All the Green Wellies are over the Border.

Or, to be more exact, they are over the Channel.  The original Green Wellies were made by Hunter near Dumfries.  Unfortunately, the company had financial difficulties in 2006 and was restructured in 2008 as a manufacturer of fashion accessories for the svelte of calf.  Their boots are now made east of Suez.  The replacements of these lesser offerings on the quality Green Welly market are Le Chameau and Aigle which are French.

This is somewhat ironic.  The not-so-heroes of the Crimean War gave us Raglan sleeves and Cardigans.  The French were on our side; so, sense of style permitting, they can share.  The victors of the Waterloo Campaign gave us stout footwear: Bluchers and Wellingtons.  What about Napoleon?  What of the French?  Oh dear, this can only end in unspeakable puns on defeat and who got the boot.

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A Brace of Pheasants

We have stopped eating out on special occasions. Instead, we buy out-of-our-usual ingredients and cook something different. For the Boy’s birthday, he and I went to a local game farm and bought two pheasants of about 2.75 lbs each.

I had some recipes for the birds in books, but I made a search and found some others (or variations) on The Field‘s website. This what I came up with in the end:

  1. In a large Le Creuset, some oil was heated and two chopped up rashers of bacon were slowly fried.
  2. After the bacon was removed, the birds were browned.
  3. Leaving the birds to one side,  a coarsely chopped onion and some whole Cremini mushrooms (enough to create a bed for the pheasants to lie on) were fried.
  4. The bacon, four crushed juniper berries, goodly pinch of dried thyme, and a sprinkling of salt were strewn over the bed.
  5. A cup of red wine was poured over the bed and then chicken stock was added until there was half an inch of liquid in the bottom of the pot.
  6. After a bay leaf was inserted into the cavities of the birds, they were lain upon the bed and salted and peppered; and the lid was placed on the pot.
  7. The Le Creuset was put into a 400 F oven and left there until the birds reached 170 F.
  8. The pheasants were removed and left under foil to rest.
  9. The onions and mushrooms were removed and a paste of butter and flour added to the liquid.
  10. Once the fats were absorbed and the sauce thickened, the onions and mushrooms were returned and warmed through.
  11. The birds were carved and served with brown rice, mashed yellow turnip and the onion and mushroom mix. The sauce was poured over the served plate as the eaters desired. Red current jelly was served as a condiment.

The boy was happy.

While the rest of the family were tidying up, I made stock out of the remains of the birds and the usual vegetables.  The next day we had pheasant soup for lunch.

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Absent Friends

This past year, I have lost the two old friends who introduced me to shooting sports, pastimes in which my father had no particular interest.

The first was Paul who took me small-bore target shooting was I was about twelve. Paul came from Devon and had been a lieutenant in the Royal Signals, stationed in Egypt at the end of the Second World War. His father had been out in Australia when the First World War began and was with the Australian Machine Gun Corps at Gallipoli and in France, where he won the Military Cross. Paul’s hobby was small-bore rifle shooting; and he was good at it. We would go to the indoor range which was built onto the R.E.M.E. garages at the local Territorial Army Depot. It was in his company that I learned gun safety and range rules.

The second was Jimmy. His father had been a gamekeeper on an estate near Carnwath. He enjoyed shotguns and rough shooting, but didn’t say much about it.  When I took up an interest in the same, he was an unexpected advocate who lessened my father’s apprehensions.

I grew up with these friends of my parents.  Both were at my father’s funeral. Both were too ill to be at my mother’s.  Being on the other side of the Atlantic, I couldn’t get to theirs. Theologically, I would not burn incense for the dead. However, when I open the breech to eject a fired case and smell the gases, Paul and Jimmy come to mind.

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Remembrance Day 2016

 

Uncle Bobby was a member of the family when I was growing up. Yet, although often spoken of, no one I knew had met him. He was my Mother’s uncle, my Grandmother’s brother-in-law, but he was dead before Granny met his brother, her future husband.

Robert Moffat joined a Special Reserve battalion of the Royal Scots in early 1914 at the age of seventeen. He turned eighteen in Flanders and died of wounds before the year was out; he was buried at Boulogne. The contents of the photograph below are all that we have of him.

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The plaque was sent to the family. It reads: ‘He Died For Freedom and Honour’. For as long as I can remember, it was among the ornaments around the fire place, the pre-television focal point of the room, first in Granny’s house, then in my parent’s. Uncle Bobby was always with us. Now, the plaque is on my desk.

The photograph is the only likeness we have of him. He is in the insert, or, per the composition, the thoughts of his sister, my Mother’s Auntie Bella (Isabella).

Robert’s older brother, John, was my maternal Grandfather.  I never met him: he died in 1944, when my Mother was ten.  A piper in the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), he made it through the War; but from what my Grandmother said, he struggled with survivor guilt over the loss of his wee brother.20161111_184423

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Autumn

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Fall Fair 2016

The Agricultural Society’s Fall Fair has come and gone.  This year, we put entries in some sections which we had not considered previously: pies.

Out of eight entries, Wife got five firsts and three thirds. One third prize was for a pumpkin pie.  Her firsts were for breads and a cross stitch.  The other two thirds were for chocolate chip muffins and one of her loaves.

Out of six entries, Daughter got two firsts and two seconds. The two seconds were for blueberry pies.  The firsts were for a necklace of hand crafted beads and squares.

Out of two entries, I got a first and a third. I stuck to shortbread.

The boy has not yet found his Fall Fair groove.

The Ministerial Association had a table at the Fair again this year.  It may say something about the attendees that of all the handouts and free literature which was available, it was the large print New Testaments which were taken.

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Stanley Vacuum Bottle: Customer Service Success

Experience indicates that the length of the warranty is about the same as the useful lifespan of the product. A lifetime warranty is usually, therefore, a sign that your purchase is going to last the distance. That said, there are exceptions.

The first is that you are now many manufacturers outsourced and unpaid quality control engineer. You buy it; you take it home; and you test it. If it works, good. If it doesn’t, then you have to decide whether it is worth your while to return the product, to enter correspondence with customer service, or to walk away. A lifetime warranty should ensure that either of the first two choices is not too arduous an experience (unless shipping costs are involved).

When reading reviews of a prospective on-line purchase, if the vast majority of reviews are five star and a small number are one star, the people giving one star received items which an in place quality control department should have culled before they left the factory. The important thing now  is how the retailer or manufacturer will deal with the defective product. If the majority of reviews are positive and the negative reviews tell of great customer service , that is about as good as it gets now-a-days.

The second is that sometimes things break during normal use. A design or manufacturing flaw comes to light at a later point. Then, out comes the lifetime warranty: and the receipt, if you can find it. (My wife keeps the receipts for her Pampered Chef products under the rack in the cutlery drawer. In my more buoyant moments, I assume that there might be a moratorium on new acquisitions when she can no longer close the drawer.)

Sixteen years ago, I bought an Aladdin Stanley one quart vacuum bottle. First day out, it didn’t work. So, I returned it to the store for an exchange. The second bottle worked well enough. However, I could never decide whether this one had a problem or whether my view of it was distorted by my previous experience. Last month, I used it and was not happy.  So, I did a temperature loss over time experiment.  It failed.

I emailed Stanley describing the problem and received a reply the next business day telling me that one new vacuum bottle was on its way to me.  It arrived two days ago.  I did a test on it and it passed with flying colours.

These people have a five star product.  And if you get a one star example, they will make it right.

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Meadow Birds

We have moved house within the same town. Our new house is on the northern edge over-looking farmland. This has given us new birds to see from our north and east facing windows.

The first new bird for us to add to our list is the Eastern Kingbird.  They spend lots of time on the bushes in the un-mowed field in front of our house. A couple of days ago we saw two of them doing a dance of flying around in a vertical oval.  After a dance, they’d stop and sit on a branch for awhile; after every dance, they’d sit a little closer.  At that point, we left them to it.

The next is the Killdeer. We have seen and heard lot of them since we moved. One day we had a family group walk through our yard. The young are exact miniatures of the adults.

The last new bird for us is the Meadow Lark.  They fly in, sit on a bush top for a time, and then drop down to their ground nests when they think that no one is looking.

Of the birds with which we are familiar, we have had Purple Finches come to our west facing deck and Gold Finches fly by at a distance. The Purple Finches began to build nest in the rafters of our deck. They stopped when a Cowbird started to show some interest.

We are looking forward to seeing the changes which the seasons will bring to the landscape which is our new view and to its inhabitants.

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Midwestern Agri Fair 2016

13510937_1055676227834463_7502996939103556386_nFor the second year running, the Ministerial Association has taken a booth at Agri Fair. Last year, we had a complimentary table in an out of the way corner. This year, we paid up and received a table in among the farming organisations, the financial and insurance institutions , and the small equipment vendors in the curling club. The large equipment dealers were in the adjoining arena. (The ice had been taken off the week before.)

The show ran on Tuesday and Wednesday, the 5th and 6th of April, from 4 pm to 9 pm each evening. Our table had information about the local churches, the hospital chaplaincy programme, Queen’s Bush Rural Ministries, and Bibles and literature from The Gideons.

Queen’s Bush Rural Ministries is an organisation which was started during the farm crisis of the mid-1980s. Its function is to help farmers, and others in the rural community dependent on farming, in times of distress by providing counselling and advocacy.

Weather always has a large influence on attendance at Agri Fair. If the weather is good, then attendance is low as farmers are out farming. If the weather is bad, there isn’t much else to do, so the show is an evening out for the family.  Attendance was good on Tuesday and fair on Wednesday.  The thought of driving home on ice might have kept folks home on Wednesday.

We gave out a lot of literature. We met old friends and made some new. Agri fair, for us, was a success.

On the other side of the aisle from us was the Ontario Federation of Agriculture booth. They were giving away apples over the two evenings and had some left over at the end. I got half a dozen Idareds to take home.  Wife made a rather splendid pie the next day.

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I Was A Le Creuset Guinea Pig

Back in the 1980s, I made my first Le Creuset purchase: a 22 cm, 3-in-1 Multipan or Marmitout in Flame Orange. It was the very thing for a young bachelor living away from home. The set had an enamelled cast iron pot the lid of which was a small frying pan; so, the 3 were a pan, a pot, and together a casserole/French oven. With my Le Creuset and a copy of Delia Smith’s One is Fun, I learned to cook.

The set, however, had a fundamental flaw: rather than the usual sand coloured enamel interior, the pot had a black seasoning of some kind; and the frying pan had a non-stick surface of some variety. Over the years, the bottom of the pot began to pit. About the time that I got married, I stopped using the pot.  I kept it as a ‘back up’.  Unreasonably, I know: I wasn’t going to use it. So, I was left with a functioning small frying pan.

Using money which we were given as a belated wedding present, we bought a replacement from Arnotts in Inverness while on holiday. This time the colour was blue and the inside of the pot was sand coloured enamel.  The frying pan had the same coating. This became our perfect pot for making rice by the absorption method. The two small frying pans were great for individual omelettes.  Le Creuset certainly added to newly wedded bliss.

Alas, just as bliss was resulting in neonatal classes, the coating wore off our orange frying pan. It went to join its pot, where it remained for some years, until in 2011, we bought another piece of Le Creuset and I read the warranty. Thus armed, I telephoned Le Creuset Canada and told the lady all about my Marmitout. She was most sympathetic and said that if I sent it to them (at my cost) with a letter of explanation, they would inspect it and call to inform me what their warranty obligations were. This is the meat of the letter which I sent:

Please find enclosed a 3-in-1 pan set which I do not think lived up to the expectations which I have of Le Creuset products based upon my other pans and casseroles.

This set was purchased in the mid 1980s and was used regularly until the early 1990s when the finish on the pot part of the set began to come off and some slight pitting appeared.   This greatly restricted the use to which the set could be put; and a replacement set was purchased in 1997.  I noticed that the non-stick finish in the pot part of the set had been replaced in the newer model by your enamel finish.  Was the change made to remedy a design or concept flaw in the original?

Also, the finish on the frying pan/lid has blistered.

I have kept the old set in a cupboard as a ‘spare’, but it has not been used for many years.  After reading the warranty information in the booklet which came with my latest Le Creuset purchase, I called Le Creuset Canada and upon the advice of the very helpful person on the telephone, I send it to you for assessment.

I am the original purchaser of this set.  It was my first purchase from Le Creuset.  It is the only one with which I have had a problem.

Thank you for your attention.

I sent the letter in the box with the pot and pan to the address in Mississauga which I was given. Then I waited. No call. Just as I was working up to call them again, the UPS man came to the door with a large box. “What’s in this?” he asked. He wasn’t impressed when we said, “We don’t know.” He didn’t wait while we opened it, so he doesn’t know that it contained a 23 cm frying pan and a 2.1 litre saucier, both cast iron and both Flame Orange. It would seem that as far as Le Creuset customer service is concerned actions speak louder than words.

Some time ago, the non-stick coating on the new frying pan had started to go the same way as its predecessor. Up until this February, we have been using the blue Marmitout to cook rice, and using the pan only as a lid. That was when we began to wonder about the chemicals used in older non-stick preparations.  So, an email correspondence began with Le Creuset Canada customer service, who had moved in the meantime to  Montreal. So, I sent (at my cost) the blue set to Quebec. Today, I received a Marseilles Blue 30 cm cast iron skillet.

Firstly, I was a Le Creuset guinea pig. The 3-in-1 set has changed over the years. Now, if you can find it, you’ll see that it has the sand coloured enamel in both the pot and the pan. It took the company a couple of tries before they got it right. I don’t know why they didn’t simply do what they do best in the first instance. Nevertheless, I now have three useful pieces of cookware. The two skillets are enamelled on the outside and have black satin enamelled interiors which will develop their own non-stick patina over time. The saucier is traditionally enamelled and is of more use than I at first thought in might be. But as it has a hole in its lid, we got a 1.8 litre round oven at a very good price from Consiglio’s to cook rice now, and little meals when the children are gone.

Secondly, Le Creuset has a great warranty and they live up to it. Now, their products are not used for making fast food. And the slowness which marks out the cooking techniques for which one collects Le Creuset pieces seems to have infused the company. Don’t expect speedy responses. But don’t give up hope. The UPS man will come; and you will be pleased.

 

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