Monday, 20 February 2017

It's a process

No the alpaca house is not on fire, it is the sun. We did
actually get to see it on a couple of days this week. Unlike
today which was dreich. So dreich there are no photos of
the lambs because they are inside in the dark.
The news on the lambs is that they are all doing well but they and their mums are getting fed up of being cooped up in their respective pens. Can't say as I blame them as the lambs are getting bigger by the day. The problem though is the ram outside. He was getting more pushy with Ian and he would be a danger to the lambs, especially in the slippery conditions and so the ram went for an appointment with the freezer. In preparation I had to sort through our freezer at home to free up space, so I have made a batch of chutney and a batch of blackcurrant and apple jam. The problem is I have just about run out of jars again. At least after a bit of reorganising I had half an upright freezer free and defrosted ready for the next influx of meat, which we started processing tonight

So instead of sunshine today we had rain. It is a process
and its not pleasant when the snow starts to go, but one
we are sort of happy to go through. Ian has been on the
annual clear the ditches duty today as water was backing
up to the greenhouse
Mind you, even with the ram gone, the lambs won't get their freedom for another couple of days. The weather is awful at the moment, as it is raining. The last thing we want is cold, wet, soggy lambs getting sick. At least it means the snow is disappearing and the slow melt means our groundwater will start to rise again and fill our well up in a few days time. The well has been great over the winter, as it has meant that Ian hasn't had to carry water down the three flights of stairs from our apartment to the car every morning this year, but when the ground is frozen there is not as much water flowing. We don't know how much of a flow the well really has yet, we just know that it rises a lot a few days after rain or after snow starts melting. The other advantage with the well is the fact the water is mainly below the frost line and so only on one or two days did we have issues with the well freezing slightly. In contrast the ponds have at least a 20cm layer of ice on them.
I find this photo amusing, as it looks like Brencis is kissing
the wood, but actually he was chewing on it.

Water has been flowing onto the ice on the ponds and they
are even overflowing
We have been trying to think of ways of saving the water when it is flowing fast into the well, or how to harvest it off buildings, so that we will have enough even in the droughts that we get regularly. There is usually a dry patch sometime during the early part of the summer that nearly always affects sowing time or just when the new seedlings are starting to emerge. We mulch the plants and that helps to some degree, but at the end of the day they still need water. We haven't come to a conclusion on that one yet.
Veronica is doing very well. Her condition is about the best
we have seen in all the years she has been with us. Not
bad for one who will be 14 years old in May

Aggie continues to cause Ian some worry as she was a bit off
the last couple of days, but then again so were the others.
Today she seemed a bit brighter in herself again
On the planning front we have managed to agree on the areas that will be included and excluded on our first submission for EU subsidies. In fact that was surprisingly painless. We don't argue much but we don't always agree either. It can take ages for us to come to some sort of compromise agreement if we both feel strongly about something. At least with this we were able to decide what we were going to allow to grass over and what we were going to continue to work on for planting up. At least we did get round to deciding where the other buildings are going to go that we want to build. No we can't afford to build our house yet, but we are hoping to put in grant applications for a workshop and barn and at the same time maybe build a small cabin. We have decided not to put in a third plot to our garden as the three areas we have fenced off already will be plenty for the time being and the workshop and cabin will fit in there nicely.
Puddles everywhere

I love this photo of all the girls together and Aggie making
sure she is getting in on the act
Ian has been taking the alpacas out for walks this week. It is something he makes an effort to do in the winter time, especially when he can't get on with other jobs. It is too wet for the winter job of cutting down trees even when it is not raining. The snow and wet ground also means no building work either yet. He hopes to build alpaca house 4/storage area this spring/year/sometime. We have the wood for that all cut up and it needs using as it is still stored outside.
Mari looking very soggy, she seems to like sitting out in the
rain sometimes.

The boys all look like they are on a mission. 
I have been plodding along with the academic paper I have been writing. There was a point when I realised I needed some extra comments to complete the story of a village in development. Fortunately the people in the NGO that is helping the village develop are very helpful and so I was able to send of a short questionnaire and get the results back two days later. It wasn't a huge amount of data, but just some personal anecdotes from villagers about life in the village. It was lovely to read what people had to say and confirms much of what I have been observing anyway, so it all fits together nicely. I got the paper back from my supervisor tonight and fortunately he likes it on the whole, but there are a few things to go through again -that's tomorrow sorted then!
The boys poo pile has been taking on epic proportions
because Ian hasn't been able to get it cleared up as it was
frozen solid. He'll need to go up with a wheelbarrow soon,
as the weather is set to freeze again next week. Winter isn't
finished yet.

A soggy looking paddock
At least I did get a little bit of time over the weekend to start a sewing project. It was nice to be able to get the designs together and just play about with fabric. I have left our other apartment in a mess though, because there is no point putting away until it is finished, as I need to get on with them and have them finished in about two weeks time. I will be flitting off to the UK to visit grandchildren, which I'm really looking forward to. I also have one or two meetings lined up, well I do have to take the opportunity while I can.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Lambing time

He doesn't look so mucky in this photo, but it certainly is
not as white as snow (see a video of him here link)
Ian had a little lamb
It’s fleece was mucky grey
And everywhere that Ian went
The lamb got in the way
It followed him down to the shed each day
To strengthen his little muscles
And even paid a visit
   to some very bemused alpacas
Now he spends his days
Suckling on his mother
Now our days are over
Of standing in for mum

Mother looking somewhat bemused, or maybe more like
wondering where her grain is while she puts up with the
little one
Okay it doesn’t perhaps scan as well as the original but it has been amusing watching the little lamb following Ian about the apartment, with an accompanying clip, clop, clip of his tiny little hooves on the laminate flooring. Of course apartments are not the ideal place for a little lamb but there wasn’t much option for a lamb that wasn’t getting much milk from its mother, especially when she was jumping over the bales of hay to get away from him and with the temperatures dipping to -24C one night. So we weathered the puddles on the laminate flooring (never realised how long a lamb can wee for), old towels to the ready and Ian trundled the little fella backwards and forwards each day in a big blue box. At first he could be safely confined in the box, but as he got bigger and stronger it was harder to keep him in. Each day, Ian would take the lamb down to his mother and make sure she fed him by keeping her in place. One day he had a brainwave and took some grain down and every time the little fella fed, she got a few grains at a time to keep her still. Ian’s patience paid off and with a wooden gate in place she stayed with her lamb. Last night we decided to try and leave him overnight and of course it was a worry that she wouldn’t feed him. We gave him a bottle at 7pm and left him to it, the temperatures only dipping down to -8C overnight, but he was in a reasonably sheltered shed.
Alpacas are rather agile and they make me laugh at their contortions

The last of the lambs to be born and she is already bigger
than our little fella
The next morning the little fella took another bottle and our friend from the nearby sheep farm came to take a look. He also came because finally our last ewe gave birth to a female. This ewe we half expected she would have babies in December. This is because she didn’t manage to rear her lambs last year, as she wouldn’t feed them and they got chilled in the first rains after the drought and died later. Thankfully this year she has paid attention to her lamb and is feeding her and all seems fine. It is odd I suppose, but we are grateful that two of the ewes only gave birth to single lambs and so they should be fine in the winter weather. Our little fella was the smallest of the two lambs his mother gave birth to, but the only one to survive. It is a good job only one survived though as she only has one working teat and would have struggled with twins anyway. Our friend suggested we should continue to take the little fella home and he had a big wooden crate he could lend us, well that was the plan up to mid-afternoon. Our plans changed when the little fella refused a bottle of milk and his mother seemed much more attentive to him. It would seem Ian’s patience had paid off, as they were finally beginning to bond.
This one has a different fleece to the other two, much fluffier

A happier looking Aggie
Aggie continues to be given her penicillin injections and she is certainly looking brighter than she did a few weeks ago. We are not sure if the swelling is going down or not, she still has an obvious lump on her face and maybe she always will, but at least it is not growing and she has stopped moaning. Alpacas moan by humming, they also hum to each other when something is going on, but often they are quiet unless they are upset. They also make a noise when they are having a fight like the two young lads this morning. Brencis got put in the sin bin today for quarter of an hour to calm down after a fight with Mr. P. Ian says it is almost as if all the lessons he learnt with our three children are now being put to use on the animals, he had a good chat with Brencis about his behaviour and I understand he behaved himself afterwards. Probably just needed the time out.
Such a smiley face

Still lots of snow here and we even saw the sunshine
We found out this week that the hens will have to be kept indoors or at least in one place until July due to Avian bird flu. We can’t keep them in the greenhouse till then of course as they will cook. Their arks will need making completely wild bird proof and we won’t be able to move them daily, which could pose health issues and so we need to devise a deep bed system outside that we can put their arks on for the duration of time. If we keep adding bedding then it should be okay, like we do over winter in the greenhouse. The only thing is that we will have to prepare the spots where they are going to be so they don't get contaminated by bird droppings when the snow goes.
Mr. P. looks like he's having a laugh. I wonder if that was after
Brencis got put away for being naughty? 

Peek-a-boo
I had a phone call this week from a friend about a belt for our winnower. We have a one hundred year old winnower (or at least that is what someone estimated it to be) but the belt is getting rather worn (you can read more about it here). We tried to get a belt for it before but weren't successful, at least now we should be able to get what we should be asking for in Latvian so that we can try again.
A damp westerly wind meant the trees got covered in frost

Cats and lamb getting warm in the caravan. The cats don't
quite know what to make of him
Having a baby lamb at home has meant we have been confined to the land or home and we have even been going to bed early because we, or to be more precise mainly Ian, have been getting up at night. Ian’s hearing is better than mine and that’s my excuse and besides I got up for our three when they needed feeding in the night many years ago, it’s Ian’s turn now. He got away lightly though since he slept through the last two nights he was at home.

The snow is lovely when it shines
Apart from feeding a lamb and helping Ian with Aggie’s penicillin injections my days have been spent either writing or sorting out our apartment again. We have far too much stuff or it has just got far too disorganised and I’m not quite sure which at times, probably both. We now have a hallway with electrical items that need to go to the place where electrical items go to be recycled and the huge box full of paper that will be shredded eventually has been added to. At least all the paperwork has been sorted out and I have sorted papers for crafts (whenever I get the chance to do something that is) as well as the important papers kept from times before computers, that have sentimental value. It has been fun reading through the prayer diary of an anxious young mother. Nearly forgot to mention, I also got a couple of sessions of cross country skiing in, it is a bit icy underneath but managed not to go end over end anyway, probably going too slow.

The paths are getting a bit slick though
I also found some books that can read in the mornings to get me back into a more contemplative frame of mind. Years ago I read Joyce Huggett's book "Listening to God" and I found it really helpful in taking time to meditate in a creative way. In it she warned of a time when life would get busy and it become more difficult to set aside time, especially when schedules get chaotic. I am glad I read that years ago, as that has definitely been the case more recently. I know I have to work out a way to get into a rhythm that works in the new routines, especially over the summer when I have to be up and out of bed so we can put the bed away during the day in the caravan, usually I find that is the best time to have a quiet time. I certainly need it at the moment with the chaos of the world around. I remember reading a cartoon that stated "My desire to stay informed is at odd with my desire to stay sane" and that is exactly how I feel at times.

Veronica nibbling the snow on the gate
A little side note: I mentioned last week that the bus drivers call out the numbers of pre-purchased tickets and I always wondered why they started at number 3, well I found out through a friend that the bus seats No 1 and 2 were traditionally reserved for somebody with special needs or for a mother with a baby in the times when buses were pretty crowded and families used them. So a relic from the days when buses were used more frequently than they are now, although they still can get a bit full sometimes. 

Monday, 6 February 2017

Now where was I...

A frosty morning
Of course it does not seem like a week since I last posted, because it wasn't. My last post was delayed because of work that needed doing and then a lamb being born. As I mentioned last week, we waited and waited for number two to be born or for the mum to pass the placenta, and that wasn't happening. We were having to do our observations by torch light by this time. In the end we had to call our friend out and he found out there was some sort of plug, that fortunately didn't seem infected but seemed to be holding up proceedings. At least after that was removed all went fine and the mother bonded well with the baby and baby was suckling fine. There was no number two lamb, but that is proably a good thing in this weather.
Lady V stretching her back

Looking decidedly unpregnant at this stage of the stretch, unlike other times. So we still don't know

A particularly frosty day
Mother and baby are still in the chicken house because it is too cold over the next couple of days to let her out, but when it warms up mother and daughter will be allowed out. Yesterday we also had some more births. Unfortunately these are not doing so well. It looks like one of them may have got trampled, possibly by the ewe who still hasn't given birth yet (the one we expected to give birth first and is still waiting). The other lamb seemed to have been neglected by the mother, which is odd as she was the only one last year to display any mothering tendencies at all. Our friend who helps run the sheep farm nearby, says we have particularly dumb sheep. Yay! Explains why nothing seems to be easy with them.
Lamb no. 1 on her first day

Amazing structures

As you do! A lamb in the apartment
Ian has managed to get some milk down the little one and got it to suckle on the mother but overnight it managed to get away from its mum. To stop the other ewe who hasn't given birth from constantly butting the lamb he had but some haybales between them, but somehow the little one had managed to squeeze through a hole to the wrong side, so this morning it was rather cold and looked weak. Ian wrapped it up and put it on the radiator to warm through and then got some sugared and salted water down it. Our friend came back out to help again and whilst trying to work it out someone called from America and it just so happens he is on a sheep farm out there at the moment. That particular farming family have been sheep farming for over 150 years so they know a thing or two. Turns out the little thing may have got a pneumonia, which I'm not surprised about. Hopefully the penicillin it was given will have an effect, as will bringing it home in the warmth and giving it some extra feed - if it will take the powdered formula that is. It knows its mum's milk, that's for sure, as it drank all that Ian had managed to get from the mother but refuses the powdered stuff. It's sleeping now.
Standing up in the box looking alert yesterday

During the day on the radiator. He didn't stir for two hours

Chanel's snow'tache
Anyway back tracking a bit. It has been a fairly mundane week apart from all the excitement of the lambs being born. As I said I travelled back from Estonia on the Tuesday and this time all the connections were as they should be. I found a little cafe to get a coffee on the way home, which was handy as I didn't want to go to my normal restaurant stop off, just for a coffee. The only slight hiccup was one family diving in front of me in a queue. Here in Latvia (and Estonia), if you pre-buy a ticket you are given a number and the driver calls out the numbers so you get on in order of number called. I am quite often near the front and so I get in place, then I can hear the driver calling the numbers, so I was a little irritated with a family who jumped in front of me. I then had to make my way around them when, sure enough, the driver called my number out first. I do not know why they usually start at number 3 or 4, rather than 1, but that's the way it is. At least they had to wait their turn, because the driver doesn't let them on otherwise.
It snowed, can you tell?

Aggie still has the lump on the side of her face, but looks happier in herself    

The rest of the week was mainly taken up with getting work done and I managed to get all that was on my list to do done by Friday. I had to work out in the caravan on Friday because Aggie needed her penicilin injection and I have to help Ian to hold her. So rather than travelling backwards and forwards from home, I just make sure I am bundled up in enough layers to stay warm and get on with work out there. Aggie really does not like me now, but heh! she's getting better and more sprightly, apart from the occasional off day anyway.
The fleece grows well in winter, this Brencis'

She might look a bit silly in this photo but we are happy to see her moving the side of her jaw. The week before last she was sruggling
Saturday and Sunday I made a point of staying away from the computer most of the time. I have been doing some sorting out and trying to get some sort of organisation of the amount of stuff we have accumulated over the last nine years. It is hard! I have now sorted through the paperwork and got a box full of paper that will either be useful for lighting fires or be shredded for use in the chickens arks. I have also started on cleaning fleeces so that they can be used as batting for lined waistcoats (vests-American). Gosh they are dirty! Along with dealing with some more of the stored apples before they go off, heating up our other apartment so we don't have frozen pipes and keeping us fed that is about it for this week.

Mr. P. sure stands out against the snow
Just to finish off with, whilst sorting out paperwork, I found a prayer dairy from 1991/1992 and it is scary to think I was younger than two of my own children are now. We had all three children by then and I was 27 years old in 1991. There was a lot of talk of playgroup and I started to do some childminding of my daughter's teacher's little girl. So many emotions and anxious thoughts due to money worries and just learning to bring up the children. It is a good job I did not know where life would lead me then, I would have been pertified. It was good to have friends around us though who prayed and supported us, even as they were going through similar stages of life.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

It's good to talk

There was only one lamb after all. Last year this ewe had
two, but didn't look after them very well. She is doing a
better job this time around.
I planned on writing the blog yesterday while I was travelling, since I didn't get the chance on Monday night, but I spent the time doing some work for my course which was urgently needed to be done instead. I thought I would get the chance today after tea (dinner) but Ian called as I was heading to the shops, saying "I can't come back just yet, one of the sheep is giving birth." The ewe managed to giver birth on her own with no problems and Ian managed to get the lamb and mother into the chicken house and then came to fetch me. Well we waited and waited for lamb number two and then Ian called our friend, who has infinitely more experience than we do to see what's next. So while they are taking a look, I'm spending a few minutes typing up last week's blog.

The swelling around Aggie's eye has gone down at least
Once we started Aggie on antibiotics, both our days were tied up. I had to help Ian with holding Aggie while he gave the injections. She definitely fell out with me. I am not her best friend to say the least. After the third day, the swelling around her eye started to recede, she also started to pick up. The day before she looked unwell and didn't seem to be eating properly, we were concerned at this, but since then, she has seemed much brighter in herself.

And she is eating at least
We had some visitors again this weekend. This time one of them could speak excellent English and they phoned beforehand to let us know they were coming. We gave them the spiel and they took lots of pictures. The lady could understand okay, but she had trouble speaking English, so a little translation was needed every now and again, but she definitely fell in love with the alpacas. They found our place through the website and so it seems like the combination of website, Facebook and local municipality advertising seems to be helping to send visitors our way, even at this time of the year, which is rather surprising.

Any food? 
This weekend I had to travel up to Tartu for my annual evaluation. Strictly speaking I should have finished my PhD but many people struggle to finish within the timeframe due to the criteria of having to have three papers published in academic journals, of which, two have to be in papers of a sufficient quality and the third to at least acceptance stage. I only have one so far. I have a four or five short articles published but they don't count. No one was particularly worried, I had at least got them well on in the draft stage, so if I get to the review stage I should at least have a chance of finishing this year sometime. At least the evaluation went okay.

The girls are not so keen to go out these days
I was a tad annoyed to find out that one of the buses I was relying on to get me to Tartu didn't run on a Sunday. I am not sure if this is a recent thing or not, it has been a while since I travelled on that day. I thought I had checked. Obviously not. What was even more irritating was finding out that my supervisor had actually been in the area close by on that day and was even passing through the town where I got delayed at the time I had hoped to catch the bus. If I had known I could perhaps had saved myself such an early start to the day. Oh well! The reason he was in the area was to do some skiing. We still have plenty of snow around us, but as I headed to the west and then north the snow gradually disappeared and there was some strange green stuff instead, I think they call it grass. At least the paths were not icy either.

Instead they stay in and eat from the feeders
It was not just a long day travelling up, it was a long day the following day. It started with my evaluation just after 9am, then I spent about an hour chatting with another PhD student about some of my ideas and he was so encouraging and suggested that he thought the ideas would even be useful in somewhere like India, where he comes from and had I ever thought about going. Errr! Well no! Not before. Not sure how that could come about, but you never know.  We'll see.

The boys go out more, especially Brencis, but then he has
got a very good dense coat on him
After seeing my supervisor and outlining some urgent tasks that needed to be finished by the end of the week I went onto have lunch with a friend of mine. I normally stay with her but this time took advantage of another friend being away and being allowed to stay in her flat. It made a nice change of scenery, not that I got to spend very long there, because once I had finished having lunch with my friend we both walked up towards the university, where we parted company and I went off to the veterinary school. No I haven't changed courses and no I am not finally becoming a vet - something I had wanted to do as a kid and had even applied to but didn't get in. Good job! Otherwise I would never have met Ian.

What is it about Mr. P and his food?
Anyway, this time I was having a chat about Aggie. I chatted with the one of the few vets at the university who has treated alpacas but mainly for skin problems and it was good to be able to share knowledge. Of course she has the more general animal health knowledge and I had the knowledge from mainly chatting with Ian rather than the hands on day to day knowledge he has. It was funny that when we had finished she said it was nice to chat with someone so enthusiastic, but then she hasn't met Ian yet! I also made sure that she knew that the university was welcome to visit and work with us and our friends up in Estonia to improve their knowledge on alpacas and alpaca handling. They might need that knowledge in the future if herds increase. She did suggest a change in Aggie's medication, it was fine for a week but not for longer since she was pregnant, something Ian and I had already discussed - some advantages to our previous degrees means at least we can discuss this type of thing and work somethings out for ourselves, but it is nice to find we were thinking in the right direction.
Looking rather portly

Mr. Tellus has been eating the snow again
Next stop was the university to download some papers before rounding off the day with another visit to my Indian friend and his lovely wife and daughter for yet more chatting and something to eat. I don't think I stopped chatting from around 9am to 8pm, apart from the twenty minute walk down to my friend's house and that is why the blog was late initially. The range of topics I covered over the course of the day was fairly wide, from my course, alpacas, family, the situation regarding the ban on Muslims in America - and as my Indian friend pointed out earlier on in the day actually meant one of our colleagues who also had her evaluation at the same time, a lovely lady from Iran, would not be allowed in and he wonders if he would be discriminated against due to the colour of his skin. Not a pleasant thought. We chatted about the EU and how the problems affected us both and on and on and on. As for the other two days since, well that is a subject for next week's blog.