Baby alpaca photo blog

Here are some photos of Elrond, our new arrival. (His father, a very fine stud alpaca from the Alpagas de la Tille herd, is Gandalf!) Fingers crossed for him please – he’s a little premature and not very strong, although starting to suckle well from Mum.

It's tiring being born!
Amelie and Elrond
Caiti took this super photo of mother and son
Elrond's left ear is wonky at present - a sign of prematurity

Cherry nice

The cherry trees are overloaded with fruit this year. It’s quite a surprise given that it was such a long, cold winter. But I’m delighted – I love cherries.

Caitlin made a gorgeous cherry clafoutis for us a few days ago. Clafoutis originated in Limousin, our part of France, sometime in the mid nineteenth century. The name comes from the French verb ‘clafir’ which means ‘to fill’. It’s a dessert consisting of fruit cooked in a sort of thick batter. Pretty much any fruit can be used, but cherry and plum are the most usual. The secret with cherry clafoutis is to leave the cherry stones in when you make the dessert as it adds an almondy flavour and also stops cherry juice from making the batter too soggy. It’s a bit tricky to eat though, with all the stones, but worth the effort. Obviously it’s not something to give to small children like that.

Here is Caiti’s recipe. I really recommend you try this. Absolutely delicious.

200g flour, 120 g sugar, 3 eggs, 75 g melted butter, 250 ml milk, 400 g cherries

Combine flour and sugar. Mix in the eggs, one at a time. Beat well. When the batter is smooth, add the melted butter, then slowly add the milk. Keep beating well so that there aren’t any lumps. Spread the cherries over the base of a bowl and then pour in the batter mix. Bake for half an hour at 200 degrees C.

Happy eating!

Blog slog

Pool with a view

I always find it a bit of a slog to blog in summer. It’s not for lack of things to write about – summer is our busiest time. The trekking season has got underway, our gite and lakes have had clients since March and are booked through to October, we’ve celebrated the end of term and excellent exam results, we’ve had Ruadhri’s birthday, we go cycling as often as we can and swim every day in our swanky new pool, we’ve sheared an alpaca, we’ve got two new goats, there have been a lot of awesome thunderstorms … there is loads going on. In fact, I think it’s because there is so much happening that I tend to dry up creatively-wise. Add the hot weather and lassitude tends to strike every night about 9 when I settle down to a bit of computing. Well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

It’s certainly hot at the moment. I’ve had a good trawl around on the Net but can’t  conclusively determine whether July is hotter than August in France. Some sets of figures suggest July, others August. My own feeling is that July is warmer. The days are longer and nights certainly seem hotter. But it’s great. When you live through Creuse winters, you deserve the summer sunshine, and you’re ready for it. We’ve adjusted our daily routine so that we get up and outdoors early, get things done then have a siesta from 1 till 3 or so, and then get busy again later in the day.

However, I’ve discovered something interesting in my temperature-related surfing. A lot of weather and climate websites show the times of sunrise and sunset – and also twilight. Did you know that are three different types of twilight? And, that twilight happens twice a day – just before sunrise and just after sunset. Now I always thought twilight was an evening thing, and pretty much the same thing as dusk.

So, first of all there is civil twilight. That’s what most of us would think of as twilight  – when you can still see things clearly but it’s getting dark (or starting to get light). The precise definition is when the sun is 6 degrees below the horizon, either before rising or after setting.

Nautical twilight is the next type of twilight, which is when the sun is 12 degrees below the horizon. It’s a good bit murkier than civil twilight and only vague outlines of objects can be seen. It’s hard to make out the horizon at all.

Finally, astronomical twilight is when it’s completely dark – ‘still’ in the morning, and ‘just gone’ in the evening. The sun is now 18 degrees below the horizon.

Twilight is crépuscule in French. It has a Latin root. Another derivative, crepuscular, is used in English to refer to animals that are active at both twilights, such as fireflies, owls and bats. Talking of fireflies, Chris and Benjamin have seen some down at our big lake. Ruadhri and I have looked a couple of times, but with no luck. I think we went searching when it was only civil as opposed to nautical twilight i.e. too early! Rors can’t quite stay up late enough. But as the evenings slowly draw in, our chances will improve. I’ll keep you posted.