Continuing the Georgia trip, 11c

Right-o.  When we last left our intrepid travelers, they/we were in a minivan (driven by our Svan host Jia Japaridze) on a day trip to Ushguli, a remote village in Uper Svaneti.  Somewhere around here:

First glimpse of Ushguli

It’s very much a mix of modern and medieval up in these remote villages. This bullock team is bringing in a load of birch trees for firewood.

Bullock power

We pretty much drove straight through and out the other side, where Jia parked and we were given the option of hiking a few K further to the glacier that feeds the river.

The road keeps going but we did not.

We elected not to do the hike out, as it began raining on us. We took shelter in some old church buildings.

I love old buildings.

And then we sat in the van and ate the lunch that Laura had packed for us — boiled eggs, khachapuri, and I passed around the walnuts and churcheli that we’d acquired. Stephen described this dog previously:

Big scary dog.

He seemed perfectly friendly and tail-waggy, but we were all — Svans included — happy to stay inside the van while Renata tossed him bits of her lunch out the window. You can see the thick coat and the round bear ears. Harder to spot in this photo are the wickedly spiked collar and the scars on his muzzle from fighting off wolves. The Caucasian mountain dog is a working dog, not a pet, and the guide books warn travelers not to try and get friendly with them.

After lunch, the rain eased a bit and we wandered into “town”. Seriously, this is a lot what I picture a medieval village must have been like, with livestock wandering around, and a bit of diverted stream running through the middle of one of the uneven cobblestone streets, and people just getting on with their regular lives, farming and sorting out their food and heat for the winter, and etc.

Looking back toward town.

Into town.

Towers, oh yeah.

As we were wandering through, we were intercepted by a 10 year old boy who took us to the “museum” his family ran. It was basically a barn, with a bunch of amazing stuff inside — stuff that I nearly wept to see not being looked after better. There was one light bulb to illuminate the gloom & I wish we had had more time (and a flashlight) to stare at all of the wonders. The Svan are known for their woodcarving — here are a couple of the pieces I managed to photograph:

The head of the household's chair.

I’m not even sure exactly what this was used for — our guide had a little bit of English, but not quite enough. Isn’t it stunning, though ?

Solar symbols, horses, and livestock motifs are usual.

On our way out, we met the rest of our party in front of a house featuring this gorgeous panther over the door. Similar art shows up in rock carvings and elsewhere.


And that’s it for Ushguli. Horse trip next, I believe….

The cull did not go according to plan

We had planned to cull all our geese this Saturday. We arranged a big “de-goosing” shindig, with the former-professional-chef neighbour, foodie friends, and anyone else who wanted one of the ~19 geese.

We did a small de-goosing about 18 months ago. It was easy, we chased the waddling geese down to the yards, grabbed the ones we wanted, and released the rest.

Problem. The geese had “leveled up”. They could fly. I had seen them fly a bit, clumsily and downhill. No, now they could fly- like hundreds of meters, uphill, across the valley. Ever heard the phrase “wild goose chase”? We lived it for a few hours.

Thankfully they would try “going to ground” and hiding, and all up we managed to catch 5 that way. So those were processed. Late in the day Richard and Selwyn spotted 3 more, and got them with their .22’s. Selwyn discovered that head-shots do not stop geese, an important safety tip in case of a goose zombie apocalypse. By this point most everyone had left, and there were only a half dozen of us left to pluck and gut those last 3 geese. (And our chef neighbour got the dates wrong, and missed the whole thing.) We are hoping in a few weeks do have another de-goosing, and get the rest of them. I will try to win their trust with food in the mean time, to make them easier to catch (oh, the betrayal!).

And in the midst of all this, there was dog drama. There had been an attack down the valley overnight, 2 black dogs killed some sheep on John’s place, but he managed to shoot one. Zane spotted the black dogs chasing sheep across the valley at about 1PM, so 4 of us (3 with guns) leapt in a car and headed over while Tam started calling neighbors. The dogs got away, chased into the forestry block by some cattle (on a hill so steep it makes out back hill seem gentle). One was on 3 legs. On Sunday we heard via the Tawa grape-vine (via Yvonne) that someone had their dogs come home- and one was shot. A pair of pig dogs that had run off 2 days previous. Dogs put down, problem solved.

A very full day! We had 24 people over at peak, if my count was right. Including a red-headed mycologist (whose name I didn’t catch) who brought in all sorts of paddock mushrooms, gave a little identification class, then cooked up the edible ones for lunch! Yum!

At the very end of the day, when burying the leftover “bits”, it was commented that the goose wings look very much like most rendition of angel wings. This lead to the idea of a short story contest for a story starting with the line “the angel cull did not go according to plan.” He. We were a bit tired at punch-drunk at that point, admittedly.

A dog problem

I have an issue with dogs. We have actually had a few, those Greyhounds we fostered a few years back, but too many people don’t understand dogs.

They are hunting and killing machines (like cats) that work with their humans. All dogs have the wolf still lurking within.

The upshot of all of this is we now have one less alpaca. I caught the dog, which was happy and friendly when I came out to see what the commotioin was- a big Rotweiler standing over the body of a 5 month old. (The alpaca and its mother had been in the pen by the house to treat the young ones staggers, I heard lots of alarm calling and went out to see what was going on- the attack had just happened, probably only seconds before. Altun was still alive, he died less than a minute later in my arms.) Animal control came and took the dog away. There were no external signs of injury, and the Animal Control officer was concerned the dog might “get away with it” (which is why most farmers apply the “shoot, shovel and shut up” procedure to any dogs on their land). My post-mortem examination turned up “good news”, multiple sub-dermal haematomas on the neck consistent with the pressure marks of large canine teeth, some torn musculature on the neck, and a broken cervical vertibrae- it snapped his little neck.

I *really* want to know where the dog came from. I don’t know of any neighbor with such a dog. It had collar and tags, so they should be able to track down the owners pretty easily.

So I start my weekend angry and sad. I am struck by the irony that years ago, back in the lab, I used to joke “I’m glad I didn’t go to Med School, ’cause when you have a bad day as a MD, people die.” Now I get to deal with those bad days, except I get to do the post mortem, and dig the grave, too.

Edit: Turns out this is an “everyone loses” situation. We found out today that the log- an 11 month old puppy- had been newly acquired by Kim up the road. She is really upset. They have been dog owners for years, yet this puppy was an escape artist. When the pound called them, they discovered it had been in the pound multiple times before- caught wandering. So the seller knew it was a problem dog, and didn’t tell them.

Kim and Shawneee were looking for the dog immediately after it disappeared- it had run ~1.3 km down the road, and up our drive. They went 1km down the road, but the alpaca we have grazing on a drive up the road were completely unconcerned, so they figured it had not gone that far. Maybe it run past and they didn’t notice, or it ran past and 5 minutes later they were calm again. Just stupid bad luck he came up our drive, and that led right to a pen where we had Altun, who was not at 100% anyways because of his staggers. Mora, his mum, is upset and wants to know where her baby is, but that will pass in 3 or 4 days.

The dog will most probably be left at the pound, and be euthanized. I think they are going to go after the seller for false representation.