Monday, 22 December 2014

It's greening up... or maybe not!

A particularly dark day. This photo was taken at 10:36am
The snow finally departed this week .......for a day or two. Hovering around zero is not pleasant, it is neither winter nor autumn and the days are dark, never mind the nights. Yesterday we had snow flurries on and off and then today it snowed gently most of the day, so once again we are back to the monotone white of winter again. I usually try and get out to the land at least once a week and try to pick the best day weather wise to go, normally I pick the wrong day though. If the weather forecast is good one day and not the next, you can guarantee that they have it wrong if I opt to go out to the land. I have been known to spend the day in the caravan knitting because of the dreich weather, when the day before had been relatively pleasant. Admittedly it is better than stopping at home all day.
Oh look! The technical school and accommodation block.
How long have they been there? And all that green stuff

It didn't last long though. This was taken today
Not that happy to see me. Actually I was stood in the
doorway of their side of the alpaca house and were waiting
for me to move.
The animals are not fond of me turning up. They think I will be doing something. I did take the chance to have a look at Herk and Aggie's feet to see how they are getting on after their problems earlier on this year. Aggie's are not brilliant, but they are not as bad as they were, same with Herk. We are trying to leave them alone, because putting oil on when it is cold is not always the best move, Aggie's would just provide a nice moist environment for bacteria and Herk's would probably freeze his skin. There is fine line between stressing the animal and not allowing it to get worse, so we will continue to keep an eye on them and try and catch any deterioration before it gets too bad.
Veronica is more nervous of me than all the others. Not
sure why though as she is rarely the one that needs
attention these days. She moans all the time I'm in the
alpaca house though.

This is Bella, although she is not looking quite
so grumpy in this picture
Our cat Bella has disappeared. She has done this before in winter time, but not for so long. We think the last time she found a willing person to take her in, because someone had cut a chunk of fur off - that sounds bad, but actually with their long fur and propensity for going into the sort of vegetation that clings, they often end up with matted fur and sometimes it is just easier to cut it away than try to comb it out. She has been away that long now that we will need to ask our neighbour to contact others to see if they have seen her. At least she is quite a distinctive cat - think multi-coloured grumpy puss.

Ian put up feeders in the youngsters section of the alpaca
house. It should stop them eating off the floor - in theory
We went off to school again this week. This time we were talking to an older group and so could add in a few more details and up the pace a little. It was funny that the teacher sitting in for the four lessons we took, would chip in and remind us of little details we missed from the first run through the talk. I also got to tell them a little of the research I am doing and explained the reason I was doing it was because we both felt that there was great potential in Latvia but people needed to be able to grasp it and collaborate to get there. Some of the students seemed to really connect with the comments, which was inspiring.
A dusting of snow for a change! 
It isn't just because I see great potential in Latvia I am doing the kinds of research into people led development, but also because I have a faith in a good God who will bring about a renewal of this earth. I also believe we have a part to play in that. In the Lord's Prayer it says "May your kingdom come, may your will be done, on earth, as it is in Heaven." God's kingdom here on earth, now! Today! Not some airy fairy time in the future. I don't believe in the earth burning up or Christians disappearing off and leaving everyone else in a mess. How horrid is that! I'll be honest and say that was an important concept to me once but not now. What is the point of doing the research I am doing if it is all going to burn up in an end time holocaust? What is the point in seeking long-term solutions to society's problems if it is all going to end soon? None at all. But what if we are meant to be part of the solution, part of the process of renewal? Then there is a point. The Left Behind Series has a lot to answer for and I don't think it portrays a loving God who sent his son to die for a world to be redeemed.
Diamonds in the trees. Yes I did actually
see some sunshine, in between the snow
When I got to the land, there was no
snow and I managed to dig over the
new Jerusalem artichoke bed. Then it
snowed and I wasn't sure what to dig
over after that. I knew there were a few
spaces that needed a bed of straw on
them, so Ian and I did that, but I
couldn't do any more.
Whilst in school we also got into a chat about a hot topic, immigration! I find it odd that some Latvians find the issue of asian people in the UK a problem, why do they seem to care so much about it? It is not their country after all. There is obviously a fear of the unknown, as Latvian society is not a particularly diverse one, although there are a mix of nationalities from ex-Soviet countries, just not further than that (although the Soviet sphere did extend to quite a few countries, which is difficult to remember sometimes). It is almost as if they forget that many of their compatriots are regarded as unwanted immigrants too, by some people in the UK. There seemed to be more to their objections though and I didn't understand it, until this week. One lady described the feeling in Heathrow as "like an occupation." So while I had been viewing the issue as a historical one from the UK's connection with primarily Commonwealth countries, i.e. ones that were ruled by Britain in former years, she was viewing it through the lens of the Russification of the Baltic countries during the Soviet era.

Our errant sheep have not escaped this week. Then again,
they've been penned up in there all week. No escaping from
that then.
There is a big difference though between the Russification by the Soviets and people coming from the Commonwealth, for a start Russification was imposed, but many of those from the Commonwealth were originally invited. The roots of British Asians also goes back further in time than when people were encouraged to come to fill roles left vacant by fallen soldiers in the Second World War and to staff the new NHS service. In fact the first Indian restaurant opened in London in 1810 and seamen from asia were settling in the UK in the 1600s after they were marooned there when they were refused passage back to their homelands by the East India Company. They had filled in vacancies in the crews sailing from India, but were not expected to travel back. Wikipedia has a whole section on British Asians and it is quite a fascinating read.

I love the colours in this photo of the grass  just covered in
snow and the dark clouds.
The topic did remind me though how we view many issues through different lenses. I understand quite a few of the issues that have stemmed from the Soviet times, for instance the coping mechanisms that means that people do not always deal with issues well, because to deal with issues in Soviet times could be dangerous, but obviously I still get caught out at times. The fact is that I haven't lived through the Soviet era, I have only studied it, so I cannot possibly understand all that it means to everyday people. I wonder though, how many times the Latvian youngsters fail to understand their elders, because they haven't lived through the Soviet era either. What tensions does this create! Something else to look out for too.

Monday, 15 December 2014

It's Christmas time......

The proof! Christmas decorations up early with Santa
looking on.
Now that you all have that tune well and truly fixed in your head, I shall begin. First of all I have to warn my boys to sit down while reading this, because there was a momentous event in our household this week. Are you ready boys? .............. The decorations went up this week! Now I know that most of my readers will be wondering what on earth is the big deal as many people put there's up around mid-December if not before, but it is a virtually unheard of event in our home for the decorations to be put up more than one day before Christmas Eve. In fact when our children were small they used to be put on the night of Christmas Eve after they went to bed, then it became on Christmas Eve to keep the little darlings entertained and eventually the day before Christmas Eve when we went to Denmark as it fitted in easier with going to Christmas services. The reason for this extraordinary event was the fact our daughter and granddaughter were visiting, as I mentioned last week and so we decided to hold Christmas early.

I love this pensive look
The Christmas tree we collected, that I also mentioned in last week's blog, was propped up in the shower overnight to melt off the ice so as not to flood the floor and the next day my daughter and I set it up. We both ended up with a bit of a rash from the needles, some of my spots turned a little nasty, so note to self - next year wear gloves! Our granddaughter helped to decorate the tree and so this year, all the ornaments that could possibly break, ended up at the top of the tree, with all my non-breakable ones down below. She was very good though and the most she did was to poke a finger at some of the ornaments quite gently. We followed up a day of decorating the tree with a trip out to see our friends on the goat farm. The wee one, loved the goats but wasn't enthralled by the noisy chickens, ducks and turkeys or the very quiet rabbits. She did like the goat's cheese though, in fact she likes cheese no matter what. If all else failed some cheese would work for a quick lunch.

All kitted up and ready to go
Our daughter then treated us by making Christmas dinner. It was lovely, both the taste of it all, but also the fact I didn't have to cook it myself. She was very happy that for once the Yorkshire puddings came up to her grandma's standards, Ian's mother that is. One of the joys of visiting his parents were grandma's Yorkshire puddings on a Sunday afternoon and she set such a high standard. We often felt a little disappointed if ours didn't work out quite as well. For some reason, our oldest son seemed to have the knack of consistently making good Yorkshires, for the rest of us it was a bit hit and miss. We obviously don't have all the ingredients for a proper English Christmas dinner here in rural Latvia and so we had pork rather than turkey. The pork was done in a spiced up apple juice with some fermented apple juice that was meant to be vinegar, but tasted more like a weak wine, but it worked really well anyway and gave it a cidery taste. Our brussel sprouts suffered with the heavy frosts and not worth picking, so there were none of them, but there were carrots and squash, potatoes both roasted and mashed, a sausage stuffing and all followed by a baked cheesecake with a strawberry topping.

One little girl with a very red nose.
All too soon it was time for me to take a trip up to Tartu and leave Ian some time to get a word in edgeways. I had a meeting to present my research to my fellow doctoral candidate colleagues. I didn't set off at the crack of dawn this time though, we all took a trip to Sigulda for a bit of a day out, but it was so bitter and there is not much time when the days are so short that we only had time for our granddaughter to have a bit of a play in a large playground and time to have a meal. At least it was a few extra hours.

This reminds me why my daughter rarely had her hair up. I
was never very good at putting in pony tails
My presentation went well. I harked back a little to my children's worker days and took along some fabric and threads borrowed from my host to act as an object lesson to the way I work. I explained that the fabrics were like communities, some fabrics are more harmonious than others and like in an art quilt where the fabrics are linked by threads that bind them together, so there are common threads that bind communities together. I explained that I look for those relationships of harmony and linkages that are already there in communities and I am looking for ways that might help link them together better, in much the same ways as I use embroidery to alter the fabrics to tone in, or stand out. It did surprise them a little, but my supervisors seemed to relate to the metaphor.

Grandma and granddaughter time
I have found the internet on the train very useful for working and managed to send off a few emails that needed to be dealt with, as well as look up some details about some academics who I needed to make contact with. One of the trains I take even has plug in power
points, but I have to remember they don't work when the train is stationary. It all feels very productive. Not sure if that is a good thing or not, as it means no time for just staring out of the window and taking in the view. I think I will have to do that sometimes just to make sure I give my brain space just to be. The conductors are usually quite pleasant on the trains, they may not smile like some would expect in say America, but they are not surly. In fact the conductor on the train I was on going to Riga on Saturday was lovely to one of the sleeping passengers, as he very, very gently woke him as we were approaching the main station. I thought that showed a good deal of care and concern. I guess it also makes sure that no one is left on the train at the final destination, but at least that sense of responsibility was taken gently.

Melting ice
I had arranged with Ian and our daughter to meet them in a shopping centre in Riga, but when I got there it was chock-a-block with traffic and not a car parking space to be seen. It was not heaving with folks as I know it can be in England, and there were no queues of cars to get in on the road, but it was still quite full. Fortunately I had arrived a while before they could as Ian had had to put the animals away first and by the time I had finished a pot of tea, people were starting to leave and car-parking spaces beginning to appear and not be instantly replaced with another car. We went for a meal and I got the chance for a few more hours with the wee one. Of course waiting for food is far too long for a little one and so I kept taking her off for a walk while we waited. It was great fun to look in all the shop windows and look at the small round tiles on the pillars. We also stared down at the people on the floor below us. All the sorts of things you can do when you are wandering around with a little one, but looks a little strange to do it yourself.
From this angle it looks like an agate slice. That takes me
back to the days I used to help my parents sell gemstone
jewellery at the agricultural shows around the north of

A little cold on the toes I think
So now our home is quiet again and normality returns - whatever that is! The new normality seems to be our sheep making a bid for freedom on a rather regular basis at the moment. Ian has had to pen them up in the corral which now has a line of string along the top to dissuade them from jumping out. The blue string makes them tilt their head too far back to climb out and I do mean climb. Ian even put a brand new fresh bale of hay into the paddock area and they still went walkabouts. The problem is that electric fencing run off batteries doesn't work well in the cold, as it drains the batteries too quickly and so the fence hasn't been electrified and besides if they chose to they can jump it, as we have seen them do. The snow would also short out the apparatus. Although much of the snow has gone, there is still some, so in the corral they have to stop for the time being until a new paddock area can be sorted.
We had an ash tree that looked pretty sick and it finally
came down in the overnight storm over the weekend. Ian
had to clear the road of the tip of the tree before going home

Still snowy, but less than there was

I put the half done picture of this box for business cards up
on the blog previously. Well it is now finished with a little
copper colour added to highlight the surface detail.

Monday, 8 December 2014

All grown up!

Our granddaughter enjoying
creamy porridge with
strawberries and grapes from the
freezer. Or should I say enjoying
the strawberries first and then the
Our little granddaughter is visiting at the moment with her Mum. It might only be a few months since she last visited, but she is now chatting away and saying distinct words. She has also developed quite an imagination. So much growing up in so little time. The snow is still on the ground here and so our little Ozzie granddaughter has got to see it for the first time , she wasn't very impressed. She must have picked up an Ozzie gene for the heat somewhere along the line, despite having two northern British parents. Her Mum and I took her outside to see the snow and she found it really difficult to walk in it, which she didn't like. She also got very upset when I tried to start moving snow about to make a snowman. Eventually she got the hang of walking about and then let me make snowcastles with buckets from the sandpit, which she then enjoyed demolishing. Today she had her first ride on a sledge, that was much more fun - at least at first. We went to look for a Christmas tree and she got a bit bored and fed up, maybe a little cold too and on the way back she complained about being in the sledge, then started crying as we tried to get back as fast as possible. In the process we freaked the sheep out with the noise of the sledge on the snow and our crying granddaughter, so they charged their fence, broke it and ran off.
Making snowcastles

Amazingly the old sheep shelter is still standing, although
they don't use it these days
Our granddaughter and her Mum disappeared into the caravan to warm up and the sheep spotted Ian at the greenhouse and so trotted over and followed him back as good as gold to their pen. He didn't even have to entice them with food. The problem is that tomorrow we were going to get a ram to put in with them and now Ian is not happy about doing that in case the ram got out. Our sheep know to follow Ian back to the pen, but would they do that with a ram about and would a ram be quite so obedient? It doesn't look like we will be having lambs any time soon then, as that plan has now been shelved.

Frosty backdrop to the girls alpaca hut
Our granddaughter isn't the only one growing up. Agnese is getting quite big now. She and Estelle still have a run around from time to time like young alpacas and Ian enjoyed standing in the middle whilst they raced around him. Other days they fall out and spit at each other, as alpacas do. We started with the vitamin injections for all the alpacas for the winter months today. That will be a regular monthly chore until about March time now. It is definitely getting easier to do these jobs as they get more and more used to us.
Amazing cloud formations

I love winter sunrises. Not only do I not have to be up
rather early, they are the most intense colours
The last chore we tackled with the alpacas was cutting toe nails at the end of November. Ian had to wear his glasses for that, something that is coming a bit hard for someone who had far better than average sight in his younger days. This last week he came home and asked if I had seen his glasses as he had been looking all over for them. Nope! Not I! The last time I saw them was, yes you've guessed it, when we were cutting toe nails. The next day I got a text, "Found the glasses! They were in the alpaca hut, those boys do think it's funny to hide things." They were actually just on the bit of shelf where he had left them. Shows he doesn't need them that often then.

Just because you can never have enough frosty winter
scenes. They are so bright after the dark autumn days
Our chickens are also growing up. The boys we moved into new arks proved to us that we were right in thinking that they were getting close to being grown up cockerels by Cock-a-doodle-doing. It is strange to hear cockerels again as we get out of the car in the mornings. It has been quiet around the place since we lost the older cockerels to a fox. Fortunately the hens have settled down now and are laying again, after only the briefest of stoppages due to the stress of the male interloper. It is nice to have a regular supply of eggs again after the rather sparse number over the autumn period.

I love the splash of colour of the playground equipment
We've had other visitors this week. Not long ago one of us commented on the fact that it seems strange we haven't had a visit from the immigration department for a long time. Lo and behold two ladies turned up at the door this week with a paper in one hand and the immigration insignia on their jackets. They asked if we had seen some American neighbours of ours, but I hadn't as they had left about two years ago, which I told them. They asked about another family and I was able to tell them they were still around, but I knew that was okay to say that. They never even asked for my passport or registration documents. They just seemed happy enough with the information and left. The funny thing about these visits by the immigration people, is that Ian has only ever seen them in passing on the stairs and never had to prove his existence to them, although I have shown them his registration documents. He is never actually at home when they show up.

A truly glorious winterscape of frosted trees and deep blue
On the same day, as my visit from the immigration officers, Ian had a visit out on the land by some guys from a government mapping department. I presume they were just checking up to see what the changes were that were showing up on their newly updated maps, such as our greenhouse and barn. They left Ian a leaflet explaining what they do, but of course it was in Latvian, so that wasn't much help. What was of help though was the website that was listed on the leaflet. Ian checked it out and is delighted to find that they have maps that can be overlaid and by changing the transparency of the top layer, it is possible to see the transition from one map to the other. This shows the landscape changes over time and helps us to see how much the weed trees have grown over the years. When I say weed trees, I just mean the trees that are growing up in areas where they aren't really supposed to be growing. The trees are being gradually thinned out though, so that there is adequate room for the alpacas to graze and a chance of shelter from wind, rain and sun.

Our frosted oak tree
And my thought for the week? What is truth? It seems such a relative term and I don't think the lack of truth is worse now than it ever was, it is just a different expression of it. I find that too often the posts that are reposted on facebook that purports to tell us about particular people portrayed in a negative way are untrue. Recent examples are suppsosedly how many MPs were in the British Parliament to debate their pay and their expenses compared to other deemed more worthy topics or the photoshopped manipulated image of someone holding up a poster outside the fire station in Ferguson supposedly saying  "No mother should have to fear for her son's life every time he robs a store." Factually they are not true (you can read the truth behind the photos here and here), but there is a truth in both of them though. Whilst the picture does not tell us the truth as it actually happened, I think it does tell the truth of what is in our hearts. We often want to think the worse of our "enemies" or at least the people on the other side of the debate. Sometimes the truth is downright inconvenient. The picture of the MPs may not be factually true, but the output from their debates in the policies signed into law would suggest that it paints a sort of truth and I must admit to being sorely tempted to repost this one. More often than not though the picture paints the ugly truth of our own hearts, that we want to demonise the "other." What does it mean to "love your enemies?" Whether that enemy is a single individual or an amorphous group, we are called by Jesus to love them. Even telling the truth about our enemies is not always enough either, we have to question our motives in revealing ugly truths, is it calling the person to a greater accountability or just gossip?

Competition time! And the winner is..... actually no one got the whole answer, but some of you did get part of the answer. The picture shows our cat Sofie, curled up on top of the caravan skylight window for warmth.

Monday, 1 December 2014


A small rural station on my travels back from Tartu
I find as I travel about it often doesn't hurt to say "Hello! Where are you from?" especially if someone has an English accent and it is somewhere unusual where you wouldn't necessarily expect an English person. I was sitting in the university café in Tartu when I thought I heard the strains of English floating over towards me. It was hard to tell as the gentleman had his back to me and he was an older gentleman, so not very clear, plus my hearing is not great. Eventually he stood up and turned towards me and spoke more clearly to a young man and so I ventured to ask him where he was from. He replied with the uncertain voice of someone who clearly has trouble with the question of, "Where are you from?"something I can relate to and he told me "England." I replied with a smile, "Oh you can be more specific than that. Where exactly?" "The Lake District!" he answered. We chatted on a little more and I explained that I often had travelled up to the Lake District when I was younger to see my godmother, who lived on a sheep farm there.  He asked what her name was and at first I had to think hard, she was always just Aunty Betty to me and I rarely referred to her by her surname, but it came back to me eventually. It turns out he knew her. How amazing is that? Just before we parted company he asked me to send him an email when I was up in Tartu in February, as his wife would love to meet me. "Let's get together and have a cup of tea or a beer" he said. How English!
They are renovating Cesis station. I often see this station
on my travels, because it is also the bus station, so I either
pass by it track side or catch the bus on the other side of the
building. I was thrown this week when I got there and
found the building shut, as I normally buy my ticket there.
Fortunately they have opened a little ticket office nearby.
It should look much nicer when it is finished, it was a bit
gruesome and uninviting on the inside before.
Sorry about the glare and the mucky windows, but just
a typical scene on my journey
So from that little anecdote you can guess I was up in Tartu again this week. I had travelled up for a doctoral seminar with my fellow colleagues from the department. It was very interesting and very encouraging. My supervisor kept pointing out how my knowledge and research would be quite useful to the guy doing the presentation. I was quite surprised how he kept working that in. Afterwards we went through an email that I sent him with a short summary of what I plan to talk about for a conference in April and was rather surprised again to hear him enthusing over a paragraph I had written about how sustainable education needs to have trust, collaboration and a good state of mental health to be effective. To make changes often requires a level of self-esteem that is willing to take risks and unfortunately self-esteem is lacking in Latvia, particularly in the rural areas. People do not often trust each other and therefore unwilling to collaborate, but this also is linked to the way people feel about themselves. I wasn't expecting such a positive reception to what I had written, particularly as the day prior to the email, I had no idea what I would write and then following a bit of a brainwave I threw some thoughts together and emailed those to him. Maybe, just maybe things are coming together a bit in my head!
Another typical sight along the track. Not sure what this
container would be carrying, but many similar ones would
be carrying oil from Russia.
I love the snowy scenes of winter
Unusually for me, I went out for two evenings that I was in Tartu. The first night was to a sort of Thanksgiving party with just desserts available. There seemed to be every imaginable type there and it was hard making a decision, but I managed to restrict myself to only four. I hasten to add, that was four small portions. The next night was to a ladies evening, where pedicures and manicures were on offer. Ian said I should have a video taken of the pedicure, as he was sure it would go viral. I assured him, I was NOT going to have anyone anywhere near my feet - he knows how ticklish I am. In the end we didn't have pedicures or manicures, we ate tacos and sat around and chatted, well the three older ones sat around and chatted, the younger ladies headed to the sauna.
Winter wonderland

Turbjørn looking comfortable in the cold with his woolly
coat on.
Ian of course was back on the "ranch" taking care of our animals. He emailed me one day and mentioned Sofie had gone missing. Our errant cat returned after a day though, but then took off on another day. She has been known to take off for a week at a time, just never when it is this cold (10F/ -12C). We gave up worrying about her taking off when she seemed to do that on a regular basis, but this time we were concerned, since it was out of character for this time of year. Anyway, you will be glad to know she is back with us again and none the worse for wear.
I don't think the chickens would think it was such a winter
wonderland. They are all huddled in the doorway of the
chicken house and don't wander quite so much these days
The ponds are well and truly frozen
We've been looking back over past Decembers to see what they were like. It seems that we have had snow on the ground in early December on all but one year, but what we can't remember is it being this cold so early. It has never got above freezing for about a week now and not just that, but well below freezing. Even with the hint of sun today, it didn't get above freezing in the greenhouse. The advantage of that is the wild boar cannot dig very much and so we haven't had a lot of damage done this year. They have been rooting around under the oak trees for acorns this week and turned over quite a few leaves. It looks bad from a distance, but when you get up close it is possible to see that nothing is deep and it is only churned up leaves and snow, which might help it all rot down quicker in the spring. If this turns out to be a tough year weather-wise, then the wild boar will be suffering a lot due to the disease that is still spreading around and the fact they are not supposed to be fed to curb the numbers. It could see a very sharp drop in numbers, but then again this is supposed to be one of the furtherest reaches of their range, they are not supposed to be prevalent in places where there can be deep snow. They wouldn't survive in such numbers if it wasn't for the feeding.
More winter sunshine

Sheep shelter completed

A grateful recipient

This one loves a nose rub
Last but not least, a little competition.
Who? Where? Why? Any guesses?

Monday, 24 November 2014

Bath time!

Scary snow lady
Bath time! Yeah! You all wanted to know that didn't you? Yes we have had showers, but a bath is a treat. Bath time, of course, means that the radiators in our other apartment have finally been fixed and are working properly, ten months after they blew in the freezing cold weather at the end of January. There maybe a small leak, but only to be expected with the rather inadequate components often available here in Latvia. The radiators were fixed just in time too, as winter is now upon us and we will have to make regular trips up to the apartment to make sure it doesn't freeze. We have had our first snow fall of the year. Only about 5cm though, so not a huge amount, but enough for children to throw snowballs and make snowmen. The night we had a bath, the children from other apartments were playing outside and lighting up the snowman they had made, with a bright LED torch and according to Ian it looked rather eerie. The apartment we live in though has been rather cool at about 16C, which I don't mind as long as the costs for the heating reflects that. We will have to wait and see.
The view from our other apartment
Ian used the black geotextil type of fabric to let the hay
breathe but keep off the snow. He thought it will probably
last longer than the white garden fleece he used the last
time. It has lasted quite well, but hopefully this will be
Ian has been busy preparing for the winter and got the sticks in to mark the road. He was a bit worried that it might already be too frozen, but it wasn't and the sticks went in easy enough. The ground is pretty hard though where it has been compacted. He has also put up the cathedral windows over the greenhouse windows (you can see here what I mean) to stop snow from drifting into the greenhouse and the sheep pen has been moved into the winter sheep field, before that was frozen into the ground. The sheep haven't been moved into their winter quarters yet, as it is still early and the snow could well disappear - then again it might not! They have plenty of hay to eat though, so they won't go hungry, although they might try and convince someone they are with all the noise they make. The can hear the rattle of a tray no matter how quietly you try and fill them and they are a good few hundred metres away from the greenhouse where Ian prepares the trays.

Turbjørn enjoying the hay now the snow is on the ground
I mentioned last week that Agnese was being weaned from her Mum, to give Snowdrop a chance to put some weight on before the next baby is due - well hopefully she is due, but she still needs to put some weight on regardless. Agnese decided that she had had enough of just hay today and jumped the fence to get to her Mum. It is better to have more distance between them, but Snowdrop isn't that bothered and normally neither is Agnese, so normally it is fine, just occasionally she wants her Mum again. Agnese is obviously another alpaca that hasn't read the manual that they are not supposed to challenge fences, especially not by jumping them. I finally got the video of Agnese eating an apple this week, as well as the morning routine of letting the alpacas out - well the girls anyway. Take a look at Estelle who is on the far right of the video being let out the second door. She is not a morning alpaca and always is bleary first thing.
Here is a video of Agnese eating an apple, with Estelle getting in on the act

Tellus looking unperturbed
We tackled toe nail trimming again this week and it was less traumatic this time. I seem to be getting better at holding onto them and have discovered that if you stop them from dropping their head, they are less able to buck to get away. We managed all seven alpacas between the two of us, which I'm rather pleased with and that was without any toe nails coming into contact with my rear end. It was a little painful the last time. The only thing that got damaged were my over trousers that got a tear in them. Annoying but never mind, it will sew up. It is amazing how much their toe nails have grown in just over two months. We are wondering if that is an indication of the better condition they seem to be in this year and the amount of fleece they have on them. It would seem that they have settled down and probably adjusted to the local diet better this year.

The chicks are getting rather large now
The cats finally got their vaccinations too, only a month later than they should have, but we got kind of busy. The vet was happy enough with them, but she did say Sofie was kind of skinny. I am not sure she will ever have much on her. She charges around so much when she is feeling active, so there can't be much wrong with her. We also finally got around to moving chickens around. There have been nine in Ark 2 and they have got too big for that number in the ark for our liking. We are still well within regulations for the available space, but we like to give chickens more room to move around. They were also getting too mucky with that number in such a small space. We were waiting to make sure which were cockerels and which were not, partly because it was important that one of them was big enough to defend himself with a group of more mature hens. Anything less than a boss would not last five minutes with older ladies.

This old lady has been laying regularly too. The only one
in the chicken house that is. She is also the mother of
the ones that are laying in the Arks
We decided that this week they were big enough to fend for themselves and set about moving them in the evening. We put one cockerel in with four ladies in Ark 1 and put one cockerel in with the three chicks in Ark 3. The cockerel in Ark 1 had been a bit bossy in Ark 2 and as we suspected he has taken charge, but we have to wait and see if he will calm down with the ladies. It is a bit of a worry as the ladies had really come into lay again this week and we were regularly getting one or two eggs a day from them. One day we even had four, although we suspect one egg may have been hidden in the hay and not laid that particular day. There was one point we thought we were going to get 5 because one of the hens seemed to be in and out of the nesting box all day, but she must have been having us on. We think that the number of eggs will go down until they settle and so Ian will just have to monitor the situation. The chicks have been getting aggressive with each other, not because they lacked space, but must be the hormones starting to flow and so we hope the cockerel will actually calm them down a bit. We put him in early, because he seems to be a more mild mannered cockerel and didn't want the chicks to get too big and bossy before we put him in. He is also the biggest of the cockerels and so we hope a good one to breed from for meat birds. Oh this breeding lark gets a bit complicated as we try and breed robust hens for meat and for egg laying, without too much aggression.

The boys enjoying some good grass before the snow
I got told off this week by one of my son's, well more a mild rebuke. Last week I posted a picture of Ian's bike on a stand that allows him to use the bike in the house for exercise and not have to brave the weather outside or roads in poor condition. Anyway I called the stand a roller and it's not, it is a turbo trainer. So after me, must repeat, turbo trainer not rollers, turbo trainer not rollers. Have we all got that now? I suppose that's what comes of having a bike mechanic for a son, he should know his stuff. Just to prove it I noticed that the Bike Store, where he works, is now doing BikeFit to make sure that the bike fits perfectly, which is good when no one has the perfect body shape that is perfectly symmetrical.

The fleece is looking good and thick
I finally finished off writing up lessons for the Sociology course that I am tutoring, so that is one year's worth of lessons written, one more year to go. All I need to do now is to think of a short project that would be fun to do, or how to enthuse students to do one and then sort out some revision topics or again how to get the students to do it for themselves. Any suggestions gratefully received. It has been an interesting exercise as I have almost come at Sociology via the back door. I haven't graduated through the stages of school exams, college, university, research, I have sort of done all of that backwards. Most of the work for the course has been looking at different aspects of society from a gender perspective, a marxist perspective or an ethnic perspective with a bit of social class thrown in. It is fascinating that they have picked on these particular aspects when examining issues and how education, families etc. is viewed through those lenses. I have to assume those are the dominant thoughts within those fields, despite not really coming across the marxist perspective much in my readings, the ethnic and gender are quite important in development for sure.

Snowy fields and frozen ponds
Anyway the final thoughts for this week centre around a phrase that kept coming into my mind all week, "Remember me!" We have met quite a few folks along our journey and we all get busy and get on with other things, especially for me in the academic field. I could really do with a few contacts coming through though and so that phrase keeps coming to mind. I found it amusing therefore, when one email that came through this week had the first words "I haven't forgotten you." Immediately after that email came through, a brief foray into facebook and a friend had posted a song by Amy Grant "I will remember you." So I guess the promise is there and I haven't been forgotten, but I still have to wait for contacts to bear fruit into something that will carry us into the next phase of life, with me earning a living.

I couldn't quite believe this little chap, crawling across the snow