Monday, 15 September 2014

Relaxing

Yes in the greenhouse again, but we
forgot to take pictures this week and so
these are the cast offs from last week.
So cute though, I'm sure you don't mind
I took the opportunity to relax a little this week and do something completely different with our little granddaughter around. She has been such a joy to have around with her little giggles and inquisitive nature. I'm sure her Mum winced occasionally when she was scrabbling around with her food, but we are all well aware that kids need dirt in their lives to build up immunity and reduce problems with allergies. She ate lots of fresh food though to compensate, although tomatoes aren't too her liking - except once. If she was whinging a little due to tiredness or hungry, she was offered plums, apples, pears or cucumbers all freshly picked and not a chemical residue in sight. Sometimes our daughter cooked too and it was nice to have someone else do the cooking. One night they took us to the restaurant - a treat as we have only been once in the last year or so and that was recently when our friends took us out.

Showing Mummy how to collect tomatoes. Shame the wee
one doesn't like them 
We sat around and talked a lot too, yet still got wood stacked in our basement for the winter and radiators attached to walls thanks to our son-in-law. We continued our walks around to see the alpacas and chickens and of course, the wee one preferred to see the chickens - much more interesting to youngsters. According to the little one, chickens go "arrrrggghhh!" not cluck cluck and she is sort of right really when you really listen to them.

There has been plenty of sun this week.
Rather nice! Only problem is that we
have had just a touch of frost and so
that prompted some hurried harvesting
Our sheep are finally sheared, but were greatly threatened with having a rendezvous with our freezer in the process. They escaped twice after shearing, but we think it was because they were unsettled with having strange people around who helped with the job. Our sheep are very easy to keep and move around, but as soon as we need to do anything like shearing or injections, they are an absolute pain to get hold of. You wouldn't think that one of them actually likes a nose rub, would you? At least they settled down for Ian when he took them some food in the evening.

The amaranth is in the two strips in the centre. Not exactly
well advanced. Not done so well this year with this



My daughter and family returned on Friday and I went with them to the airport, as I had a dental appointment in Riga. They ordered a taxi for me from the airport as I had to take their child seat with me and then we have it for any little visitors in the future. I was a little late as the taxi got stuck in traffic, but that was okay. I don't miss city traffic, that's for sure. The dentist whipped out the broken tooth and then took two x-rays, one of the tooth and one of a tooth that is sensitive to pressure from time to time. Since the broken tooth is not hurting, she arranged another appointment to deal with it for three weeks time. This time it only cost me €12.30 - not too bad then.

Sunflowers again and showing the autumnal look to the
trees
As I had two hours to kill after the dentist I decided to walk back into the city centre to catch my bus. The child seat was very light and quite easy to carry ....... for the first hour. I did something that is not like me at all, I took a wrong turning and ended up walking for two hours - not quite what I had in mind when I thought about killing time. To cap it all I got there too late to buy a ticket at the kiosk and the bus was really full, so I had to stand for over an hour. I was so pleased to reach a stop where people were actually getting off the bus and not on it and I got to sit down then. I then spent an interesting hour chatting to a young man, who I've met before. He was enthusiastically re-telling me many a tale of changed lives when people listen to God. He is a young man with special needs and yet he has a deep wisdom to know that listening to God and acting on it will help him and others immensely. I love it when God uses the people considered weak or foolish in society's eyes for his purposes.

The bees are still busy
Our son-in-law loves a good challenge when talking and he certainly posed some interesting ones this week. After we had spent rather a long time picking a poor harvest of potatoes, he commented that he could buy lots of bags of potatoes if he had been working for that length of time. He's right of course and we could argue, they won't have been picked by us, the ones from the supermarket would have chemicals added and all sorts of good reasons to continue growing our own. However, the one thought that struck me, long after he had gone, was that it demonstrates the price we put on our food. Not everyone can become a software engineer of course and just about anyone can grow potatoes if they wanted to, but the price we pay in the shops doesn't just represent that the farmer has better machinery to pick potatoes, it also represents the low wages we pay those folks who sort through the potatoes that the farmer lifts. Somewhere in our system we have decided that those who produce food are not worth as much in the economy as those who design clever systems to make our life easier or help industry to run smoothly - all well and good, but with no disrespect intended, we can live without those things, we can't live without food though.

An acorn year for sure! Hmmmm! Lots for the wild boar to
eat over winter then.
A big announcement this week we have a new grandchild on the way. My oldest son and his wife are expecting again and so our grandson is going to become a big brother. Time does fly and it is funny to see how little he looks and yet when his father was born, his big sister was only 15 months older, younger than our grandson is now. My grandson will be over two when his little sibling is born, in fact more like the gap between his father and baby number 3 in our household. Gosh we were all young then. 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

A brave new world

Preparation for moving berry bushes
 Well if you read yesterday's blog, you will realise that the wee one, did go down for a sleep for me, but first of all I thought I would start off with some ideas that struck me earlier this week, just for a change. As Christians we often have a reputation for doom and gloom. It is well known that many think that we will be whisked away while the rest of folks are left in a deep, black time of hardship and struggle. Few will make it, so the thinking goes! I did think that at one time, but a few years ago I had my ideas challenged and I am back to the belief that God intends to renew this Earth. Revelations 21:1-4
Sunflowers looking good in the early autumn sunshine
Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’
Yumm! Mushrooms
This week I read an article about the way that science fiction can influence tomorrow's scientists and engineers. When the writers start to imagine a more positive outcome, then that inspires the future ideas that can be made into reality. That should be true of the Christian community too. When we get hold of the idea that God is interested in renewing and not destroying this world, then we are more likely to be inspired to work towards that and take better care of this planet and its people. I think it helps when we think of the Lord's Prayer where we say "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven." To me that means we are meant to be a part of bringing God's Kingdom to Earth, not in a dominating, violent way, but in a peaceful, renewing way. That is something that inspires me and something that makes me want to work towards a more positive future. So what are your thoughts? Does it give you hope and an optimism for the future?

I don't think we will be eating these ones though
Anyway onto the regular day to day stuff of life here in Latvia. This week I have been mostly cleaning. Our home does rather suffer over the summer and our daughter and family were due to arrive on the Friday and so cue cleaning time. It's nice to be able to sit somewhere that is tidy for a change. Part of the challenge was trying to make the house a little more baby proof, since this is the first time that one of our little grandchildren have visited whilst mobile. Our grandson did visit last year, but he was just a tiny baby and our other adopted granddaughter is old enough to leave things alone or not try to eat everything in sight.
Not the sort of wildlife we really want to see

Nor this. Some kind of fungal disease probably
Intense concentration picking those
tomatoes
Our little granddaughter has spent a couple of days out on the land and in the garden and so it has been rather amusing to watch her and have her "help," she got really dirty picking up potatoes and helping her Mummy put them in a bag, then finding worms and stones and ....... Afterwards she also lent a hand with sorting through the potato harvest with her Mummy and Daddy, so  I suspect we are going to find one or two potatoes in some strange places. Our little granddaughter and I have been for lots of walks to see the alpacas and the chickens and on one ramble we made our way back through the greenhouse. She stopped at the tomatoes and tried to pull off a green one and so I showed her a red one she could pick and we took it to Mummy. Later on that day she set off by herself and took the watering can and started pulling off tomatoes and putting them in it, even got some red ones in there.
A watering can, just right for picking
tomatoes right?
A happy wee soul
Besides helping with the potato harvest our son-in-law helped me to pin the alpacas down whilst Ian clipped their toe nails. White alpacas with fine fleece have toe nails that grow at rather a rapid pace and, just a few months after they were trimmed when we sheared their fleece, they were back to needing a trim again. Herkules, unfortunately escaped out the door with me desperately trying to cling on and Estelle bucked a little when she was having her's trimmed and ended up catching me on the backside, just below the belt line. It was just a scratch, albeit a deepish one but everyone found it very amusing. Had to resort to the vodka for that though - for cleaning the wound of course. Agnese also got her toe nails trimmed for the first time and at one point when she was protesting we thought that Snowdrop, her mother, was going to spit at me for tormenting her child. Fortunately she didn't, as we talked to her gently to calm her down.
The marigolds are still looking good
Harvest moon
We have had yet another leak from the apartment upstairs at our other apartment. Fortunately our daughter and son-in-law spotted it and took appropriate action in the evening. The next morning we had to go and talk with the neighbours and the lady of the apartment was distraught that it was happening again. We had to insist on them turning their water off for the weekend, so that it didn't continue, which made us feel awful. We did offer to bring them up some water if they needed it, but they said others would help. The fitting that was leaking looked new and we wondered if this was the replacement for the part that burst the last time and totally flooded us out. We do despair at times and this is one of those time when I wish I was fluent in Latvian and could deal with the company myself and tell them exactly what I think about them and their workmanship.
Flowering onions
Sofie, off on her night travels
Today we got to look after our little granddaughter whilst Mummy and Daddy went on their own to Riga. She was a little treasure, she didn't moan and was a happy little soul most of the time. She certainly was very easy to look after and giggled a lot. Not bad considering that the most contact I have had with her is via Skype and Ian even less so. It will be nice to see her a little more often now that she will be living in England, I shall be looking forward to their visits.

Major Fowler on guard
Some debate on this, but I think it is a hornet's nest. Quite
incredible really but something to deal with over the
winter
Jerusalem artichokes looking good
 

Monday, 8 September 2014

Too busy

Too busy spending time with my daughter and her family that is. I'm getting plenty of granddaughter time too and loving it. Hopefully when I am babysitting tomorrow the little one will sleep and I can then write my blog, if not I will update next week.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Once upon a time....

This isn't the rather large chicken that went missing, but
her mother - or at least we think it is her mother. She
is the right size and looks kind of similar.
 ....in a land far away, lived a rather large white chicken. She was one of the morning shift chickens, because her owner let her out in the morning to run around and clean the alpaca house where she lived with the lady alpacas. The afternoon chickens were let out in the afternoon, but that's another story. In the early afternoon the owner went to put the morning shift chickens away and only four were found, the large white chicken was missing. The owner knew that a fox could have been passing or a hawk overhead and the chicken would be promoted up the food chain (eaten in other words), but was puzzled, because the other chickens didn't seem very upset, neither were there any tell-tale feathers blowing in the breeze. The next day, the owner let the morning chickens out again and sure enough there was still one missing chicken, so she hadn't been hiding in the chicken house at putting away time. He decided the alpaca ladies needed their water buckets re-filling since they had upended them yet again, so up he trundles with a big bucket of water. To his surprise, sitting under one of the buckets was a slightly soggy large white chicken, sitting on an egg. She hadn't been promoted after all and even better she was still laying, since many of her companions have stopped because they think it is autumn. So a happy little tale to start off this week's blog.

A rather ethereal look to our oak tree in the autumnal light
I will now explain why we have morning and afternoon chickens. I mentioned two weeks ago that we had fun and games with the chickens. We moved one group up to the ladies alpaca house, so that they could do a little housekeeping and try and reduce the number of flies there. The swallows were working hard, but there was still a problem. There were less flies in the boys alpaca house and so we reasoned that the chickens were doing an effective job of removing the grubs and decided that we needed a cleaning crew up in the girls place. We left the group up in their ark overnight, but when we let them out they mixed with the other group and the cockerel lost control of his well ordered hens, not good. We managed to get the right hens in the right house, but it was not something we wanted to repeat. We put the new ark inside the ladies alpaca house since it is small enough and only let the chickens out into the alpaca house and not outside. All was well and Major Fowler, as we call the cockerel, regained control of his ladies. One particularly rainy day, Ian let the chickens out in the alpaca house, but also kept the alpaca girls inside, so they didn't get saturated. This gave the chickens and alpacas a chance to get properly acquainted. It seemed to stop little Agnese from chasing them around quite so much anyway. After that Ian started letting them out in the morning. We find that free range chickens can be so free range that they don't lay eggs at all, or lay them somewhere else, but by letting them free range for half a day, they get to eat a lot of food they find for themselves and we still at least get some eggs - well when it isn't too hot, too cold or heading into autumn. Finally on the note of chickens, we finally got around to culling the two cockerels that were sat in our horse box for months. I laughed when the little one was de-feathered, there was nothing on him, but at least he did make some stock for a tasty chicken stew. I hasten to add, I didn't laugh at dispatch time, it is still sad. We also culled one of the females as she was sick. When we investigate it looked liked a systemic infection and she had a set egg inside - she would have died soon anyway we think. We won't be having her for a meal.

Herkules at his worse.
On the alpaca front, dear old Herkules seems to be recovering a bit of his old self. He certainly looks more perky these days and he is having some time off from oil treatment on his skin to see how he gets on. The stress of treatment won't help in some ways. He is also putting weight on, which is always a good thing before winter. Agnese is being treated for a foot infection, probably fungal. The foot that looked the worse when we started is looking better, but the other foot seemed to have got worse. I don't think the wet days have helped at all. All these skin problems though seems to make sense now, since we realised that we had got the alpaca ladies mixed up. Herkules and  Snowdrop are related, brother and sister, that we knew. We thought Agnese's mum was called Veronica, but now we realise she isn't then the fact that she has had a skin problem that looks similar to the type that Herkules has now, probably suggests a genetic cause. Presumably age, stress etc. can all trigger an event. Veronica's stress points were moving and pregnancy - as her's seems to have calmed right down. Agnese due to being young, weaning and goodness knows what else and Herk as he is getting on a bit too, plus an eye infection. Well I'm glad that's sorted - well kind of.

Some of our mushroom harvest
The harvest has slowed a little due to the recent cooler wet weather, but we are still collecting plenty of tomatoes along with more and more mushrooms. People often marinate mushrooms here, but we like to dry them for a very intense mushroom taste. I did take the precaution of asking a friend to drop by, since she was taking her daughter to a neighbour, who is a talented musician for music lessons, for a look through my mushroom collection to make sure they were all edible. They were and we haven't ended up in hospital either, so her advice must be good. We have also started to collect apples from our tree at the apartment, the first time it has produced more than about a dozen apples in a few years. They are quite a reasonable size too. Soon it will be time to collect plums, I tested them today and they need just a little longer and then they will be ready. Now begins the anxious weather watching to see when the first frosts will arrive. Our squashes will all need taking in before that event or covering. We are hoping that the frosts will hold off and the days be just a tad warmer and then everything will ripen in time.

Another of Ian's Franken creations, this time a drier for herbs
beans or whatever else needs a sheltered airy spot to dry.
This week we had a short visit from the young lass who interviewed us a few weeks ago, with a request for a lift to university. She was due to start today for the first time and she had no one to transport her with all the various things she needed to take.  We were delighted and so we took a trip into Riga yesterday with her and her brother. Her brother came home with us though. Poor lad, we dragged him around Depot while we tried to remember all the things we needed from a large DIY place since it was on our way. Poor Mum too as she was feeling a little emotional as she waved goodbye to her firstborn. She will miss her daughter's help around the farm I'm sure.

A butterfly on an echinacea plant
On a more serious note, the calls for troops to stand against Putin have been getting ever more strident and to tell you the truth it unnerves me. There has to be another answer. The war on terrorism only spawned more war, it was not an answer to the terrorists, but played into their hands. It opened up a whole can of worms that even now plays out in truly terrifying ways. For us now nestled in the Baltics the problems in Ukraine is unsettling and even more so for our neighbours who have lived here during the Soviet era; a period still firmly entrenched in people's minds, since it is well within living memory. The call for more tanks and more troops to protect the land we now live in, does not make me feel any easier or safer. For some it is a relief to see evidence of commitment to stand with this nation, to me it is just more sabre rattling that will come to no good.

Not exactly inundated with cucumbers
but that's fine with us. Those red grapes
though have been so tasty and the
wasps thought so too.
I tried to look up the reason for World War 2 and why Neville Chamberlain's comment "there will be peace in our time" was shot to pieces within the year. I thought surely there has to be some lesson from history. I can see that appeasement never wins! Turning our backs on bullying neighbours, never wins! But what can be achieved peacefully? I think I had my answer in the citizens of Mariupol in Ukraine (I still feel like putting "the Ukraine", but after reading an article that said that isn't correct I am refraining). They have formed a human chain to stop the advancing soldiers of the rebel opposition armed only with determination and a few trenches. That is reminiscent of the Baltic Way, just a few short years ago in 1989, when they stood in opposition to the Soviet might, holding hands in solidarity. Dear Lord, hear their cries!

Beetroot and round carrots
Seeing the pictures from Ukraine sends shivers down my spine, as I see apartment blocks similar to ones we can see here in Latvia and indeed like the one we live in, blown to smithereens. People who look like folks I see when travelling around Latvia, particularly in Riga.  It is scary in some ways, but I am an optimist. I believe that God is interested in bringing Heaven to Earth, not that we escape and leave the Earth to its hellish devices and so I will continue to work on that principle. Continue to look for ways that enable people to work together, to overcome mistrust and bad experiences. I will not be intimidated by seemingly huge obstacles and fanatical warmongers and diabolical dictators, I will trust!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Soggy


Surprisingly enough, no children were
out playing today. A rather soggy
playground
A rather large area of low pressure has sat over us for the last 24 hours at least, bringing rain for much of that time. At least it held off long enough for me to have a good stint in the garden to get rid of some of the weeds that were beginning to make my orchard plot unrecognisable. I have also started harvesting some of the squash, one sort is spaghetti squash which has grown in a totally unexpected place and the other sort we are not sure what type it is, they are bright yellow instead of the blue of sweetmeat squashes which is what we thought they might be. They have obviously crossed with another type. So it will be interesting to find out what they taste like. The onions are all in too, just in time by the look of them, if they had sat out in this rain, they could well have rotted away, as would some of the beans. Some beans are still nice and green, but others were starting to get the tell tale signs of needing to be picked.

Ian sifting buckwheat. We won't be bothering with sifting
all the buckwheat, the chickens will be doing that for
themselves. This is for seed next year
Having gathered in the hay, the barley and the buckwheat now, I feel that my life is gradually returning to a more measured pace, where I can get some studying done in peace. Actually it is not just the harvests that have been completed, it is also the fact that I have just about completed the paper I was writing and the lessons for the Sociology course I will be teaching online. All had to be complete by the end of the month and so it is nice to just have the tidying up jobs to do on those. I even finished a short piece on what I am actually studying for a doctoral colloquium - sounds absolutely pretentious name for a group of doctoral students errr I mean candidates sitting around talking about what they are doing. I do enjoy going to them though.
The sifted chaff

Before on the left and after on the right
Chanterelles for our evening meal
You can tell what season we are in by what we are eating, we are definitely moving into harvest time. One evening meal consisted of potatoes, carrots, sage and nettles taken from the garden (the nettles were cut from an area that had been cut down during the year and so were tender enough to eat), a couple of large beefsteak tomatoes from the greenhouse, lentils from the cupboard and smoked goat's cheese from my friend Santa. This was followed by windfall apple scones, with sour cream and roasted grapes. It was rather good, even if I do say so myself. Tonight it was mushroom risotto with chanterelles we picked from our forest, since the wild boar hadn't actually dug over our favourite spot this year and a cep - yes only one, but then they are quite large mushrooms. My breakfast is usually porridge, whatever time of the year and I often take it out to the land to eat, to save time in the morning, as I don't like to hurry breakfast. The nice part about taking my breakfast out there is that I can get fresh berries to put in it. The berries that are added changes throughout the year, from the strawberries in early July, through blackcurrants, redcurrants and raspberries to now where they are blackberries, blueberries and autumn raspberries - well that is if the wasps haven't snaffled them first. The wasps have been pretty bad this year, must have been the relatively mild winter we had I guess.
Franken-ramp! We used the shredder to process the grain
crops and it worked rather well, but it was hurting Ian's back
bending over feeding the stuff in. Not much better for me,
holding the sack over the outlet, so Ian built the ramp and
base so he doesn't have to bend over so much. It is also bolted
to the frame for stability
View from a different angle

Outside my office, stood just inside the caravan door
The article written about our life on the farm and put in the local papers resulted in another visit to our land this week. This time it was a relative of one of our neighbours. She had been meaning to come for a while but hadn't got our number or anything, so as my email was printed along with the article, she sent me a message to arrange a time to come. She even brought along her family, her two children, her father and her sister and her family who were visiting. They brought goodies for the animals to see if they would like them and as usual our boys were only interested in the grain but the girls enjoyed the carrots and apples and the chickens enjoyed the bread and the rowan berries. Once again the children were more fascinated with the chickens than the alpacas, but they still enjoyed feeding them.

My office this morning
We had a chuckle about the article the other day. The day was reasonably warm and so we took our morning coffee up to the spot where we hope to build a house one day and sat and chatted and watched the alpacas eating, when we remembered the title of the article roughly translated being "Corncrake alpacas and the hardworking English couple" (Grieze or corncrake being the name of our land or at least some derivative of that name), anyone looking at us at that moment in time, might not think we were so hardworking, but then again, I guess they don't see us the rest of the time.

The heater in the caravan went on today
About a month ago I sent off a letter to our local heating company complaining about the charges they keep adding to the bills. There is no explanation as to what they are and they are added in a fairly random manner. I suspect they add them and hope no one notices. I was fully expecting a letter to say the equivalent of "get lost and pay your bill" - well maybe not quite so rude, but they may as well put that for the replies we have had in the past. Anyway when I opened the letter I was in for a shock. It was very short and so easy to type into Google translate and basically said, "sorry we got it wrong and sorry for the inconvenience." I have never known that company apologise before, however, they only applied the reversal of the charge to the last bill we had and not the the many months of erroneous charges. So that means yet another letter making absolutely clear which charges I am referring to month by month. Obviously I will have to do the hard work for them, despite the fact I told them how much I thought they had added in error.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Bad but not that bad

The view from Ian's home. Well he does spend more time in
the caravan than he does in the apartment
The weather this week has been much cooler, not quite cardigan weather yet, but certainly a shirt over the t-shirt weather or a blanket on top of the sheet weather. We had been forecast some heavy deluges again and since Ian's modifications to the barn and alpaca house have not had a thorough testing yet, he decided to stay out in the caravan so he could be prepared. I was stopping at home to write my blog and then be at home to collect the milk in the morning. Also we were a little wary in case it rained in under the window at home too. In the end it was a heavy drenching drizzle, but not the great deluge.
We processed some more buckwheat this week. Here
you can see the chopped and sorted seed on the floor
of the greenhouse to dry. We also bagged up the wet
grass, leaves and stalks to see if we can make silage
from it. Nothing wasted - we hope!
I love the colours in this photo. In the
front are Adam Tomatoes. No not
Adam's tomatoes, that is the name of them
We are now officially in an emergency zone, but don't panic, it is nothing to do with the Russians or anything that bad. It does have everything to do with the wild boar though and we have been hearing shooting over the last couple of days. So since we don't have pigs on our farm then the threat of the African Swine Fever, for us is nothing to worry about. I am not sure if one of our neighbours has pigs this year and that would be sad for her, as the pork she gets from those animals is amazing. Then again what else would you expect from someone who feeds her pigs on milk fresh from the cow. The African Swine Fever has been spreading westwards from the Belarus border for a few weeks now and so it was not entirely unexpected to see a state of emergency being declared as the high pig population begins to succumb to disease. In some ways it was only a matter of time.
Some of the tomatoes are rather large. Must be the alpaca
manure we used this year
We also have a forest of peppers
We went to the tax office this week to declare Ian's income, well the transfer of the land into Ian's name, which is effectively an income. We were expecting a hefty sum to pay and I transferred some money in anticipation, as it had to be in by August 15th we were told, when we wrote the contracts out for the donation of land into his name. When we got to the tax office, however, we were told that he doesn't need to do anything about it until June 15th 2015, by which time all money needs to be paid and details declared. It was also only half the amount to pay that we were expecting. Bad, but not that bad! What was good news too is that I got a tax rebate that was just over half the remaining amount. Funny how paying out a few hundred Euros can seem not too bad, when you are expecting whacking great bills.
And the squash glut has begun. To be more precise these are
Spaghetti squash, also enormous and self-seeded next to
the alpaca manure heap - do you sense a theme here?
This plant or plants grew from some squash that ended up
on the compost pile
We had a response to the interview that our young neighbour wrote for the local paper about our alpacas this week. A lady from the opposite end of the region asked to come and see us, as she has spun with dog fur, but never alpaca and she would like to give it a try. We let her take away 9 x 50g bags of fleece to try. We have to decide how much we would charge if we were selling it but she has told us that she would charge €10 for a 100g ball. It sounds quite a bit but a commercially produced 50g ball costs over €3 and that wouldn't be wool from our own Tellus. Neither would it be giving meaningful employment to a local person, which is what we aimed to do. It might take her a little while, as she also works during the day and this is very much an experiment. Can't wait to see the result.
One of the many squashes growing in the compost pile.
We are surprised to see so many squashes, since they seem
to have got off to a really late start. Better late than never
I suppose.
Well since there is already a photo of some alpacas, here
is a photo of Bella, our cat, in her favourite sleeping place,
a tray of string on some shelves in the greenhouse.
Talking of alpacas, I forgot to mention the other day that Ian tried to cut Estelle's teeth again, this time with two strong and willing helpers. Unfortunately she still wasn't cooperating very well and Ian ended up with a thick lip and a bit of a bash on the head. Nothing too major and no broken bones for either party. He did manage to take off a bit of her teeth, but not enough and Estelle is still friends with Ian. We have also started putting oil on Herkules' skin again. It wasn't getting any worse and he just seemed so fed up with us messing around with him and the hot weather that it wasn't worth making him feel any more miserable than her already did, so we stopped it. The skin though still looked a little crusty and the reason for resuming his treatment. He also managed to pick up another eye infection and so we were treating him for that anyway. Bless him! He really seems to be picking up anything going at the minute. At least now it is cool he is out eating for most of the day and that can only do him some good. Agnese also has been having a problem with her feet. We are getting to the stage where we are almost paranoid about mites, but I think this might be a fungal infection, a bit like athlete's foot. Cor! If it isn't one thing, it's another.

Our little punk haired chick. These are onto their third home
now. 
We have had fun and games with the chickens today. I decided that the arks all needed moving, as they are on a regular basis to give the hens fresh grass to eat and manure another part of the field. The problem is that the big chicks were scalping the area way too fast. We don't mind them scalping the area, as that was working for us in the part of the new vegetable plot that hadn't been planted up, but not good if they needed moving too often. Ian can't move them on his own easily. So we decided on a big move around of hens from one ark to another. The little chicks have been little terrors for escaping from their enclosure until Ian made them a new gate that they couldn't get out from, but they have now been moved into the ark that the big chicks were in. The big chicks have moved into Ark 2, as that has a bigger box and just a little more floor space and Ark 4 which the little chicks were in, was moved up the ladies alpaca enclosure so they could start on becoming cleaners in there, in other words start to reduce the fly population. We had problems with that plan though, Agnese chases the chickens and they escaped through the fence. We were hoping that at least the bigger white ones, wouldn't be able to - well they can when they are being chased by a baby alpaca - it's a bit of a squeeze, but doable.

Couldn't miss Sofie could we! She is being super affectionate
at the moment.
So those are the highlights from our farm this week and sometimes it all still seems surreal, writing about our life on our farm. Someone wrote on their facebook wall, "If you were given a $1 million would you move to a country where you don't speak the language," hah! Well we have done that for less. There are times when the reality of what we are doing hits me, that money can run out and the dream we have been living taken away for some reason beyond our control and sometimes well within our control if we make stupid decisions. It can be kind of crushing and disabling, but I cannot live like that for long, others have risen from depths far worse than this and become overcomers in their lifetime, others have suffered much and so what right have I to sit and bemoan what might happen and hasn't yet? So it may have been a bit of a tough year so far, but there will be other years, both good and bad. So here's to the future and I will keep plugging on.

More grapes, this time very sweet red ones. The wasps seem
to prefer these too, not so keen on that idea.
One of those issues where others suffer far worse is in the current Ebola epidemic in Africa. To me it does seem reminiscent of a cholera epidemic in Victorian times, where the masses can succumb to it and the wealthy don't care, and seeing as many of us in the West are relatively very wealthy, that means us. The upper classes did not put their hands in their pockets to confront diseases like cholera, until it came to their very door, then they realised it was serious, deadly serious. After the rude awakening of their senses they then started to develop public health and sanitary services to deal with such problems. Ebola may prove to be such a disease, with money pouring in, once it is realised that to stop it coming into our own homes we have to support meaningful development of health care in other nations, because it can affect us too.

Nude tomatoes. The lower temperatures usually means that
blight will set in and rather than wait for that to happen
I took off all the leaves and we will stop watering them.
They can just then carry on ripening on the vine and with
plenty of airflow, that should stop the dreaded disease.
Last but not least, I want to advertise a website set up by a follower of this blog. Gunta contacted me a while ago after noticing a comment of mine on another blog. Gunta was born near where we live here in Latvia but moved away when she was one years old when her family fled before the advance of the Russian army in the Second World War. She loved seeing photos of her homeland and hearing a bit about the place and so we have been in email contact and even Skyped a few times - a bit difficult due to time differences though. Gunta takes some amazing photos and now she has a website set up to sell them, so take a look at "Gunta Style"