Friday, 20 October 2017

Au Revoir to AB

AB rocking the mesh visor. 
Farewell then, Augustin (AB), our Help-X volunteer of the last 4 weeks, who I dropped to the railway station this morning for his journey onward to Dublin. It nearly didn't work; as is commonly the case, Castlerea station was all locked up and gone away, unmanned and the ticket machine out on the platform was crashed and inoperable.

Nailing the docks (Rumex)
He and 2 other passengers decided to get on the train anyway and throw money at the first railway official they saw. A text later told me that they had all arrived safely in Dublin and had not been arrested for 'hobo-ing'. AB had done a month in Belfast prior to his month here and is now planning a month in the capital and one in Galway before, apparently, heading for Sweden. Yes. Sweden. It's a French thing, he tells me. They all want to see Ireland and Sweden. Works for me.

The pig paddock has never been so clear
Regular readers will know we've had a great time with the lad and we have done LOADS of work, mainly around Autumn-tidying, clearing nettle patches and pulling out of them, big heaps of old prunings and tree branches (incl. the Christmas tree from 2016!). If this was me doing the volunteer side, my mission would be to leave every place in a far better state than when I arrived. If that is also theirs, then AB should be very proud of himself. We are transformed.

Heavy rain stops play on what was to be
our last task.
His last working day was going to be yesterday and we were going to strip away all the grass growing from cracks in the concrete on the back "terrace" and then mix some cement and fill the cracks. Well, lashing rain in advance of the next named storm (Brian) put a stop to that and we both took a day off after having got up at the crack of dawn to nip down and help a friend move some cattle. AB's last job was on Wednesday, then, when he had a good session at bashing docks with the brush-cutter. We'd translated the stinging nettles as "ortie" but could find no such common name for French docks, so we called them 'Rumex' which amused AB ("It sounds like it should be an insurance company!").

My current favourite evening snack. Goat's cheese and strips of
our bullace-plum "fruit-cheese". 
All good things must come to an end, though, and although we loved having AB, we are home birds, a bit set in our ways and enjoying of our own company, so we were both looking forward to un-shipping the 'help' and getting our house and our routines back. No offence, we hope, in either direction.

One of the cats supervises the wine racking.
(pic by Liz)
One amusing side-line to this is that although AB was the easiest bloke in the world to feed (he ate everything we cooked for him and came back for seconds every time. Liz jokes that her worries were only about whether she'd "manage to fill him". He has a bullet-proof appetite) there were 2 minor mis-matches to his preferences. He does not like fish (he's OK with shellfish and prawns) or cooked cheese, so out of solidarity we avoided fish and cheese for 4 weeks. No pizza, then, and certainly no cheesy fish-pie. We are so going to make up for this, now that AB has gone!

I'll leave the last word to our friend and Archery Coach, 'Con'. We were over to his on Wednesday to help whacking in some tree stakes, to clear the shooting field of its 3D target "animals" (into dry store) and to fold Con's 2 enormous cone-shaped tent canvases. Con obviously likes AB and loved teaching him to shoot for those 4 weeks so in my little 'farewell' to AB on Facebook, Con replied,

"(He is) a big man with a big smile and willing hands - may he enjoy every step of his Path."

A dog on your lap is no protection
when this cat wants to come aboard.
Not NOW Kato!
Meanwhile, as we wait through the gap between Ex-Hurricane Ophelia and Storm Brian (how can you take those two names seriously in the same sentence?), our only other entertainment seems to have been racking off the wine. This was meant to be a 3 week kit but has taken us more like 2 months, possibly because we'd let the kit get old and maybe the temperature. yeast or the stabilizer were not up to much. We thought it had nearly done so we "killed" it with the stabilizer and it just took on a new lease of life, fermenting madly for 5-6 weeks before it finally calmed down enough to be 'racked' (bottled). It is surprisingly good and we find we prefer it to the shop-bought Ozzie Shiraz we had been drinking on the non-gin and non-beer evenings. Bottoms up!

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

They Also Serve, Who Only Stand and Wait

There were some impressively colourful wind maps.
Friends of the Blog will know by now that the feared 'Hurricane' Ophelia has now been and gone, leaving us relieved, delighted and grateful to have largely got away with it. The feeling among my small-holdering friends is that up here in Roscommon we "dodged the bullet". Nationally the storm killed 3 people, felled a gazillion trees, left 360,000 without power and caused all manner of damage along the south, west and southeast coasts.

About as bad as it got for Roscommon (lined in blue). The red areas
are Force 8+. We stayed in the green (Force 6) and yellow (7). This
my favoured source, being Met Éireann's short-range forecast.
There were pictures and video all over Twitter and Facebook including, notably 2 bits showing the roof of a school gymnasium going airborne for several hundred yards before landing neatly between some houses without killing anyone. I also saw some road-side trees rocking away from the camera with their roots lifting bits of tarmac and road-base up like cartoon mouths opening and closing.

For us, though, mercifully a scary day and some exhausting watching, especially between about 2 pm  and 8 pm but the only damage was a few small branches broken down from trees and scattered across the lawn, and my big house-sign tumbled over. I must say, in fairness, how exactly spot on and correct (almost to the hour) were the forecasts considering this was an "unprecedented" event - Hurricanes never come over this side of the Atlantic - so they can't have had much practice.

A perfect spiral, uninterrupted by fronts. 
Ophelia was a perfect spiral so we knew as she passed up the west coast, hopping over a few headlands (like County Clare for example!) that we'd get winds which nearly went round the compass. We woke up to Nor'easterlies which get right into our yard. These veered round to the East and then the South; passing through the worrying trajectory of our remaining trees tall enough to hit the house. They carried on swinging through SE, where we are OK-ish and into full West where, again we are vulnerable for the poly tunnel and the barn which Doris took the roof off. It was not an easy day.

The Black Spruces got a good buffeting but
stayed put
There was (as forecast) a nice lull mid morning when the sun even came out and then one at bedtime but Ophelia had a possible sting in her tail with those Westerlies strengthening from midnight to about 04:00 Tuesday (today). The spiral had a diameter roughly 3 times as wide as the country, so as the eye cruised up 'our' side of the Island, the strongest winds were the Southerlies hitting the south coast and then sliding up past Waterford, Wexford and Wicklow up to Dublin.

The willow hedge gets turned inside out with each gust.
All we could do was stay indoors and sit it out. The only driving we did that day was to nip out to feed some bullocks for a friend. Our Help-X volunteer got introduced to the concept of "They also serve, who only stand and wait". Yes AB. You really CAN retreat to your room and sleep or play video games. We will shout if we need you. Your job today is to "stand by". You may physically achieve precisely nothing but we will still value you immensely. Honest.

A fine pair of legs
That, though, is surely enough on the Fair Ophelia. The only other news is that the 'Parma' style ham legs have progressed on from dry salt-cure to the air-drying stage. These big ol' lumps of carcass get 16 days in the mix of sugar, salt and spices being patted down each day with new cure and drained of any brine which the dry salt sucks out of the meat. They darken and become quite firm to the touch as they dry out. In this part of the world, the wise man does this stage in the fridge to give the salt a good head-start against the risk of flies and food-poisoning nasties.

Prior to scrubbing off the salt. 
After 16 days they are lifted out of the dry salt and the spare salt is scrubbed off using a stiff brush dipped in cider vinegar. They are then wrapped in rather nifty Muslin bags created by Lizzie, to deter the flies and hung somewhere fairly dry but with air movement for between 4 and 18 months.

Hung in the air for 4-18 months
During this time the meat continues to dry out and the flavour sweetens and matures. You are aiming for a 30% weight loss; too much and your ham will be as hard as wood; too little and the ham will not cure sufficiently (so may not be safe to eat). The 4-18 month thing is personal choice - how firm/dry do you like your Parma? We do 2 legs. One for eating in Summer (so about 11 months) and one for Christmas (15 months). Like us, the reader will just have to preserve their souls in patience and see how we get on come next August. It is not a fast food.

Enjoy the calm days after the storm. We certainly are.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Soft you now, the fair Ophelia...

Hurricane Ophelia's predicted track. 
Like a rabbit caught in the headlights, this post finds us sitting here wondering whether the next few days will bring us brutal weather and the tree-toppling, airborne chicken house roof dramas of our former 'girlfriend', Storm Doris. If you believe the more dramatic and alarmist weather forecasters, we are looking down the barrel of Hurricane Ophelia.

Ophelia's southward track so far.
This angry young lady has already shown herself to be a bit weird, having formed up off the coast of Newfoundland and tracked SW down the US east coast before doing a small loop-the-loop and hanging a left out to sea off Florida. Not for her the usual targets of Haiti, Houston,Texas or Puerto Rico; she's steering well clear of Trump's Twitter storms.

The beech in the pig run starts to turn
I am, naturally, quite nervous despite this jokey bravado. We do not need any bad storms this winter. Friends of the Blog will recall that Storm Doris ripped a good bit of the roof off our main chicken house and this building spent the summer shored up with a nice new tarpaulin.

The plan was for K-Dub and I to replace the roof this year with corrugated iron salvaged from his house in Sligo, but the need to do the kitchen extension kind of got in the way. You can only do so many buildering projects a year. Re-roofing weather is probably done now till next spring, so our chicken house must go through this winter and Hurricane Ophelia (and friends) on a wing, a prayer and a hopefully strong tarpaulin. What could POSSibly go wrong? Soft you now, the fair Ophelia - be gentle with us.

Bank behind the poly tunnel now cleared of nettles and brambles
and over-hanging elder branches.
That said, we have had reasonably good weather so far and rain and wind have not yet interfered too much with the Autumn clear-ups I have been doing, working with my Help-X volunteer, AB. This is still mainly the wilder areas of perimeter including various neglected banks behind the poly tunnel. As well as nettles and weeds, these often have dumped piles of tree prunings and hedge cuttings which I could not burn on the day I cut them.

The bank also known as "The Turf Mine". Every home should
have one?
On one of these, regular readers may recall, we came across a buried stash of turf-fuel. The previous owner had obviously had a clamp of turf there which had at some stage been sheeted over with old (used) silage wrap and then piled up with good top-soil scraped from some other part of the farm. It has been, for us, the gift that keeps on giving - every time I need turf for fuel, I just clear some more weeds, burrow into the bank, pull out a few barrow loads to dry in the poly tunnel. Bingo.

Poly tunnel becomes turf-dryer for a few months. 
As part of the Autumn thing and part of battening down the hatches for the storm, we also decided to take down the Honeybee swarm 'lure box'. This, readers will recall, gets hung optimistically from the big ash tree down by the bee hive in the hope of tempting any emerging swarm to take up residence and not vanish over the horizon.

Brace comb created in the swarm-box.
Well, apart from a little flurry of comings and goings by scout bees from the hive when I first hoisted it into the tree (when you deploy it you load it with 'bait' of old comb, old honey and lemon-smelling plants like lemon balm or lemon grass), I had seen no activity.

Goat's cheese. Delicious. 
Bit of a surprise then, on getting it down and opening it, to find 4 nice chunks of "brace comb" in there. All dead and redundant now but there were some dead bees in there and some of the comb cells had obviously contained honey or pollen at one stage. No signs of any egg-laying or a brood nest, though.

I have perhaps been over-critical of the veg garden, suggesting
it was a disaster this year. It is giving us plenty of kale and chard
at this back end.
We are not experts, but we imagine that at some point during the year, while we were not watching, there was a swarm or a proper swarm followed by a 2nd "cast" swarm, probably with either no queen or a problem, infertile queen. These bees would have come out of the main hive, decided to set up in the swarm box and started to create wax comb where the new colony would be able to start storing honey and pollen. When no queen showed up or started successfully to lay eggs, this colony would have faded and died along with its new (start-up) workers, each bee only living about 6 weeks in summer here. Nice to know and Liz, at least, got the few ounces of beeswax from this.

Finally a bit of fun and a new experience for me. I have sheared sheep and clipped dogs but I had never done any human hair cuts. Today our Help-X lad decided that he was fed up with his flowing locks and that they were getting in the way of his 'farmering'. I joked that I could take him to the local barber's shop (lady rather nicely named "Barbara"!) or I could run the Wahl dog-clippers over him. He rather warily inspected the clippers (I think he thought they'd be as big and industrial as my shears!) and then decided that, hey, at least it'd save him the €10.

AB takes one for the team. Pics by Liz.
So, much to Liz's amusement we set up shop out front on the terrace furniture, I looked him in the eye one last time to check it was REALLY what he wanted and then went for it. No going back now, AB. 5 minutes later he was a "Number 5 all over" and delighted. For some reason Liz didn't choose to have the same and, when we went back indoors it was to find Towser, worried by the clipper noise, hunkered down in the tiny gap below the oven.

Young Scots pine all set up for next year. 
That's a bout it for this one.
Venison pie.
Keep your fingers crossed for us over the weekend and I hope to be able to post a safe, intact 'All Clear' post on Tuesday.

Mullein still in flower.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

AB's 6 from 6

AB 'schmoozing' up some bullocks with a bag of feed as bribery
We are now well into our 3rd week with Help-X volunteer, 'AB' and it's all going brilliantly. This week he has managed to add 2 species of domestic livestock to his 'list' of animals of which he has had experience, and two new species of weed to his 'bashed' list. The animals are sheep and cattle and the weeds are rushes and thistles.

A whole shoulder and front leg of venison, Fallow Doe in this
case. Slow roasted in a buttery foil parcel. Delicious.
The sheep were ours. One of our ewes, Lily, had gone lame favouring her front left. We think this was perhaps where she had trodden on a bit of blackthorn bush in the area AB and I had recently cleared of old prunings, tree branches and stinging nettles. Nettles are now known in these parts by the French name "Ortie", usually preceded by a rude epithet. We needed to get hold of Lily so that I could clean, check and trim her feet, giving the soft parts a good explore with my thumb to make sure there were no blackthorn spikes in there; a bit like getting a splinter in your finger.

It was AB's day off but he happily piled in with the shepherding back and forth to the Cattle Race  and moving gates about. I was worried that moving the 6 animals might be complicated by the presence of the 2 new lambs and, particularly, Pedro the Ram. I needn't have worried. It all went like clockwork and we probably could have done it without AB, but it was good to have the extra man-power shutting off the 'side-roads' and keeping the sheep on course.

That venison again. Couldn't resist another pic.
The cattle thing is just AB getting involved with the daily feeding job I am currently doing for a friend; 8 bullocks all coming up to 'end' weight. They are big animals, as you can imagine, maybe 650-700 kg but AB, City boy with no experience of any kind of farming takes them all in his stride and moves confidently among them under my supervision, staying the right amount of quiet, calm and quiet-voiced. My 8 "boys" just accept him and seem to know he is no danger, especially when he is rustling a feed sack.

AB's 6 from 6 at 20 feet in Week 3
He's also made a good impression in the Archery Club - I have been taking him along on Sunday afternoons for a taster as the club's Coach, (Con) is currently running beginner training. Our club is a very welcoming group of people, happy to accommodate new members and enthusiastic in our encouragement of their early successes. The training happens on the right hand side of the hall, on the short-range targets (20 and the 40 feet) while we experienced regulars shoot down the left hand side to the full range butts.

This means that we each have to be very aware of where the 'other lot' are at and all stay in the safe areas till someone shouts "Collect" to the whole range. Quite often, therefore, we 'old hands' have finished shooting and can keep a quiet eye on the beginners as they go through their paces. We see when they get a bull's eye and, if appropriate (and allowed by Con), cheer, clap, whoop with joy etc. That's where we all were on AB's Week 3 when we all spotted that AB, who had been told to shoot off all 6 arrows, had got 2 bulls from his first 2 arrows.

We cheered his 3rd but were shushed by Con and held our breaths while AB focused on his 4th arrow. He knew we were all watching but you could have heard a pin drop as he planted his 4th, 5th and then amazingly his 6th right into the gold. Good shooting, AB. The lot of us went mad cheering and whooping and Con called for the photographer(s). He was as pleased as Punch, as you can imagine. His reward, of course, was to get moved on to the 40' butts, so he was back to square one but he will not forget that moment for a while. Because he is with us till 20th Oct, I have booked him in for a 4th session and he thinks he will keep with the archery when he gets back to Paris, trying to find a local club over there.

My only other news is that the Honesty Box for eggs is steaming along and spends a lot of its time sold out. I had to make a 'Sold Out' sign to fix across the main sign to save people fruitlessly getting out of their cars and checking the box. OK, we are never going to make our first €million as we still only have 3 ducks and about 7 hens in lay, but it is still a good feeling to know that local people like our eggs and our prices. We even made a couple of new friends when I spotted a couple of strangers rooting in the box and asked them in for tea and a look round the place. They are from nearby village Kilmovee. Welcome aboard.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Whirlpool's Oven Men

Dead oven heater element. Melted split circled.
Let's hear it, then, for the fitters who work for 'Whirlpool' and come out and fix the Nation's IKEA built-in ovens. Cynics may say that at €155 a call-out (incl parts and half back if they can't repair it and declare it a write-off) they OUGHT to be pretty good but we will hear none of that. The guy came within 2 days of my first shout, texted me to say when he'd arrive and arrived then. He had the suspected element in his van and was in and out within 20 minutes. He was polite, friendly and very professional. I'm calling that a success.

We have been celebrating our return to oven-ness by baking a sponge (Liz) and a sourdough loaf (me). The oven is doing exactly what it is meant to do. I only had to "buy" loaves for the three days.

Dogs get a run around in the East Field at sunrise
Where there is livestock, so they say, there is dead stock and also, just as often we hear "you can't win them all" I am sad to report the loss of one of Stumpy's 4 second-brood chicks. This one never looked like she'd thrive; you develop an eye for these things and can quickly spot that the baby is just a tiny bit smaller, slower, less 'bright' and less active around the feeding lessons. You worry for them and sometimes they pull through but often a 'non do-er' just gets left behind and fades away.

This little Buff-Orp chick seemed also to cling much more closely to Stumpy's feet and was often in the way when she clumsily (she only has one good leg) demonstrated scratching at the ground. We saw her kicked flying many times and once she seemed to get tangled in Mum's flying feet, so was smacked back and forth with each 'scratch'. Ah well. Today I was not surprised to find her lying out on the cold concrete, barely able to keep her eyes open as Mum and the three thriving siblings moved off to find food elsewhere. I picked her up and held her in my hand for a while to see if it was just cold/shock but then passed her to Nurse Lizzie and the sick-bay. Sadly, she only lasted a few more minutes, but at least she died warm and cuddled, not stretched out in the cold.

Pedro paying close attention to Polly.
In the sheep department we have better news. Yesterday morning I spotted Pedro the Ram playing close attention to our old dark-grey ewe, Polly and a few minutes later was mounting her repeatedly. This is the first time I'd actually seen the act so I hope you'll forgive the photo. If all this outdoor sex offends you, then click on by! That gives Polly a likely due date of 5th March. We have no idea whether Pedro has done the deed on ewes Myfanwy and Rosie but it's all looking a bit promising. One small fly in the ointment - the ewes might be a bit 'fat'.

A first for me, seeing the ram doing the deed. The fence rail
nicely censors the rude bits!
The Party Line is that ewes are much more fertile if they are a bit skinny and are commonly "flushed" on poor mountainy land for a fortnight or more just prior to the ram being introduced. Well, I have no Mayo mountains on my patch, so my sheep have had to make do on good Roscommon grass and if they are a tad rotund then there isn't a lot I can do about that. As we go through Winter the grass will fade and they should be at the correct weight come lambing.

Taking a break. Pic by AB
Meanwhile, little to report though we are quite busy, with all three of us (we and the Help-X lad, AB) doing plenty of jobs. It is just that most of those tasks are the hum-drum everyday life. In AB's and my case it's all about clearing up for Autumn, mainly pulling un-ending stinging nettles and dragging out piles of old prunings and branches for onward processing. Of course there is also cooking and shopping and the usual round of helping friends and neighbours.

AB's take on that clichéed Irish-Rush-Hour postcard scene.
We caught up with these escaped ladies on the way back from
Sue and Rob's place. AB was laughing out loud. 
I will do us all a favour and keep this post nice and short. Have a nice weekend.
Soldier borrowed AB's bed. 

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Two Minor Crises

Home made pork "scratchings" or, as they are known round
here, "dog treats". 
Two minor crises drop their pebbles into the calm mill-pond of our quiet Autumn and leave us feeling guiltily worried that we should not really have that superstition about bad things happening in threes. We should not really be waiting for the third thing to go wrong but there it is. niggling away. Our first involved the septic tank getting a blocked exit and the 2nd involved the oven 'checking out' with, we think, a dead heater element.

Sorry if you've just had your tea. Septic tank
(bottom left) with one cover-slab open and,
just outside it, hole dug into the shingle-pit
to expose the out-pipe.
I am not sure why I spotted the septic tank thing - for some reason I walked down there at bird lock-up time and peered down the inspection hole, to see the reflection of my face looking back from 3 inches down, instead of the standard (for 5 years) 12 inches down. A quick check at the top 'manhole cover' up by the new kitchen door, showed that the 'water' was backed up in the sewer too. I was home alone at that point and, anyway, could not really ask Help-X volunteer 'AB' to fix it, so the buck stopped here. Liz and AB arrived a few minutes later so they did, in fact, get to help. Bad timing, guys!

Brine-cured pork belly bacon rashers.
For those town-dwellers with mains sewage and no experience of septic tanks and 'local' sewage treatment, perhaps a few notes on how these things may work (or are meant to work). Your household waste (toilet, sinks, shower, washing machine, dishwasher) all wooshes down the sewer pipe to end up in a big concrete pit - in our case about 6' by 4' by 6' deep.

A very late water-lily flower.
While it all sits in here a good old bacteria and fungus culture gets at it reducing the solids to a fraction of their 'live' volume and creating a reasonably clean, clear 'water' fraction. This exits at the far end of the tank via a 4" pipe about 12" down from the brim, into a big, 6' deep pit filled with beach shingle. The pit is covered with membrane and then 6" of local clay-ey soil and grass grows over it to disguise it all. The pit 'leaks' like any good soil and the 'water' quickly runs away into the 'run-off' area, legally at least half an acre of YOUR land.

A rubbish pic but quite fun, with the camera almost touching the
ground. Stumpy and her 2nd brood chicks. 
A quick exploratory grope about by hand (elbow deep - nice!) told me that the outflow pipe was well blocked with waddy, raggy stuff (we guessed old loo paper etc) and lumps of white floaty fat. Nothing for it but to dig down into the shingle pit, find the other end of the pipe and rod it all out with likely sticks and garden trowels. Obviously with the exit blocked the shingle pit was as dry as dust (well, you know, as dry as any part of this county gets in October), so when I broke through, I knew immediately - the tank level fell and the shingle pit filled up.

The current waterfowl count. 5 geese and
5 ducks.
We knew we were sorted, but it would only 'fix' at the speed the 'water' could leach away into the soil from the shingle pit. Overnight, then. By next morning the tank was back at standard depth and the shingle was, once again 'dry'. It only remained for me to shovel all the pebbles back in, refit the membrane, re-cover with clay/grass  and replace the concrete slab. A good hand wash and a bacon and eggs breakfast were enjoyed before the rest of the house was even awake. I hope that didn't put you off your tea.

The oven was not so easy to DIY. It 'died' on Sunday and failed to fully cook my latest sour-dough loaf  despite looking like it was working - fans, lights, pre-heat light and so on. It was, in fact, only cooking to 80ºC. Our delve into the instruction books and tech manuals and some internet searches led us to believe that these machines have a re-place-able heating element which can fail. This is a 5 year old oven from IKEA.

More pork products. Pig kidneys and bacon.
Onto the phone for us then, to try to rustle up a 'Mr Fixer', with the inevitable run-around that that can dish up. IKEA do not actually make ovens (now, there's a surprise), either 'Whirlpool' or 'Electrolux' do that for them and it is to these guys you must apply for after-sales service. In our case, Whirlpool's main base in Nottingham, UK. In fairness they have been quite efficient and have (for a €155 fee) agreed to send a bloke tomorrow who should arrive with a working knowledge of this oven and, we hope, an element in his back pocket. These days, such missions are covered by a text info service which is nice. I was a bit amused, though, by my text which advises me that the man will arrive at some point between 07:39 and 10:39. Why those times, specifically? I smell an automated route-planner / scheduler and a job sequencer in action.

Grand-Mere Pierrette's Boeuf-carrottes under construction.
Ah well. Other than that we are just chugging along assisted by our Help-X Frenchman, 'AB'. He is proving to be as solid and successful at the 'boring and hard work' jobs as he was at the more glamorous butchering. We have mainly been pulling nettles and moving piles of old hedge cuttings, branches of fallen trees (remember Storm Doris?) and other woodwork through which those nettles are growing. It's all looking a bit tidy in areas we did not get at with the Spanish lads.

Supper is served. AB does the honours. 
AB has also cooked for us, a favourite family recipe called 'Boeuf Carrottes'. Huge respect to 'Mere d'AB' and to source of this recipe, Grandma 'Pierrette'. Basically a stew made with 'chuck' steak (from upper shoulder of the bullock) and carrots, it was a delicious revelation, with the beef meltingly fall-apart tender and the sauce brim-full of flavour.

Tidy and nettle-free.
Thanks very much AB. I'm cooking tomorrow. No pressure!