Now for some notes from rural life. Whenever I look at our woods, now that the leaves have gone, I can see that the ivy has been busy. I simply have not had the time to go out and cut it - one of the more pleasant jobs on a cold, bright day in winter - and I worry about some of the trees becoming top heavy and coming down in a high wind. Mind you, there was remarkably little damage done in the gales last week even though the wind was so loud on our hillside that we couldn't sleep.
I've never been a cat person but I'm being slowly converted by Tonks whom we acquired during the year. Tonks is a rather elegant tabby whose natural feline reticence doesn't prevent her from being sociable. This is the only cat I know who will come and welcome you home. But the great thing about Tonks is the impact she has had on the local rodent population.
When she was younger she used to prey on the blameless local vole population (and she still gets the odd bird, which is a shame) but she has now moved on to rats and an occasional rabbit. Such has been her success that this is the first winter in which telltale burrows have failed to appear in the polytunnel (I hate the idea of rats anywhere but they seem even creepier in a place where you're growing food). There are disadvantages, of course. Leaving the house the other morning for Dublin in the dark, I skidded on some unidentified entrails.
The wood-burning stoves, of which we have two Morsos, are more than justifying their existence at the moment. We have enough well-seasoned wood to keep them very hot and it's so gratifying to know that we are getting the benefit of most of the heat output. Open fires look and smell delightful, but what a waste of energy! However, I've just discovered a small leak the barn in which we store the logs which means that they will have to be moved over the weekend. Either than or I'll have to find a way of fixing a leak in a rusty corrugated roof.
The Jerusalem artichokes are good and plump now and, along with beetroot, are keeping us fed at the moment. The sprouts, which had a tough season thanks to cabbage root fly, look like they will deliver for Christmas. Speaking of which, I see that Rowley Leigh is offering well-done sprouts at Le Cafe Anglais in London. Doubtless this is a personal thing and perhaps well-done sprouts taste even sproutier, but I don't fancy them myself.
Please forgive the ramble on this occasion. I seem to be fighting a bug of some sort and have to be on the road at the crack of dawn in order to talk about cookbooks on the Marian Finnucane programme tomorrow. I think I need a day or two in bed at this stage but it's always a pleasure to have a chinwag with Marian.