Monday, 18 July 2011

Shocking time

Sweet williams that I planted by our pond last year
This week we have made progress with regards to the alpacas. I emailed someone in the British Alpaca Association which resulted in a rather nice chat with someone who has experience of exporting alpacas to Europe. It was very encouraging, as I found out that alpacas like the rough sort of pasture that the main part of our land has become, which means we should have plenty for them to eat in the summer. I also found out that they like to be outside and don't take well to being cooped up inside and that is down to -15C with no shelter. Quite amazing really and means we won't need to house them for long over the winter, just through the worst patches as we don't want them getting frost bitten ears. I suppose I could always knit them some cute little hats to protect their ears though. We will probably go and see the farm just before Christmas as we have booked flights to the UK, (haven't booked them for the trip back yet as they were expensive with the same company) and the alpaca farm is quite close to one of our sons who has invited us to stay for the festive period.

Ian isn't the only one that is cutting hay. I love this tractor,
it has a corrugated tin roof.
Ian has been working very hard this last week, cutting hay in the difficult areas, with the two wheeled tractor. It is a fiddly job, as we wish to keep some of the saplings that have grown up like the oak, spruce and pine saplings, although we may relocate them later on in the year if we find time to do it. Although it is hard work cutting hay, I think it is a better job than being the official tester of the electric fence which he managed to do last week, and not just once but twice - far better sticking to cutting hay I think. At least he knows the electric fence works now, although personally I would prefer to believe the tester. Mind you a while ago I did manage to give myself a small jolt because I wasn't sure if the fence was on or off, it does concentrate the mind somewhat in making sure.

I haven't spent a lot of time out on the land so far as I am still ploughing through academic papers in preparation for my Masters thesis as I need to get all the information I can to start the project on monitoring pig damage at the end of August. I do go out to the land sometimes though to keep an eye on the veg plot and tame the tomatoes by hacking back the side shoots which seem to grow into monster proportions if you happen to miss them. I mostly spend time on the veg plots nearer to home though and processing herbs for winter use.

This was the box of blueberries were were given as a
thank you for helping the young man out with a
blown tyre
On the way home from the land the other day we saw a van on the wrong side of the road and Ian noticed that the young lad seemed to be struggling to get the spare wheel out, so he pulled up to see if he could help. It just so happened that Ian had still got the trolley jack in the back of the car, in fact it has been there for a while and he keeps meaning to put it back down in our cellar, fortunately for this young chap he hadn't got around to it. Eventually between them they managed to get the spare wheel out and the van jacked up enough to loosen wheel nuts, but the wheel itself was well stuck on. First Ian went to get a hammer, that didn't work, so next he went to get some freeing oil, at which point the young chap who spoke good English commented "Do you have everything in your car?" He wasn't far wrong, it is Ian's mobile workshop after all. Unfortunately the wheel still wouldn't budge and so we went back to the land and Ian got a sledge hammer, well that did the trick. The spare wheel went on very easily, but as they let the van down it was apparent the wheel had no air in it, and would you believe it? Ian had an electric pump that connects to the cigarette lighter in the car. It did take a while to pump it up as the pump got rather hot and a lot of air was needed but finally the van was ready to go. The young chap was very, very happy as sitting in his van was two tonnes of wild blueberries that he was going to sell, it was also one of the reasons the van was so heavy and possibly why the valve blew on his tyre - well that and combined with the bumpy dirt roads we have around here. He very generously offered us some blueberries and we were happy to accept, but didn't quite anticipate being given a full tray of them but we were well pleased with that. He even offered to pay as well, but we thought the blueberries were payment enough. It wasn't until we got home that we realised what a massive job we had on our hands as there were quite a few kilos of blueberries to deal with, still complete with bits of leaves and little spiders in them. Does explain why I have purple finger nails though, along with four 1 litre jars of juice, three jars of jam, one tray freezing, six trays drying, 36 blueberry muffins and a bowlful just for eating. Think I need a lie down now.

Its rather hard to see but the thrush is tucked in by this
tomato planter taking a nap
I also did some rescuing this week. A young thrush flew into our window and managed to land all askew in a box of tomato plants. I wasn't really sure how it was going to get itself out of the tangle and so I thought the best thing I could do was to gently lift it out. I was quite surprised that I was able to place it on its feet as I half expected it to keel over with fright. It sat for quite a while with its beak agape, panting away. Gradually it calmed down though and even tucked itself behind another tomato planter to get out of the wind and have a bit of a kip. Finally it recovered enough to fly off, which was a great relief as the only other thrush I have seen in Latvia was a dead one that had also flown into the window. Do wonder if my sister has a point that I should put stickers on the window before I decimate the whole of the thrush population of Latvia.

Recovered and about to fly off
Politics here in Latvia is continuing to prove interesting. As I mentioned the other week, the previous President was not re-elected after upsetting the Saeima (Latvian Parliament) by having the audacity to call for a referendum of the people, to see if they wanted the Saeima dissolved after politicians voted for protecting one of their own from corruption investigations. That referendum happens this next week but even before the results are out one political party has voted to dissolve, maybe to avoid having to pay back large sums of money to the state, but also because they recognise that, whether they like it or not, they have become linked to corruption. The leader, Skele, is one of the oligarchs who are coming under increasing criticism for influencing politics for their own benefit, is also to step down from politics. Other developments are the merger of two right wing parties and the recently retired President to set up a new party in order to give Latvian politics a new start, hopefully one built on a better regard for ethics.

There are lots and lots and lots of these tiny little frogs
everywhere. It is a hard job not to stand on then while
gardening. If you watch the ground it looks as if
 the ground is alive as lots of little frogs go leaping off.
Unfortunately banking experts in Latvia still do not seem to have regard for the people of Latvia and still have their eyes firmly fixed on the economy, whatever that is. They stated that indexing pensions will hurt the economy, and I must say that if it will hurt the economy, then damn the economy! I find it a sick joke that those in their ivory towers can state that indexing pensions is a bad thing. Indexing the pension will bring the basic pension up to 165 LVLs ($328, £204) a month, which is not a lot, especially as the previous day to the banking experts statements, the figures were released for the minimum required per person to live on and came to 174 LVLs. I can't quite get my head around what they expect pensioners to live off. Fresh air? At least there is plenty of that. So while banks can head back into profit, the poorest of the society have to continue to pay for the mistakes of those very banks who offer such advice. Can we trust banks to tell us what is good for the economy when they caused such mayhem only a short while ago? Why aren't they actually exhorting the rich to help those less fortunate by paying their taxes? As you can tell, I was spitting feathers I was so mad with them.


  1. The young man probably thought Ian was an angel in disguise!

  2. Another interesting week, what with purple finger nails and a 'shocking' fence. Ian is such a handy man you could set up a business - 'rent-a-man'.

    I´m glad it seems you´ll be able to get alpacas after all.

  3. Ian's taken off his wings now and put his halo away in case they get mucky, at least that is what we joked when we got home.

    Ian is handy to have around, comes from the sort of family background he comes from. There is actually quite a need for reliable handy men here in Latvia as many are either abroad working to try and earn enough to live on, or drinking to forget life is so tough, which does not make trying to get projects done very easy. Finding someone who can make and mend is like gold dust - just a pity Ian's carpentry skills aren't up to the same standard as his more mechanical skills or we would have had more projects finished by now.

    I'm glad we are getting somewhere with the alpacas too


I love to hear your comments and will always reply, so go ahead, ask a question or just say hi