Monday, 10 September 2018

Part 1: In Awe

A caterpillar on the raspberries.
Our autumn raspberries are now
starting to produce and they often
keep going until the frosts
I was marching down to put the chickens away when I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of a lovely looking young buck eating the grass. It carried on eating for quite awhile, unaware I was watching it. Eventually I edged closer and it moved off. I had work to do and the chickens needed to be put away before dark, it was already past our usual time for putting animals away. I might not have been so enthralled if I had realised the darn thing had eaten my waterlily though. The little hoof prints gave it away. There was only the root left the next morning.
Freddie no longer looks like a baby any more

The alpaca house takes shape
On Tuesday a young friend came to help Ian get started on the alpaca house. He had some construction experience and so the two of them managed to crack on. It was mainly the young chap putting it up and Ian helping. It worked anyway and he got on much faster than if he had been on his own doing it. My contribution to the endeavour was to keep them fed. I had plenty of other jobs to do.
George is growing up too

Playing bumps
We had a coach load of visitors this week. We were told it was a group of old age pensioners and we were a little bit in trepidation. The last group of OAPs we had were all over the place, but this group turned out to be a mixed group, mainly OAPs though. They were quite attentive and moved in one group, instead of different ones drifting off at different times, which is a lot easier to manage. Maybe we are a bit more organised these days, not sure. We had a local translator and she did very well. Her and her daughter enjoyed the grapes as there were plenty ready and each of the visitors got a small bunch too.
I hope he doesn't become like the sheep and get his head stuck

Mother and son. Aggie is obviously struggling a bit with the
feeding. She seems to be losing weight. Ian is giving her extra
Sometimes I get organised writing the blog when I know I'm going to be away, but I had too much to do this time around. One of my tasks was finally submitting a paper one evening.  All the bits for it came together, the proofreading, the illustrations for the figures and the okay from my supervisor. The only problem though was that one of the figures didn't seem to upload to the final pdf. I tried twice and it still wouldn't attach properly. It was very frustrating since I knew I was going away and needed to get it sorted. It is also a bit nerve wracking wondering if it is all correct and i haven't made some horrendous mistake. Anyway in the end I just submitted it and contacted the editor about the issue. I was very pleased with the prompt reply and I heard this week it has even gone to review. That's a relief, it is at least one step nearer to getting finished with my PhD.

The chicken house relocated to become our root cellar - well
eventually. It is not in its final resting place yet
Mastering the art of alpaca yoga, aka having a good scratch
There was also quite a few other jobs to do before setting off, like cutting Brencis' toe nails and teeth. The boys had been delayed until Ian's back recovered, but Brencis had to be restrained to have his teeth done too, so he wasn't done at the same time. We tried to get restraints on him but he was being very difficult. Every time we tried to get his rear legs in the restraints he would react and nearly hurt himself at one stage. Ian then decided to try trimming his front toe nails. He seemed quite happy to let do that, he even let him move onto the back ones then. Ian surreptitiously slipped on the restraints and we could finally pin him down to do his teeth. He still wasn't happy though and I had to pin him down on the floor instead of holding his head. He's big and stroppy when it comes to doing the necessary work, but when it comes to visitors - he's like a big teddy bear.
An autumn dandelion

Even the big pond is beginning to dry up completely
I also had to help Ian with the alpaca roof. The roof was more difficult to put on than the other ones due to the fact the ground slopes away quite quickly. We also managed to put it on the wrong way around and only realised near the end. It meant manoeuvring the panels to have the overlap the right way round, with Ian at the bottom and me in the middle with wooden poles lifting them up and slotting the sheets in. It worked but I did ache a bit the next day. No problems carrying my suitcase though, all this carrying sheets of roofing panels with Ian and fetching and carrying water all summer meant that I have developed some muscles.
These apples have been gorgeous. The tree is beginning to
provide an abundance at last. It has been a long time coming.
The tree seemed to struggle in the first few years but it must
now have put down some good roots

My coffee at Schipol airport. How
did they know my name? 
My plane was early Sunday morning heading to France and so I took up the offer of an overnight stay in Riga with the folks who bought our apartment earlier on in the year. It was a late night but it would have been a very, very early morning from our caravan to the airport otherwise. I drove the car in that we had been borrowing all summer as our friends were returning on the Monday. It meant they had a car to get back home. It also meant I could meet up with our Indian friends one more time and I even took them to the airport. Maybe one day we could go and see them. That would be different, as neither of us have been to India.
My late night view of Riga

Watching the sunrise from the
balcony during breakfast. Each
morning she baked some bread
-not home-made but still nice, the
jam though was home-made.
I stayed in an AirBnB for the first time on this trip. It was a little difficult to organise as the host only spoke French, but we managed. It was her son who let me in eventually as he wasn't actually at the flat when I arrived. She has been on an event somewhere. She asked me if I had eaten and I hadn’t – apart from sweets that my Indian friends had given me the night before as a thank you for picking them up – so she offered to feed me. First of all she suggested we go for a walk (marche was the actual word she used). I picked up my bag, as I thought she meant a perambulation to get my bearings, oh no! That wasn’t what she meant, what she meant was an hour hike up the mountain that the apartment blocks back onto. It was great. It did prove one thing though – that the summer walking around the farm means, that actually I’m quite fit comparatively. I wasn’t puffed and had to keep stopping for her to catch up.
The squashes have started to grow well now.

Josefs is definitely cute
The flat was in an ideal location as it was a 20 minute walk along leafy roads to the campus where the conference was being held. Just a nice distance to clear my head in the morning and the evening. I palled up with a lady from Sweden and a young chap from Belgium and we spent quite a bit of the day together and in the evening headed into town for the reception and a bit of food at a restaurant. The food for the conference itself was interesting but difficult for me as it was all in little plastic containers and meant I couldn't really guage what I was eating. I think I ended up putting too much weight on, or maybe just bloated I hope.
A street in Clermont Ferrand

Clermont Ferrand Cathedral. It is
not really mucky, it is the built from
black volcanic stone

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