Monday, 18 February 2019

Heaven and Hell

I'm a little busy this week so no normal post. Instead here is a poem I wrote, inspired (in the loose sense of the word) by yet more news of an environmental catastrophe in the making, as insect numbers collapse.

Heaven and Hell
so close together.
Easy to step
between the two
in the twinkling of an eye.
The cherished land
cared for
a Heaven on Earth.
The scarred and
a Hell on Earth.
Carelessness and cruelty
the earth
to a purgatory
not of its own making
squeezing out life.
In response the land
spits out the sons of men,
creating its own Sabbath
exhausted as it waits
in pain
for the rise
of those
who will care
and cherish
and heal.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Do you smell gas?

Vanessa does look like her mother. 
I forgot to mention last week that there was a serious gas smell in the apartment and before you ask, no it was not me. It kept getting stronger and I even got up one night to check that I had turned the gas cylinder off. I was going to make Ian take the cylinder back to the garage where we had bought it from when he announced he had found the source of the aroma - a dead mouse under the kitchen sink. Phew! In more ways than one. At least the smell has now gone.
Vanessa's mother is Veronica on the left.

Not much in the way of blue skies this week
Something else I forgot to mention was that Ian had some visitors to the land, who arrived in the middle of a blizzard. Ian thought he could hear voices and went to investigate. There was a group of folks, well dressed for the weather, who were heading into our village on foot and had stopped to see our alpacas. It turned out it was our friend from the little village nearby who regularly brings his friends to see us. It was nice of him to pop in again and apparently they all stood outside for an hour and chatted.
And Ian has still had a lot of work clearing snow again

But it has also been melting and so the
drain cleaning work begins too
The first half of the week was back to reading reports and papers, at least I feel I have actually made progress this week and got into production mode. It is always hard to know when to stop. Just one more report! Just one more paper! Before you know where you are, that's another day gone and nothing written. That is certainly how it felt in the first half of the week, but over the last two days I actually got a whole section finished for my paper. Step 2 tomorrow.
See that! That's actually water in the top pond. Okay maybe
seeing water is not a huge deal to most folks but after the
drought this year and the snow, it is still always a shock to
actually see the liquid stuff.

I think someone is going to need their teeth cutting at
shearing time.
I could have perhaps progressed a little more if we hadn't had other stuff to do though. On Friday a specialist vet from Lithuania came. Our friends who live nearby were worried about their animals and a local vet was not sure what to do about an eye problem. We agreed to split the cost of the visit as we felt it was good to get an opinion from a specialist about our alpacas' health and ask about Chanel's skin problem. She suggested that perhaps one or two of them could do with extra zinc and confirmed that Veronica probably has osteo-arthritis and that is why her front legs are beginning to collapse but normal due to her age. She said as long as she wasn't in pain though she was fine but maybe at some point she will need anti-inflammatories. She has taken hair samples and a blood sample from Chanel and we are just waiting to see what they show. She said it probably started with one thing and then progressed to something else.
A cool pose by Silla

Look! Look! That's grass down there. 
She looked at Freddie too as Ian noticed that he had started twisting his foot again on the ice like last year. She said he had weak ligaments on one side of his knee cap. She thinks it is probably due to being damaged at some stage. We did suspect that. Aggie would charge him from time to time when she was in one of her foul moods (Oh! she does not do pregnancy) and had wondered if that had been the cause. It was either that and slipping on the ice but never noticed that happening. We do have to watch him though in case it causes him trouble in later life. Apart from that, all was good. Our own vet came along to chat and hear her opinions so she could learn. I am always so grateful for her desire to learn more about our animals and how to treat them. We couldn't ask for more.
This too will pass!

Jakobs looking cute as always and beginning to look very
fluffy around the face. At least it is not as close to his eyes
as his older brother, George's was when he was little.
In the evening we had a lovely visit from our neighbour from the upstairs apartment to practice her English. It was wonderful to hear about her love of music and how she enjoys playing in the church. She especially enjoys choosing music that she feels will lift the spirits of others. I love to hear her practice and so I can imagine how much others would enjoy it too. She learnt a new word, well kind of new, dissonance. Being a musician she knew what it meant and was happy to know she could use it in other ways too to explain those times when things do not fit well together. I certainly feel a lot of dissonance when listening to the Brexit debate.
George is growing up too. His face is taking on the look of
a more adult looking alpaca and losing his baby looks

Another candidate for teeth cutting.
The following day we were up early and off to Lithuania with our alpaca owner friends to meet up with another alpaca breeder and to pick up some alpaca feed that we are trying. Camelibra is great, but it is expensive. It is also small, which presents us with a couple of issues. Ian cannot use it for training, as it is too small, as well as expensive and it also means some of our alpacas wolf it down and then move onto the trays of the other alpacas. Larger granules slows them down a bit. We are noticing that our alpacas are doing well on Camelibra and so it was nice to see that the alpacas are also doing well on Alpamin. We couldn't see any obvious skin issues, which we would expect to see on at least a couple of them. The lady also said since using it that hers had been fine on it and the fleeces were good too.
The plastic on the greenhouse is starting to struggle with age.
Ian had to patch the great big tear in the middle of this section

We bought some alfalfa pellets to help the girls who are
feeding cria (babies) as they were getting thin, the problem
is that it was turning to powder. This is what it should look
We spent a long time talking, with Russian, Latvian and English all being spoken. It was good for our friend who does not speak much English to be able to find out answers to her questions in Russian. Her daughter then translated from Latvian to English for us. We also spent some time looking at the alpacas of course and eventually we set off. We were in a rush to make it back before dark, which in the end, we didn't manage. Unfortunately Ian didn't slow down quick enough at the sign for the urban speed limit and was spotted by a police car on the opposite side of the road and clocked. Ian figured that we were about to be stopped as soon as they put their blue lights on and sure enough we were. Of course they were not in a rush and we figured that they wouldn't be terribly sympathetic that we had to get back to put our alpacas away. So the alpacas were put away by torchlight. Fortunately they were well behaved and went in reasonably well, even Turbjørn who often won't go in when it's dark.
A third of the bag looked like this though. Ian sent the bags
back but we are still waiting for replacements from the company
Dobele. Not good!

Monday, 4 February 2019


As Ian has been rather busy these photos are some from the
previous week when the weather was glorious
Swimming? Not literally, but my head is at times. Well I now know there is a part of the Baltic Sea called the Quark and it is between Sweden and Finland, about half way up in the gulf between them, which is called the Gulf of Bothnia. I also know where the watershed of the Baltic Sea is, in other words all the areas where water flows from, which feeds into the sea. Well roughly and it is not as far as I thought it was. I also know where the Sargasso sea is, where all the European eels originate. I had heard of it but couldn't have told you where it was. How about Kattegat! Any ideas? I'll let you look it up 😀
The morning sun

I love the sepia tones this picture
So what have I been up to, besides being holed up reading papers, reports and general information? Not a lot. Short blog then! Well actually a couple of things did happen this week. We finally got a new chimney put in. Up till now our fire had been vented through the ventilation shaft, which is not exactly safe long term. It took a while to organise but finally the new chimney is in. It snakes its way through the kitchen to a flue fitted on the outside. It is not exactly pretty but it is safe. One of the downsides to it is that a cupboard had to be taken off the wall as it would be too close to the pipe. We are already struggling for space and so it took yet more rearranging to put the stuff away and we have a cupboard that we can't decide what to do with at the moment.
 Delicate rose pink frosted trees

Lots of icicles around over winter
Another downside was the mess. The guy reused part of the chimney that was already up, which wouldn't have been so bad but it must have been ready for cleaning. I went in at one point and there was soot everywhere. It was a good job that I had covered everything with plastic sheeting, taping it onto the walls to act as a screen. It saved a huge amount of cleaning up, but there was still plenty to do. I was wise to the fact that it could be a problem because many years ago, Ian and our eldest son were cleaning out a fire at our home in the UK when the front came off and soot went everywhere. It is awful stuff to clean. It is oily and one of the constituents that used to be used to make ink. Well you can imagine what that meant. After he left we spent the evening cleaning up the best we could. I got Ian to bring a take away from our local bakery, as there was no way I could cook until the place was cleaned up a bit.
Not an elegant solution

The hole where the chimney used to
go through the toilet to the ventilation

The ice structures are always so incredible
The following day I did get out. I still read papers on my computer in the car though. I wasn't driving of course, because Ian was. We were off to see a lady and her son about 90km away. They had been to see us recently and are interested in having alpacas. The idea was to see her property and see if it was suitable for them. It was also an opportunity to see her other animals, such as beef cows, a couple of horses, chickens and cats. She likes to train her animals and so they were all fairly people friendly. Of course we had to be careful with the beef cows, but we were up close to them and they were fine. She has some Belgian Blue crosses and they are certainly an interesting colour. We spent the rest of the early afternoon chatting about alpacas, and eating home-made pumpkin soup, followed by ice-cream with frozen blackcurrant jam. It was a pleasant way to fill in another snowy day.
A thoughtful lookin Jakobs

I'm glad this is just the angle of the photo and not really
the fact the snow is so high
Poor Ian has spent most of the week just shifting snow, along with all his other normal animal caring duties. We had quite a bit of snow at one point, then we had a melt and then it snowed again. In fact it snowed that much today that we had to shovel the snow away for him to park so it wasn't a solid compacted mess later on in the year when it really does melt properly. There was probably about 15-20cm just today. He has also had to repair the greenhouse plastic. It is getting old and close to needing replacing and so it splits, especially with the wet heavy snow we have been getting this week.
Winter evening chores. He's pretty good
The snow is still getting deep though. We've known more, but
this is the snowiest winter in a while

Our fairytale orchard

Winter hats

Just a few tracks across the snow at this end of the land 
We won't lose Mr. P in the snow

Clearing snow off our balcony

A sunny morning after a few overcast days

Monday, 28 January 2019

Backwards and forwards

Outside the Estonian University of Life Sciences.
Not bad heh!
Well I applied for residency in Estonia and got it. It was all done in one day for the sum of €25. If I had waited until Brexit goes through, that would not be the same situation. I wouldn't say it was a totally pain free process as it was a good job that my Estonian friend was there to ferry me around and sign some papers. I went to the police station first, where they process the applications and the very nice policewoman gave me back the form I had filled in and said it wasn't necessary. She sent me off to the council offices to register there and told me to come back when that was sorted. We managed to get there about half an hour before their three hour lunch break or maybe it was the half hour lunch break and two and half hours where they get on with other work. Who knows! The lady at the council office gave me a form to fill in and sign, which my friend translated. He also had to sign that it was fine for me to stay at his place - which I do sometimes and off we went back with my piece of paper and a personal code back to the police station.
Meanwhile back at home

The frosted trees lend a magical touch even in the city
In the police station they have photo booths, it takes a digital photo that is sent direct to the system for the ID card they give you. I thought I felt a bit dizzy when the machine was preparing to take the photo, until I realised it was the machine that was moving downwards and it wasn't me having a turn. Of course the machine needed to move a long way down, since I'm so small. My friend had found the lady who had sent me off to the council offices and she took my paper and my passport. I signed another paper, paid by card and that was it. I just have to wait for the ID card now and that can take up to 30 days but usually less.
Chanel trying to disguise herself as a snowman

Outside the cafe of the uni
I got to my office (I even now officially have a desk, well officially for my use anyway) and then went for lunch. It was a long day of work ahead of me after that. I had already done a little in the morning in preparation for an afternoon meeting, but there was more to read in the evening when I got back to my friend's apartment. She was a star, she cooked me some good food that kept my blood sugar under control, which was a bonus. We had snatched conversations, but not much more on that day.
The gym building glowing in the winter evening. 

Anyone for an outside al fresco meal?
The ski track is just beyond the first
The next day I walked to work on a very crisp morning, it was glorious, but in common with many people it would be dark by the time I set back off to my friend's place in the evening. My day was made up with meetings, online with the international team and locally with my other supervisor after lunch. Then back to work in the office. At least lunch was in a nicer spot than the previous day. I found there was another room to the cafeteria and I could look out on the frost encrusted trees and watch the cross country skiers on the university ski track. At least that evening I got to chat with my friend instead of working.
Come on mam, let me in! Josefs in his frosted coat

Our old oak tree in the distance as gorgeous as ever
Thursday I headed off back home to Ian. The last time I was up in Tartu, Ian and I had got our wires crossed and he was expecting me back on the Wednesday, not the Thursday. A bit awkward, but this time we made sure we knew when I was due back. I worked in the morning in my friend's apartment and then met her in town to hand over the key, as she was teaching that morning. We had time for a coffee before my bus and then off I went. First by bus, cup of cocoa in the train station cafe, on the train with internet access, hang around for just over an hour in the next train/bus station, cup of tea from the little shop there, on the bus and home. Door to door it is about 8 hours. At least I get to set off at a civilised hour and I can work okay on buses and trains.
Ian has been giving Vanessa's crew a bit of room

Trying to keep the channel next the greenhouse clear 
On Friday I was able to do a little flexi-working as Ian came home with the trailer and we shifted two loads of wood from the wood store to the store down in our basement. Sounds easy, apart from the fact we had to first dig our way past a snow bank where a tractor had obviously cleared a path down to the garages but not the wood stores. We then had to push the trailer through the snow to the wood store before Ian reversed the car down. At least the second time around it was easier. Hopefully that should now see us through most of the heating season.
Glowing trees

The oak tree again sporting a more subdued colour
Saturday I did a bit of catching up for work since I had had Monday and Friday afternoon off . It took me all day but I caught up with what needed doing. Sunday I took the day off. I lay in bed until 8:30am reading, and then spent the day pottering around doing things like putting the Christmas decorations away, polishing our wood furniture, cleaning up the pine needles. I actually took the Christmas tree down on Friday morning. I threw the tree out of the door and over the balcony (we are on the ground floor) so Ian could take it away in the trailer. I also made my bread, some cheesy biscuits for Ian to snack on and some pizzas. I had planned on going out with Ian so I could do some skiing but couldn't be bothered being up and ready for when he leaves the house. He has always been a bit of an early bird.
We have a magical place

Lots of paths to make Ian's job easier
Today was back to academia but working on a paper for my PhD. I'm still plodding on with that but at least I feel I am making progress, so all's good. Inside was the best place to be today anyway, since it snowed all day and there has been some drifting too. Apparently the alpacas stayed in too, only occasionally venturing out. It's a good job we sorted out the wood supply on Friday.
Turbjørn lapping up the sun

The snow is a bit deeper in Vanessa's crew's paddock

I am always so amazed by the frosted trees in winter

The contrast is stunning

Mr. P soaking up some sun too

Our neighbour's greenhouses are beginning to disappear in
the snow and our wood store is to the right of that lot

Looking the other way out of the back of our apartment

Out the front of our apartment. The ridge is getting
quite high

Hmmm! I think I might have to do a bit of snow clearing here