I realized I've been holding on to a bunch of pictures I wanted to use for a general post about living aboard, so here goes, a bit of Odds and Sods as they call it over here--or Odds and Ends as we say in the States!
|The Admiral--before his morning tea and cookies!
|A thin rime of ice on the water
After the Admiral finally wakes up and we get underway, there is always something amazing to see.
Last week as we moved along there was a thin rime of ice on certain stretches of the canal as we made our way from Fenny Stratford to Old Lindslade to rendezvous with family. After mooring up we often stay
|Our amphibian stowaway!
All geared up to change the oil, Les popped the lid on the engine hold and discovered to his amusement, a stowaway! It was hunkered down in the compartment which catches drips from the stern gland (for non-boaters this is something that attaches to the prop shaft and comes inside the engine compartment.) Amazing isn't it, what hides in plain sight all around us!
One afternoon we moored up in time to watch a mated pair of swans chasing away their juvenile! As we watched the young bird tried to get back in the canal and swim back to his parents but they refused to allow it.
Specifically the Cobb (dad) who fluffed out his wings in a threatening display, hissing and carrying on. The Pen followed in his wake. Their poor offspring was obviously confused as to why he had been fed, loved, protected and sheltered by his folks only to be suddenly set upon and driven out.
The juvenile with his patchy brown feathers not quite replaced by the glowing white ones of adulthood, stood on the towpath, head down, trying to find something to eat as he walked along, attempting to ignore the Cobb and Pen swimming alongside hissing. Eventually his folks started to swim away so Les took some bread out and tore it up for the young bird. He ate with head tucked downward, cleaning his feathers occasionally.
Suddenly his mom and dad figured out there was food to be had and swam quickly up--the Cobb hoisted himself out of the water, stuck out his chest, flapped his wings and dropped his head over his chest in the most alarming display of power as he marched down the towpath hissing at his offspring and us. This display changed my mind completely about the beauty of swans.
|Cobb and Pen with wings up and out
|The juvenile attempts to eat before his parents come and take it all. Note their aggressive wing posture.
|Here they come and Junior cowers near the hedge as his meal is eaten by dad.
|Sorry it's blurry. The Cobb marching down the towpath hell bent for leather, intimidating his frightened offspring!
|A close up of the juvenile with his brown feathers.
We eventually settled in again for a few days below Slapton locks. It was just us and one other boat--and quite serene until a horn broke the morning quiet. A hunt was taking place across the field from where we were moored.
We saw folks attired in the traditional black coats, as well as Gold coats which I assume are the colors of that particular Hunt club. The scarlet coats are now generally worn by the Master of the Hunt, the Master of the Dogs, or other Masters who have earned the appropriate number of buttons (usually 5) illustrating they have helped set up and run many hunts.
Since it is outlawed to actually hunt foxes in England (thank the Goddess), they are usually after a scent trail laid down by a member of the hunt prior to its beginning.
The next morning we woke to sun! After a week of overcast weather with colder temperatures threatening to descend on us, it was a joy to see the sun...but wait, it's raining! It is sunny as all get out and it is raining! Ah well let's enjoy the rainbow shall we? Soon enough the storm clouds gather in and old Sol disappears as precipitation pours from the darkened sky! All in an hour's time. Time to stretch out in front of the fire with a good book.
|A hard rain falls at Slapton lock
I heard Keith interviewed on Weekend Edition for NPR (National Public Radio) and I thought he was actually quite thoughtful and interesting. His book was on my list and I finally had it in hand for £1.50! I can say he did not disappoint as a writer. Richards' recall of everything--his early life growing up in Dartford, his grandfather's nurturing of his love of music, meeting Mick, starting the band and all the long road between then and now was faithfully portrayed in a very
I came late to an appreciation of The Rolling Stones' music. I only really discovered them about five years ago! I made a 2 disc set of their music from the very early days to the present and brought it with me from Cloudhouse.
Another morning dawned overcast but warm--in the high forties Fahrenheit. I took a walk up to the next lock, helping two women out on a day boat through the locks. It was really encouraging to see signs of spring all around.
Sweet green budlets are plumping up along winter weary stems; Lenten roses droop to the sodden ground, and the last rose hips of winter hang withered on the stalk. I looked for signs that Comfrey was up. Nettles of course are always there!
Imagine my surprise and delight at finding this sign posted above a sweet patch of herb garden behind the bench at Slapton lock. What a thoughtful thing to do.
I picked several sprigs of fresh, green rosemary to add to our favorite Potato dish and returned to NB Valerie and my best beloved Les, feeling refreshed and ready to dive into making dinner. We had a lovely Chicken Tarragon Pot Pie and the recipe is included at the end of this post for folks to try. This recipe came out of the Daily Mail Weekend and I tweaked it for my own tastes.
The admiral spent the day splitting wood we scored from a downed tree while coming up Seabrook locks. Our wood box is full and the rest is stacked neatly under a tarp.
In my rooftop garden box fresh green shoots of chives are reaching upwards; parsley grows beside them with a pale yellow green fringe of new leaves, and my large pot of mint has developed runners over the winter which now have tiny green flags sprouting from each stem!
Back inside we are warm, dry, cozy, and listening to the Stones as I write and Les reads in front of the fire. We do live the good life and I am so thankful to have my favorite Valentine with which to share it!
Chicken Tarragon Pot Pie
Pre-heat oven to gas mark 7/425 degrees F.
2 T. olive oil
200 gr/7 oz. diced bacon or lardons
8 shallots peeled and cut in quarters
4 large garlic cloves, crushed and diced
2 T. fresh Tarragon, diced
25 gr/1 oz. butter
1 1/2 tsp. Beau Monde seasoning
3 T. flour
3 T. corn flour (corn starch)
250 ML/9 fluid oz. of Marsala wine
600 ML/1 pint of chicken broth, heated
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
200 gr/7 oz. baby new potatoes, peeled and cut in half
300 gr/7 oz. of carrots, peeled and cut into chunky bite sizes
200 gr/7 oz. fresh mushroom, cleaned and sliced into chunky slices
125 gr/4.5 oz. fresh green beans, cleaned and cut in half
100 gr/3.5 oz. fresh petite pois peas (frozen are fine)
100 ML/3.5 fluid oz. double cream (I use evaporated canned milk which works fine. You could also try using Creme Fraiche)
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed, cold and ready to use
salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in a heavy bottomed dutch oven or deep sided saute pan. Gently cook the bacon until golden and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add shallots, crushed garlic, mushrooms, and butter to the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes on medium low until the shallot softens and the garlic gives up its perfume. Be careful not to overcook or use too high a flame, otherwise your garlic will turn bitter! The mushrooms should be lightly browned on the edges.
Stir in 3 Tablespoons of flour and turn up the heat to medium. Cook for a minute or two to remove the raw taste of the flour, stirring all along.
Slowly stir in the Marsala wine and heated chicken stock. Bring to a simmer as it thickens and add chicken, bacon, potatoes, carrots, and green beans. Cook for 20 minutes.
Stir in the cream or canned evaporated milk, and season with Beau Monde, salt and pepper to taste. If you want your gravy thicker now is the time to take 3 Tablespoons of corn flour and mix with a little cold water to form a paste. Stir this into your pan and let it simmer while you stir. Your gravy will thicken right up.
Why use flour previously and corn flour now? The flour used earlier in the recipe actually absorbs all the remaining bacon grease, olive oil, and butter and incorporates their flavor into the dish. I found corn flour (starch) used at this juncture gave my gravy the thickness I wanted.
Add the peas and fresh Tarragon and stir through gently. Pour your casserole ingredients into whatever heavy casserole dish will stand up to the high oven heat.
Top with a sheet of thawed puff pastry, cutting it to fit if you need to do so. Place in top rack of oven and set timer for 20 minutes. Turn pan when timer goes off and let it cook until your puff pastry is fully risen and crispy browned.
to serve, cut into the pastry top with a knife and remove a square to a place. Scoop out the contents underneath with a serving spoon and carefully place the cooked pastry on top. Serve!