Monday, 22 August 2016

At last!

Taking hay to put in the chicken arks for bedding
At last we had a few days sunshine in a row without rain. This has meant a lot of feverish activity as farmers were out in the fields cutting hay while they could. We have hung back to let the ground dry as we are not in a backlog of folks relying on others to cut and bale, we have our own equipment. It is forecast to rain tomorrow and then after that it should be dry again for a longer period of time. Instead we have got other jobs done that are on the list of to-do when it is dry enough.

The finished new herb bed. So far it has garden mint, hyssop
winter savory, thyme, golden thyme, chocolate mint, garlic
chives, sage, tarragon, variegated sage and some
lavender cuttings. 
Ian wanted to get the old wood chippings up off the road, as they have been down a few years now and starting to rot, which means it gets wet rather than giving us a good road to drive on. The aim is to add a new deep layer of chippings since it has worked so well up until recently, but before we did that the old chippings had to go somewhere. Since they are well rotted now, it was decided to use them for a herb bed and cranberry bed that I intended to make, which in turn meant I needed old logs to construct them with. The logs had got covered with bracken and other vegetation and so Ian had to strim the areas, find the logs and then move them with the tractor - now that the ground was dry enough. Some smaller rotten logs were also cut with a chainsaw to provide the main base of the herb bed and give the herb bed some water retaining content that should rot down over time. I was rather pleased with the result and it now means the herbs which are not so vigorous don't get swamped by the marjoram or the autumn raspberries that are now taking over the old herb plot.

The cranberry bed is on the other side of the pond, by the
forest. It is in a raised bed just to keep the weeds at bay, so
we hope it won't dry out too much for them. At least the
wood should hold quite a bit of moisture.
The rain has caused us a lot of problems, as I mentioned before. Our friends from America have not been able to help around the place, as much as they would like. They have cooked us meals and frozen lots of berries, which is really helpful and time consuming but many of the jobs we had anticipated doing, have just not got done. They did manage to get some posts in for our fencing this last week, so all we need to do is put the wire on when we get the chance, but that was all they managed to get done one day before the rain set in again.

I think this is a damselfly rather than a dragonfly. A pretty
colour anyway
We have still been busy of course, picking mushrooms (I really must take the camera with me sometime, as there are so many different sorts this year and unusual ones I haven't seen before), weeding the garden, mowing grass and running for cover from the rain. Yesterday was a lovely day and so we uncovered some sawdust in bags that were a bit damp and needed to dry out for our composting toilet. There was no forecast of rain and so we left them uncovered overnight. During the night though I heard the rain starting and so I quickly got up and ran outside, barefoot over the grass. It was a good job the rain was warm and we live in the heart of the countryside.

This is my favourite part of the bed. I managed to divide the
golden thyme into three and planted it with the chocolate
mint. I think they look great together or will do when they
grow a little more
Ian made table for helping with the cleaning of the wool. It is a wire mesh on a wooden frame, so it can be used for laying out the fleece and getting rid of particularly dirty bits - that is for the sheep fleece mainly though as they have much dirtier fleeces and is called a skirting table. Sounds a silly name really but refers to the outer bits of the fleece, which is where the dirtiest bits are and comes from the same word we get outskirts from. Being a mesh means we can also lay out wet fleeces that have been through a cleaning process to dry. Now we can start to process some of the fleeces for dyeing more easily. Little by little we are making progress.

The amaranth in the greenhouse is growing really well. We
were worried at first that they would shade out the chillis,
peppers and tomatoes, but the tomatoes don't seem to
mind and the chillis and peppers seem to be even thriving in
the shade, which surprised us.
Our chicks this week have been proving adept at becoming escape artists. Chicken wire is expensive and so we only use it to make a small enclosure for the chickens rather than use it to fence the whole garden. I tried to extend the area for them since there are now seven of them in a small area but didn't have any more chicken wire and so I attached net bags to the outer fence. They can just walk through the outer fence as the holes are too big to keep chickens in and only to keep sheep in and wild boar out. At first I found out they were getting out by walking up the corner support post and then just jumping out, so I put net bags over that to stop them walking out. They had had their wings clipped or rather half of one wing, to stop them flying over the fence, but they have been flapping and clawing their way up the net bags so I re-clipped their wings to see if that would help and found it isn't. I feel like the farmer in Chicken Run, those chickens are up to something.

A close up of the cranberry bed
Ian has been able to get on with flail mowing in between the showers. Normally it is just to keep the grass down in areas where we live at the moment, so around the caravan and greenhouse and part of the field. This keeps the insects down to a more manageable level. Ian also occasionally flail mows areas where the animals will be moved do, as they don't eat long grass. If we had cattle, they would be put on first and then followed by the sheep or alpacas to eat the grass down before resting the area. He also mows after the animals have been on it to cut down the type of weeds they don't eat, such as ground elder and docks, so they don't dominate the grass afterwards. We aim for animals to eat in the same area around twice in one year, to give the grass plenty of time to recover.

Having a bad hair day
This week though Ian managed to clip the boys paddock fence with the mower and broke some fence posts. They were already on the list of jobs to do because they were ready for replacing fortunately. He also flail mowed the oats and clover. The clover was planned as it is being used as a cover crop at the moment, but the oats were because they had been flattened in the rain and there was no point in collecting them. So we have plenty of mulch, just nothing much in the way of grain crops and something we need to re-evaluate in the years ahead.

A nearly full moon
Normally at weekends we make sure we are on site to welcome visitors but this week we went to our friend's celebration on her farm. It is such a privilege to see how far she has come, as we knew her before she had even bought the farm and watched the first few painful years as she adjusted to the life there. She had helped run a sheep farm and camp before, but her farm is now more isolated in winter and the first few winters had a lot of snow which proved a headache. Slowly though she built up a flock of goats from a few - I think - donated ones to the point she now has about 70 including kids. She has also built up a reputation for her cheese and people come from all over to buy some and visit the farm. It made a nice change to be part of the party wishing her success in the future.

Lady V getting comfortable in the shade
We had a test drill for a well just before the rains started but not seen anything of the guy recently, so we asked a friend to make some enquiries to see what was happening and finally he turned up this weekend with another guy who speaks English and helped us with our electric supply a few years ago. They did another test drill to check out the exact layering of the area where they think there's a good water supply and it was looking good. Apparently we have soil first, then a layer of clay, then a layer of water bearing sand, followed by clay again. They are going to start to dig the well on Saturday so hopefully that is another step forward for us.

You have to look hard but the specks in the distance are the
storks flying way up high, just before they went
It was a bit sad today as we said good bye to our American friends as they set off home after their two month stay. They have been in our apartment most of the time and we have only been back to do the washing and have showers, so it will seem a bit odd now for them not to be there, when we go. We don't intend to move back yet though, we will stay out on the land until it is too cold for us in the caravan. The signs that winter is approaching are all around though, from the occasional tree turning autumnal to the storks gathering and leaving. It is an odd feeling when the storks do that. They start gathering a few weeks or days before and then one day you may see a whole flock of them circling higher and higher, then the next thing you see is they suddenly veer off and they are gone. The swallows are still around, but one day they will just disappear off too and we won't see them until they return in the spring.
Four hung around just a few minutes more

Our boys
As we were in our village to say goodbye to our friends we decided to eat at the bakery for lunch, as we haven't done that in ages. We used to go for a walk every Sunday and have a pastry at the bakery, but now we are out on our land doing tasks or welcoming visitors. Things have changed such a lot for our friend, but also for us over the last few years. None of us really envisaged doing what we are doing now about ten years ago. Maybe we dreamt of doing something similar but not exactly and certainly for us, we never imagined it would be possible to be farming alpacas, in fact we wouldn't have even been sure what an alpaca looked like exactly and we would have been like most of our visitors who get mixed up between alpacas and llamas.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Is it raining with you?

This is the lower pond where Ian removed the drainage
channel and blocked the exit. We are not sure if that did the
trick or it is just all the rain we have had, but it sure is filling
up fast now. We were also excited to see the fish swimming
around in it today. We haven't seem them since they were
put in just before all the water receded and left them just a
small area - deep, but small. It seems like they have
survived well and grown quite a bit in the process.
It sure is raining here on a frequent basis. We've had some sunny spells but a lot of rain. The ponds are full, the road is a mess and plants are struggling with the damp conditions - so is Ian. Ian does not like the rain, I'm from the soggier side of Britain and used to frequent trips up to the even damper Lake District as a child and so I don't mind so much, but even I would like to see a spell of dry weather again, maybe not as long as the last time, but still is a week too much to ask for? Every time it rains I have one of two songs going through my head and for those who recognise the lyrics from the title, one of them is Annie Lennox's "Here comes the rain again" or alternatively Supertramps "It's raining again." I think I'm getting a little tired of those earworms.
The baby swallows have all grown up now and left their nest.
They are still roosting in the girls' alpaca house at the moment
though, but we are not sure for how much longer before they
take off to sunnier climes. It was amusing to see them all hovering
around inside this evening as we treated some itchy patches on
Agnese's nose. Five young swallows all making a noise
because we were in there.

Today's collection of mushrooms from our forest in the
bucket. Some advantages to the damp days anyway
Some of our potatoes are showing signs of blight due to the soggy weather and it is a dilemma as to whether to dig them up yet, but it might be still early when we need to store them over winter and besides, did I tell you? It's raining again! That of course makes it difficult to dig them up. Mind you, the ones we have dug and are free of blight have been lovely. We are finally getting an assortment of vegetables and we were even able to offer some vegetarians an evening meal just using the vegetables from the garden and not feel like apologising for the lack of variety. Since we only have a halogen oven, one hob and a slow cooker I settled on a vegetable stir fry and baked potatoes. So we had peas, cauliflower, carrots with some carrot leaves, lovage, marjoram, sage, nettles and hollyhock leaves. Today we had wild boar pie, carrots, peas, onions and mushrooms in a white sauce and baked potatoes. Rather tasty too, if I do say so myself.
We emptied the water out of the well to see if it would fill up
again - it did! We could see the water level rising immediately
after we emptied it, so that was encouraging. We are still waiting
to hear whether the guy is going to help us dig the well, as Ian
is still not quite sure how to go about it yet. Still if the
worse comes to the worse, he can have a go himself. At least
we know there is water there.

Mari drinking deep
This week I went to some church meetings. We haven't done that in a long time, as the nearest churches are quite far and we are quite comfortable not attending meetings. We haven't given up meeting with people of faith and wouldn't want to, but our rich heritage from our previous churches has more than sustained us over time. I went primarily to connect with some folks who we haven't had the chance to meet for a while and also to hear the main speaker who was Terry Virgo. I'm not a fan of big meetings and definitely wouldn't traipse half way across the country to listen to some big speaker, as I know that God is quite capable of speaking through people without special titles as much as those who are held up as leaders in the faith. However, it did amuse me that a famous speaker would come to a little camp down the road from us in the middle of rural Latvia, so couldn't resist going to listen.
At least we have onions. These are hanging in the barn to dry

Tellus (left) and Turbjørn (right) in the sun that lasted until
10am this morning. 
Ian came as well but he was a bit late as he had to wait for the vet to microchip our male alpaca. The last time she checked she was not able to find a signal and it did concern us as they were all microchipped before we got them, according to the breeder. Tellus was meant to be going to visit some females and so we felt he really ought to have a readable chip. In the event the vet did find a signal but it was much deeper in the shoulder than she would have thought - at least we are relieved he does have an original chip and the number does correlate with the one we were given.
Slicing pie, as you do in the barn. The fridge is in the barn
and not in our greenhouse kitchen for a reason - sometimes
it gets too hot in there. Admittedly it has not been that hot just
recently.

Brencis with a green patch at the top of his neck. He and Mr.P.
have been having some spats and lots of we hope play fighting.
Nothing seems to be particularly serious, but we will have to
keep an eye on it as they work out their place in the
hierarchy of the herd
The meeting was nothing startling, as I said, we have a rich heritage, but it was good to hear someone speak of Jesus being here and now and building his Kingdom rather than we are all just waiting around for him to come back again. It was also interesting to watch Terry Virgo as he does remind me of a friend of mine and the way he tells Bible stories, bringing out the little details that can be overlooked when purely reading the story compared to imagining yourself in the story. I also went to another meeting on the Friday morning and was encouraged by a young lady who came up to me and asked if she could pray with me. Her words were reassurance from the Father's heart to me and although she did not know me, she prayed for clarity of mind - which towards the end of doing a PhD is particularly poignant.
Asleep in the greenhouse

A new Olympic sport? Synchronised
eating courtesy of Tellus (front) and
Herkules (back)
As I mentioned Tellus was off on an adventure to see some ladies which entailed a road trip. He wasn't particularly happy about going into the horse box, but quickly settled down. The journey was not great, too many roadworks and the roads were dreadful after the rain, but we got there. We took Tellus into one of the sheds and showed him the girls, only he didn't seem that interested. We left them alone while Ian went to practice his dentistry skills on llamas. He has cut alpaca teeth before but not llamas. It was a little more interesting from the point of view that it took just a couple of minutes to sort the teeth out but it took them a good ten to fifteen minutes to get the llamas pinned down, one in particular was really difficult. The two alpacas, however, were done and dusted in just a few minutes. We don't think Tellus actually mated with the girls but we were anticipating him spending two weeks there so that he would have time to recover from the journey, instead we understood that he wasn't required - so not really sure what happened there apart from some form of miscommunication. Still it was nice to have Tellus back with us, it was a bit of a worry to send him out to someone else, even if we do have two other breeding males - well potentially, one is still a bit young yet.
Mari looking thoughtful - or just deciding whether to bother
going out in the rain or not again. 

Looks like Mr. P is having a laugh, but actually he has a
droopy mouth after spitting at Brencis
Chanel's coat really glows in the sun - when it shines
Alas dear Yorik, we knew him well! Or tomb for the unknown
farmer! Those are just two of the quips we came up with
for the new rockery. This is just across the road down
to the barn outside the greenhouse and is there to stop
little children running straight out of the greenhouse and
into the pond. It is also a place for our herbs for tea to grow.
Despite the rain we've had visitors again this week. One group came from the camp where we had joined in with a few of the meetings. The weather was lovely for once and we had afternoon tea outside in the sunshine. They brought some cakes from the bakery in the village and nearly all of them had black tea with milk - we had almost forgotten what it is like to have friends who drink black tea - or rather "normal" tea with milk. Our second lot of visitors also brought cake, a huge slab of home-made Latvian blueberry cake - absolutely delicious and I contributed a cake made from sour dough and roasted grapes, which worked fine. I am so pleased that it doesn't affect my blood sugar as much, in fact it is lower the day after - of course I know I still should take it easy on the sweet stuff but it is nice to find that as long as I watch the portions I can eat pretty much everything now, especially after having lost around 18llbs or around 9kg.

We were also pleased to welcome back the Northern English couple who had visited us previously and the reason the blog was late last week. They will be heading back home soon, the long way round via Finland and Sweden - quite an adventure and we wish them well. The weather wasn't quite so kind and so we were in and out of the greenhouse while we chatted for around five hours or so, which is why they stopped for tea. Being Northern I could say tea and not dinner or evening meal.

A golden coloured alpaca house at the end of the rainbow
It was lovely to hear of folks who had enjoyed Latvia so much that they are determined to be back again and hopefully they will visit us again, maybe to even help on the farm. Something to look forward to. It also really feels like we are building something worthwhile when people feel inspired to try something different after we have been chatting. I'm sure many folks could do a better job of what we are doing and if we can be an encouragement on that journey then that is fantastic.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Just a typical week really!

Not quite sure why the picture is cropped the way it has, but
never mind, I love the cloud scene anyway
What a range of visitors we have had this week, from India to Liverpool. The reason for the lateness of this blog was an unexpected visit from some folks from what we jokingly call Northernshire in our family, in other words from the Northern parts of England. It is bizarre to meet people here in the middle of rural Latvia who come from near where I lived as a child and close to where my parents now live. There were a couple who were from Blackburn and Preston who were house sitting for a young chap who has a house nearby and is a regular visitor to our farm now. They came with a friend who had come to visit for a few days, who was from Liverpool. Well we extended a typical northern welcome and invited them for some tea and cake, which they graciously accepted.

A marshmallow plant
I'm afraid that sometimes the offer of tea and cake can send some folks on their way for some reason. Not sure if it is my cakes - they're not bad really, ask Ian - or just not used to being invited for a cup of tea or they really do have to be on their way. Still it was nice they accepted and we had a great time chatting. They were really open about where they are at in life and we talked about our journeys. It is exciting to hear of some young folks who are willing to be different and experiment in life, but sadly as they say, they have nothing to lose these days.

A soggy unshorn sheep. We need some dry weather again
They appreciated my feelings that I feel my generation have let them down by taking so much and expecting so much from them too. It annoys me that rents and university fees are so high, when our generation benefitted from much better provision for the future. We were thrilled too that they felt inspired while chatting to carry on pursuing what is on their hearts. We were all amazed how time flew and by the time they left it was time to make our evening meal and then I had chanterelles and some boletes mushrooms to sort out for drying and they couldn't wait or I would have wasted the hour or so that it took for me to pick them. Not forgetting that I also had chickens to feed and put away for the night.
Lots of mowing done

Grapes ripening
As usual in July my supervisor and his wife come to visit us, or our alpacas really. This time they brought a fellow PhD student, his wife and their little four year old, who are originally from India (we are clocking up an amazing array visitors from many different countries now). The little one was a bright spark, who spoke good English and presumably Hindi, but not absolutely sure and a little Estonian, but on this day she was adamant she was speaking English. Being Indian but spending most of her time in first Edinburgh and then Tartu, she was not familiar with some of the plants we have here on the land and unfortunately discovered nettles. I had to show her what they looked like so she could avoid them and I also had to get out my spray for itchy spots and bites, which fortunately worked well on her, although she looked very dubious about it before she let me spray the area that she had stung. We were amused to hear her talking about the "sting rays" afterwards.
More early morning sunshine, but don't be deceived it clouded
over later.

Starting to get a regular supply of tomatoes now at last
At one point she asked me why we had buckets under the caravan and I explained it was to catch the rain water. With absolute logic she stated they should be put out on the grass away from the caravan so they could catch more rain. I could not convince her that all the water from the roof of the caravan trickled down at these points into the buckets and would collect more water that way. She was quite insistent that they should not be there. I wonder if one of our own granddaughters would display the same forthright opinions on such matters when she comes, I could imagine she will.

It would have been nice to share some of the photos from
the visit, but we haven't seen any yet and we are too busy
showing people around to take photos normally
We also had a coach party in this week again. We were told it was going to be a group of about 30 with special needs but weren't given much in the way of details. We thought that meant 30 total with some who had special needs, not necessarily 30 with special needs plus about 20 helpers. When the bus turned up, we realised it was going to be a few more than 30. Fortunately most were mobile with only three in wheelchairs. Much as we would like to be accessible, we are not entirely and the only reason we were was because the ground at the time was still relatively dry and Ian had been able to mow the grass around the girls' paddock area to make things easier. If it had been today, it might have been a bit of a struggle with the wheelchairs, as it has got very muddy with the very wet weather we have had over the last few days.

A sunflower in the brief spell of sunshine we had this morning
We gave them the talk, with one of the ladies from the group translating, about what we do with the alpacas and many of them were really engaged and were asking questions afterwards. One young guy was really lovely and went onto tell us that his uncle uses a horse in their garden and he combs the mane of the horse. Those with special needs are not well integrated into society here and people tend to look down on them, however, we have had experience over the years and love working with them. They were a really warm and friendly group. We explained that if they were calm and quiet the alpacas would be more likely to come to them, and bless them they really were very gentle with the animals. We gave them carrots to feed the alpacas and let them into the girls' paddock.

The soggy barley has been mulched
We brought two of our young males across too, as we didn't think it would work to take them across to the boys' paddock as that was a bit too challenging with the wheelchairs. Ian made sure that those in the wheelchairs got to feel the soft coat of our youngest alpaca, Brencis and the smiles on their faces was priceless. When it was time to go we walked down the road with Brencis and Ian gave one end of the leading rope to the young chap who told us about his uncle's horse. There was a cluster of young boys as well who also wanted to hold the rope. I don't think they really wanted to go. There were lots of happy faces and cheery waves as they left in the coach. If all coach parties were that easy, it would be lovely.

At least we have some squashes ripening
Of course there were other visitors too, who were all just passing and had noticed the alpacas in the field. There was a group of four cyclists who Ian spotted in our field taking a look, he had quite a chat with them as they were really interested in what we were doing. I had to cut short chatting with them as another couple came on. I could tell by the way the lady was talking that she was more business orientated as she was asking about the marketing of the place and I explained about using Facebook and how word of mouth seems to be quite effective. Later on she asked if we believed in God and I explained how we felt we should care for this wonderful world he gave us. They couldn't stop long but they asked if they could pray for us, which was really nice and to cap it all they wrote a lovely piece about our place on Facebook.

A soggy Mr. P.
There was another group of three who were also just passing but we had a problem with the language. They still enjoyed the visit and the young chap was on the phone to someone telling them about the llamas, to which his mother corrected him and told him they weren't llamas, they were alpacas, which amused me. At least someone got it! We often have to correct people who think they are llamas. Close but not quite.

Rain clouds gathering
Our other animals were also up to antics this last week. Our youngest cat is getting to be quite a pest for cleaning up after we have finished a meal. She hardly even waits for us to leave before she is up on the table investigating. We have lost cake and bread in our forgetfulness. We now have tins on the table ready to put that kind of thing in. She also tried to bring a live mouse into the greenhouse. Not helpful at all. I ended up fatally injuring the poor thing, as we can't afford to have a mouse loose in there. Ian ended up evicting both cat and mouse.

Early morning sunshine though
One of our chickens went broody on us and I had to put her in a box last week to stop her from hogging the nesting box and stopping the other two from laying. It appears though that putting the chicks in seems to have helped as she has now adopted them. Not sure if they appreciate this fact, although one night I opened the nesting box a bit later than normal, as I had forgotten to check for eggs and found the previously broody hen surrounded by all the chicks. I guess they appreciate her some of the time though. It is amusing to see her clucking away to let the chicks know where the food is.

Our forest and the wood pile where we are growing
the squashes
Last but not least we had a visit to the accountants to chat through some ideas of ways forward. We were relieved to find that we don't have to have a signature on all the receipts for money that people give us for tours around the place. We just need to write it down in the book and give one of the copies to the accountants. That makes us feel a lot better, as most people are just leaving and thrust some money in our direction as a thank you, they don't want to spend the next ten minutes while we fill out the receipt book with name, address, number etc. What we do need to do though is to investigate if it would be beneficial to have an association or non-profit at the moment, while we build the business. I was thinking that it might make it easier for others too, as it would then be possible to make donations to enable more visits from those with special needs and maybe at some stage we can work on how to make our hilly piece of land that bit more accessible for wheelchairs and those with reduced mobility. Maybe a golf-cart or something similar- now there's an idea!

Monday, 8 August 2016

Whoops! Where did the time go?

Had a lovely time with some folks from my neck of the woods in England and time just whizzed by, so sorry no blog till tomorrow.

Monday, 1 August 2016

It's good for the garden

The new pond is nearly full now
They say the rain is good for the garden, but I think we've had enough now. Our ponds have begun to fill and in fact some are near to overflowing. Of course to defy the theory of gravity, the lowest pond still has a way to go to fill, but it is still steadily filling up after Ian blocked the outlet drain and dug up the drainage pipes. I know they laid the pipes to drain the swampy fields but we want the water to remain on our land and not drain away, especially important since the dry weather we had earlier on this year. I guess we won't be swimming in it though as there seem to be quite a few leeches in it.
Clay land drainage pipes from the bottom of our pond

A cat's perspective on the important things in life, like sleep
A six week drought makes you realise the importance of water. At least since then we and the animals have had plenty of rainwater to drink and not had to fetch it in from our apartment. As we normally have tea, then it is not a problem of how clean it is exactly because the water is boiled, but even so the lack of pollution around here means it is clean enough to drink cold and it doesn't have the chalk or chlorine in it. Having said that, Ian is not sure he likes the taste of the chalkless water - funny how you get used to certain tastes.
We've had cauliflowers this year. Normally we just don't seem
to be able to grow them, but this year we have managed. This
one was the first and showing a little bit of having been shared
with snails but not too bad. It was enough for a meal of cauliflower
in herb sauce for the two of us.

There's nothing like having a few grapes
whilst cooking. I can heartily recommend
having a grape vine in the kitchen
(probably won't be saying that when the
leaves start dropping) 
The rain today was pretty heavy, but fortunately not as heavy as they had been forecasting. We still had rain from 9am to 3pm though and not just the drizzly rain like we remember from summers in the UK but persistent, heavy, Latvian rain (and if you have been to Latvia, you will know what I mean, only not just in a summer shower sort of way). I am sure most farmers around here will now be praying for the rain to stop, even though they were probably praying for the rain to start about six weeks ago.
Ian's new toy, a grinder for the cutters for
his shears for the animals. He has already
saved €130 by sharpening all his cutters
and combs, as well as saving the three hours
of travel getting them done.

There has only been enough dry weather to make silage, which is bagged up while still moist. The hay though has to be dry and the weather has not been good enough, for long enough to do that and several farmers around here have cut hay and it is now just lying in the field soaking - it won't be good stuff for their animals to eat and may just be okay as bedding if it doesn't rot in the meantime. Oh the joys of farming. We are just grateful that we probably have enough feed hay for winter since we cut early, but we still need more to make sure we have enough for bedding for the animals.
A rather large grasshopper

This beetle had some rather wonderful electric blue, iridescent
colours on its body, particularly underneath
The weather hasn't been all bad, for the whole week, we have had hot dry days too, just not enough of them. On one day though Ian and I went to my supervisor's summer home about 3/4 of an hour north of us. Well normally it is 3/4 hour, but this time it was over an hour due to 5 (or was it 6) sets of traffic lights on the way there. It was a dreadful piece of road and they are removing tarmac in some places and relaying the base of the road, but they always have to work in several places at once, hence all the traffic lights.
A rainbow at sunset, an unusual sight and a very eerie colour

A chorus of hungry baby swallows. We didn't realise until
today that there are five of them
The reason for our travels was to help with some landscaping after wild boar had got in and over a period of three nights turned over the ground between currant bushes and around their sauna. Ian first cut the grass to see what he was doing and I and my supervisor cleared that, then Ian rotavated the land. It was pretty impressive to see the after effects of using the two wheel tractor and the various implements and it looked much better than the very uneven land before he started work. We were surprised how well the rotavator handled the steep but uneven ground. On another good day when Ian hasn't so much to do (hahaha) he will finish the job off, providing of course it isn't a run of good days with enough time to cut the hay and bale it.
This is the largest of our lambs and he is very photogenic.
He also has a sore bum and we finally managed to corner
him to put some spray on it to help it heal and some more
spray to keep the flies away, so he now has a blue bum. The
ram also has a sore on his head, as does another of the sheep.
The flies are dreadful to them, but at least they have now
all had spray on that needed it.

A rather soggy Mari
Other than the more mundane jobs of looking after animals and gardens this week we have made a brief appearance at our local village festival. I had heard there was a pizza van that cooked the pizza on a wood burning stove, it is hard to believe that they had a brick built oven in a caravan, but they did and very nicely it cooked the pizza too. They can only cook one at a time and for some reason I didn't quite catch, they could only do a plain tomato and cheese pizza. If we wanted anything more complicated we would have had to wait until about two hours later. We couldn't wait that long as we needed to be back to feed animals.
The echinacea in my garden is now flowering

Mari looking a little drier but only just. This is from the
morning dew though and not the rain
We weren't sure if people would call in on our farm whilst in the area for the festivities and didn't want too many folks just wandering around whilst we weren't there, so we didn't get to see much of the festival. In the end most people were occupied with the various activities in the village itself and the only visitors we had were our neighbour's daughter and her new Estonian boyfriend. We love the way she always brings her friends around to show them our farm - we must be getting something right and she is always encouraging about what we are doing. So instead of a busy weekend with visitors we had a quiet weekend, but that was okay too, as I managed to get a shawl made from our alpaca wool (no pictures it is soaking to clean it).
Not all rain! Chanel's colouring really shines in the sun

Another eerie sunset photo
I did get to one other event and that was to see medical herbs all arranged in the basement of the old hospital. I went with someone who had some knowledge of the herbs in Latvian and I knew just about all of them in English and knew what type of uses they had too, so I was quite pleased with myself. There were one or two herbs I knew but I didn't know I could grow them in Latvia and so I am determined to find a source of them, especially my favourite plant, Southernwood which has the most wonderful smell. There were one or two herbs that were used for different medical uses than the ones I know, so always amazing to learn something new about herbs.
The boys are on an eating spurt - do they sense the changing seasons?

The right was just right to take a photo of Mr. P. It is hard to
photograph a black alpaca

The pied wagtail on watch