Monday, 15 July 2013

Hay ho!

Lots of bales. We are down on last year, but
not by much and more were properly stacked
under cover this year
It's finished - the baling of the ski hill grass that is, the good stuff. There are just patches to do now, the rest is not all good stuff and will be baled for compost or building protective walls. This is the crucial crop of the year for us in many ways, as it the stuff we need to feed the animals over the winter. We got it in earlier than usual, but that is because of the weather being unusually hot. We have not only baled it but stacked it too. Being small round bales they cannot stand outside all winter like the large round bales can. We could have cried on Friday though, as we were so tired on the Thursday that we only got one load in and stacked and thought we would do the rest on the Friday, but it rained. It hasn't rained that much over the past two months but that day it poured down, well out on the land it did anyway. Fortunately it wasn't all day, just a prolonged shower and by Saturday it was dry again. We stacked another four loads on the Saturday but were too tired to unload the last round and so left it in the trailers overnight. Sunday we finished the stacking and I covered the outer layer with spare hay to help it run off rather than from one row of round bales to the next. That afternoon we went to the hotel to eat and then chilled for the rest of the day. Out on the land it rained again quite heavily and it seems that outer layer is doing a good job.

The last loads to be stacked on Sunday morning
All in all there are 262 bales of hay this year, which should be more than enough for our three boys, the four new ladies when we get them and maybe some sheep, aka lawnmowers. Some of the old bales were put in a shelter by the alpaca house and in front was put tasty green new hay and there is still ordinary grass to eat, despite the weather and guess what......... they prefer the old stuff. Don't they know they are supposed to prefer the better, newer stuff? Actually Ian was wondering if they are getting a bit lazy and eating the hay, rather than going out into the fenced off area to eat grass. That seems to have become a habit since the hot weather and the increase in fly numbers. Hopefully they will go down soon.

Getting there!
It has been so busy just lately that I forgot to mention a few things last week, some of them really important too. So sorry son! Anyway the news is that our youngest son got a first in automotive design at Coventry University. He's worked so hard towards that goal since he was about 9 years old and so it is lovely that he capped that with a first class honours. Unfortunately he now needs a job and that doesn't seem to be forthcoming at the moment. Still! Early days. He took quite an interest in drawing cars at an early age, as many young lads do, but he really enjoyed the more technical drawing after Ian showed him how to do it. He would draw for hours, not bad for a child that rarely sat still otherwise. We even bought him a proper portable architects drawing board so he had a good surface to draw on and of course plenty of paper. As they say the rest is history and I still have many of his drawings from that time, carted around the world.

And finally done. Tarps all tied down and protection layer
of spare hay added to the sides 
Other news I forgot is that I made a new cordial. Meadowsweet cordial. I used to make elderflower champagne back in the Derbyshire, when the elderflowers were plentiful, but out here in Latvia I have only seen the first bush this year and it was not near to us. I thought there was one nearby, but it turned out not to be the same plant as it has red berries not black. We were reminiscing about it when a thought struck me that perhaps the meadowsweet would make something similar. After a little research on the internet, as you do, I found a recipe for the cordial and gave it a try. It was okay, a little reminiscent of lemsip actually, as meadowsweet does have salicylic acid in it, the component for your everyday aspirin but it wasn't bad. Some of it eventually started effervescing and that had more of a taste of the elderflower champagne I used to make and was more refreshing.

Not forgetting the 32 bales we managed to squeeze into
the cover down near the alpacas. That should keep them
going for a while
And the final piece of news that I forgot to mention was the fact that I drove the tractor for some of the baling. I would do the uphill sections and Ian did the really steep downhill sections. It meant that I got to sit in the air-conditioned tractor for part of the time, instead of being stuck outside all the time in the heat. Mind you, it was still hard work though, as that gearing is stiffer than your family car and being the shorty that I am, meant it was a bit of a stretch trying to reach the pedals and keep an eye on the back of the tractor to see what was happening with the baler. Maybe one day when we finally work out how to connect up a gadget, that our son-in-law gave us, to a webcam and operate it in the tractor we might not have to crane our necks to see what's happening. I think that is a winter job to work out though.

Sofie spent most of the day amongst
the hay bales, in fact she nearly got
squashed by one as Ian swung it up
into position, just as she came for an
I hope you enjoyed the videos of our well-behaved animals being put away at night. Don't let that fool you though. Our alpacas to be fair are fairly easy to look after and as long as electric fences are operable when the grass level is getting low then they don't really challenge the fence. We don't of course let the grass get too low, but they do tend to want to eat the juicier grass on the other side if they can, like most herbivores. It is the chickens that are posing a problem at the moment. They are wandering further than we thought they would and we now have a barrier up in front of the greenhouse so they don't wander in. They could fly in, but they don't seem that bothered - yet! The main attraction at the moment is our raspberry bushes. At first we just chased them off, but that became a bit of a joke. They would often sprint across to the raspberries as if they were racing us, to see how much they could eat before we would chase them off again. We then reasoned that they would only eat the ones nearest the floor anyway and if they left some fertiliser there then that would be good for the raspberries. That is until their next escapade that is. One day Ian spotted them jumping, as we sat drinking our morning coffee we could see the cockerels head periodically bouncing up to reach the higher raspberries. It was quite sweet actually, as he would jump up and grab a raspberry and put it down for one of his ladies. This was not really what we wanted, especially when we noticed the one we nicknamed big bird because being a broiler chicken she is huge. She has all the finesse of a baby elephant, she jumps up okay and gets her raspberry but then lands on the ground with such a thud and damages the new growth. At this rate there will be no raspberries for any of us next year. We resorted to chasing them off again for the time being.

Our rather dry pond. Fortunately there is still a lot of water
in that deep section.
Our young chicks are not much better. One managed to find a hole in the ark it was in, but fortunately we found the chick before Mr. Fox did. The other problem is that they haven't got the hang of going in at night. That is 32 chicks that need to be put away manually, one by one. Oh the fun! One day I'm sure they will get the hang of the fact there is food to be had at night in their hutch where they are locked up.  At least we don't have any problems with the new cockerel we have, that puts itself away. It is not actually a new cockerel, it is one we used to have and swapped for a broiler chicken ready prepared for the oven, but unfortunately he has become aggressive as I mentioned last week and we did another swap for our cockerel that wouldn't put itself away at night and was earmarked for the pot. At some point we will dispatch it, but we haven't had the chance yet.

Despite the rain out on the land, there hasn't
been much back at home and these broad
beans are suffering. I could lug water up the
garden from a pond, but that is a lot of
buckets of water to carry. 
I found an interesting report on the future of farming this week, but I ask you, how many people with good business brains are attracted into farming because it is high tech, as they think it will? It can be very high tech and some of it is very beneficial, but often the attraction to the countryside is to get your hands dirty, to work hard, but see the results - like a nice pile of stacked hay ready for the winter. Shunting cattle into a shed at the push of a button and monitoring them on the screen is not what attracts people and I am not sure it will attract the next generation of farmers either. Satisfaction though might just cut it. When we sit drinking our morning coffee viewing the land, it beats sitting in an office and no we aren't wasting our time with jobs to be done, we have already fed and watered the animals or just let them out as needs be, opened up the greenhouse and just quickly scanned to make sure there is nothing that needs sorting immediately before sitting down for coffee. As we drink the coffee and drink in the beauty surrounding us, we are bouncing off ideas as to how to run things better, or running off the jobs for the day and yes setting the worlds to rights at times too. It's times like those that makes the hard physical jobs worthwhile.

Even the strawed up potatoes are looking very sad now.
In a month and a half we have only had one decent shower
and the only reason things aren't worse is the fact we have
had some decent dewy mornings
You can tell I have had time to think a bit this week, one of the things that came to me was that this was going to be a really tough year. The economic crash of 2008 coincided with our drop in income, not that we are without money, just that the money coming in falls far short of the money going out. That's fine as I felt that the 7 good years we had beforehand would stand us in good stead. In some ways I didn't quite understand why the 7 years, it seems biblical as in the story of Joseph and all that and I have found that sometimes God works through the actual timings or incidents in the biblical stories rather than just being stories to guide us or show the character of God, which they are. What I didn't understand exactly was why this story was applicable in our lives here in Latvia. I think I found the answer this week, back in 2006 a politician  in Latvia, stated that there was going to be 7 years of prosperity for Latvia, harking back to the biblical prophecy of Joseph, but the reality was that there had already been four years of prosperity as money poured in from the EU and foreign banks and they should have been preparing for 7 years of cut backs and poor economic circumstances. Instead they determined to "push the gas pedal." Well five years has passed and we are now in the 6th year, the 7th is a year where growth occurs, but you have to wait for the harvest to see the results. So we weather the storm of this year and look to the growth that happens in the 7th, still confident that God is working something out, even if I can't quite see what yet.

It's not all bad news though, the squash plants
are doing okay. Whether that is anything to
do with their proximity to a neighbour that
has a pump and waters her garden or not, I
don't know.


  1. Talking of the gadget, Ben has found the mounting plate for it. Might make it easier ;)

  2. video of the chickens jumping for the raspberries ? sounds hilarious.

  3. If there's any left by the time I get there with my camera, then maybe.


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