Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Visitors galore

Looking for mischief?
It was a strange start to the week. We only had one person booked onto our English workshops but I and our friend from Texas (but living in Estonia) carried on preparations anyway. We felt it was right to prepare for it, as we were sure we had a good idea and we had that time set aside.  We deliberately didn't cancel it, just in case people had a last minute change of plan. As it was, our one participant actually hiked to our village and caught the bus from there to our place, as his car was in service and the bus from his town would have meant arriving either very early or on the late side. So that kind of puts our preparations in perspective.
The storks are still around and
probably enjoying the rain and
the increase in snails and frogs.
They'll be going soon though
Aggie does like to sunbathe
We wanted to go through the course plans with our participant so he could give us some feedback. He was very enthusiastic and asked if we would be willing to actually teach a group of 20-30 English teachers in the region nearby where he is based. That was a bit unexpected, but apparently they are having difficulty getting people who are willing to do some training courses in their area. So we finished off this week by submitting a proposal and CVs for a meeting planned today for a two day seminar at the end of the month. A slightly different direction for both of us.
Josefs is definitely a curious alpaca and always comes to see
visitors. He won't let them get close though
The cria with Aunty V
Whilst we were starting our introductions and presentation on the course, Ian was in our apartment, fixing a leak from the shower. Sigh! Fortunately our friend had the sense to turn off the water, so it wasn't a major leak. He also had to get more antibiotics for Herk. Herk is healing, but only slowly, which is what the alpaca books said would be the case. In fact the honey treatment seems to work the best on the wounds, but it is finding a way of applying it and covering it so the flies don't bother them and make it worse. I seem to have got the front leg sorted for that, but the back leg is proving a challenge. Aggie seems to have something similar. I am using my magic cream on it, but it is only keeping it in check and not healing it. I want to get the honey treatment on her too but again we have to work out a way of applying it and getting it covered.
Josefs certainly looks a cute alpaca

Jakobs is pretty cute too though. Not sure he should be
eating the dock seeds but I guess a little won't harm.
The following day we prepared an area so we could sit in the shade of the trees instead of in the hot greenhouse for English on the Farm. Despite the interest, no one actually came, but it was a mid-week thing, so possibly had something to do with it. Again we won't waste the planning, as it means we have a programme for schools that can be used and we can take that to the teacher training if it goes ahead.  So in many ways the week was a restful putting down of foundations, which was quite enjoyable and a much needed rest of sorts.
A glowing and hopefully pregnant Chanel. She is still rejecting
the advances of Mr. P

My waterlily in the pond that still has water in it. The other
two had very little in until the rain, even then there is still
not much.
My friend and I went on a road trip too after we were sure no one was going to unexpectedly turn up. We needed a large bin for our greenhouse, which we couldn't get one in our village. Just in case you are wondering about our green credentials about getting a large bin - it is so the cats can't get in it. They would be constantly in a small bin. It still fills very slowly and I even cancelled this month's rubbish collection as there was not enough to collect. I also wanted a water lily for our pond so that it will reduce evaporation in the future, so we visited the waterlily pond nearby and bought a nice pink one. The little dark pink one I really wanted wasn't for sale that day. I guess someone must pull them up and put them in bags for sale to the public, rather than get them there and then. We also went to the restaurant named Ūdensroze (waterlily in Latvian) for some home-made blueberry lemonade. Very nice on a hot day.

Josefs beginning to master the alpaca yoga scratch
While we were away Ian decided to make a secret present for our friend from Texas. She asked earlier on in the week if we had seen a wooden ladder that she could hang quilts on. We hadn't seen anything that would be useful and I jokingly suggested that Ian could make one. He had been making crosses for displaying our shawls and scarves on and thought the wood he was using would make a nice ladder. He was a bit bemused by this as he couldn't quite work out what we meant. I showed him some photos but he still looked a bit bewildered at the idea of a ladder for quilts. Anyway, he mustn't have been quite so bewildered as I thought as he made a lovely rustic looking ladder about the size that she wanted. She was thrilled with it. Maybe photos to follow next week.

We are seeing more of the storks just lately, I guess it maybe
due to the fact there is no need to stay on the nest
The end of the week saw a rotating door of visitors to make up for the lack of participants on the courses. Our Texan friend had to get home and so she visited us for coffee and to return the key to our apartment before she set off. Shortly after that, my supervisor, his wife and his brother came for lunch. We made good use of the area we had cleared for the English on the Farm day, as it was still baking hot. We had to cart things down the area though and so we used our log basket as a picnic basket and the wheelbarrow, as you do. We were just in the process of taking our things back and sorting out when another set of visitors turned up for a farm tour. The visitors were two young women and Ian told them about the adopt an alpaca scheme and one of them said that would be perfect for the other friend and meant her birthday present was sorted. That will take our adoptions up to twelve if they do. Every little helps as they say.

Brencis in contemplative mood
The next day we had visitors from Estonia. We had sheared their animals for the last three years but they have never been down to visit us. They decided on a Latvian road trip and called in to see us. They arrived a bit late so they were anxious to get off on their tour once they had seen the alpacas and didn't even stop for a cup of tea. This meant we sat down for our lunch rather late. We just started tucking into our egg sandwiches though when another set of visitors arrived.

A fun picture of George. He looks like he is amused about
something
This time it was a young couple with his mother and younger sister. I was pottering around the greenhouse when the young lass came to the door and apologetically asked for some water, she had just been sick in our forest. I gave the water and then made her a cup of mint tea to help settle her stomach. Apparently she was 2 1/2 months pregnant. We had a lovely chat while the rest of the group continued on their tour. She said she preferred the British people to the depressive Latvians, but I talked her through some of the good things about Latvians, such as their knowledge of herbs and growing vegetables. Knowledge that is lost to a large extent in the UK. I also said it was understandable given the history of Latvia and it is still a young country. She looked much brighter about her country after our chat.

A blustery day. A bit different from the hot temperatures
we've had most of the summer
On Sunday we had yet more visitors to the farm, they were the new alpaca owners who live nearby that we had done some shearing for. They came to see our little ones and talk about some of the things they were worried about, they also brought a large tray of tomatoes and a large bunch of carrots. At least they arrived before the heavy rain that we had that afternoon. We decided that no one would come to see us on a rainy afternoon so we took a trip into the village to visit the bakery for a cup of tea and a pastry for a treat. I think we deserved it.
First shower

The rain really shows up the dark fibres on the back of Jakobs
One of the things our visitors on Sunday were worried about was how to cut toe nails so we agreed to call in and show them. Ian demonstrated on the first alpaca and then got the lady to do it herself, so that she had had good practice by the time we left. She should be fine as she used to have large animals anyway.


Chatting to Mum
Turbjørn looking coy
We finished off this week with another meal at the hotel, courtesy of the latest apartment guests. It seems that other people have stayed in our apartment for longer periods of time than we have. Although we officially moved in to the place in May, we still haven't stayed overnight there this year and it is a long time since we stayed more than one night anyway. Still that is likely to change in November this year when we transition back to apartment living. We were also joined by a friend of theirs at the hotel and her little 10 month old who has been walking for a month already. That brings back memories of my youngest who also walked at about 9 months and was running around all over by a year. I really need to practice my singing though. The little one liked Row, Row, Row the boat but I kept forgetting the verses and she drew the line at the Wheels on the Bus, she started crying for Mum at this stage. Oh well! Can't win them all. 
Wink! Wink!


Best buddies still

Not sure what Frederiks has been up to but he is submissively
avoiding a spitting from Brencis. Alpaca speak for watch it, boy!


Monday, 6 August 2018

A Gentle Day

Josefs and Jakobs charging around. A little different to last
week when we were so worried about Josefs. We are not
feeding him at all now, so Aggie's milk must be good stuff
Well it was kind of a gentle day, if you discount the group of 15, 5 adults and 10 children who joined us today. Before they came we had to spend some time trying to get the greenhouse in some sort of order after our felting course at the weekend. We only managed half our lunch before they turned up, but thanks to our friend who stayed on after the felting course it was packed away from our marauding cats, while we greeted the visitors.
Josefs feeding from Aggie

Our regular evening visitor
The group today were mainly Russian speaking children on an an upmarket sports camp with extra activities. They were superbly organised and even had people turn up beforehand to make sure everything was in order. They also made sure the children were listening, which was really nice. At one point they let one of the youngsters do the translating because he wanted to have a go. He did quite well. We took them on the usual tour and then all the children had a go at making a felt ball from the alpaca wool. Sometimes groups can be a bit of a nightmare to handle, especially when they keep trying to feed the little cria (alpaca babies) - who are not up to eating the grain and really do not interact much with people yet, but this group weren't too bad at all. To be honest, Josefs seems to be a very inquisitive kind of alpaca anyway, so he maybe okay. We are still wary of over socialising male cria with humans though to prevent problems in the future.
Josefs and Jakobs have bonded well together. We had a surprise
message via Facebook asking if we would ever think of
selling Josefs

Our visitors even brought flowers
We've had other visitors as well. There was a group who were a mix of our apartment neighbours, their children and their grandchildren. The children speak very good English as one works as a translator in Luxembourg and the other works in Sweden. The couple from Luxembourg were some of the first visitors we had to see our alpacas, shortly after we got them over six years ago (link here). It was nice to be able to show them the changes we have made over the years. Slowly but surely we are getting more organised. We still have a long way to go though.

Listening to Galina talking about dyeing in the shade
of the barn (Photo by Edith Chenault)
It has been quite an international week really, as our visitors have been Latvian (of course), French, Swedish, an American living in Estonia, Belarusian and Polish . The last few were the participants and tutor on the dyeing and felting course that we held over the weekend. We didn't have as many participants as we would like, but it didn't stop us enjoying ourselves. It was Galina's, the tutor, third visit and she always loves coming as she likes the atmosphere at our workshops on the farm. Even though it was hot we were able to sit in the cool shade of the barn to eat and watch the cria racing around. It is always good to see her friend who she brings with her too.
Picking leaves  (Photo by Edith Chenault)

Our wonderful helper modelling some
flowers made during the weekend course
Her friend helped us sort through some wool to remove the vegetable matter, as well as helping Galina collect leaves for the dyeing process. If an extra pair of hands were needed, she was there. Even though we couldn't communicate directly as she only spoke Russian, that didn't matter so much. She understood what was needed and helped. She has certainly been a big blessing to us and we are pleased that she also enjoys coming to visit us, as this is her second visit.
Preparing the table for the laying out of the silk and leaves
 (Photo by Edith Chenault)

Leaves on silk
 (Photo by Edith Chenault)
People have been popping in all week really. Another group made a return visit after two years to see what had changed over the time. This was mainly a group of young men and women in their twenties or early thirties. One guy with a hipster beard turned up with his wife and two children and finally two ladies who were looking to see if we were suitable as a visit for schoolchildren later on in the year. One lady remembered me from a meeting a few years ago - I thought she looked familiar but I have met so many people in very different circumstances I forget where or who people are, especially if they are in a different context when I meet them again. I do wonder if the rating on the Latvian news site has anything to do with the upsurge of visitors. Although I think August does tend to be a more popular month.
Laying on the dye cloths
 (Photo by Edith Chenault)

Dyed t-shirt
 (Photo by Edith Chenault)
We still haven't had much rain, although we did get a much needed shower yesterday that at least freshened the garden. I was rather despondent at one point though as I could just see my garden dying. Plants that had hung on in through the heat were really beginning to struggle and wilt, the caterpillars were having a field day eating anything remotely cabbagey and what the caterpillars didn't eat the woolly aphids were starting on. I have been tied up with preparing food for the participants and so the garden has been quite neglected as usual. Normally though, the plants are fending for themselves amongst the weeds, this time even the weeds are sometimes giving up. I had planned quite a few salad type plants to be growing during the course and although I have managed to produce some different types of salads, particularly pickled cucumbers, there hasn't been much in the way of salad leaves. Many lettuces just didn't bother to germinate and the early crops were a bit strong. The potatoes though! Oh my gosh! They are huge already - well at least those that have grown where they shouldn't have. We will see what the main crops look like later on in the year.
The great reveal. Dyed silk
 (Photo by Edith Chenault)

Hanging on my line in the forest
 (Photo by Edith Chenault)

There was five reasonable sized carp in there. Now relocated
Another issue we've had is the ponds have almost disappeared and we got quite worried about the fish in the small pond. Ian caught them and relocated them to one of our other ponds that at least still has a reasonable amount of water in. We laughed though at finally using the net for actually catching fish. We usually use it to catch escaped chickens and had to do that one day this week. One of the chickens had managed to dig its way out underneath the fence.
Ian was showing one of our visitors the
poo sample under the microscope, as
you do
 (Photo by Edith Chenault)

Sewing silk pieces together
It has been a bit of a busy week for Ian too. besides relocating fish, helping where necessary on the course, he has also been baling hay, having to move it by himself and attending to an emergency call out. We had a call from our neighbour's daughter to ask if Ian could take them to a repair place for their new milking machine. As you can imagine it was necessary to get it done as fast as possible so the cows could be milked that evening. Glad to say it was all done in time and we got our milk the next morning too.

When an alpaca comes for tea
 (Photo by Edith Chenault)

It got a tad hot. A heatwave is not helpful

Rolling outside in the shade of the greenhouse is much better

Always helpful

Hanging quilts for some shade and t-shirts drying in the
greenhouse

Sewing felted flowers

Rolling felt

Nuno felted jacket with dyed silk made from leaves from our land

Mittens made with merino wool and Aggie's fleece

Eco-printed silk scarf on my new display
stand that Ian made from hazel with some
home-made bread that I made.

Taking photos of the photographer taking a photo.

Group photo with Brencis