21 gennaio 2009

So I also

So I also want to post this today before it completely loses topicality – a photo of Obama giving his inauguration speech, the way we saw it on our lovely new LCD screen. History! The Italian simultaneous translation was pretty poor but we managed to make out some of his actual words beneath the overlay. This in fact was one occasion when the new digital TV's unencrypted BBC World channel would have come into its own, but for some reason the signal quality has gone from dodgy-but-watchable to so-poor-we're-not-even-going-to-show-you-the-picture, so we had to watch what RAI deigned to give us, which was about an hour's worth. Which was just about enough, actually, especially as I had to skip in and out of the kitchen during the speech as I was in the middle of making a lentil shepherd's pie. I bet Michelle Obama doesn't have to do that.

Watching Obama was quite a strange experience. Everything is so right about him that it's almost unreal. He looks like a film star and we felt we were watching a film, especially after we spent last year intensively watching the entire seven seasons of The West Wing – Obama is so photogenic and wish-fulfilling that it was hard not to believe we were watching an unexpected Season 8. Hope Obama lives up to the hype and gives us a happy ending.

The shepherd's pie was good.

I haven’t written

I haven’t written for a while because this is a quiet time of year and the only thing I ever seemed to want to write about has been the weather … So – to get the weather out of the way – in the past two or three weeks we’ve had ice, freezing fog, sleet, rain, fog, sunshine, showers, and yesterday a big windy storm. The snow took ages to melt and has finally done so, leaving our road a soggy, rutted cart-track that non-4WD vehicles have a problem getting up. At least it’s an improvement on the solid ice skid-slope that it was for a few weeks when the temperature hardly went above zero – coming down it was terrifying. It's now bizarrely warm and almost springlike, which as it's only January is one of those cruel tricks that means we shall almost certainly be submerged under a metre snow by the end of tomorrow.

Coming up from the veg patch the other day I noticed that the bird nesting-box that the hornets built their huge nest around seemed to have a large hole in the bottom of it. On closer inspection, I could see that inside the box is – well, a hornets’ nest. It’s full of cells, which I suppose are full of larvae. The hornets must have gnawed (do hornets have teeth?) their way through the wood – and this is proper, 0.5cm-thick wood – and then constructed the inner core of their nest inside the box, and then turned their attention to the outside when they covered it with the layers of beautiful paper. So it was only the outer part that was destroyed in the high winds before Christmas, and I guess we still have a hornet problem.

7 gennaio 2009

The coldest temperature

The coldest temperature we’ve yet had this winter was —8ºC a few nights ago. The leftover snow has turned to a crunchy crust and our access road is an ice-slide. The valleys, though, are green (or brown) again. We had some bright, crisp days after New Year and went for a good walk with the dogs, but as I look out of the window I see it’s starting to snow again…

I took the horse out for a walk two or three times to see how she liked the snow – she stared at everything as if it all looked completely new and unexpected (as perhaps it did) but was fairly calm, considering. I took her into the big grass field and she pawed the snowy ground to uncover the grass just like wild ponies do. She also rolled several times in the snow, which made me laugh – it must be like some kind of therapeutic beauty treatment for her!

The ducks don’t mind the cold at all and continue their happy duck existence. They've finally discovered how to get in and out of the pond and have decided they like it: now they spend all day down there, scrabbling about on the edges, following the overflow stream down the side of the field, swimming about in the water, or just hanging out. It’s very nice to see them behaving like, well, ducks with a pond.

I hate to think what the veg patch will look like once we finally wrest it back from the elements. Frozen fennel, broken-stemmed greens, ice-scalded broccoli… Even the cabbages don't look very healthy. The other day we made nettle soup (from nettles we’d frozen in the autumn) and it was delicious. And free.