Monday, 22 January 2018

Surprise

On my chilly walk to the other apartment. I love the
reeds in the frozen pond though. 
It has been a week full of surprises. Most of them pleasant ones. The first was not though. We went up to our other apartment to heat it, so we don't have frozen pipes and to have a bath while we were up there. At one point the people upstairs must also have been having a bath and let the water out. We heard it gurgling through the pipes and it didn't sound good. I went into the kitchen to find that there was water gushing out of an outlet pipe. Sigh! I quickly got the wet and dry vacuum out and started to suck the water up. Fortunately not much, but still more water seeping into the floor probably on top of those other occasions when we've had a leak at that apartment. It would probably have gurgled up into the bath if we hadn't already had the plug in and water in the bath. We know where the problem is because there have been previous problems with the outlet pipe and so we will call a local company, who hopefully have the right kind of equipment to unblock the pipe.

The sky was glorious though. Winter sky at its best. 
At least the rest of the week was much more pleasant. First of all we got a call and an invite to dinner. It was much appreciated as the call came before I had thought about what we were going to eat. It makes a nice change not to have to think about it. I do all the cooking in our house and Ian washes up - I sometimes make that a difficult job for him. Hahaha! Ian got out of washing up too as they have a dishwasher, so a win all round. I did take a cake but I needed to bake as Ian has now recovered his appetite since we are no longer the house of plague.

As Ian wasn't out on the land today, I had to dig out some
photos from another week. This is Lady V about to eat the
snow
Another plus is our friend's house is warmer than our apartment has been all week. It would seem that the new company does not seem much better than the old one. We are back to temperatures around 16C on normal days like last winter even though it hasn't been too bad up until recently, more like 17-18C. The school apparently wasn't warm enough after the holidays either. Not a good reflection on our local government - again. I was doing a lot of typing one day and so sitting around and suddenly felt rather chilly. The cold had been creeping up on me and when I looked at the thermometer it was reading 14C. No wonder it was a bit chilly for sitting around in.

Not a very good picture, as the barn was rather
dark and the kids wouldn't stay still.
We had to go and update the details for our farm, which a friend of ours does online. When we got to their house they were eating and since we hadn't eaten yet they quickly got out some more plates and we joined them for food. Two meals out in one week. It is so nice to be well enough to visit friends. It would be nice to be able to update the details ourselves but the website is not particularly user friendly even for Latvians. It's a good excuse for a visit anyway and we had plenty of time to chat, until it was time for our friend to go and see to her goats. They are starting to pop at quite a rate again and I think about 2/3rds of the pregnant goats have given birth so far, which I seem to remember was over 40 kids. Phew!

Here the kids are jostling for a place on a
cardboard box. These are all the bottle fed
ones
The next surprise was kind of mind-blowing. I was invited to a meeting in Riga about hosting refugees. I was asked if I would share my brief experience. I hummed and I hawed about it. In the end I thought I was being stupid; just because I was tired, just because I'd been ill, just because it was winter and would mean either an early bus ride in or taking the car and leaving Ian without transport out on the land was not sufficient excuse. It just did not compare to the refugees' often perilous journeys to get to Latvia. I decided I really should go and Ian felt I should too. The next decision was whether to take the bus or car. What decided me was kind of selfish, I took the car as it meant I didn't have to get up so early.

Chanel and Freddie sunbathing next to the alpaca house
To continue a rather bizarre chain of events, at Christmas time my mother had given me some beads to give to a refugee family who were earning a living making jewellery. I asked the family what time they went to church to see if I could arrange a time to pass these beads on. I thought it might clash with the other meeting that I had now decided to go to and was happening at another church, elsewhere in Riga. As it turned out, they would be having coffee before their meeting and it was perfect timing for me to still get to the other meeting. So I arranged to go there first, have a coffee and meet with the couple who ran the church who were British but I hadn't met them before and then make tracks to the other meeting. As I was having my coffee a young American couple were chatting to the the husband about refugees.

Mr. B. It makes us realise how big he is after seeing another
herd of alpacas today. He would tower above them
It turned out they worked with refugees in Texas and had come across to help friends make their own connections with the refugees here in Latvia. It hadn't turned out the way they had hoped as their friends had backed away from the initiatives as they felt it was too hard to help them here in Latvia. People generally have a very negative reaction to refugees for many reasons, mostly out of fear but also historical reasons from Soviet times. The young couple therefore had come to the church I was visiting briefly after finding out the church had had some connections with refugees in the past. They had come to see if they could finally get the kind of connections where they could help out and be of use. The pastor was telling them they didn't really have much contact these days when I chipped in. I told the couple that I was heading to a meeting that afternoon and they would be welcome to join me. I thought the meeting would have the kinds of connections they were after.

Herkules with fully fleeced ears. It is so nice to see this after
all his health issues a few years ago.
So how bizarre is that? This was their last ditch attempt at making the connections they had come all the way from America to make and I just happened to be dropping off a bag of beads to a Syrian jeweller and had the car to take them to a meeting. If that wasn't bizarre enough, I thought I actually recognised the young chap from America. I asked him if he had been to Latvia before and he had. He had lived over here for about six years. I asked him if he had been to our village before (bearing in mind we are about 100km outside of Riga in the middle of nowhere) and he had. It turns out we had met before about 12-13 years ago and he had even worked with one of our sons on the camp next to our land. We met him when we were still only visiting Latvia and hadn't yet moved here, in fact we were still living in Denmark at the time.

Herkules almost looks like he's smiling here too. Such
bright eyes as well.
The refugee meeting itself went fine and we were all able to make connections that should enable us to help more refugees in the future. I returned back home in a bit of a mind-blown daze after dropping the young couple off in town. Just one more bizarre fact, the young American couple are expecting a baby around the same time that our son, who he worked with and his wife are expecting their third. Ian and I ended up eating at the local bakery, as I wanted to process what had happened rather than having to think about what to cook. Well one excuse is as good as another and our bakery does make rather nice cakes.

Tellus in contemplative mood, chewing a piece of grass
Today's adventure was off to a place quite close to somewhere I know quite well. I have visited the little village of Kaldabruņa a few times to meet with an organisation there who are doing fantastic development work with the local people. It turns out that a couple have bought a house and some alpacas quite close to there and so we went to pay them a visit. Any excuse for Ian to talk alpacas really, even if it is quite a trek to get there at this time of year. I heard about this couple from two different sources, there was a lady who had visited recently who had met one of them on a veterinary course for small agricultural animals and then through a friend of a friend of theirs who have three alpacas. I found out about the three alpacas and their owner from the couple who are buying our apartment. Are you still following all this? Life never ceases to amaze me at times with type of networks you can make when you are open to making new contacts.

Sunbathing
After a chilly chat in the barn looking at the alpacas we were warmly welcomed into the home for home-made pizza and apple strudel. Every time my plate was empty the mother of the family put more on my plate, so I was well fed, but Ian talked so much he didn't get to eat as much. The mother commented that Ian's eyes were shining when he was talking about the alpacas and I had to laugh. It sure is a topic close to his heart.

Turbjørn in contemplative mood too. Having alpacas was
not on the horizon for us ten years back. 
And to cap a week of surprises, it is a surprise I am still blogging after 10 years. My first blog was the 18th January 2008 and I started it as we were preparing to move to Latvia. My blog sure documents how much can change in a decade! All three of our children have either got married or got partners and now had their own children. So our family of five is now a family of fifteen and soon to be sixteen. We have gone from one apartment when we moved here to two apartments, 13ha of land, eleven alpacas, three sheep, two cats and 25 chickens. We have got to know people from so many different places in that time too, including people in Estonia on alpaca farms and in Tartu where I am attempting to finish off my PhD. What a journey it has been and little did I realise when I named the blog a Journey to Somewhere, quite what a journey it would be. I wonder what the next ten years will bring?

Monday, 15 January 2018

Finally!

We have been hearing tales that Sofie makes regular trips
to  our neighbour for a drink of fresh milk
Finally! Finally I got an article finished for submission to an academic journal this week. It only required minor changes from its first submission, so it should be fine. It still took nearly six weeks to get it done, but that was partly due to end of term hassles for my co-author, then Christmas and then health issues at both ends. Still we got there in the end and my head has finally cleared from the bug I picked up, so I felt I could actually put more than two coherent sentences together. Only another three or four more papers to go and a thesis.
Finally some sunshine, but poor Freddie has been feeling
the cold
Aggie looks like she needs a good strong coffee on
this rather bright day. Ian has been testing poo samples
all week and Aggie's is clear of anything. After last year's
performance with her health that is a relief
Finally Ian is also improving. He not only drives himself out to the land, but he has started getting some work done like cutting down trees. Winter time, when we don't have a lot of snow that is, is the ideal time to get some forest clearing done and at the moment we only have a dusting. He did manage to whack himself on the chin though with a branch that hit a hazel tree and bounced. Hazel is renowned for its bending properties and why it is used in basket making. Not that we have the right kind of branches for basket-making yet, but Ian is working on having coppice hazel in the future and then maybe we can.
Unfortunately we can't say the same for Chanel. There seems
to be parasites of some description but he is still trying to
work out what. She looks like she may be a candidate for
treatment. Apparently it is better to just treat the ones with
the parasites and not all animals routinely. This helps to
reduce resistance and one of the reasons for doing our own
testing. Unfortunately the camera that Ian bought to take
photos of what he sees down the microscope also seems to have
stopped working. 
George looking very fluffy
Although Ian is much better than he was, he still gets tired, but as I said, he isn't superman with superhuman recovery powers. He was shocked! Well in an understated way. It is hard when you spend your life outdoors to be confined. I haven't been out that much this week due to the writing project and the fact it has been so cold. It has felt rather mild for this time of the year until this week when most of the time it has been below freezing. In fact Ian recorded it at -9.5C when he was working in the forest. I noticed the forecast is for more this week - just in time for it to be our snow clearing duties for our apartment. Typical! I would like to go out to the land more but due to the time it takes to warm up the caravan to a temperature where I could type, it isn't really worth it. There is just not that much for me to do out there and plenty for me to do at the apartment. With Ian's appetite returning there will probably be more baking required to keep him fed in these temperatures for a start.
Mr. Tellus looking very elegant in the winter sunshine
Not looking quite so elegant here
It is lovely to see Herkules covered in fleece again. It is
definitely growing back better this year
After I had finished my article and was just waiting for the final proofread I decided I had better head up to the other apartment and get some heating on. We didn't want any frozen pipes. It was also a chance to get some sorting out and tidying done. Nothing had been done on it since I sorted out the shelving before Christmas and there were still boxes everywhere and bits and pieces to pick up off the floor. It was nice just to work on making the place look presentable again, in case either we or guests were to end up stopping there. It is also one more step closer to getting it ready for when we move there permanently.
Mr. P nibbling on the alpaca house

Mr. B, however, can reach much higher up the alpaca
house than Mr.P. This really shows how big he has grown
A little pair of Santa's boots. When I went for my haircut
before Christmas there was a little pair of red and white
boots that the hairdresser had felted. The white was
from our very own Mr. B. I couldn't resist adding a few
embellishments. The original is below
I forgot to mention last week that we had a late visit from Santa. A friend of ours quite often visits on Christmas Eve but of course we were in the UK this year. We don't hear from him for ages because he works away and then he turns up bearing gifts. Well he persevered and eventually he saw lights on and assumed we were back. He bought bottle of wine and a box of Lindt chocolates in a fuzzy box - you know the stuff if you ever played with fuzzy felt (now doesn't that date me or do they still have that in schools?), which seems rather posh for chocolates. They are rather nice though. The bottle of wine will have to wait to be tested.
A sweet little pair, even without the embellishments

Mr. B himself playing peekaboo

Mr. P in one of his rare good pictures. It's really hard to take
a photo of alpacas this colour

A picture I took on my way up to heat the
other apartment. A frozen wasteland

Not much snow, but rather chilly

An over the top patch for my holey jeans.
Part embroidered and part needlefelted

Monday, 8 January 2018

Something's in the air

Got any food mate? The volume is creeping up from these
guys and yes they do have hay and yes they do have water
and yes they do get a helping of oats every day. Sheep are
just noisy. Makes you think when God compares people to
sheep!
Something's in the air? Unfortunately this week that is not all good news. Ian is still sick, although he is better than he has been and now drives himself out to the land. He comes home as it is getting dark feeling pretty grotty though. Into the bargain, I now have a cold. Fortunately I didn't get all the aches and shivers, just a sore throat initially and now a bunged up nose. This has meant we have spent the last week sleeping in separate rooms so we don't wake each other up.
Handsome dude!

Contemplation on a murky day
To add to our woes (but dear reader do not be too despondent, it could be whole lot worse) the road out to our land is closed. About half way along, the road has collapsed down a steep embankment into the river. Initially we thought they had closed it to work on it, but no! They have closed it and stabilised the area, but that will be it presumably, until spring. There is some confusion as to whether it can be used or not by the locals requiring access so that we do not have to take the long detour, which means an 18km trip instead of 6km one. At first we took the long route round because the roads have been so bad with the continued rainy weather we have been having and because we thought they were working on it. Now the rain has stopped, the sun come out and the temperatures dropped then we feel happier about taking that route as the road won't be so unstable or resembling liquid soup.

The caravan in its winter quarters


What a difference a day makes. A sprinkle of snow and some
sunshine and the world is a different place
At the beginning of the week I was fine and drove Ian out to the land. Of course he wouldn't stay away from his animals, he wanted to go and see them, even if it meant spending the rest of the time in the caravan snivelling - although to be fair he often felt worse in the dry, warm atmosphere at home. I helped him with the heavier jobs like poo cleaning after our holiday break, since it was a step too much to ask someone to do over that time. There was about three wheelbarrow loads from each alpaca house to clear and then I put a good layer of hay for bedding on the top. After that Ian was able to manage most routine jobs and I just helped out when he needed an extra hand, like topping up the hay, which requires shifting more bales of hay.
Lady V is much more sprightly with her Vitamin D and
mineral injection. Those old bones need some sunshine
vitamins. I know the feeling
Taking lunch with her
We took one of our calendars with photos of our alpacas to the local vet who has been so helpful to us, as a thank you for all the work she's done. She didn't think she had done so much, but she has. Even if she didn't know how to help, she did her research and we discussed together the best way forward. I think we work together as a good team and that is the best we can hope for in a rural location with no previous experience of alpacas. She was thrilled with the calendar and looked through every page while we were there. It was nice to give something that someone appreciated so much.
Freddie glowing in the sun
Meditation in the sunlight
We have already started getting people ringing about visiting the alpacas this year, but nothing has come of that so far. Part of the problem of course has been the weather, but with more settled weather forecast then it is more likely they will come. We've also had an email reply from another alpaca owner who is interested in keeping in touch and learning about the alpacas. This is good news and something we hope will develop over time.
George is still getting milk from his mum, but he is also
quite keen on the squash he gets from time to time
George and his mum maybe different in colour but they do
have a similar shaped face, especially the nose and ears
Chanel glowing in the sunshine
So that's about it from the house of plague! There has been a lot of bone broth in this week. A lot of time just moping about, coughing and spluttering, but life goes on and we are recovering. Good job as I am also in the middle of finishing off the amendments to my latest academic paper and then it can be resubmitted. It's a good job it was only minor revisions that are needed
And because there is not much to write about during a week
of illness then here are lots of alpaca pictures. Here they are
the girls, setting off down the field 

Spreading out, having a good look around

Right that's enough of that, back to the paddock everyone

Freddie is nearly as big as his mum. Wonder if he is going
to be a big chap like Brencis.

What else do you do with a Christmas tree?

Eat it of course

Having a good scratch

Brencis is such a handsome chap. He has got a new harness
now because he outgrew the old one and his fleece will make
it impossible to fasten soon

Hello! Our rather deaf alpaca. I know the feeling, especially
at the moment.