out while we are out in the garden.
We also have two proper compost heaps going. One should be ready early spring and the other will go into the bean trenches a bit later. They have shrunk down well and are covered with pool covers which have a good amount of holes to let some rain in, but also keep the heat in but let air circulate.

We are having a visitor over the weekend. He is coming over the mountains to pick up a painting of his dog Dave hasdone for his wife's Christmas present. While he is here he can collect the rhubarb I have grown for him, but the blue Shumen cockerel chick will probably stay here for the winter till he sorts out his flock. His young ones are growing on for the freezer. Our lad will be going to inject fresh blood into the flock.

The big chicks are still having to use their bolt hole. Although they get the odd peck from the girls, Sevi sometimes has a real go, then at others just leaves them alone. There tends to be a bit of a panic when one gets caught out and can't find the hole, but so far no harm done. Cagney, on the other hand, looks a bit plucked around the neck, but still not sure if that is abuse or just a partial moult though new feathers are coming through. Lacey might be going the same way. There are a lot of feathers in the hen house, the majority of them black as the Shumen hens will be moulting properly being older, but also a lot of red ones.

One of the mini cockerel chicks has decided he likes to roost with the big ones at night. He is only three weeks old here and looks tiny behind the others. There are lots of natural and timber roosting places, but they have all decided here is best. Poor Solo usually ends up falling off on the wrong side and will wait to be picked up and placed with the others.

Dave has just been called over by the neighbour behind us. She has given him a load more quince and some windfall pears. The pears are very hard and green still but go a lovely yellowy blush colour when ripe. Unfortunately they don't taste great, I will probably bottle some and freeze some.

Looks as if the preserving is not over yet!
Recipe for low fat cake. Good with butter on I should imagine, but luckily I can't get decent butter so do without!

Cheese and walnut bread.

500g strong flour, I use half white, half wholegrain.

7g sachet instant yeast

heaped teaspoon salt

325ml tepid water

75g coarse grated strong cheese

100g roughly chopped walnuts

Mix everything except cheese and walnuts together and knead well for 5-10 minutes till smoothe and elastic (or 5 minutes in a mixer with dough hook)

Leave to rise, covered, till doubled in size. It can take a while in a cool room. Knock back and add cheese and walnuts, knead in and split loaf into two cobs. Leave till almost doubled again. Bake at 180 for about twenty minutes.

Eat! Yum. If you like you can add a little honey at the beginning.



  1. I'm finding your blog fascinating as we made a move to Portugal earlier this year for very similar reasons to you. We hope to move into our new house next week and our first harvest (apart from a few handfuls of figs eaten off the tree) has been walnuts. Because the place has been a building site, we haven't been able to harvest everything, but we're looking forward to make the most of next year's harvest. Your cheese and walnut bread sounds delicious!

    1. Thank you, and thank you for commenting.
      It's exciting isn't it? We were lucky that we didn't have to have too much building work done as we have been so busy with the fruit and nut trees and all the summer veg planted for us by our neighbours! You will be doing the same net year no doubt.
      We don't know Portugal well. We had a holiday there a few years ago, up near Castelo Branco. A beautiful area, very remote rural where we were, and stunning wildlife, but very brown in September when we went.
      Do you have a blog? Or is your memory good?
      Good luck with your new life.

    2. Found your blog. Will have a read when I've finished messing with quinces.