Monday, 29 October 2012

Ooeerr! It's winter already

Here, what's all this white stuff? And who nicked all the
grass?
It is no longer squelchy under foot, in fact it is downright crunchy and am I happy about that? Well no actually. I have to admit to having been caught out by the snow and the cold this year. It is forecast to warm up soon and then we will have to get back on with our pre-winter preparations, but we feel rather unready for this rather early onset of very wintry weather. Ian continued on with his Franken creations and made a Frankenmanger (available for hire for Christmas nativity scenes, only you will have to fight the alpacas for it as it is a big hit with them). We had to up the alpacas feed a lot over the last few days and Ian was desperately trying to finish off the feeder for them as the snow was coming down, another pre-winter job that got caught out by the changing weather. Prior to that they were quite happy on the grass which is now under about 15-20cm of snow. Have you noticed though that Ian has started a trend with his Franken creations with the Americans heading for Frankenstorm? A fellow blogger also wrote to say she had reblogged our blog about Franken-items and described her own Franken-paths. I think he should have patented the idea!

Frankenmanger
You probably can't see but hidden amongst the hay is
Sofie. She jumped in when the alpacas got a bit close
and then she couldn't get out as they were eating from the
rack. It was very funny to watch the interactions
A right pain to have all this snow, but it does look pretty
Normally I welcome the onset of the snow as it covers a usually grim scene of mud, but the last week had been quite nice, but then it would be as my parents were here on holiday. My parents have rarely had any bad weather on holiday in the 49 years they have holidayed together, apart from the odd shower that is. I do seem to remember sitting in a tent with the rain dripping as a kid, but I must have remembered that because of it being so unusual for holiday weather. My parents, bless em' came prepared to help out and my dad seemed to enjoy trundling around helping us get veg beds sorted out for the winter and dahlias dug up, at least he knew what he was doing, I didn't (I hope the ones we put in the shed were alright as I wasn't expecting the intense cold and I thought I would have got them down into the cellar before the heavy frosts - for once this year the forecasts were pretty close to being reliable). My dad was also a great source of information as he has a lot of practical experience gained through being around farms from a young age, although never a farmer himself, family friends were. He even managed to help where the internet failed - so own up, who else knows how to prepare a duck for the table? What do you do with those little feathers? Apparently you use meths and set fire to it, to singe off the little feathers. It wasn't all one way though, we have gained quite a bit of information along the way too, such as cockchafer bugs make great chicken snacks, which my dad didn't know.

Cesis castle
We didn't make my parents work the whole time, nearly but not quite. They enjoyed going out to the hotel a couple of times and revelled in the fact it was nowhere near as expensive as the restaurants in the UK, we also took a trip to a castle and museum in Cesis. When we bought the tickets to get into the castle we were given lanterns to go up the tower, it was certainly steep and dark, but well worth it for the view out of the tower of the town of Cesis and surrounding areas.  We also popped along to a nearby camelid farm that had some alpacas. It was rather comical watching the staff try to move an alpaca that they wanted to trim the toenails of, because there was no way that alpaca was getting up so they could get to the toenails. It sat down very firmly on its haunches. Hope ours are a little more cooperative. They had an alpaca in from another farm for breeding and their male was at other farm, so it looks like we have scope for exchange for breeding purposes, only the alpaca brought in was so tiny compared to ours, we are not sure about breeding from that one, but they maybe interested in our alpaca male anyway. It will be good to have a little cooperation between alpaca owners in Latvia, it can only be of benefit to all of us. Mind you, I am not sure about Ian's new found love of camels, alpacas is one thing but a camel!!!! Noooooooo!
A view from the tower with Cesis in the
background
A park in Cesis. You can see what good
weather my parents brought with them
A view of Cesis from the new castle


The new bucket, just the right size for
making trenches
The big news from the last two weeks is that we have organised to get electricity to our land. We have paid for the cable and it is residing at the electricians house, we also organised our friend to make a bucket for the tractor and now we just need that dratted weather to warm up a bit to dig a trench so the cable can be laid. We are hoping to get the electric down to the greenhouse and then we can at least provide heat for our animals if it turns out worse than now. Our chickens are doing okay in the greenhouse and we have moved the caravan in, so that should provide a bit of extra protection as a heat source, if it absorbs any heat during the day that is. If the weather turns really bad then we will move the alpacas in there too to contribute to the overall heat of the place.

Our orchard plot at sunset
Talking of heating, our issue is still ongoing with that, but a meeting to review the situation got a surprisingly good turn out at short notice from the other apartment dwellers and a surprising amount of agreement at last. They seem to be beginning to see that the heating company is not acting fairly. In fact other apartment blocks owe more money than ours does and still got heat, but because we actually complained about the cold water they sent last winter they have decided to single us out! We did finally get our heat back on, just in time for the sharp drop in temperatures, after two council members stood up for us, but it was pretty close. Little by little we hope to sort out this situation, alongside others that is - we can't do it on our own.

Frost on the gate
Work has been better this past couple of weeks too, much quieter. Kind of boring again! Just the way I like it now. Actually it is not that boring really, it is still interesting to learn more about the students from all walks of life, something I still find fascinating after nearly 9 years of doing this job, but I will still settle for the quiet life in that department for the time being. There is one thing I am glad about in my job, is the fact that the director is great guy to work for, it made dealing with the issues the past few weeks much easier. My daughter passed on a blog regarding leadership and it is so spot on, I much prefer working for someone who recognises giftings in people and works to put a good team around himself, instead of a group of yes men. If you want a read it is by a guy called Steve McAlpine, another great guy, who obviously thinks a lot and yes I've met him a couple of times.
The chickens content in the greenhouse
along with our caravan



7 comments:

ju-north said...

You've hit the ground running again!(Liked the blog reference!)

Mavis said...

It sounds as though you had a great time with your parents. I hope you manage to get all your winter preparations done before more snow arrives.

Joanna said...

It feels more like we have hit the ground and scrambling about than running Ju. Still we should get more done before any more weather hits - I hope!

We did have a good time with my parents Mavis, it was really nice to be able to show them a little bit of Latvia, a place we know so well and yet they have never been before.

karen said...

I hope it isn't too long before your parents return. You have your hands full with pre winter prep. Does that mean that winter will be spent with your feet up?
Oh and it's raining here again....that is our default weather. Every day on the weather map there seems to be a single cloud and it is always covering the area from Kendal to Manchester.

Joanna said...

This winter I might actually get my feet up, as I am not likely to start my studies proper again until February. Having said that I probably will have to get a bit of a head start as I want to spend time in Australia visiting our daughter and her new baby.

As for Manchester - oh I know! I feel your pain. My Dad used to work there and would ring and say "what's your weather like?" and since we were on the East of the Pennines at the time it was often much drier.

Liz Eph said...

I do happen to know how to prepare phesants and turkey. I've not killed them, but the rest, as a farmer's daughter my mum thought was an important part of my education. I didn't know about burning off the finer feathers though :-)

Joanna said...

Your Mum was a wise woman. It would be much better if we had to prepare our own animals for the table from time to time and we would have a much better appreciation of where our food came from. I used to gut the fish my dad caught but never had to do the same for anything else.