Friday 16 December 2011

Breezin' through

flooded Aigronne river
Well "tempete Joachim" came storming in in the early hours of Thursday to Friday morning. In preparation we'd shut the shutters and anchored down things outside. We're on a ridge, and although to some extent sheltered by the neighbour's house from S/SW winds, it was very very blowy! That wasn't the worst of it, however. 

It was the accompanying rain. It came out of the black sky in huge bucketloads. The result this morning was over flowing ditches along the chemin, unexpected rivulets and extremely waterlogged ground everywhere; so saturated in fact that in places we have ponds!  The ground is clay on top of the calcaire and the water takes its time working through this claggy clay top layer. Ultimately it will all drain away of course, but in the meantime it makes for a very squelchy messy situation. If we're lucky we'll get a few days in which the ground can recover and all that water will drain away to fill the acquifers. The Aigronne river, normally a shallow little trout stream, has swollen out of all recognition and we have an impromtu lake in the valley below Charnizay.

collapsed gable
We had some large branches down, but the tarpaulins weren't blown off the woodpiles and no tiles came off the roof. The only casualty we found was the gable end of one of the ruined houses, which had collapsed. Happily it sits far enough back from the chemin that all the stone and rubble have strewn across the ground and it's nowhere near the roadway. The building sits on the parcel of land which belongs to a whole horde of heirs who can't decide what to do with it so it will continue to crumble into the woods.

A small hurrah! We are back on track with Christmas preparations. The last of the cards were sent off on Wednesday and parcels with small gifts for family and friends were handed in to Madame La Poste for dispatch on Monday.

Wednesdays and Saturdays are market days in Loches so the day before yesterday we went up to do some foodie shopping and get a Christmas tree. There's a good free range poulty farm at St Senoch [a village not far from us]. The farmer who runs it has a stand on the market selling all manner of fowl. We wanted to order a bird for Christmas and have been deliberating for some time as to what to go for: goose, duck or pintade [guinea fowl]. 

detail of rubble
We both are intruigued by goose but as the smallest one we could order was for 6 to 8 people we gave it a miss. We'd be eating it until kingdom come! Sadly monsieur was all out of duck, be it tame or semi-wild, so a pintade it will be. We had a detailed discussion as to how we planned to cook it and whether or not we wished for a ' pintade caponée' or 'normale'. A 'pintade caponée', at twice the price [€18.50 per kg] is a male bird which has been castrated and then milk fed to make its flesh even more delicate and soft. We went for a regular bird, not a milksop and will be picking it up at next Wednesday's market. 
Christmas Eve we'll have a seafood platter and be treating ourselves to oysters. Purists maintain one should eat them raw, and indeed we have done so; but, at the risk of being philistines we prefer having them cooked on the 1/2 shell.


ladybird said...

I'm glad to read that you didn't suffer any storm damage. We have been spared, because apparently the eye of the storm was located over Belgium. Right now it is snowing though - maar het blijft gelukkig niet liggen!
I'm impressed with your Christmas preparations. Everything sounds delicious! Martine

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Niall and Antoinette:
Gosh you sound to have been having some really awful weather. Thank goodness that you escaped without great damage. These violent storms can be really frightening and devastating in their effect.

You sound very organised with regard to your Christmas preparations and your festive menu sounds highly imaginative and impressive. We are sure that it will all taste delicious!!!

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Martine - I think we were very lucky. Bakken en bakken regen--echt een stortvloed!
We're trying to be organised :-) Once we finalise the menu we'll share the cooking details.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Jane & Lance - it was pretty hairy to say the least and the ferocity kept waking us up. Not nice. Think we had wind gusts up to 130km per hr. The worst was the rain. So much fell in such a short time that there's standing water and flooding. We were definitely very lucky!

The Broad said...

I understand the storm that brought those gales was predicted to hit the south of England and we up in the north and northwest were due the snow and sleet -- but the storm came in further south and France got the gales instead. In the end we got three minutes of snow flurries. You have been fortunate to escape any damage.

And even more fortunate to be having pintade -- one of my favorites when we are in France. I'm greatly looking forward to hearing more about your preparations!

Diane said...

Glad you are OK. I will try to get my storm pics up tomorrow, What a night!! Diane

the fly in the web said...

We are looking for them here...not in the butchers, but to buy live with a view to breeding.
There's a superb Robert Carrier recipe for pintade...a saute....and I would like to be able to make it again!

Tim said...

Glad to hear thet you are OK... when I went to get the paper yesterday [and photograph the flood plain!] I checked up on Alex and Nicole, but they were OK. We lost the central strip out of the stable door [always a bit weak anyway] so I will screw the two sections together this morning before going to la Celle-Gonad.

WV is 'sneserse'... has a Low Countries ring about it.

GaynorB said...

Glad to read that apart from a soaking the tempete came and went leaving you relatively unscathed.

I suspect we are OK too. Martin and Denise will,I'm sure, have carried out their usual inspections.

Preparations for Christmas seem to be in hand - I only wish that I could say the same ...

Isn't 18.50 euros per Kg expensive? I've never bought a pintade in France so have nothing to compare it to.

Last year we were invited to Christmas dinner with my daughter and her partner. I had a goose in the freezer so offered to cook it to supplement her three bird roast. When I enearthed it from the freezer we found that the goose was in fact a duck ...

I'm looking forward to reading more!

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Broad - it's been a while since we had pintade. Current planning is to roast wrapped in bacon & serve it a la normande [cider, apple, cream mushroom & calvados sauce]. But I'm still looking at recipes :-)

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Fly - I have various Robert Carrier recipes most of which I've used successfully.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Tim - sounds as if you got off lightly as well. Flood/water meadows of the Aigronne are pretty spectacular.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Diane - saw you post with pics. Our little trout stream the Aigronne looks very similar!

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Gaynor - for regular pintade [organic feed, free range] he charges €9.50 a kg. The caponée is €18.50 a kg.

One year we'll do goose even if it lasts us for days and days :-)

I'm sure Martin & Denise would have been in touch is there was anything.

LindyLouMac said...

We had the dreadful stormy weather as well, what a windy night it was, thankfully calmed down this morning, turned colder and tried to snow!
Have a wonderful Christmas.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@LindyLou - cold here today with blue skies. But temps are due to rise again so no snow on the horizon.
And a wonderful Christmas to you too.

Perpetua said...

Sorry to see that you were caught by the storm, Niall and Antoinette, but glad it wasn't worse. We have friends living a bit south of you and others in Brittany and their accounts have been pretty hair-raising too, especially the amount of rain.

Your Christmas menu sounds delicious and I look forward to hearing how your finally decide to cook your pintade. Ours will be much more traditional, as we will be with DD and her two young sons expect Christmas to mean turkey. :-)

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Perpetua - the amount of water was pretty scary. According to friends it could well have been as near as 25cm as makes no differentce. Our impromtu ponds have now subsided.

As with goose a turkey's just too much for us so we go 'off piste' each year. Think I did wild boar last year.