What came first- the chickens or the blog?

Our little grey friend

This winter we have had a daily visitor to the coop, enjoying the wild bird food left for the garden birds who come to call regularly on the Gillybirds. 

The grey squirrel is perhaps one of the most commonly seen of British mammals being highly visible in parks, gardens and woods. Our squirrel is very entertaining, balancing precariously on slender branches, leaping fearlessly from tree to tree, dangling upside down grasping with those tiny little paws to catch hold of the pouches of seeds and nuts left hanging for our feathered visitors. A few years ago we had another regular squirrel we called Stumpy as he only had half of that wonderful twitchy fluffy squirrel tail. We often made up stories of how poor Stumpy lost his tail. 

Gabriel Hemery writes in his blog :

“Grey squirrels are a serious pest and the bane of woodland managers across Britain. They strip the bark of young trees, which can severely reduce their growth, increase susceptibility to disease, cause dieback of stems and branches (often a safety hazard in public spaces), and can kill trees; especially when the bark is stripped right around a stem.  They also eat song bird eggs and have driven out the red squirrel from its native range. The species, that some now regard as a ‘tree rat’, was introduced to Britain by the Victorians about 130 years ago.  It is more aggressive than Britain’s native red squirrel, which has been squeezed further and further north in the country.  Greys also carry squirrel parapoxivirus or ‘squirrel pox’, to which they seem resistant, but which is fatal to reds.  The IUCN has listed the Grey Squirrel in the top 100 globally worse invasive species. According to the Forestry Commission there are 2.5 million grey squirrels in Britain but only 140,000 surviving red squirrels. The Red Squirrel Survival Trust is working hard to promote the survival of the red squirrel by advocating targeted control of the grey squirrel, and has attracted a lot of support and media interest in its work.  If you live in Cumbria, Northumberland or other remaining strongholds of the red squirrel in Britain you can get involved in the RSST’s work in these areas.”

Jamie Oliver has caused a bit of a kerfuffle suggesting that we should help control grey squirrel numbers by making slow cooked squirrel pie. If you are vegetarian or think this is barbaric please just click away from my blog now! 

courtesy of luxphotodigital

If however you have no qualms about sampling a fine textured white meat that tastes more subtle than rabbit meat you can have it delivered oven ready to your door for £4.95 per squirrel. Or you can go all “Hunger Games” and try catch one for yourself. (Good luck) 

In Victorian times squirrels were customarily eaten in the UK, served in many forms and squirrel brains were a delicacy eaten in the USA until very recently when it was discovered squirrels are carriers of Creutzfeld Jakob disease. There are however a few restaurants in the UK which have begun serving this meat over the past few years.

Our little guy (or girl) would certainly be hard to catch even if we wanted to! I think we will leave him to a life of stealing nuts and performing acrobatics around our garden. As for our old friend Stumpy….well we haven’t seen him in quite a while. Oh dear. 

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World Egg Day. It’s today!

The International Egg Commission tells us-
“World Egg Day is a unique opportunity to help raise awareness of the benefits of eggs and is celebrated in countries all around the world.
World Egg Day was established at the IEC Vienna 1996 conference when it was decided to celebrate World Egg Day on the second Friday in October each year.
For centuries, eggs have played a major role in feeding families around the globe. They are an unbeatable package when it comes to versatility and top-quality protein at a very affordable price. And they are also an excellent source of choline, essential in memory and brain development. When you factor in convenience and terrific taste, there is just no competition.

Eggs are one of nature’s highest quality sources of protein, and indeed contain many of the key ingredients for life. The proteins contained within eggs are highly important in the development of the brain and muscles, have a key role to play in disease prevention and contribute to well being in latter life, particularly in relation to eyesight (avoiding macular degeneration).”
the IEC press release is available here

This ad for the Irish Bord Bia claims to deter in your personality type by how you like your eggs in the morning.
Personally I like mine with a kiss!

Happy World Egg Day!

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Kiss Me Quiche

We have had the most amazing weather for the past week. Today the temperature is down 10 degrees and it is raining a little, and surprisingly it is a welcome break for the garden, the dogs and those suffering from sunburn!
Mr Gillybirds was away from home longer than usual last week so to mark his return to the coop I decided to make some quiches from scratch. Yes, pastry and everything. Now those who know me (hello Mrs C) know that I have a particular dislike of pastry. Yuk. So to roll out the pasty pale stuff is a big deal.
And just to make matters worse I dug out our dear friendMichel Roux “Eggs” book. You may recall my blog about a year ago when I attempted Michel’s roulade with limited success. I should have learnt my lesson and thrown this book away then.
As a girl guide back in the day our motto was “be prepared”. So we were doomed from the start.
Just in from the school run at 3.30pm I crack open the book at “flan pastry” and read that once made it has to rest for 1 – 2 hours before baking. So I hurry the process and by 3.40 the pastry is in the fridge having a wee rest. Not so poor poor mama, now dealing with squeezing homework out of hot, sticky boys.
By 4.30 I can’t wait anymore. If wholesome food is not on the table by 5.30 there is likely to be trouble. The fairly well rested dough is rolled out and subjected to cutting, pricking, parchment wrapping, covered in baking beans and baked “blind” for a precious 20 minutes.
In the meantime Michel and I focus on our fillings. Good job those hens have been on laying form, as this recipe for one quiche requires 3 whole eggs and 6 yolks, and lots of double cream and cheese. That’s a whole lot of eggs! I made two quiche, one traditional bacon lardons and the other salmon and broccoli.


20 minutes later, the beans and the parchment were removed and the pastry subjected to another 15 minutes of the oven. It is approaching 5 pm and already the Gillyboys are restless.
By 5.10 the yummy creamy filling is added, with grated cheese mixed through. Keep calm and carry on.
This bakes for 20 minutes.
It’s 5.30. I’m starting to panic.
“Lower the oven temperature setting.”says Michel. “Cook for another 15 minutes”. I read on…”Scatter cheese flakes over the surface and bake for a final 5 minutes”. I feel like scattering ripped pages of the book around the kitchen. I resist.
Oh my. Another 20 minutes to go. But it was worth it. Golden and glowing the quiche emerge from the oven at 6.50. And no one complained.
With fresh salad leaves, some fried baby potatoes and tomatoes so sweet and juicy we really enjoyed this meal.
I’ve got leftovers for lunch for me and second Gillyboy who is studying at home. I think they may be even nicer cold.
After days of hotel food (yes even lobster) Mr G really does appreciate some good honest home cooking. 😉

PS did I eat the pastry? Well no, I fed it to the dog.

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