Busy, busy, busy. I’ve been catching up on all those little problems that happened whilst I was away.
Ginny developed a bad foot the day before I arrived back (foul-in-foot) and needed treatment. Several of the cows and the bull have a nasty case of mites and are driving themselves crazy with itching. It’s extremely contagious and the whole herd has to be treated – similar to children getting head lice. So this afternoon I had great fun trying to aim 40mls of the appropriate chemical along the backbone of all the cattle, who were convinced that I had devised a homecoming gurgle-torture…they are paranoid about white plastic bottles that gurgle!
This morning after a prolonged feeding, tidy-up and general check over of all the stock it was onto the bobcat for a-shifting and a-building of the dung heap in preparation for mucking out the cows on Friday in readiness for calving.
The dogs are dillirious with excitement at resuming their daily walks with me, and even the deer in the wood sounded their wierd ‘dolphin-barks’ as I passed by.
And what a gorgeous day! Cold, but dry with sun from dawn to dusk. Desk work will have to wait till tomorrow.

panama post 23rd january

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Today’s my birthday! We celebrated with an early morning swim. A full moon white and bright played hide and seek behind low streaked clouds whilst the sun erupted above the horizon changing the smoked-glass sea into an oil smooth mirror. Kingfishers craaked noisily skimming low over the water. Herons, silhouetted against the pale sky, flew with long steady wing beats. Far out in the bay a dolphin breaks the sea glass, leaping fast and furiously chasing his morning breakfast. I slowly glide out into the bay reveling in the sensuous warm silk of the water. Robert signs – come back, come back! I shrug my shoulders – why? ‘Predators’, he mimics, ‘this is the time’. I lazily pull homeward enjoying the flipper-like feeling of my limbs and instinctual harmony with the sea and swimming. As I near the landing stage I feel a long-past remembered tingling sensation along my arm – jellyfish – a million minute stinging cells shed as she drifted past left to cling and sting tender white northern skin!

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We are staying on an island off the grid. No electricity, no mobile phone reception, certainly no broadband, and due to an undectected leak in the plumbing, hardly any water – it hasn’t rained enough to replenish the tanks. Washing bodies has been limited to a splash of water in the evening to remove salt and sand, and today found me scouring a pair of trousers with sand and salt sea water having stepped, and sunk thigh high, into a mud swamp, worse than anything back home! So though remarkable photos have been taken of sloths, cradling their babies, red fogs, black and blue frogs, and ones with even more multitudinous colours, toucan, vulture and of course the local cattle (which have a similarity to the African Zebu), I’m afraid I can’t upload them so you’ll have to wait until I get back.

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We visited a remarkable couple, well into their seventies, who acquired a plot of land eleven years ago; a small former cocao plantation, abandoned and derelict. They bought it with no idea what direction it was going to take them or what they would end up with. Over the years they’ve created an extraordinary working paradise. Using new and inherited cocao trees they’ve established a plantation producing a small quantity of highly prized organic chocolate, under the canopy of the rain forest. Cocao trees need shade to survive. They prize some magnificent rainforest giants, sadly all now gone from neighboring land, and have planted many new trees to succeed them. The farm is a splendid example of how to retain the rain forest and earn a living. Their passion and hard work has resulted in a piece of land that is teeming with life – a naturalist and birdwatcher’s heaven…and of course a chocoholic’s!

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