If you have missed me a bit on social media this week, I apologise. As you can imagine, it has been busy, but more than that, I have been trying to maintain focus on the important things and not get distracted by all of the beautiful images of other people’s families in my various feeds. This is such a special time of year, and this year, more than most, I want to make the most of time spent with my family.
We have been watching the news with great interest: one eye on the events surrounding Brexit negotiations and the other keenly watching for updates about the next lockdown, infection rates and the rollout of Covid vaccines. At this stage, it really came as no surprise that we were plunged back into Level Five restrictions as the numbers of positive tests are rising daily and have overtaken the highest levels we had seen so far in October. New strains of the virus are being found and I for one am as happy as a lark to stay put at home.
Early on in the week I delivered boxes of sweets to many of the local businesses we rely on, including the grain yard, our waste disposal crew (‘The Binmen’), the vet’s office and our local courier ‘Andrew’ who I am now on first name terms with. I like to mark this time of year with this tiny token just to say ‘thank you’ for the year past. A small gesture, but it is the thought that counts and I know from experience that it is appreciated.
As I mentioned at the end of last week, my brother made it back to Ireland from Amsterdam: I was so worried that he would be unable to travel and would end up having to spend Christmas alone and away from home and family. Instead, we have really been enjoying having him around, helping out and playing computer games and enjoying the occasional pint of the black stuff!
Having introduced Conor to my sauerkraut, which we have been enjoying, he introduced us to kimchi. I had never made it before, but he had, so we blundered our way along and with the assistance of an online recipe, made our first batch in the Misty Green Living kitchen. We have been enjoying tasting the change and growth of the flavour profile as the fermentation develops.
Earlier on in the week, I made a batch of soup which served us as lunch for a couple of days. Since Stephen has been home, he has been taking charge of the sheep and allowing me to spend more time at home, bustling about the house and making preparations for Friday’s dinner. Extra time in the kitchen meant I resurrected my soda bread recipe which I have not made in some time. I made white soda bread loaves a couple of times and baked a killer batch of white chocolate blondies – such a treat with my afternoon cup of tea.
My mother arrived down on Tuesday too. She brought with her a carload of gifts and all manner of treats: a homemade pudding and mince pies, a chocolate cake, bottles of wine, crunchy bread from a beautiful delicatessen near her and countless other treats that are no doubt working their way on to my hips as we speak. Like my brother, she is happily bustling about and making herself at home, just as it should be, and the help is much appreciated!
My other half Stephen finished off work for the break at the end of last week, so he has been pottering about the farm and doing lots of chores there. With all of the sheep now housed, keeping up with the feeding is more involved, but we have a good system in place, so that when we feed silage, it is being put into the feeders with the aid of the tractor and not by hand. There is no doubt that he is keeping himself busy! Along with generally tidying up, he has replaced some of the damaged downpipes from our sheds – this helps all the run off rain water to go where it is supposed to be going –a job that has been on the to-do list pretty urgently since it started to get so wet the last couple of months.
On Christmas Eve, the expectant mum sheep were given their ultrasounds to see how many lambs we can expect in the spring. We got good results, except that fourteen of the mums have been scanned as having quads (four lambs), which is a lot, and on top of that, we have a huge crop of triplets expected too. All those extra babies will need to be fostered or bottle fed when the time comes.
Lots of preparations were abound for Christmas, even at the last minute. Gift wrapping, continuing to turn the spiced beef daily before cooking it on Christmas Eve, taking our home grown chicken out of the freezer so it would be ready for the oven. I immersed myself in the tasks and really enjoyed them, delighting especially in being able to dedicate the time to each, even the less glamourous task of bringing in two stalks of Brussel’s sprouts from the garden and preparing them for cooking. Let me just say this: they were organically grown and the local slugs and insects had taken a bit of interest in them so there was a bit of peeling, paring, primping and preening necessary to make sure we did not get any extra, unsolicited protein.
On Friday, the first major concern of the day was whether Santa Claus had visited and had brought gifts to our ten-year-old. Much to Luke’s delight, he had. There was an abundance of books, toys and gifts, including the new and much sought-after X-Box. A light breakfast was followed by feeding of animals and opening of gifts. It struck me how much I enjoy giving those specially selected gifts, but more than that, how surprised I am to be on the receiving end too, so focused am I on the giving aspect!
The Annual Festive Feast went off without a hitch and overall was a very relaxed affair. We ate early: roasted chicken with ‘Nan’s Gravy’, glazed ham, home-grown potatoes and sprouts, stuffing, cauliflower mornay. Our plates were laden down with simple but wonderful, wholesome food. Nothing was complicated but it was exceptionally delicious and we were all thankful for the food in front of us and the family surrounding us.
In the aftermath, yesterday and today, we have been taking it easy: watching movies, playing video games, browsing long-awaited books that were received as gifts. I’m being shown how to use my new Japanese Water Stone for sharpening knives. My pantry is proving fit for purpose. The weather is fine and dry (despite Storm Bella last night) and it is a pleasure to be outside and enjoying the cold, crisp, winter air. Housed, the animals are happy. The dogs are enjoying lots of attention. The alpacas are grazing contentedly in the paddock behind our house.
I am revelling in being surrounded by the people I love most on this green earth.