Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Eradicating Tuberculosis in France

By the late 19th century bovine tuberculosis was the scourge of the dairy industry in France, the most important disease of cattle in the country, and a threat to public health. Tuberculosis is a group of closely related zoonotic diseases, caused by Mycobacteria spp, and can affect and transmit between a wide variety of mammals, including humans. After the First World War, with the decline of horses as the primary power source on farms, many rural vets kept their practices going by regularly monitoring cattle herds for tuberculosis. By the 1920s the talk was of eradicating the disease in cattle and it was imperative to provide the market with disease free milk and meat. Pasturisation of milk, which had been practiced since the late 19th century, helped a lot with preventing contaminated milk being consumed, but did not eradicate the root problem.

Barn with an old 'TB free' declaration above the door. Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
This barn on the Cher has a plaque from the 1950s or 60s declaring it TB free.

 

Cows do not necessarily show disease symptoms when they catch TB. Often the first indication that they have the disease is a loss of productivity ie they start producing less milk per day. Infected animals can pass the disease to other herd members, humans and wild animals. If infection amongst the cattle herd is controlled (by culling) any infection that has been passed to wild deer or badgers, for example, will die out over time. France is lucky not to have the disease entrenched in the wild populations of badger as they do in Britain, or wild boar as they do in Spain. However, significant numbers of Red Deer and Wild Boar in France are known to carry TB, and population density can be an issue.

After much hard work and a concerted campaign from the late 1950s onwards, France was finally declared bovine tuberculosis free in 2001, one of the few countries globally to have succeeded (Australia is another). There are still about a hundred outbreaks a year, but these are contained in their clusters and eradicated. There are several persistent hot spots for the disease, with ever increasing numbers of outbreaks that need to be dealt with, especially within the free ranging fighting bulls of the Camargue. To retain disease free status France must keep outbreaks at below 0.1% of the national herd annually.

Sign stating the premises are TB free. Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The sign says that the Indre et Loire County Veterinary Service has declared this stable tuberculosis free.

 

The co-ordinated national fight against bovine TB in France began in 1954, following an unsuccessful campaign begun in 1933 which left farmers to self-regulate. At the beginning of the campaign about a quarter to a third of French herds were infected. A co-ordinated campaign of this nature was unknown at the time and its eventual success led to other similar approaches to other diseases. The disease is controlled, even today when there is an outbreak, by culling infected cows. In about 50% of cases this results in whole herds being eliminated. To earn the TB free certification farms must not only stay disease free but demonstrate that they are respecting the sanitary regulations for controlling the spread of the disease too. Today the systematic testing of animals has been abandoned in favour of annual inspections to check that farms are adhering to the rules on food hygiene, risk factor management, and sanitary conditions.



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For details of our private guided tours of chateaux, gardens, wineries, markets and more please visit the Loire Valley Time Travel website. We would be delighted to design a tour for you.

We are also on Instagram, so check us out to see a regularly updated selection of our very best photos. 

Monday, 18 January 2021

Blanquette de Veau

Homemade blanquette de veau with boiled potatoes. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Blanquette de veau with boiled potato.

 

Blanquette de Veau, a white veal stew, is a classic of French cuisine. Veal, which is the meat of calves, is commonly available here, and although not the cheapest meat, is very popular. The calves are either the 'unwanted' male calves from dairy herds, which are hand reared in cohorts in airy straw filled barns, or Limousin beef calves produced specifically for veal and raised with their mothers on pasture. The notorious veal crates used for producing pale tender veal by locking calves in kennels and keeping them immobile and in the dark were banned in 2006. My opinion is that if you wish to eat dairy products, you must accept eating veal.
 

Pack of veal for blanquette. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
A typical pack of veal meat for blanquette. The labelling tells you the calf was raised to a high welfare standard and was a dairy breed.

Ingredients

30 g butter

1 tbsp oil

1.3 kg veal pieces

1 tbsp flour

2 carrots, cleaned and cut into thick rounds or chunks

1 onion, peeled and cut into quarters

1 leek, cleaned and cut into thick rounds

1 bouquet garni

2 egg yolks

100 ml cream

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Heat the butter and oil in a large saucepan and lightly brown the veal in two batches (optional).
  2. Return all the meat to the pan and sprinkle over the flour.
  3. Stir to make sure the flour is well blended into the fat.
  4. Add just enough water to not quite cover the meat (don't be too generous), bring to the boil while stirring several times.
  5. Add the carrots, leek, onion and bouquet garni, stir to combine with the meat.
  6. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer very gently for an hour and a half.
  7. In a small saucepan beat the egg yolks, cream and lemon juice together.
  8. Season the egg yolk and cream mixture.
  9. Add a ladle full of hot veal stock to the egg yolk and cream mixture, mix well.
  10. Cook the egg yolk and cream mixture gently, stirring constantly until it thickens (beware -- this is like custard, and will curdle if you go too hard and too fast).
  11. Add the 'custard' to the meat saucepan and stir well.
  12. Use a slotted spoon to plate up the meat and vegetables, then spoon over a generous quantity of sauce.
  13. Serves 6, with plain boiled potatoes.

Browning veal pieces. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Browning the veal pieces.

 

A blanquette is literally a white stew, only made with white meats such as chicken, pork, and most often veal. Traditionally the meat would not have been browned, but put raw in the pot along with the vegetables and water, to slowly cook. 

Browned veal. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Browned veal.
 

I made my own bouquet garni, from celery leaves, a bay leaf and two sprigs of thyme wrapped in two pieces of leek leaf and tied. Don't be too heavy handed with the thyme, or it will overwhelm the delicate flavour of the veal.

Vegetables for blanquette de veau. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The prepared vegetables. The yellow carrots are an old French variety called Jaune du Doubs.

 

Mushrooms make a nice addition, although they are not traditional. About 100 g of white or chestnut button mushrooms, halved or quartered depending on their size, added after the blanquette has been cooking for about an hour.

Cooking Blanquette de veau. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Ready to cook.

Blanquette de veau. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Ready to serve.

Egg yolk and cream mixture for blanquette. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Egg yolk and cream mixture.


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For details of our private guided tours of chateaux, gardens, wineries, markets and more please visit the Loire Valley Time Travel website. We would be delighted to design a tour for you.

We are also on Instagram, so check us out to see a regularly updated selection of our very best photos. 

Sunday, 17 January 2021

A Golden Cocoon

 

Coastal Golden Orb-Weaver Trichonephila plumipes egg sac, New South Wales, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

This bundle of golden threads is the egg sac of a Coastal Golden Orb-Weaver Trichonephila plumipes. I photographed it in coastal heath at Iluka in New South Wales. To see my photos of adult Coastal Golden Orb-Weaver spiders, go to my post about North Head -- the Inverts [link]. (The species has had a name change.)


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For details of our private guided tours of chateaux, gardens, wineries, markets and more please visit the Loire Valley Time Travel website. We would be delighted to design a tour for you.

We are also on Instagram, so check us out to see a regularly updated selection of our very best photos. 

Saturday, 16 January 2021

Chile at the Beach

30 Years ago I was in South America with my mate Hugo.

Because Hugo had plenty of family in Chile we had no end of options of people to visit. One set of his cousins had rented a holiday cottage at Quisco, on the coast 100km from Santiago.

"Wake at 5am, catch the looney bus to the central bus station. Catch Pullman Bus to Quisco to coast house rented by Hugo's cousins. Countryside looks dry and poor. Got to coast to find it cold and foggy."

What amazed me was the amount of eucalyptus trees. The countryside looked very much like the inland areas of NSW (not the deserts). The weather is very much influenced by the Humbolt current, which carries cold water up the east coast of South America from the Antarctic, so even when it's sunny the water is extremely cold, which is good for fish and shellfish, but not to this Australian's tastes.

"Have lunch of shellfish soup (V.good), followed by rice and veges. Take a walk to the beach. Funny to see everyone all rugged up and playing tennis. Walk to the shops, buy beer and steak for a BBQ. Forgot to mention there is no running water."

 "OH NO! Not Again! Struck down during the night Spend 1/2 hour on the loo then have to take a trip outside to the well so that I can fill the cistern and flush the loo. Take Flagyl and go to bed, sleep until 3.30pm. More Flagyl, and find the BBC World service on the radio"  And that was that day done. Did a little walking and then back to bed.

The next day we caught the bus back to Santiago, where we unpacked our overnight bags from the coast, and repacked for a 12 hour train trip south to Valdivia. We decided to treat ourselves, so booked a meal in the restaurant car. "At 10pm have a coke in the bar then go to restaurant. I have steak, Hugo has chicken, and we share a 1/2 bottle of white wine. Costs 4,200pesos ($16.80AUD) Back to seats (via loo as gyp still present). Find 2 empty seats so I can stretch out a bit."

The Andes from the train.

Valdivia is 850km from Santiago, and the train trip took us 14 hours of rocking (mainly) and rolling (slowly). The train lines had only recently been reopened after the return of a democratically elected government after being shut by the Junta, and the carriages were very much "as found". Faded glory would best describe it. "After "sleeping" on the train arrive Valdivia at 10.20. Met at Station and transfer to Hotel Melillanca. BLISS. Hot running water (the first for 9 days). Hope the hotel can afford the excess water bill".

Next week, our 9 days in the South.



Friday, 15 January 2021

Chateau de Nitray

The 16th century Chateau of Nitray, near Athée sur Cher was built on the site of an older castle, most likely dating from the 13th century. This new chateau was commissioned in 1506 by Aimery Lopin, a very high ranking judicial officer attached to the court of King François I's mother, Louise of Savoy. Architecturally, Nitray is very typical of high status houses being built at this time.

 

Former stables, Chateau de Nitray, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The former stables, now winery.

The complex consists of the main house, 16th century, oriented east-west, and a number of outbuildings, gardens and courtyards. The eastern facade looks out over gardens, the western side on to the main courtyard. On the southern side of the courtyard is an older pavillion, from the 15th century, as are the other buildings forming the western boundary of the courtyard. The main entrance to this courtyard is flanked by two towers, the southern one having been turned into a chapel. To the north-west a dovecote with a well preserved interior completes the ensemble. 

Dovecote, Chateau de Nitray, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The dovecote.
 

On the ground floor of the outbuildings there was stabling for seven horses now transformed into a winery. The estate has made wine for at least 250 years and today produces AOC Touraine wines. Upstairs there is a reception room which will seat 200 guests [link].

Chateau de Nitray, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The main chateau block and the hunting pavillion.
 

The chateau was purchased in 1955 by the Brebart d'Halluin family, after the previous purchaser defaulted on paying the balance after auction. From 1967 to 1977 Etienne d'Halluin had an arrangement with his friend, pilot and aviation mechanic, poet, violinist and ceramicist René Fournier, and light planes were constructed on the estate. From 1989 the d'Halluin's son in law Count Hubert de l'Espinay took over the running of the estate and has concentrated on improving the wine and bottling and marketing it directly rather than supplying it in bulk to a co-operative.

Simon wrote earlier about the aviation history of the chateau [link].


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For details of our private guided tours of chateaux, gardens, wineries, markets and more please visit the Loire Valley Time Travel website. We would be delighted to design a tour for you.

We are also on Instagram, so check us out to see a regularly updated selection of our very best photos. 

Thursday, 14 January 2021

Chateau de la Chesnaye

There has been a building on the site of La Chesnaye, near Athée sur Cher, since the 10th century, but initially it seems to have been a humble hunting lodge, not a full blown chateau. Joan of Arc is said to have passed through the property with her soldiers in 1429. It is about 20 kilometres from Tours, in an area of forests and vineyards.

Chateau de la Chesnaye, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Looks like they've just had a delivery of firewood.

In 1463 it was owned by Jean du Puy, Squire of Chateauneuf. In 1506 it came into the hands of the Bohier family, who also owned Candé and Chenonceau (Henri Bohier, who owned Chesnaye, was the half-brother of Thomas Bohier, who built Chenonceau). From the 17th to 19th centuries it was passed through a succession of hands and multiple families, and was renovated or partially rebuilt at least twice in that time.

Then in the 20th century it was bought by the Lamothe family, who ultimately gave it to the Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, for a high-end aged care home, which is what it remains today, with 70 residents (including a 16 bed dementia unit) average age 88. It costs from €1731.30 per month to be a resident.

The chateau is huge, with significant Renaissance era elements, the legacy of the Bohiers, but some more medieval elements remain too, with several round towers, and an underground passage from the chapel. The slate roof has many Renaissance dormer windows. As well as the chateau there is a dovecote and a chapel and many other large outbuildings such as the kennels and stables, none of which I was able to photograph from the road as there are too many trees obscuring them. You just get a glimpse, even at this time of year with the trees bare.

Prior to World War I the chateau enjoyed considerable prosperity, with thirty domestic servants, and a dozen gardeners and foresters working there, with regular hunts to keep the owners and their friends entertained. There is still a thriving population of deer living in the estate's woods.

When the Sisters of Charity first saw the building, in 1956, there was building rubble everywhere and the library, drawing, billiards, and dining rooms were packed full to the ceiling with boxes and bundles of stuff. Initially they lived in Tours and commuted every day to Chesnaye to work on clearing it out and making it habitable. Then they brought in furniture from their other establishments in readiness for welcoming the most aged amongst their community. At first there were just a few, but at the maximum occupancy there were 110, and a new extension was added in 1980.

In the beginning the Sisters were very active, but as they slowly aged it became necessary to employ lay people from the village for daily chores. So, little by little, the home was transformed into a normal aged care home and today it is part of the State care system.

The chateau estate is also home to the Cave Cooperative Cellier du Beaujardin, a co-operative of local winemakers. They are open for tastings and direct purchases Tuesday to Friday 9 am to 6.30 pm (with a break for lunch) and Saturday mornings (if you want to be sure of the best experience email them to let them know you are coming and make an appointment if necessary). If you email them your order they will have it ready to collect in half an hour. They encourage visitors to arrive by bicycle, as they are just off the Coeur de France cycle trail. They do a jolly good sparkling, and rosé.


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For details of our private guided tours of chateaux, gardens, wineries, markets and more please visit the Loire Valley Time Travel website. We would be delighted to design a tour for you.

We are also on Instagram, so check us out to see a regularly updated selection of our very best photos.