“The best laid plans of a fisherman get laid waste by the weather. A festive period after pike and roach were simply to be a dream after the ice and snow struck. Still, an interesting time.
A visit to a lake ringed by an otter fence proved instructive. In the snows, you could see otter tracks everywhere over the surface ice! Seems that the traditional otter fence just doesn’t keep them out!
Also talked to one of the long-stay carp anglers who reported watching a mink diving in and out of a roach shoal and building up a stock of fish to see it through the hard weather. So common for anglers to concentrate of the perils of otters and cormorants and overlook these particular North American aliens altogether.
Even if fishing were next to impossible, it was good to be out and about watching how the birds coped in the harsh weather. Fortunately, the marshes round my house were only frozen for a few days, otherwise all manner of birds would soon have been in trouble. Coots and water hens are amongst the first to find a freeze-up problematic. But herons, kingfishers and the returning bittern aren’t far behind.
Sarah and I did manage the odd day out on the river but the water was full of snow melt and the colour of Bovril. We had one bite and a fish on for a few seconds and that was enough to make a freezing session something of an achievement.
But now it’s India. Temperatures 35 degrees above rather than five degrees below! Never dull, the life of a fisherman!”
“Ruby’s first Christmas started early, at around 6.30 a.m., when the oven had to be turned-on in readiness for the specially-prepared turkey.
She was not overly-keen to head out into the garden, snow and ice still thick on the grass, but returned to find a small bone-shaped present in her basket (courtesy of my Mother, acting as a canine-friendly Father Christmas).
Ruby successfully removed a yellow bone from the dog-covered wrapping paper and, much to our amusement, spent the next few minutes chasing the paper around the kitchen – complete with play bows and furious tail wagging!
Eventually, she discovered that the bone was actually more fun to play with than the paper, especially so when it squeaked, and the next 30 minutes were spent in happy play (including ‘borrowing’ the pink and blue bones from our other dogs and making off with them as well).
The remainder of the morning was spent on a brisk walk through snow-covered fields, followed by a present opening session around the Christmas Tree with Ruby ecstatically rolling around amongst the pile of wrapping paper – definitely her favourite new play substance!
After an extended, delicious lunch (for us humans, not the dogs) and a breath of fresh air in the garden, Ruby succumbed to the inevitable and settled down for a long sleep under the branches of the Christmas Tree, not stirring until her evening meal.
The next few days included family get-togethers, quick trips to the local supermarket and long, country walks. As usual, Ruby has accompanied us everywhere, and she has definitely been on best behaviour! Of course, she has also been able to spend some time playing with her yellow bone, which seems to be no less attractive without the squeak (removed for her safety).
Definitely a fun-filled, first Christmas, and now looking forward to a happy and healthy New Year!”
“Well, what an exciting week! The freezing temperatures, snow and ice have meant being able to work the dogs in some magnificent conditions and scenery, but frozen pipes, paths, yard door locks and clay traps have pretty much doubled our work load. Phew, no chance of us getting cold.
The young dogs have just loved the snow, they charge around like mad things skidding and sliding whilst scooping up mouthfuls of snow. They are not the only ones that have had fun, we attached a make shift sledge onto the back of our ATV and I towed my son Charlie around, this was brilliant fun for everyone involved including Tommy, our guard dog, who loved all the excitement and noise so much so that he couldn’t contain himself, the sight of Charlie lying face down on his sledge whizzing round the field was too much for even Tommie’s legendary self control! Initially he charged around the sledge barking excitedly, until unfortunately he could hold back no longer, he charged forward grabbed hold of Charlie and pulled him off the sledge.
Charlie’s shriek and refusal to get back on the sledge was the first I knew of the ‘winter sports’ that were going on behind. You’ll be pleased to hear that Charlie is a strapping six foot tall teenager and more than able to cope with a nip from Tommy, although he did grumble when I told him that he should look on the bright side and that he had helped to exercise and keep Tommy fit.
Tommy was just running on instinct, which is the reason we are now looking for a home for a delightful dog called Jack. He is a young, male Collie that is just so full of life, loves people and playing football. His previous owners have put enormous efforts into his training and he has learnt so many things. Unfortunately he has taken to ‘seeing off’ the postman and any other people who deliver to his home. This behaviour has become too much for his owners and they have taken the heart breaking decision to rehome him.
Jack is a wonderful dog and now in desperate need of a loving country home; he needs someone who is experienced with dogs and ideally understands the hard wiring of a Collie. With the right home and owners, this wonderful dog has a tonne of companionship and fun to offer. Please, please if any of you can offer this fella the perfect home please do make both his and our Christmas and get in contact with me via my website (link below).”
“The last week before Christmas is flying past in a flurry of snow, parties and last-minute preparations – all of which appear to appeal greatly to our eight-month-old black Labrador-Retriever cross, Ruby.
The snow is of particular fascination, and she has run around madly in it, rolled over and over (what is the dog-equivalent of snow angels?), eaten it and attempted to catch the flakes directly into her mouth!
Today I walked around a couple of snow-covered fields near our village where there are no crops or livestock and Ruby was able to run free with our other two dogs. I am not exactly sure of the rules of their game, but they seem to take it in turns to chase each other, lying in wait to pounce then realising that they were about to be pounced on themselves before scampering off in a mini-snow storm.
Ruby managed to stay still for one quick photo call by a gate, but, otherwise, it was all-out fun-filled play!
Which was very much in-keeping with an enjoyable and very social gathering earlier in the week, when we attended a Dogs for the Disabled Event for Puppy Socialisers and Temporary Boarders at their Training Centre near Banbury.
Around 100 people were present plus puppies in various stages of training, and the Charity Team ran an enjoyable morning of puppy party games (musical ‘Sit’ and ‘Down’ competitions, a relay race and a surprise visit by Father Christmas with a sack full of puppy treats!) followed by a delicious lunch (for the humans) and an awards ceremony to say ‘Thank You’ to the Charity’s supporters.
I was delighted to receive a glass award in recognition of the 12-months Puppy Socialising I have previously completed with our first puppy, Winnie.
It was a lovely way to complete the year supporting Dogs for the Disabled, and I would also like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Happy Christmas, and look forward to sharing more of Ruby’s progress with you in the New Year.”
"My job title has changed this week from rider to support team, as the snow and ice have played havoc with our roads. The gritting lorries seem to dislike my area! Each morning, I wake up and look out the window and another layer of snow has fallen. I do love it, but would rather see this sight when I'm skiing in France! Without the enviable indoor school or covered walker it means a lot of hard work and salt.
However, the week began as normal, if not a little cold. I had more lessons with Anna which proved incredibly rewarding as the horses had not only improved from the week before but also during the lesson. Harry was much more settled, we worked on stretching him as he has a naturally very good outline but is not so easy to stretch down. This is the same with Imp who has made big progress in the last week and Kenny was star of the day as he is really starting to relax and enjoy the work more and more. Exciting times...
I also had lessons with John Thelwall. I jumped Bertie first, I find him quite keen in canter but after repeating the exercise again and again he soon settled and jumped superbly. I'm very excited about him and he keeps exceeding expectations. Charlie behaved perfectly, as was his jumping, again just working on single fences. Harry too jumped well, we realised I have to put much more leg on than I had previously thought and the response was significant. Lastly, I tried Kenny in a Pelham which he seemed to love and jumped fantastically. In fact the last fence I jumped looked rather big so I had a quick look later and saw it was 1m 50. Well, I was impressed with that until I saw the Puissance [at Olympia] the other night!
Sadly, I decided not to go to Towerlands on Wednesday due to a lack of competitors and snow. I hear it was the the last show on a Wednesday, a real shame as we lack good facilities in this area and as event riders we are not free at the weekends to go jumping. Norton Heath wisely cancelled their dressage as well, shame as I'm now very busy until end of January so I'll do well to get out before then again.
So as there are no competitions, there's only one thing left to do: spend money in town on more Christmas shopping and get my hair cut! I've got some great presents this year for everybody so I hope they like them!
The horses had a couple of days off on Friday and Saturday, so I used this time to practise my craniol-sacro on the horses. I now do all my own physio on the horses and I'm really proud of how they feel - their muscles are so much softer and the fact that they are working so well also gives the right signs that my efforts are helping. I hope to qualify next year so I can then treat other people's horses too.
Charlie Unwin came to see me on Thursday and discuss psychology in more detail. I really enjoyed the presentation and wanted to take it to a deeper level. I found the discussion we had fascinating, and I see correlations between my very successful years. I also realise that I don't put enough down on paper which I must do. Whether it be a weeks schedule for the horses or their long term plans, I tend to store too much in my head and plan to change this! I really recommend anyone who is interested in using a psychologist to do so as I have found it fascinating and wouldn't have been convinced a few weeks ago, so just watch and see what happens next year, I think it's going to be a good one.
Until then I'll wade through the snow and hope my horses aren't too crazy by the time I get to hack and jump them again!
Happy Christmas, everybody!"
"Well, Christmas is nearly here and the snow has already arrived. It’s been snowing on and off for the last four to five days and it has been very cold too. We are much more geared up for snow than the South so it doesn’t tend to make the headlines.
Although we have embraced our need to do our bit for the environment, Jemima (my wife) and I have bought two small and economical cars, we have not been able to use them for the last week. Luckily we also have two Land Rovers and these have been in constant demand over the snowy weather. Land Rovers really are the vehicle of choice in the Highlands, but it is essential to have the extra nobbly tread on your tyres! I have learnt, by getting stuck on a few occasions, that the tyres are all important. With the right tyres they really do go anywhere, and it helps us get about in all conditions. If it gets really bad, however, I have the ultimate boys toy … an ex Swedish army tracked vehicle called a Hagglund. This truly does go anywhere including on water! The Swedish army use them to move troops around in the snow. We use it mainly in the summer to get beaters up onto the hill or deer off the hill. It is a great vehicle because being tracked and reasonably light it leaves almost no tracks at all through the heather and does far less damage than you would in other vehicles. We try to stick to the hill roads as much as possible but the Hagglund is ideal if one needs to go across untracked terrain.
I’ve just had a call from a parcel delivery company who say they are unable to deliver to me today, so we’ve agreed that they leave my parcels in a hotel about eight miles away. This is quite normal for this time of year and it’s no problem for me to get down there in my Land Rover. The change I’ve really noticed from the South is that you quickly learn to plan ahead and you always listen to the weather forecast!
The children are now all back from their various schools for the holidays. Two are now teenagers and with lots Christmas parties to attend, so Jemima and I seem to be doing a lot of chauffeuring work! We did go to one party with them up on Deeside, but stayed sufficiently in the background not to cramp their style! They are at that age that, although I still think I’m young and with it, they think I’m old and very uncool!
Anyway the party itself was great fun with sufficient “oldies” that we enjoyed it too. The great thing about parties in the Highlands is that they involve Reeling (Scottish dancing) as well as the obligatory Lady Gaga (who by the way I love!). One tends to start with Reels which is a great way to break the ice with people you don’t know, and everyone dances with everyone else so it doesn’t leave the shy ones at the edge of the dance floor trying to pluck up courage to ask someone to dance. Boys wear kilts of differing tartans which gives a wonderful colour to the whole evening. It all led to a magical evening and I was left feeling how lucky we are still to have this wonderful sense of tradition and community up here. It was not stuffy or snobby - just a great fun evening."
"Five inches of snow has put pay to any riding over the last five days. The horses are quite happy though with the impromptu break and enjoying the chance to go in the field and play in the snow! So far so good though and only one shoe has been lost during their frolics.
It has been another busy month, the website has brought in a couple of new full liveries. I am really pleased with the response that it has generated and next year looks to be starting off well.
The Scottish area of British Dressage held an Awards Dinner and Ceilidh at the end of November. It was a really fun night and Freddie was awarded a trophy for being the highest placed Scottish horse at the National Championships.
Freddie and I headed down to Cheshire for two days training with Stephen Clarke at the beginning of December. Stephen worked on getting Freddie to sit and take more weight on his hindlegs and start to develop the head and neck carriage required for a Grand Prix horse. I find the balance between Carl and Stephen's training very good, they concentrate on different aspects of his way of going from which I can reach a balance between the two to find optimum power, submission and expression that suits Freddie and I.
Rafa has had a confidence building month being a guinea pig on two courses. The first was a BD Trainee Judges course taken by Andrew Gardiner and the second was a SEA/SportScotland Level 3 Coaches Course. He was especially good at the coaches course. He had to work for a long time the first day and I thought he would come out the next day saying he did not want to play...if anything he was more game and worked very well. Usually I come home feeling frustrated thinking 'Oh Rafa!!!' and it was lovely to come home and tell everyone how great he had been.
The BIG news is I have a BIG new horse..huge Hugo arrived last week!! He is a lovely elegant looking horse but is only 3 years old (rising 4) and 17hh already. He was bred in Germany and is a hanoverian by Royal Blend (Rotspon), he also has Lauries Crusador and Akzent II in his breeding. He had been broken for just over a month but due to the snow I haven't been able to start work with him yet.
Hoping for a quiet Christmas and looking forward to an exciting 2010!"
“Many of you reading this will see the words ‘turkey for Christmas’ and tell me: “We don’t have turkey, we have something else.”
“Why would you not want to eat something that is as much part of the festive season old Santa himself?” I’d reply.
“Well, because turkey is a dry meat, it takes too long to cook; you end up throwing half of it away because the legs are tough and inedible”.
These are but some of the reasons I have been given over the years for the case of not having turkey. The reason your turkey is dry is because you are cooking it for too long. The reason it takes so long is because you are not preparing it to eat, but as more of a table decoration that has to be cooked whole and carved by Dad at the table and the reason the legs are inedible is yes, you guessed it - because you are cooking it for too long.
I once had friend who’s wife religiously every year put the turkey in the oven at 10pm on Christmas Eve so that it would be cooked for the big day. Needless to say, when the breast was carved you didn’t get so much as a slice but more like something that resembles the sawdust that comes out the back of a wood sander.
Guys, please take a tip from me: do not cook your turkeys whole. Cooking a turkey whole will dry it out because by the time the breast is cooked through, the legs will be over cooked and dry in your oven at home. I will prep my turkey Christmas Eve and put it in the oven on Christmas Day at around 1pm so that it’s ready by 2.45pm and then taken out of the oven and rested until I serve up at 3.00 to 3.30pm and I have a domestic oven at home. Obviously the times will change depending on the size of your bird, but there are checks that can be carried out to make sure the bird is cooked.
My turkey, which will be a Kelly bronze, cooks quickly and is as moist as any roast chicken because I like to do the following:
1) Remove both legs on the bird and leave the breasts attached to the bone this is now called a “Crown of turkey” (see Pic 1)
2) Lie the legs on the table skin side down, cut a line in the meat following the bone to expose it and cut around it removing the bone altogether (see pics 2,3)
3) Now you have the leg meat lying flat on the table, feel in the drumstick area for the leg sinews and cut them out until you’ve none left. These are quite easy to find as they are like thin strips of plastic within the meat. If you take hold of the tips one by one and scrape the meat away towards the middle until they come out.
4) Make your stuffing; I tend to use sausages. I like this rather than a pack of sausage meat because it’s already seasoned and has herbs running through it. Cumberlands are a good choice; remove them from the skins and place in a bowl. Finely chop onions and sweat them off in a little butter with some fresh thyme. Once soft, add a little sweet sherry and reduce down so that the onion absorbs the sherry. Once cooled, add to the sausages with a few walnuts and a handful of sultanas. Mix this all together.
5) Take some foil shiny side up and brush with some olive oil and season. Place the boned out turkey leg at one end. Season and place a line of stuffing where the bone was then roll the leg up.
6) Take hold of the foil and roll it around the leg twisting the ends to hold it together and so it look like a large Christmas cracker. (see pic 4)
7) Take all the bones and any of the giblets place them in your roasting tray then place the crown (the two breasts on the bone) into the tray and the leg rolls each side (see pic 5)
8) Season crown and brush with oil. Place in hot oven on a high heat just to color lightly and seal the meat (eight minutes or so) then turn down to medium heat to cook.
9) Once cooked, remove the turkey from the oven and place it in a clean tray to rest. Do not cover it in foil - it will make the meat sweat and turn all the lovely crispy skin soggy because of the steam produced. Take the legs and make a tear in the foil at the end then pour all the juices that come out into the roasting tray with all the bones, add a little chicken stock and bring to boil skim off all the fat, reduce and use this as your gravy.
10) Once the bird has rested, remove the breast by cutting along the keel bone in the middle of the crown and following the bones around the carcass then place on a chopping board to slice together with the legs. Serve a slice of white meat (the breast) and a slice of brown (the legs). (see main pic)
The reason the turkey cooks well like this is because you are cutting down the cooking time and allowing the heat to penetrate all parts of the bird at the same time and therefore it is cooking at the same time and not drying out or over cooking parts of the bird while just about cooking others.
My top tips:
a) To check if the breast is cooked, pierce with a roasting fork into the middle of the thickest part and then place the tip of the fork to your lips to see if it is hot. If it is and the juices that come out after you remove the fork are clear, the turkey is cooked. A very light pink hew is okay as long as you allow the bird to rest as the heat will carry on working and finish cooking the turkey even though it is out of the oven.
b) If when you remove the breast and you find that the meat is not quite cooked, do not panic. Place the breasts on a tray and put them back in the oven for a few mins just to finish off. Do not worry about the legs they cook in a much shorter time.
c) While the bird is resting in a tray on the side board in a warm kitchen, do all your veg and potatoes. you will have loads of time to do this now as the bird can sit for 15 to 20 mins and will still be nice and hot when carved.
d) Once the Christmas dinner is ove, do not throw the carcass and bones away. They have a fantastic amount of flavour sealed in still -especially if you are cooking a slower growing turkey such as a Kelly bronze. I like to remove any meat on the carcass and then chop the carcass up into slightly smaller pieces, place them into a large sauce pan, add water and a few chopped veg and bring it to boil then simmer for an hour. This will give you the most fantastic stock to use as a base for any soup. I normally make a minestrone for Boxing Day but you do not have to use it then. If you want, once the stock has cooked reduce it down until you can fit it into a Tupperware box and freeze it. You can then melt it down in a sauce pan and add more water to bring it up to the quantity you need when ever you want.
I hope this helps with your Christmas dinner I would love to hear your comments if you try this method for the first time as I think for most people they will see the benefits it brings.
Now I just need to say:
Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year 2010.”
“I was fishing for pike on the River Kennet in Berkshire this week when a robin kept hopping on to my resting landing net handle. He looked delightful, but peckish and knowing. He knew that where there are fishermen there is often food to be found. I tried to get a photograph of him but failed.
Despite their Christmas-card good looks, Robins are surprisingly brutal birds. They are extremely territorial, even more so than most other birds. They are the red-breasted bullies and murderers of the garden.
I wandered along the river bank to search out two friends, Ian and Anthony. Ian was also being plagued by a robin but, unlike me, he was feeding his. This made me feel a tad selfish so I vowed to share my lunch with mine when I got back to my swim.
Ian’s robin had been landing on his rod and he had managed to take a very nice photograph on his digital camera, which he showed me on the bank side.
‘Could I borrow that for my blog?’ I asked.
‘Certainly,’ he replied.
‘I’ll imply that I took the photograph, though.’ I said, smiling.
Both he and Anthony looked shocked.
‘Well, one has been bouncing up and down on my keep net handle, so it is not far from the truth,’ I tried.
‘And what if I were to catch a fifty pound pike now?’ asked Anthony. ‘Would you claim that you caught that?’
I realised that he had made a fair point and I felt ashamed.
So the photograph that accompanies this blog is not taken by me. It is not taken by me at all. It is taken by Ian, not me.
Despite the fact that one hundred yards downriver I had been experiencing a similar event with a similar bird, I definitely did not take this picture.
Here are some thoughts and some reasons why I did not or could not have taken this picture.
1) Anglers always tell the truth, for if they don’t they will be found out.
2) I am the world’s slowest, most appalling photographer.
3) Ian took this photograph.
4) I was downstream about to catch a majestically sleek 15lb pike while this photograph was taken by fishless Ian.
5) If my eyes don’t deceive me, the rod that the robin has alighted on is Ian’s Richard Walker Hardy Number 1 Carp rod, which he has owned since being a young slip of a thing in the 1970s.
6) The robin that has alighted on said beautiful early glass fibre rod has very tiny little sharp claws gripping the rod.
7) If a tiny sharp-clawed robin alighted on a Richard Walker Hardy Number 1 Carp Rod and this rod were mine, rather than reach for a camera I would be reaching for a piece of bread* to encourage him and his sharp little clawed feet off said rod.
*Or a tennis racket.
This blog copyright Ian Waterman. Except the words.”
"There are so many aspects to fishing: watercraft, interpreting fish behaviour, the skills of casting and the adrenaline-pumping excitement of playing a big fish.
And there’s the art to what we do. The exquisite skills of the fly tyer, perhaps. And then Andrew Field’s quite sensational handmade floats. I enjoyed a lovely day with Andrew; we even caught a chub. And, of course, it fell to maggots fished under one of his own red-tipped stick floats.
The detailing on these floats is unbelievable. The thread. The whipping. The painting. The varnishing. Even the beautifully displayed feathers that adorn each and every one.
These floats take you back to the age of the craftsman, before the dubious benefits of mass production. Are they better than modern plastic floats? Well, I think so because each float can be made individually for the job that you want it to do. And is it nicer to fish with one of Andrew’s gorgeous creations? Well, what do you think?!"