March 23, 2017
March 22, 2017
One advantage about going somewhere during the Easter holiday, is that you avoid the larger summer crowds.That is exactly what happened in 2016 when Family Kiwidutch joined two other families for along weekend trip to the island of Texel.The de Krim holiday park offers many recreational activities, one of the most ambitious of which is a huge climbing frame, the type which is navigated with harnesses over a wire framework. I see a man who appears to be a staff member literally “showing us the ropes” (or should that be “wires”?).It is immediately obvious that he is completely at home on the apparatus and knows how to use the harness to the maximum. Starting with a leap from the top tower, let’s see how it’s done!
March 21, 2017
Regular readers of this blog know that I love to observe the most ordinary of things.
I also have what may be called an “odd” sense of humour, which my family do not always fully appreciate.
Last Easter whilst staying at the De Krim holiday park on the Dutch island of Texel , one such event took place.
Himself needed to check something out at Reception, and not wanting to walk, I waited behind in the car.
All of a sudden I saw a couple of ducks taking a leisurely stroll through the car park.
The car door was already open because the car has been stuffy and I need fresh air in order to ward off feelings of car sickness, so I picked up my camera and started taking photographs.
Every now and again one of the ducks would make a noise, but they continued to walk very purposefully together. My sense of humour immediately imagined that these ducks were an elderly couple, out together for their daily stroll, chatting about one thing or another. I was smitten by the fact that these two seemed to know exactly where they wanted to go, and the feeling that this probably wasn’t the first time they had done this. Who knows, maybe they were a feathered couple, maybe they do do this every day, and maybe they were having a chat… I have no way of knowing any different. Just look at how they walk and tell me that I’m wrong… surely not! Maybe too I’m just hopeless romantic who reads too much into everything, or an overly sentimental being who sees sentiment in all. After all… I could just be quackers.
March 20, 2017
The De Krim Holiday Park is located just outside of Cocksdorp near the northern tip of Texel.
It’s a huge holiday organisation with hundreds of holiday houses for rent, and there also appears to be space for campers, caravans, and possibly tents too.
It appears that each of the houses is privately owned, but hired out to the public when the owner is not looking to occupy the property themselves.
This also accounts for why the houses come in every size and variety of shape, and if the gardens are anything to go by, some seem to have many more owner visits than others.
A very large on-site restaurant and a multitude of activities, plus the nearby beaches, mean that this is clearly an extremely popular summer holiday destination.
Of course coming here for a pre-summer season long Easter weekend break means that many of the activities are not yet open, but there is so much to do on the island that we find the opposite problem, too many things to see and do and not enough time. Now at least we have the advantage of a look around without the summertime hordes, and plenty of peace when the others take the kids out and I retreat for daily naps. Both Kiwi Daughter and Little Mr say that they like Texel.. who knows, we might be returning some time.
March 19, 2017
Continuing from yesterdays post, Himself and I had the unexpected chance for a dinner out together during our 2016 Easter long weekend on Texel.
Dining at the on site restaurant at De Krim holiday park where our accommodation is located, the friend staying with us kept the kids fed and occupied after a day full of chocolate easter egg hunting.
As usual I like to check out the local surroundings, and our later arrival at the restaurant meant that it was quickly very quiet.
The temperature dropped significantly after dark and so Himself went to fetch my scarf and gloves that I had left in the car.
Using crutches means that my hands get terribly cold where there is a cold wind and putting my hands in my pockets isn’t an option.
I spend the waiting time taking more photographs: the restaurant has a nautical theme, so there are several wonderful characterful lamps around, fishing nets, shells,… the bread basket, something that I saw earlier but always seems to draw me back, the tulip on our table… what ever catches my eye. Most of these are for my reference art files… and you can never have too much reference material, right?
March 18, 2017
One thing about having an extra family share our holiday accommodation, is that in appreciation of the fact that they did not have to hire a separate and more expensive house, they looked after our kids and sent Himself and I off for a quiet “date night” meal together.
This happened during the Easter weekend of 2016 and so Himself and I thought we would make the most of the offer.
Deciding that dinner in the Krim Holiday park’s on-site restaurant would be just as good as one in the near by village, we made our way to eat a quiet and uninterrupted meal.
It was after 7:30pm when we arrived, mostly because a late start to the day meant that we had had in turn a late lunch and gotten back to the holiday park late after being out all afternoon.
We arrived in the restaurant to find a lot of families just leaving, and daylight fast disappearing, so photography was done on a fast shutter speed under artificial light. The resulting photographs are a little bit less than focused, but I suppose better some photos than none. Due to our late arrival, it was easier to take the buffet option than to order a la carte, and since the buffet food looked good, there was no queue for getting meat or fish made to order on the grill it turned out to be an excellent choice.
There was a salad bar, a selection of fish, seafood and meat that was to be cooked to order and all the usuals like soup, fresh bread, warm vegetables, pasta, potatoes, rice dishes etc. We almost had the place to ourselves so it was a very easy and delicious meal. The staff were extremely helpful, carrying my plate for me to our table, coming over to ask for instance if I wanted extra shrimps cooked, instead of me having to walk over and wait by the grill. That extra service is not necessarily usual in the Dutch restaurant trade so we made sure to show our appreciation in the tip. It was a much enjoyed meal… there is one photo in the series however where my desert looks like it has something like raw chicken on the side of the plate: never fear, it was aa sort of custardy, creamy pudding that had a shine on it.
March 17, 2017
Last year whilst in Texel for the Easter long weekend, I set up the garden chairs and table close to the window.
The furniture started a decent distance away from the window but every time we were due to go out, I would get Himself to edge it a little closer to the window.
I then spread out a liberal amount of bird seed and by Easter Sunday the table and chairs had moved at least two metres using our stealth method.
My camera resumed it’s hiding place behind the curtains with clothes pegs keeping the gaps to a minimum. Luckily the early morning sun had not yet reached the glass so this helped since the window glass was between my lens and the birds.
On this occasion the visitor was a sea gull, quickly dominating the table and scaring off all of the smaller birds. The lens could not be moved because otherwise the curtains would move: so I had to wait until my quarry passed into the field of view that the camera was set to. To my amazement, this first ever experiment was a success!
Of course there were many images where the gull moved and only a wing tip or the top of his head made it into the image, but a few decent close ups made it into my best yet file of bird photographs.
Suddenly, the daughter of our friend was awake and clambering down the stairs. Despite Himself’s best efforts to urge quietness he was too late and so my shutter caught the moment when the gull startled and swooped downwards before gliding out of sight over the lawn, at first, part of this maneuver almost looking like he was falling off the table. Minutes later the rest of the household emerged for breakfast and with all the noise, movement and the curtains being drawn, the sea gull did not return. I’m still delighted with my efforts… sometimes you have to get lucky!
I learn that birds have tongues!
Using his tongue to pick up the morsel…
It looks like he has his foot stuck but he swooped away in a smooth movement so I think the camera just caught these two nanoseconds…
March 16, 2017
Back in 2016 we spent the Easter long weekend on the Dutch Island of Texel.
We were there with two other families, both with children quite a bit younger than ours. Naturally Easter for each of our families is not Easter without Easter eggs and an Easter egg hunt.
Since our accommodation at de Krim holiday park is the largest and our kids want to be the ones hiding the eggs, we arrange that the young daughter of the friend staying with us is the one who needs to accompany Himself to get bread that morning and that their return coincides with the arrival of our other friend with younger ones.
As soon she is out of the house the rest of us get to work hiding eggs that have been hidden away in our suitcases until now. Little Mr and Kiwi Daughter race upstairs to find good places to hide eggs, working together to find places not too easy and not too hard.
Then they come downstairs to help me, there are not only eggs but also each child gets a glass drinking jar with a few small eggs inside it.
The kids hide an egg wrapped in red foil in the fruit basket with the apples for instance, I get them to put one out on the bird table outside, another goes inside the wooden umbrella stand in the hall… the list goes on. The photographs were mostly taken by my kids, sorry for the um… “soft focus”.
The smaller kids arrive back at the appointed time and shrieks of delight ensue as they scamper around the house, guided by clues given by our children. The entire morning is topped off with a combined families breakfast at our place and a houseful of kids delighting in a miracle of a day once per year when they are permitted chocolate for breakfast. The story of Easter is of course more than just that of chocolate eggs, but on this day the kids only have eyes on the chocolate and the adventure of the hunt.
March 15, 2017
We might have thought that Texel’s houses were a strange shape: almost all roof and not much of the ground floor showing. They however are tame stuff, when it comes to seriously strange architecture on this island, it’s Texel’s barns who are at the top of the heap to gain the first prize. Some of these barns stand next to their all-roof houses, so logic has it that maybe the two were joined some time in the distant past. Others just had us stratching our heads: they look like some one has chopped them in two and made off with the other half!
March 14, 2017
At “IJsboerderij Labora” in Texel, Family Kiwidutch and our friends got the opportunity to see something very new for the first time.
That ‘something” was introduced with a sign on the wall of the dairy farm which read: “Wilt u binnen een kijkje nemen? Ingang om de hoek, Hier kunt u onze melkrobot in werking zien” (Would you like to come inside for a little look? Entrance around the corner, here you can see our milk robot in action).
Milk robot? I’m immediately curious and went in to take a look.
Inside I find myself facing the back side of a large machine called the “Lely Astronaut“. It is busy with water, brushes and milking suction cups and the cows are simply walking up to it one after another and allowing themselves to be cleaned and milked before returning to the main stall.
There is a small screen with a rolling commentary on our side of the machine. It tells us all about how the milk robot works.
Translated and summarised: “Dutch dairy farmers wanted to find an easier and faster way to milk cows that was less stressful for cows, more efficient for the farmer.
Various machines already in use have a multitude of problems, for example that the cows have to move backwards or sideways and out of stalls, a movement not natural to them and produces stress. Stress is not only bad for the general health of the cow, it also means that she lets down less milk.
Dutch agricultural firm “Lely” therefore decided to redesign the entire milking procedure from scratch using new methods of technology and the “Lely Astronaut” is the result.
Firstly, the cow moves only in a forward motion, gone are side-steps or reverse, she enters the milking stall at one end and leaves through the other.
She is scanned as she enters, the computer identifies the specific individual and tipping a small feed mix into the container by her head: if milking has been unproductive the feed mix is adjusted with supplements or medication. She is weighed and her general condition accessed via a scanning system.
An arm with rotating brushes comes out under the cow, cleaning her teats and udder using a steam clean requiring no detergents. The udder is scanned and the robot finds the teats one at a time, mimicking how a calf would do it.
Sensors throughout the process can detect signs of mastitis, the arm under the cow also measures colour, temperature, conductivity, fat, lactose, levels of somatic cells, protein levels in the milk, as well as milking speed. If the machine detects a deviation in the milk value then the milk is separated automatically.
The cups are attached to the teats using a 3D camera and lasers, cow is milked, then mimicking nature at the end they detach one at time. Cow and the equipment are steam cleaned and disinfected again at the end and the cow exits via the front of the stall, whilst the back opens up for the next cow to enter.
Amazingly the farmer can control everything from an App. on a smart phone and so can spend more time with cows that need specialist attention.
Cows feel pressure and discomfort if they are not milked on time and having lived on a farm I know that cows are intelligent animals who happily walk to a milking shed when they feel this need, therefore this robot means that the cows decide according to this need and milk themselves!
It was certainly funny to see the orderly queue as the cows lined up waiting their turn at the machine. The farmer just fills the hoppers, collects the milk, does maintenance and can supervise on a remote dashboard and collect data for management of the herd.
It seems that “teaching” cows to become accustomed to an automated milking machine is a very achievable objective, and a big success. It’s great to see how modern technology can be put to good use, and that everyone in this system benefits: happy cows, better milk, happy farmers.
It’s been an eye opener to see a system where the farm animal can be part of the decision process and that everyone wins. I’d love to see technology extended to help other farm animals have a “say” in their own environment, be in the spaces where they live, to heat and light. Who knows how technology will evolve later in the twenty-first century? I hope that machines like this robot lead the way to better lives for livestock on our farms.