Monday, 23 July 2012

Happy discoveries

Updated so the text is now visible! Goodness only knows what happened there, I almost lost the post in the first place and then it messed the settings! Such is life! Sorry I didn't fix this sooner but we have not been on the internet much this last week as I warned in the blog - if you had been able to read it that is.

So meet Tellus, Herkules and Turbjörn, our three alpacas
We finally did it! We got the alpacas this week. We had a long epic journey to Ventspils, a round trip of around 650km, but it is getting bigger in the telling, like a fisherman's tale, I think we are up to 3500km now. The roads were atrocious due to the rain we had last week and so the going was rather slow in places, until we got to tarmac roads. Going back was even worse as we didn't want to damage the alpacas in the process of course. From what we saw of Ventspils it looked a nice clean and tidy place with some interesting features like ladybirds in flowers, a cow made out of flowers and one cow sculpture looking at itself in the mirror next to the ferry office building, unfortunately we hadn't had the time to look around much as we hadn't long to wait before the alpacas arrived on the ferry  They were there waving on the deck as they came in - no not really! We waited for the horse delivery company to come off the ferry and Ian flagged it down so he could direct it to the car park where we had plenty of room to exchange the animals. It was at this point that we found out one of the pins to hold up the back door had moved and we couldn't get it back in place, leaving it only hinged on one side. Fortunately Ian had his tool box with him and his large screwdriver made a temporary fix to the hinge which I kept secure as the alpacas were lead into our horse box. They weren't terribly happy about that but heh we got them in. Before we set back off we had a strong coffee and something to eat because we were rather tired as we had been up since 3 that morning. As we drove back we drove through a moving front of rain, which seemed to follow us the whole way. One the one hand it was annoying but on the other hand at least the alpacas were kept cool. 

Tellus our stallion alpaca.
The alpacas have settled in reasonably well. We had a minor panic as we thought they were coming with food to help them settle in, but it was all put on the floor of the horse box they were transported in from Sweden so they could eat along the way  and none was left for us to take home. Fortunately a friend of ours was going to the shops where they sold the sheep concentrate, which is what they eat and bought us a couple of bags, and of course our friends had to come out and see the alpacas too. One of them, Herkules, rewarded her efforts by eating from her hands. He's obviously the greedy one as he is the only one that will do that at the moment. Alpacas are normally quite quiet but these have been humming to each other most of the day. Alpacas are normally outside animals but since we put a deep layer of hay down in the old workshop that is now their home, they spent much of the day in there. Only one of the alpacas is halter trained, Tellus, and we are hoping that the others get used to their halters as we would like to use them to lead them to different areas of the land so they are not eating only from one small paddock. Not sure if one of them, Tjorbjörn though is going to take to it at all as  he is a much shyer creature and is much harder to catch even just to put the rein on him and eventually the halter will have to come off, it can't stop on all the time. Still we hope that little by little as they get used to us and we get used to them then we can come to some agreements on how things will go.

Here I am removing horsetails from their paddock.
Horsetails are not really good for any animal and the wet
weather has really brought them out. The alpacas were quite
intrigued with what I was doing
Our cat went missing again this week. She seems to be quite sensitive by nature. The first time she disappeared we had had a traumatic time giving her the worming cream. The second time we decided to give it her the night before and not the morning before taking her out with us to the land and she seemed happy enough, until I told her off for traipsing through my leeks. Unfortunately that was the last we saw of her for 6 days. She did come back though and she is thinner than ever and very clingy. Wonder if she has learnt not to run off this time? 

Horsetails shimmering in the morning sun
We haven't had a good time with tyres just lately and the tractor tyre has been a bit of an issue, as I mentioned last week. It got damaged the other week and we wanted to replace it with another good quality one, which we had ordered. The problem was that when we came to arrange the day to pick it up, someone along the supply chain announced that the company had been on holiday and they were only just starting to make them again and it wouldn't be ready until the middle of this coming week. Not much good when the forecast was for dry days Monday - Wednesday and possibly beyond. So the cheaper option was taken and we went to pick it up on Friday, along with getting the two wheel tractor cutter bar fixed. Of course it all took longer than we wanted but it did lead to one of those happy discoveries, we discovered an Armenian restaurant by chance and was the only place to eat that we saw near enough to where we were. It seemed like it was just a little house with the garden full of tables and on the menu was lamb. It is not often that lamb is on the menu here in Latvia and so we ordered it, but as the waitress was collecting the menus from us I noticed the price, whoops a tad expensive for here. We waited to see what would turn up, half expecting a half sheep to appear on a plate or a great big rack of lamb that would take hours to eat. As it was it turned out to be four large lamb chops, beautifully grilled and absolutely delicious.

Setting off from our land at 4am. Twas rather early
Other happy discoveries were blackcurrant and strawberry cordial with black pepper which seemed to have gone down a treat, an experiment that really worked. I layered up layers of blackcurrants and strawberries with 6oz of sugar per 1lb of fruit, plus 1tsp of ground black pepper per 1lb in a steamer. I then cooked it all for an hour and filled hot sterilised jars with the resulting juice. Done! It got the approval of one American family and Ian - not bad going! Another happy discovery is a sort of blackcurrant toffee, it was meant to be a sort of blackcurrant raisin but didn't turn out like that at all. I boiled up two cups of water with one cup of sugar and one cup of honey and added 750 g of blackcurrants to the boiling mixture. The recipe said to boil for 10 mins but I wasn't so sure that would work but tried it anyway, hence the toffee rather than raisins. One final happy discovery is that the horse box makes a very discrete place to have a wee. Ian told me he doesn't mind admitting that finding a loo or somewhere to stop can be a nightmare at times, he likes to be discrete about these things, not like some folks we see. Well one bottle and a horse box and no one needs to know why we've stopped. He did refrain on the way back, he didn't want to embarrass the poor alpacas of course. 

Spider's web in the early morning sunshine
I shan't be around a lot this week at home, as we are sleeping out in the caravan, it means we can keep more of an eye on the alpacas for a little while and get going on the land jobs earlier as well. It is quite fun sleeping out in the caravan, although it was a tad cold last night. Extra clothes tonight I think. It is nice to have just a small area to live in once in a while, not sure if I could do that on a more permanent basis but for now it is like real camping, only we don't have to go anywhere and the view is still nice.
Finally one comment from my internet trawl (there probably won't be much of that next week) I am always amazed when the EU issues a rebuke to a national government to set its house in order regarding corruption as happened last week to Romania. Does the EU not realise that to root out corruption you need to educate the public on what they can do about it? It is no good telling a corrupt government to sort themselves out and give them a smack on the hand. They need to help the population to mobilise against instances of corruption and explain how they can deal with it. They have been a population under a communist yoke for a long time with long standing practices and attitudes, they do not turn around in one night.


  1. more to the point...the EU has too much to say about other peoples business....sooner we are out the better. and that's my soap box moment over for the week.

  2. I guess we will have to disagree on that one Karen, but then again it would make my life a tad more difficult if the UK pulled out of the EU :o)


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