Nanteuil-en-Vallée is a village in Charente on the Argentor river.
I found a corn store yesterday. Exciting or what? Well I almost screeched to a halt, my good wife was not so impressed and informed me that we only had 10 minutes spare to get where we were going which was Aubeterre sur Drome.
So this corn store is a few kilometres north of Aubeterre and thus in the Charente countryside. I did a blog about old corn stores some while back and asked if anyone knew where there are any. This is an old-fashioned way of storing maize on a relatively small-scale for use by the farmer during the winter to provide food for his poultry. Continue reading
A while back ( May 27th 2013) I published a post about insects and spiders in my garden. One of the spiders was called Pisaura mirabilis. It is quite big and is a type of hunting spider. There were lots of them in my garden. The particular blog is https://poitoucharentesinphotos.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/garden-insects-and-spiders-in-poitou-charentes/ should you want to see it in the raw.
I noticed the spider when I was weeding a bit of so-called vegetable garden, mostly dandelions and nettles. My attention was drawn to her partly because she was quite big but mainly because her abdomen (back bit) looked as though she had a woolly jumper on. Close examination after I had coaxed her into a jam jar showed that the woolly jumper was in fact lots of babies. I left her in the jar for a while because coffee was ready and then after coffee break, which is more important than spiders, I tipped the spider out on to the lawn in order to photograph her and let her on her way.
However the spider was now reluctant to leave the jam jar so I gave the jar a gentle bash to persuade the spider out. This was achieved but the slightly violent motion resulted in virtually all the baby spiders dispersing from the mother’s back. I did feel a bit guilty at having made approximately 40 spiders homeless.
‘The mother spider remained more or less motionless for about an hour and during this time the babies gradually found their way back to home base. When all was back to normal I did take a few photos and then I left her alone. She presumably went on her way, no doubt muttering about ‘bloody wild life photographers’
TO SEE PHOTOS OF MANY OF THE CARS ON THIS YEARS RALLYE CLICK
I was only taking photographs so did not have to endure the stop start procession through Verteuil, but I watched it happen. I set up on a corner in the village near the Chateau which was a ‘Check point’ …….. Why do they have a check point on a fun run in the countryside. It is not as if it’s a time stage in an Alpine rally. This I think was the problem but I do not know as I was not at the check point. What I do know is that a lot of people were not having a fun drive in the countryside.The first car through was a little red Midget, he was OK although a bit lost.
After about 25 cars had come through, a marshal came along and adjusted the road signs so that the participants knew where to go!
For a while all was fine though the cars were building up, I even saw one passenger taking a video of the entire race, I hope he had a huge memory card as the course was about to take a lot longer.
It did mean that you could get some close up shots of makers badges and wheel hubs.
I think I took over 500 shots, and there must have been even more cars than that on the rallye. One big problem is all the hangers-on who have not paid but are just out to show off their new Jaguar ‘F’ type or whatever. It is difficult to prevent these interlopers but they do add hugely to the congestion. Also there are a lot of very nice but new cars, One guy looked quite miffed that I did not take a photo of his very expensive very shiny very red and very new Ferrari. Well I’m sorry but I prefer a 1959 MGA which was the next car in the queue.
I will get round to sorting them out but this year I will be printing less and it will be my favourites..do have a look I will be putting over 200 cars on view but the new Audis, BMW’s and Ferraris may not get included.
The activities of these little moths resemble the actions of humming birds, this is known in the trade as ‘parallel evolution’. Anyway one was visiting some flowers in the garden yesterday so I decided to have a go at photographing it. As it was not so sunny I upped the ISO so I could use a high shutter speed with the hope of freezing its movements. Which it did for its body but as you can see the wings are just a blur.
I suppose if it beat its wings at 320 times a second then taking the photo at 1/640th would still mean that the wing would have travelled 1/2 a wing beat in the time the shutter was open and so the image would still be blurred.
As always if you google for the answer you find out all sorts of stuff and sometimes you even get the answer you are looking for. One interesting bit of information I found is that these little animals have a good memory and a set pattern of behaviour and will visit the same flowers at the same time each day. This was obtained at http://www.visionresearch.com/hawk-moth
At another site by BBC Surrey they claim that the wings beat 80 times a second, this seems a bit slow to me and if its true then with a shutter speed of 1/640 it would only have moved 1/8th of a wing beat, which would make for a blurred photo but not, I would have thought, as blurred as the one I obtained.
Well if the little chap comes back this afternoon at the same time as it is purported to do I will try again and this time at 1/1,000th of a second.
Brilliant it is coming up north, so closer to my neck of the the woods and coming through Verteuil which is stunning. That is where we will set up and photograph every one., Hopefully with the chateau as a backdrop. How good is that?
Its time for the vintage, veteran and classic cars to descend on Angouleme again.
So I will go to a good spot for the Rallye, this is on 21st September and the route will be published tomorrow ( Thursday) why do they leave it so late?? I will take loads of photos and they will appear on this site a few days latter so if you are in the rallye then there is a good chance I will photograph you and of course your wonderful voiture. Last year I had problems with my lens and had to take all the photos with a 300X telephoto! they turned out OK but it was a bit silly sitting a long way from where I wanted to photograph the cars and then ending up with close ups. So if you see a grey haired Englishman and his beautiful wife sat at the side of the road about 10 Km from the finish, give us a smile and a wave and it will make the photo of your car look even more wonderful. By the way all last years photos, (and there are hundred’s of them), can still be viewed on this site by looking at https://poitoucharentesinphotos.wordpress.com/rallye-international-charente/
I am also hoping to go to the racing around the Remparts this year and of course will be taking photos of that. So if you are competing do check out this site a couple of days after the event.
I have been writing a blog about the Poitou-Charentes region of France for about two years now and have not posted anything on the ‘s’ word or even escargot. Actually they have been briefly mentioned in a couple of restaurant reviews because I do like to eat them.
Don’t they look delicious? I will tell you how to prepare them later in this post. For now let’s deal with what types there are. The one you get in the supermarket is known as the Roman snail (Helix pomatia) and you are less likely to come across these in the wild. I have never found them in Poitou-Charentes, except of course in Intermarche. I once had a holiday in the Swiss Jura mountains and found loads of them. They do need alkaline conditions where there is plenty of chalk or limestone as they need plenty of this for their shells. There is a snail farm in Vienne and they can be found at farmer’s markets selling their produce. They also have open days when you can arrange a visit. http://lescargouille.e-monsite.com/ is their website.
The ones you are most likely to find are the garden snail (Helix aspersa) and there are normally plenty of these about. They are most noticeable after a good shower of rain, particularly if it comes after a long dry spell. This is when you see old boys searching in the hedgerows to collect up enough for a meal.
Then there are the banded snails which are quite attractive but generally regarded as too small to eat. However they are the same size as a periwinkle and you get them on a Plateau de Fruits de Mer so why not? There are two species of banded snails and it’s all about the colour of the edge or lip of their shell so we have white-lipped known as Cepaea hortensis and there are brown-lipped which is Cepaea nemoralis. To make identification even more confusing the number of bands varies quite a lot. Sometimes there are no bands so the snail is just a yellow colour, there are ones with lots of narrow bands making them look almost zebra like and in others the bands are very wide so that they look like brown snails with yellow stripes
In Spain I have eaten snails which they call Caracoles which are like a slightly flattened version of the garden snail. It is called Otala punctata and is prepared in a typical dish in South Spain, “cabrillas”, which is cooked in spicy tomato sauce The Spanish seem particularly good at incorporating snails into various recipes, whereas in France it is normally the straight forward garlic butter Escargot bourguignonne that is on offer.
There are hundreds of different snails, many of which are quite small and insignificant. I have lots of small brown snails on an old garden wall in England and whilst I expect you could eat them they are so small it would not be a worthwhile exercise.
Now how to cook them. The first job is to purge them or clean them. When you eat snails you eat everything, except the shell of course so you will be eating it’s guts and in guts you get pooh. Most snails feed on rotting vegetation or at best fresh vegetation so their pooh will not be that great. so it needs getting rid of. The way to do this is to keep your snails for a few days with no food so they pooh out all that is inside them. Alternatively you could feed them something which you would not mind eating i.e. flour so you give your snails a little flour, keep an eye on the colour of their pooh and when it turns white you know that they have got rid of all the rotting vegetation pooh and are now just full of flour. I have heard of people mixing a few dried herbs with the flour so that inside the snail you get a tasty herby flavour. This process will normally take 3-4 days. There are lots of variations on this theme but basically you have got to get the s**t out of them.
Now you cook them. Boil some water and in they go, bring it back to the boil, leave them for about three minutes and they are done. Now remove them from the shells and cook them in court bouillon. This is to give them a bit more flavour but it is not that important. If you wish to you can put them in fresh court-bouillon and heat up progressively to simmer for about 60 to 90 minutes depending on the size of the individual escargot.
Escargot flesh is then ready to be used. and here are a couple of recipes.
The traditional “Escargots à la bourguignonne”
You need garlic butter which is 1 kilogram of butter 25 grams of salt 5 grams of black pepper 150 grams of garlic 35 grams of shallots or scallions 90 grams of parsley.
Garlic, shallot and parsley are chopped very fine. The whole is well mixed.
In each empty shell, place a little of this butter. Then push a cooked escargot into the shell. Fill the remaining space in the shell completely and smoothly with butter. Usually 5 grams are used per shell (a tea-spoon). Put in the oven at 200 °C or 390 °F for just enough time as is needed to melt the butter. Serve immediately in special plates with holes. (Snails are picked with a special little fork).
Brochettes (skewers) of Escargots
Make up a herb and breadcrumb mix to coat the snails with. This is normally something like parsley, garlic, shallots and breadcrumbs with a bit of salt and pepper all mixed with a little olive oil.
Now put about 10 snails on a skewer and roll in the oily breadcrumb and herb mix- try to get a good coating. Then fry them or barbecue them until hot and golden brown. Serve with a cheap, cold, dry white wine. Champion! If any guests are squeamish do not tell them it’s snails – they will never guess and will really enjoy them.
If you follow the Poitou-Charentes in Photos blog via face book, you will occasionally see that I post another blog called Catbrook Wood. This is because we recently bought a bit of woodland in Wales and it is called …..guess what? Catbrook wood.
If you are not one of my face book friends or do not follow it that closely then this will be news to you. Continue reading
Recently I was given a present of some Fleur de Sel by my nephew who had just returned from a holiday on the Ile de Re. I had visited the area last year and there are a few posts on this site about the Ile de Re but nothing on the salt production, largely because on the day I wanted to photograph the salt pans it was tipping it down, ( click here for other posts on Ile de Re) so the photos on this post ( with the exception of the bag of salt) have been kindly donated by the same nephew, David Howell – many thanks to him.