Monday, 16 October 2017

Been and gone!

Grey days but plenty of brightly coloured trees
Ian arrived back late on Wednesday night and I picked him up from the airport. The animals didn't give me any more issues, well not that I was aware of at the time, apart from noticing that one of our sheep was limping one day. It did rain a lot on the Tuesday so I made sure that Ian's wellies were in the car when I went to pick him up, our land is just so muddy it is unbelievable. The rain meant that there were lots of jobs to do on the Wednesday before I set off to pick Ian up, like emptying drain holes from alpaca houses and putting in fresh hay because they had been in all day chomping on hay and weeing a lot. I think we will have to tackle the drainage around the alpaca houses, as it is obviously a problem in these wet years.
A little light reading for Ian on his course

Our son is a bike mechanic and so keen to get his children
riding bikes. His daughter finally cracked the balance bike
this week
The next day we went for a walk around to see what I had been doing and to check on the animals. The sheep which had been limping the other day, fortunately seemed to have recovered but we then found out that one of the lambs was on the opposite side of the fence to the other sheep. We tried to get her back in through the gate and she nearly did a few times but in the end decided to try and jump the fence and bust an electric post in the process. Sigh! At least Ian had spare poles handy nearby for just such eventualities. We didn't have long before I had to set off for Riga though on the bus as I was attending a conference on Alternative Food Networks on the Friday and Saturday, which meant staying overnight in a hotel.
My son and daughter with some of their children

A serious face!
I managed to find a hotel, the Mosaic Hotel, in the centre of Riga that was quite cheap, relatively speaking. It was also clean, comfortable and above all, quiet. Well it was quiet from the point of view that there was no traffic noise that I could hear, but there was the steady drip of rain on metal windowsills. It also had tea and coffee facilities in a common room, which was a bonus. It was more of a hostel than hotel really, but that was fine with me. I actually prefer that for the extra food making facilities they have.
But he's not often so serious!

Our little school boy looking rather grown up
The conference was very good, as we were looking at issues related to the perceptions of post-Soviet countries. In the academic literature growing vegetables in the West is often viewed as an enjoyable hobby, or a reaction to consumerism etc. but then portrays it as a reaction to poverty in the post-Soviet countries. The same with sharing that produce, it is considered as altruism in the West and merely supplementing meagre incomes in post-Soviet countries. The reality is different. Gardening is a much loved activity with healthy food and taste being the main motivators. Sharing food and finding ways to get food from what is considered more natural sources are all important. In fact I think the post-Soviet countries are often ahead in this respect because they have not lost the knowledge of gardening and often maintain contacts with rural farms through friend and family networks and so can obtain food directly from farms much more easily.
Zipping along

Not to be outdone!

The waistcoats I made from old
denim jeans and lined with alpaca
fleece for warmth fitted - just. It's
a good job they have someone to
pass them onto
My presentation went down well, which was nice as I hadn't planned on doing one at first. I had a small survey of allotment gardening in Latvia but didn't think I had enough respondents to put something together until I chatted with the guy who had given me his set of questions for the survey that he had used in Czechia and Poland. He really encouraged me to go forward with what I had and I must admit as I analysed it more carefully for the presentation I realised what a wealth of information there was. What surprised me more than anything was the fact that people took the time to write more detailed comments after the general questions. They really wanted me to know how much they valued the growing and sharing of food. It was important to them and an act of kindness that they enjoyed. I also added some personal observations from living in Latvia and this was appreciated by the Latvians there. They told me it was nice for them to hear an outsider appreciate an important aspect of their culture.
I think Ian captured this shot beautifully. She's a lovely
handful 

The new - well new to us - spinning wheel
Ian came to pick me up after the conference as that meant I could stay until the end but also it meant that we could pick up a spinning wheel that someone was giving us. It belonged to her family but was not being used and so she offered it to us. Ian has been working on it today as it was another drizzly day. Although it has obviously some signs of age and woodworm (not active we think) he was able to get it running smoothly. He hasn't tried it with any fleece yet as it still needs a bit more cleaning and the metalwork needs polishing up, but we think it might still work well.
A little woodworm artwork

The youngest grandchild (for the moment) who I saw earlier in
the year when I went to help our daughter with her older two.
Apparently he's a smiler
We have had some nice days and yesterday was one of them. It was a kind of pottering about on the farm day and we were having a relaxed lunch when Ian got a phone call. One of our neighbours had got his car stuck, could we help. We went round in our car and tried and then managed to get our car stuck in the process. Ian had to walk back and get the tractor to first pull out our car and then the other car. It was a good job he had a long winch cable because it meant he could pull the other car out from a nice dry section. We came away with a bag of apples and two lots of Michaelmas Daisies, a purple variety and a wine pink variety. Now what was I saying about the joy of sharing? We were told we could go back and collect more apples if we wanted to because they wouldn't be able to get back soon to collect more. That's actually quite handy as we haven't had many apples on our own trees. We got to do our own sharing today, another neighbour came to borrow our chipper. Seems only fair!
Oh he is a mucky kid! It's hard to believe that Brencis is
our youngest alpaca as he is probably the biggest now.
Fortunately he is also the most docile and submissive of
them all. That is one reason he is so mucky as one of the
others managed to sit on him in the mud.

I love the colours of the autumn leaves. This is a grape leaf
Well to finish off with I thought I would share the news about the grandchildren. Two of them started school this year and one has got "star of the week" and the other one gone up a reading group; they are obviously settling in well. The other piece of news is that we are expecting grandchild number eight next year. So I hope to make a trip over to see the new one next year and that is on top of seeing grandchild number seven at Christmas time.
Our greenhouse gradually emptying

Monday, 9 October 2017

Escape

The view through the caravan window. I was sat inside, nice
and dry and Mari, Chanel and their boys are all sat outside in
the rain. Don't blame me though, they were free to go inside
their alpaca house like Aggie and Lady V.
Well I'm still home alone and coping reasonably well despite the return of the rain. The sun was so nice while it lasted. Now we are back to squelchy mud everywhere and I've even had to get some of the wood chippings that Ian chipped earlier in the year so I can get in and out of the greenhouse without ending up ankle deep in mud. The ponds are also overflowing again and it still startles me to hear the sound of running water as one pond overflows into the other.
This is a picture from a couple of weeks ago of an eagle on
the boys paddock fence post. I've seen it around a few times
this week too. 

The boys are not happy with me this week as they have had
to stay in their paddock and they only have hay not grass to
eat. It has meant that I have had to carry up bales of hay to
them though as of course they are getting through it much
faster. The problem is that in the process of escaping three
wooden posts got broken, two plastic electric posts were
snapped and two bent. Ian will have to sort it all out when
he gets back.
The alpacas haven't been quite so good this week for me and the boys gave me quite a scare. I was in the caravan doing some work when I looked up and there was Mr. P out for a stroll towards the girls. I hurriedly put down the computer and made my way out of the caravan. My heart sank, there was Mr. B. and Turbj┼Źrn all heading in the same direction. I looked over towards the fence to see where they had escaped from and saw Herkules busy munching grass in a world of his own also on the wrong side of the fence. Only Tellus was in the paddock where he was supposed to be. I knew the girls would be safe since we had put up the wire fence before Ian went away, so I left the boys to wander while I looked to see how I could get them back in behind the fence.

One snapped wooden post
This wasn't the worst part of the fence. I forgot
to take a photo of the tangled mess
A little repair to my jeans
I wondered if I had left the electric off, but no it was still on and the fence was in a complete tangled mess. I switched if off and lay the wires down on the floor. I went to get some food and wandered over to the boys shaking the trays. No chance! They were too interested in the girls on the other side of the fence. Plan B! I got behind them and started to slowly drive them towards their paddock, collecting Herkules along the way. I managed to get all except Mr. P in, as he decided to stop for a poo. I went in and put the trays down in their alpaca house. All of them except Mr. P, who was still on the other side of the fence went in. I shut the doors while I went to encourage Mr. P. back as I didn't want the others escaping again in the process. Mr. P. was not happy about the orange wires on the ground so I wonder if he was the one responsible for making a mess of the fence or whether he and Mr. B were fighting. Anyway after a little hesitation and looking like he might bolt in the other direction he went in. I was so relieved and very surprised that they actually went where I wanted them to, a minor miracle in itself.
If you look very carefully you can see a strange phenomenon
called "blue sky"

You wouldn't see this kind of apple in a supermarket very
often, with such red veined flesh.
I hadn't seen a soul for a week and a half. Even when I went back to the apartment it was eerily quiet. It was like one of those apocalyptic films where everything looks fine but all the people have disappeared. On one visit to the apartment the car was rather reluctant to get going - it is an intermittent problem we've had for over a year now. It only happens when it is cooling down in the autumn and warming up in the spring. Somehow air gets into the system at those times. I couldn't remember what I was supposed to do exactly, so I called a friend - after all it was about time I talked to someone and I asked if he would show me what to do. I spent the afternoon chatting with him and his missus, but since it was raining and not much else to do, it seemed like a good plan. I did find out how to fix the problem too and tried it again today - it worked.
An unexpected harvest from the greenhouse. The Jerusalem
artichokes have grown from those we gave to the chickens
over winter that they obviously missed. I have no idea
why we have suddenly got a proper mushroom growing in
the greenhouse though. I haven't seen this kind growing
anywhere else on our land. Still it was very tasty
Blueberries are slowly ripening, but each year we get more
and more on our bushes. The first few years were very
disappointing, so it is nice to finally see them get going
I haven't had to do much shopping since Ian went away, which is another reason for not seeing anyone. No bread to buy, no running out of cheese, oil or flour. I did run out of chocolate though. This week I did need a few things, so on the way home from my friends' I did some shopping and then stopped off at the bakery, where I saw some more friends were having a drink, so I chatted some more. At one point the guy said, sorry I didn't understand a word of what you just said, but I do like to hear you talk. Not sure what it is about my accent, I used to get that a lot in America when I used to help out at the church's coffee shop.
Still enjoying the space of their new paddock

Chanel and Frederiks her son
I mentioned a while ago we were planning on selling the apartment we live in (at least we live in it in the winter time). It didn't quite go according to plan and it all went quiet so we wondered if we would have to think again. Out of the blue just before Ian went away we got an email to say it was on and could we work on a timetable to make it happen. So we will still be in our regular apartment for the time being and we will work on getting the other apartment sorted to move into early next year. All change! At least we will be a bit more focussed over the winter with sorting out and a deadline to work to. So just bear in mind that if you want to come and visit, we will only have the one apartment and that will be free in the summer time or basically for six months of the year. In winter you will have to sleep in the living room, but still welcome.
Aggie and Lady V. I had to take these pictures quickly as the
sun was starting to disappear and the clouds looked quite
ominous, they didn't amount to much fortunately.
The girls don't just sit outside in the rain
It is getting to that time of the year when we think about switching from the caravan to the apartment, but there are still some gardening jobs to finish off before it finished for the winter. It seems though that we are racing into the colder months, as I saw several more flocks of geese this week and a flock of swans all heading off to warmer climes. I am at the apartment again this evening as I needed to bring back tomatoes, beans and raspberries before a possible frost overnight. As it is milk day tomorrow it was a chance to get them sorted. With the tomatoes now gone from the greenhouse, there will be room for the chickens to go back in. I think they will appreciate that as it has been so wet this week and with not being able to move the arks while Ian is away, they have had a mud bath. I had to put hay on the floor for them. Still it won't be long now before Ian is back, but then I'm away for a couple of days. Heh ho!
The garden is beginning to look very jaded now and the
squashes are showing signs of dying off

Blueberry leaves are glorious though with
a rich red colour

The maples too

George being inquisitive

Yey! Blue sky

Monday, 2 October 2017

Weird

A rather weird tomato from our greenhouse
I'm sat in our apartment on my own and will be sleeping the night here. To most people that would probably not sound so strange, but for me it is. I think the last time I stayed overnight here was back in April. We've been in the caravan out on our land all that time apart from when I have been travelling. I'm also on my own because Ian is across in the UK. He went to do an alpaca parasitology course and is now on a round the world.... errr round the UK trip to see the grandkids, oh and the children of course. He will get to see the youngest one for the first time later on this week.
I finally got the waistcoats finished for
two of my grandchildren before Ian
left for the UK. I have been in the process
since about March, maybe even February

My walk to see the sheep. This day they were
easy to see, but today they gave me a bit of a
fright as I couldn't see them at all, until I had
just about walked all the way around their
area. Ian has set up a large area for them
amongst the trees and so they were well
hidden. Neither did they hear me calling or
were ignoring me.
I had to take Ian to the airport on the Wednesday but it was a bit of a longer trip than normal due to. bridge repairs one way and road works the other. Our route to the airport is usually quite quiet and we rarely see much traffic until we get closer to Riga, but the routes I took this time were all a bit more congested. I suppose I should be grateful it was only about 20 mins more and not hours like it could be elsewhere. Ian got held up on his way back to the airport to drop off the lady who was doing the same course. They agreed he would do the driving as the lady was not used to driving on the left hand side and was a bit nervous about doing that. My poor son though had to wait for him at the airport meanwhile racking up car parking charges.
I'm not sure how many raspberries we will get this year before
the frosts finish them off, but I am enjoying them for breakfast
while I can. I have also frozen a small tub of them, so Ian can
enjoy at least some. Autumn raspberries are always a bit hit and
miss for us
These all went in an apple and raspberry crumble or on
my breakfast

They are quite large

The marshmallows are still flowering
well. They are sweet looking flowers
and this is despite being hammered in
winds a few weeks ago
It has also felt weird this week because I haven't actually seen a living soul since Wednesday. That's okay it has been kind of nice getting into some sort of a rhythm looking after the animals and the garden. I have done bits of work on my paper I am supposed to be writing but it feels rather slow and I think it is because I am at the stage of needing new glasses, which makes staring at a computer screen hard. The weather has been lovely for the most part, a bit chilly at times and we had our first frosts, but no rain. So I have been doing some garden tidying up jobs. It is forecast to rain tomorrow and so I thought I would head back to the apartment and freeze some garden produce while I can, as I need to be here at around 8am for milk day anyway.
Looking a bit battered

Aggie in one of her challenging poses
Normally I would let the alpacas our first in the morning before breakfast, but if it is going to rain all day, they might have to stay in, so being in the apartment isn't a problem. I made sure they had enough hay and water to keep them going until I get there though. They have been reasonably well behaved, apart from Aggie who has challenged me a little but I just ignore her mainly. She gets over it! Nothing serious. Brencis has been quite sweet and coming up to me, except when I had a harness in my hand. Some people emailed to ask if they could come and visit to take an alpaca for a walk, but of course it went to Ian first and then had to come to me and by the time I managed to get hold of them, they had decided to go to Sigulda. She did apologise as the email was sent late at night and is now thinking of coming at a later date. That suits me as Brencis was proving to be too difficult to catch easily. I'm sure I would have managed eventually, but it was not as easy as it usually is for Ian.
Chanel telling Frederiks it is time to feed
He's getting quite big now
Letting the animals out in the morning has been no problem, putting away though has taken some getting used to, especially as the nights seem to be cutting out quicker and quicker. One night I had put the boys away and then decided to start my evening meal cooking as we don't have lights for our outdoor kitchen and it was starting to get a bit dim. I must have got a bit distracted as I suddenly realised that the girls were all looking in my direction and wondering where their food was. I virtually finished cooking my meal that night in the dark.
Frederiks seems to complement the autumn colours behind

Yes they are over there somewhere!
There is also the issue of mucking out. Normally Ian would do that while I fed the chickens and made the coffee, but now I have to do it. I finally decided that mucking out the alpaca house first was not working with the girls. They now have the freedom of a huge paddock and lugging a big bucket around full of you know what was hard work. Now I do their paddock first and finish off in the alpaca house and only then have to carry the full bucket the shorter distance to the garden. Now that many of the plants have gone over we have started putting the manure directly on the garden to rot down in situ ready for next years gardening. In the case of the boys I do their alpaca house first as it is further away from the garden anyway and their paddock area is closer. I have to remember to go back though and switch the electric fence back on after finishing. I always remember to do that because there have been too many times when I have seen Mr. P. looking longingly in the direction of the girls and I don't want any issues of that nature.

I went for a walk in the woods to see if I could find cranberries.
There were some but not many, but I did find some interesting
mushrooms of course. None that I knew to be edible though
A mushroom high rise
Our internet has been really pretty poor just lately and so I wrote to complain. As expected, eventually a nice young man (well he sounded young) rang to enquire what the issues were. Of course he did not offer any other solution than a router with an antenna at greater cost. He mentioned that the mobile towers in our village are not very high and maybe the trees had grown since last year or maybe someone has a new roof that is affecting the signal. Or more likely that more and more people are actually online and they haven't got enough bandwith for all of us and not going to do anything about it. As I mentioned I am in the village tonight and I was hoping to take advantage of a faster internet, but it is not much different to out on our land really. My download speed tonight is apparently currently 1.98Mbps and upload is 1.67Mbps. Not exactly stunning as it is possible at times to get 6Mbps upload speed. I think another complaint maybe in order.
The route was a bit tricky in places and wet. It was worth it
though to smell the bog myrtle in the area where the cranberries
grow. The advantage of having a smartphone on me was being
able to use it to finally identify the plant that makes the
wonderful smell. Well at least I hope I have. 
More autumn colours
I mentioned last week that a flock of geese flew over, which effectively announces that winter is on its way. It was only one small flock last week, but yesterday I saw two much larger ones fly over and heard another this morning. So maybe mid-October we could have snow. Yikes! It was certainly chillier this morning, not because of the temperatures exactly but the wind.
The dahlias have survived the first frosts

The new asparagus plants are also doing
well
Being on my own has meant more time to think. It has been one of those weeks with lots of news about people getting upset with others. One that stands out is the protests about the American flag. I find the whole veneration of the flag and the anthem rather bizarre, but I know it means a lot to some of my friends. It made me think about what our identities are built on. Mine is most certainly not a flag or the queen or pride in my country of birth. I'm British, there is no denying it, it makes me who I am. I'm a possibly eccentric Brit but there are still traits that are quintessentially British even after living outside the country for nearly 15 years now. With the whole issue of Brexit, I had wondered about Latvian citizenship, but I have never pledged an oath to a country in my life and don't really intend on doing it now. Maybe I will change my mind if I have to, but my allegiance is to Jesus and a simple yes or no is all that he required. I just do not get pledging an oath of allegiance at all, it is not who I am. So who are you? What does your identity rest in?
Mr. P on look out

The clover is still flowering in places

The pile of wood is going down. Ian and I shifted some of it
into the barn so it is dry for when he comes back

Some bright colours in the field