Saturday 26 August 2023

Part 1: Oh dear!

Chanel has such curly hair and I think those curls
are getting tighter by the year. 

It seems it was a while since I posted! Such a lot has happened in this time. Typing though was a bit tricky until I could at least get my fingers moving, so that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. I have nearly got the full range of movement back after breaking my wrist in February but not all the strength. It didn't help that my cast was taken off three weeks later than it should have, so that is three weeks less movement. Heh ho! I have the strength to lift things okay now, but I have lost a lot of the grip strength. Slowly, slowly I'm working on it. I'm just not very organised at the best of times and trying to think of all the things that I must do, kind of gets me down. I must exercise my hand, I must practice Latvian, I must get my job done. Spare time? What's that?

This was one of the first things built on our land,
but it is no more. The roof collapsed about two 
years ago and now it has finally been emptied and
taken down. Now the girls' paddock is a bit bigger
than it was before - just no grass in it, mainly nettles.

Is there really so little time since these appeared?
The 9th April is when these were flowering. The
harbinger of spring and snow finally disappearing.

So what has happened over the last few months? News in brief:

Lincoln the oldest of our two Suri Alpacas who 
arrived on our farm in April. They have settled
in well and seem to have picked up English pretty
well 😏 Good job as our Hungarian is negligible.

We have two new Suri alpaca boys from Hungary. They arrived mid-April. We kept them separate for bio-security reasons for a while. It was only going to be for a few weeks but somehow it got longer and longer. We sheared the two young boys who were going to join them and Marv's mother rejected him. He was so despondent we moved the two young boys into the paddock with the Suris.  The boys were ready for weaning anyway. Norm, in contrast, thrived after shearing. He went from a nervous animal to a friendly, inquisitive little chap. We wonder if he couldn't see so well with all the fleece around his eyes. Anyway, all four alpacas are doing well and bonded - near enough anyway. In fact the three youngest love pronking about the paddock.

Timon is the younger of our two Suri boys. Born 
last year and just a few months older than the cria
born on our farm. 
Watching the new kids on the block, aka the Suris

The snow had only just about gone when the Suris arrived and then we had very little rain for months - three very minor short lived showers in three months. The days were sometimes hot but the nights were cool and so the plants hung on in there with their thick layers of mulch. The fields of hay though are dire and farmers are panicking. The main sections where we get our hay from was only about ankle height until it started raining. We had heard of places where normally farmers get 100 bales of hay and they got 8. The drought was really that bad! Normally it would be around waist height by cutting time, which it was near the forest edges but not in the drier areas. We hoped the grass would start to grow when the grass was going to seed and needed cutting, but that wasn't to be. We nearly cut everything and perhaps have about 100 small bales but that is a third of what we need. We have less than a hundred from last year.

The last remnants of snow on our land. Always the 
last place to go. Date: 9th April.

Storks have been in abundance this year around
us. Surprising since we've had precious little rain
until the end of June
This has also seen better days. It was used to dry 
herbs etc. but the frame collapsed again under
the weight of snow this year and there is no
more repairing possible. A compost heap will be
assembled here after it is removed.

I started driving again in May, which made things a lot simpler and I also found a local physiotherapist. At least I no longer need work colleagues and friends to fasten me into my coat or cut up my food like a small child. It is a good job I have good work colleagues and a sense of humour - at least most of the time. It also meant I could drive a colleague down to spend some time with us. She went through my stash of stuff so that the students can make some landscape models with it. So pleased we have found a use for it. I hate to just throw things out, so these will be used for what they are intended to be used for, something creative. 

25th April and the leaves are just coming out, the
oak will leaf up later. It's now the beginning of 
August and we are thinking that it won't be long 
before the leaves start turning
Another of our buildings that has seen better days.
The plastic keeps ripping and the wood has rotted in 
many places. We are looking at options to replace it.
It's going to be expensive but we do use it a lot, 
just not as a greenhouse, apart from the grapes
we grow in it and a hollyhock and weeds- don't ask!

I completed my first year in my new role as head of the master programmes. It was an interesting year and a joy to see students graduating. I was especially proud of my own student who got cum lauda - or an academic distinction. I can't claim much credit as he did much of the work himself for his thesis with just a little guidance and a bit of moral support when needed. Now he needs to find a place for the future as we don't have any funding at the moment for a PhD post. I need to start applying for funds to start up a small group research but not sure I could align his interests with something I would want to work on. So we are both looking actively for any opportunity where he can thrive or for some interim work while he looks. He is helping us out this next semester. 

A very, very fluffy Norman

A very, very fine fleeced and fluffy Marvin

Wow, your putting on weight Vanessa, if we didn't
know better, we would think you are pregnant.
Good job the scanner said you weren't!
Someone looks a little wide for a non-pregnant alpaca

We had our girls scanned to see if they were pregnant and they weren't.... errr they were... or at least some of them were. Confused! So were we. The vet who scanned doesn't have much experience of scanning alpacas but she did pick up something different in two of them, but couldn't see any babies. They were re-mated, one was compliant and sat down for the male, the other was having none of that nonsense and spat off the male, which she has done before. So there were no clues as to whether they were pregnant or not. A few weeks later and we began to think they are rather large in the middle and their udders also looked large - not normal for non-feeding females. Ian got hold of them on different nights and felt their bellies and realised that they were pregnant and due quite soon. Whoops!

It is great to have the use of the summerhouse this
year and the kitchen is set up and usable. 

Just a couple of weeks later the first of our surprise arrivals came and two weeks after that another. Fortunately all are doing fine and causing havoc, as young male alpacas do, although these do seem rather like their fathers and not as calm or timid as last year's babies. 

Pete, shortly after birth

Pete and Ollie playing outside.

Gradually introducing last year's babies to the Suris

These news briefs are in no particular date order as some bits of news were one off events and some a continuation on a theme, so jumping back to April I had a surprise birthday party. The first surprise party I have ever had. It was organised by my wonderful work colleague and she baked a cake specially for it. It wasn't a large gathering but special nonetheless for people making the effort to surprise me. 

Oh that fleece! I love to see our Suris running.
An age thing I guess and no moderating influence
of Herk and Turbjørn. Those two used to quell
many a fight. Our boys aren't always fighting, but
hormones are high and grass low due to our drought
and so they have been a bit more tetchy than normal.

I thought I might have more time during my holidays but I found plenty to do in the daylight hours and it was often late when I looked at my computer. I also lost my drive to get something written. I seemed to do so much of that just lately. The problem is that there is then a gap in our diary and we can't look back on what we've done. Let's see what the rest of the year brings and if I can finally get to at least 800 posts (only another 10 to go but at my current rate it will be years in the making 😊). The very slow evening internet doesn't help either. In summer it feels like everyone drives out from Riga to us to their summer houses and then uses their phones for the internet. Sigh!

Hopefully there will be a part 2 of the events over the summer soon-ish.

Betty is still tiny. 

Just saying hello but staying firmly on the other 
side of the fence.

Early heat before they are sheared is not good. 
There is always shade provided though.

Hiding by the old shed. This area gets the afternoon
shade from the trees, so doesn't matter that the 
shed is no longer there.

 I hope most of the swallows return,
but chances are many won't.

Norm was like a different animal when sheared.
Not just looking different but behaving different.
Could he not see so well that made him more
nervy? Well now he's an inquisitive little fella.

Poor Marvin was rejected by his mum after shearing.
It was getting time to separate them anyway, but 
we did feel sorry for the little fella.

Rain? Well there had been precious little of it
for three months. Three tiniest of showers between
April and the drought breaking late June.

The boys!

It was dry but also sometimes cold. Poor Amanda
had got quite thin in feeding Marv and so when
she was sheared and temperatures dropped she
was feeling the cold. She wasn't that impressed with
her stylish coat, but at least she was warmer.

This is Mr. G.T. before he went on his holidays.
I saw him once when he meowed outside the 
little greenhouse when I was working in it, but
he ran off. We've not seen him since. Wonder if
he will come back later in the year again?

Cattails - I read they make good insulation material.
Would need quite a few to insulate a house though.

It's one of those find the frog in the picture
competitions. No prizes but kudos for how many 
you can see.

It's been a good or bad year for insects that like
leaves, depending upon whether you like the plants
or the insects. Some trees were almost decimated
by insects. What apple blossom we had was eaten
by caterpillars.

Better than nothing I guess

My work colleague enjoying driving the tractor

Rain? Really? 

Ahhh! Problem! Lots of pollen washed into the buckets

Not very elegant Lincoln!

Swallows arrived and started nesting.
Lots of swallow babies this year - 10
in total, five in each nest in different
alpaca houses.

This is near my friend's place in Tartu. I love the
sharp shadows from the alliums. 

Taken when driving around for the grassland project
I head up.

Still not very elegant but at least a bit
more elegant than in the other photo.
He does like a good sunbathe

Ieeja means entrance. Any guesses how
one would navigate this with a wheelchair?
Seen in Riga. I had gone there on a bus
to collect internationals for a conference in
our village. 

Sunday 9 April 2023

Life hacks with one arm

We can see the snowdrops at last

How come tips are now hacks? When did that happen? Why are they billed as life hacks, which kind of sounds serious, when in reality they may just be those useful -and not so useful -little hints and tips that supposedly make life simpler. 

A shawl made from our alpaca
wool (with a little Estonian lamb's
wool in the warp) at the local 
hand-weaving mill

Ilvija one of the fleece contributors to the brown
stripe in the shawl, along with Josefs

One arm life!

Anyway the reason I was looking up one arm life hacks is that I I broke my wrist attempting to finish off clearing a huge pile of snow. I was so close to finishing but the angles were all wrong. It was just a little slippery ridge and so down I slid. There was no great pain, just that sickening feeling and thinking that wasn't good. I got up and let my injured arm hang down, I carried the shovel back and quickly headed inside. I lay down in the hallway then thought I'd better take my coat off in case it wouldn't come off later. I then text Ian to tell him to put the animals away then come and take me to hospital. 

The snow had got quite deep (22/02)

Then it got very deep (27/02)

Ian was complaining of having to constantly clear
paths but not everyone was complaining

The good thing was that although it took Ian time to fetch me and longer than normal to get to the hospital due to the poor road conditions - even in our 4x4 pick up - there was no queue at the hospital. Zilch in fact! A guy left as we went in and a patient from an ambulance was wheeled in as we left. I was back home five hours after my accident. 

So when not sunbathing, Lolly likes to have a 
good roll in the snow

...and then perhaps a little more sunbathing

... oh that sun is so good

Others who enjoy the cold sunny days (22nd Feb)

I had to return on the Monday though for surgery. However, after a day of no food, a saline drip (standard procedure in Latvian hospitals, which might seem strange to some but makes sense as it's easy to get dehydrated in those places) and only sips of water, I was told by a very tired looking doctor that they had run out of time due to the number of accidents on ice over the weekend. At least I could have some errrr... hospital food... barley milk soup (a sort of thin porridge). They managed to fit me in the following day though and so I now have a metal plate in my wrist. They eventually let me out on the Wednesday morning.

George has been eating snow

The track to the garden to dump the alpaca manure
and get haybales

Winter is one of those times of the year when it
is tough on everyone and yet is so stunningly 

So each day there has usually been a new challenge. For example, I picked up a cough from the hospital and Latvian supermarkets often have herbal teas to soothe a cough or ailment of some kind, so Ian was given instructions to buy a pack. First challenge was to get the plastic wrap off the box - that was easy, I asked Ian. Next I found they were all individually wrapped in a plasticised wrapper, but without those little tear tabs. I asked Ian again, but knew the next day, I would have to solve that challenge on my own. I used the butter knife just down from the edge, held the knife down with my elbow and was then able to tear off the top. It worked.

Ian cuts paths in the snow so all the alpacas can 
get out and about

They won't be sharing a kiss, really!

Marvin enjoys eating the snow too

Lighting the fire? Ian set the fire in the morning and when I came to light it in the evening, I jammed the matchbox against a piece of wood so the box is stable enough to strike the match with one hand. Cutting up veg? Okay with mushrooms and peppers one handed, but generally anything harder has been more of a challenge until I could at least use my fingers again to steady the food. I could have maybe used the grater but I couldn't peel the veg first. I did once peel some potatoes one handed but it was too much of a faff to do many. If they were ready peeled it would be better to use our electric grater - but then I'd have to put it together one-handed. I did see a nifty hack for cutting toast, and that was to use a pizza cutter. No home-made bread though for a while as I can't cut it. 

As I said, winter is tough on 
everyone and there have been
a few health issues. Karla 
had a problem with mites
but we think this is sorted now.

Bored with sunbathing now?

A path for Ian to get to the alpaca house.

So what else does a broken wrist mean? Adding firewood to the fire meant going backwards and forwards with one log. I can't stack and balance a load on my sore arm. Also opening jars of food can only be done if they are fairly loose. A bit tighter and they are put between my feet to hold them and I use my good arm to turn them. Worse I guess is that I can't drive. My boss was meant to take me to university for the week but it meant Ian driving to a pick up point and he came down with the cough I had picked up from hospital. He was so ill he didn't eat his porridge in the morning. My husband not eating is serious, as normally he eats almost constantly throughout the day - he also burns it off looking after our animals, so he's not overweight, just in case you are wondering. 

A path to the chickens, who spend the winter in
the greenhouse

Aggie's eye often needs steroids and she maybe 
losing sight in that eye. 

Before the path was cleared yet again 25/02

We therefore had to have help as we ran out of firewood and Ian didn't have the energy to fill up the alpaca's feeders with hay. Not much fun on wintry days. Fortunately people helped us out. Someone brought us wood and two more helped Ian with feeding the animals. The coughs took a long time to go, but at least we were well over the worse quite quickly. Ian took me to the train station a few days later and my boss picked me up at the Estonian border where the train from Latvia terminated. Another colleague joined him to make sure I was delivered safely to my friend. At least by then the icy patches of pavement had decreased substantially and besides, I was picked up and dropped off every day to save me from the risk of slipping on ice.

Our caravan used to go in the greenhouse, but it
just wasn't worth the risk in a collapsed greenhouse

As you can see, it got quite a way up the walls

25/02 Paths cleared

One of the nights I needed an early night but other than that I lasted quite well. I was surprised. I did take everything easy and one of the reasons for the trip was to get acquainted with a new member of staff who will be starting later in the year - so an opportunity for a nice natter really errrr I mean for some good discussions on workplace priorities and working for a university in Estonia. It was enjoyable anyway and I'm sure we will get along fine and that is what matters most. Most of the week one of my dear colleagues fussed around me to make sure I was well looked after. She zipped up my coat each time I went out and she cut up my food to make it more manageable. I never had to ask really, she just knew when I needed help. I was driven back down to Latvia and Ian was there at our rendezvous point to collect me and take me home.

Ian went to check on this caravan one day and
found the weight of snow was causing the roof to
bow. Fortunately it returned to normal once he 
cleared the snow off. Lesson learnt!
Although this caravan didn't buckle under the 
weight of snow, Ian caught the skylight while 
trying to brush it off. 

Finally enjoying the sunshine without the snow

We had reached the awkward time of the year as Ian was returning later and later to our winter home - the apartment in our village - the lingering winter this year made staying out on our land more difficult with me all strapped up. Finally the snow and more importantly the thick ice left and we decided to head out to our summer season living, It's still not been easy as the weather was still cold at first with days of snow, that thankfully didn't last long, but at least the days are much longer, so just easier to plan our eating times. Gradually Ian sorted out the electrics and the summer house is becoming more organised. We sleep in the caravan though because we still need to get a bed for the summer house. It's been warm enough in the caravan with the heater on and an electric blanket to warm the bed through and finally the days are beginning to lose their winter chill and the snow is confined to the forested areas mainly.

The last remaining snow in a shady field

The path from one of the girl's alpaca house to
the other one. They sleep in two groups each night
but mingle during the day. They are so used to it
now that they generally separate themselves each
evening before putting away time.

The icicles can get quite long and at some crazy
angles as the snow slides off the roof.

Chanel enjoying the sun

Bored or getting ready for a sunbathe?

Lolly isn't the only one who likes a roll in the snow 
More evidence!

As the snow slides off the roof it builds up - the sides
are around 2m high.

Paths need to be kept clear so that Ian can get to 
the animals

Karla looking sweet in the snow

Silla with her minimalist headwear. I think you need
something more than that to keep your head warm
in this weather. Good job you also have an alpaca
wool hat on too.

On tap sorbet

Norman enjoys the snow too

Sometimes water is good too

Are you sharing? Leave me some!

Mr. P starting to look quite grey

Getting to the hay can be a struggle at times

This was the first alpaca house to be built. It's
on it's way out now as the roof has collapsed.

Marvin is getting very fluffy now

Snow alpaca! It startled Ian one day, but it was
just a snow accululation on the gate.

Marvin is on the path really!


Josefs wasn't well over the last month and we 
had to have the vet out to do an x-ray. The poor guy 
had an upper tooth root abscess. This was the second
animal with a tooth root abcess as Antonia had a 
lower jaw one too. Her's was more obvious and was 
caught sooner. Unfortunately for both it means a long 
course of antibiotics but at least both have shown a good
response to treatment.

We had a few rather chilly days and 
Mr. P with his silkier fleece struggled
a bit, so he ended up in a coat.