Monday, 23 December 2013

Dark days

The sun! It does exist
At 8:30am in the morning it is only just beginning to get light, by 9:30am we have daylight of sorts. It has been pretty dreach here in Latvia (dreach is a brilliant Scottish word, to mean horrible, dark weather and pronounced dreeek) and so it hasn't been getting very bright, although we did see the sun yesterday, for all of five minutes and today I actually saw some blue sky for a bit longer than five minutes. It doesn't last long though because by 12:30pm you can tell the sun is beginning to head downwards and it is dark by 3:30pm At least now the days will be getting longer since we have passed the winter solstice. 

No more trudging the streets of Tartu for
a while
I finished my travels up to Estonia and back on Tuesday and there are no plans to go travelling again for a while, well up to Estonia and back that is. I have plenty of work to be getting on with anyway at home and plenty of papers and books I need to read, so I shan't be bored and I shall enjoy not having to take long journeys to travel relatively short journeys, like 10 hours to do a journey that would take 3 1/2 hours by car. I have some unexpected work to do, a review of someone's Masters thesis. Should be interesting to be on the other side of marking so to speak, but it is in my field of study and so I should be okay. I also played host today to a distressed academic, well not exactly distressed but someone looking for a bit of advice on the minefield of referencing, in other words making sure credit is where credit is due to those who inspired the written piece of work and looking for a bit of peace and quiet to finish writing an essay, away from the kids that hadn't quite got the idea of leaving mummy alone to work. I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like to try and get work done with a house full of children.

Munching away on green grass instead of hay. Ian had
taken the electric fences down before the ground got
frozen, but with the recent rise in temperatures, he put them
back up again and the animals are appreciating it.
Winter is still coming and going, but the animals are glad to be back on the grass, now the snow has gone again. The problem is that the ground is so wet that Ian has had to lay a straw path to our ladies alpaca house. The boys paddock is on a slope and so their paddock area drains quite well, but the ladies paddock is fine on one side but doesn't drain well on the other side. We were worried about that when Ian built the accommodation, but it was the only flat place to put it. At least the piece does slope away and so some drainage can be put in and that should do the trick. Another job for next year.

Just a pity so much of our grassland looks like this! This
isn't recent damage from the wild boar, but you can see
how much grass we have lost through their digging
Our last attempt about a week ago, to cut the toe nails of some of our alpacas wasn't completely successful. One of the boys managed to escape from me as Ian tried to cut them and his front toe nails didn't get done. We tried leaving a bit of the door open and so he escaped, this time we shut the door and used a torch - not easy. Estelle our youngest lady alpaca got almost all her toe nails cut apart from one back foot. Not quite sure how it got missed. The problem with toe nails is apparently particularly bad for white alpacas with very fine fleece. One breeder was telling us that the more they bred for the good fleece, the more likely their toe nails are to curl and get long pretty quickly, obviously a genetic connection there then. This week we tried a different tack, Ian held the animals and I cut the toe nails. Not sure which is easier though, trying to hold the alpacas or trying to cut their toe nails, especially in the dark. Their nails are very tough and it took two hands to cut them, only I was supposed to be holding onto their foot with one hand.  When I tried to cut Estelle's toe nails, she kept trying to sit down and so hiding her legs underneath her and then one of the chickens that has taken residence up there walked in front of the torch - not useful! Anyway it got done well enough to last a bit longer, to a time when we might have a bit more light.

These little chappesses went for a wander today. Ian found
them down by the hay store, but a rattle of food trays soon
sorted them out 
Talking of the chickens that have taken up residence with the ladies, one has disappeared and we are left with another pile of feathers. The poor remaining chicken was huddled under one of the feeders behind some hay that was pulled out and made a hidey hole behind. It obviously had a bit of a fright. It is a good job it is one used to being on its own, as it was the first one to take up residence there, the other one Ian moved when it kept getting left outside and looking rather sorry for itself. The missing chicken had a peculiar gait when it walked, a bit like a goose-stepping soldier and we only discovered yesterday that it had swollen feet that didn't bend. We were not sure if it had been stood on by an alpaca or it was due to it going out in the cold and now we will never know. Rather sad really! We are not quite sure what to do about the hawk, if that is what got this one and it would seem to make sense after seeing the one flying around last week. It is obviously not scared of the alpacas. I feel some research coming on.
Our goose-stepping chicken is no more

Back in the herd again!
Alicia our old lady (the black one) gave us a bit of a fright this week, as she seemed to be separating herself from the others and breathing a bit funny. It might have been just a pain in her tummy, but she carried on eating and the next day was feeling more soicalble. It is a worry when a pack animal separates themselves off, as it is not normal behaviour and can mean they are quite ill. Often with a pack animal, the first time you know there is something wrong is when they drop down dead and that is no exaggeration. Ian though is spending more and more time with the animals and getting them used to him - something he does in winter when he has more time. So hopefully he will know very quickly when an animal is not so well.
Another issue we are facing is the increase in moss in our
fields. You can see all the light green patches. It is going
to need a serious raking in the spring

Any guesses on what Ian's newest Franken creation is?
Judging by the increase in "What is Christmas all about?" comments and stories I guess Christmas is pretty near. It has kind of snook up on me. Christians can often feel that they have a right to the day and get offended when it is not treated with some weird view of respect. I am a Christian, but I'm not going to argue with anyone who wants to celebrate a day of feasting and family at this time of the year. After all many others celebrate winter festivities at this time of the year, how else do some people cope with the long winter nights? For some Christmas is just a name, for some it is the only time they think of Jesus and then only as a baby. I wonder how many other people in this world have their birthday celebrated, by only remembering their birth and not the other years they spent on this earth? We can't really lay claim to the day of Christmas anyway, after all for some Christians the celebrations really occur around January 6th - epiphany when the wise men brought presents, okay not really on that day, but that is when it is celebrated. I don't think we can impose our view of what Christmas should be, after all that has changed over the centuries. Presents? Feasting? They are all fads that have come and gone, with a spiritual spin put on them to suit the times. Xmas? Ooohh! Leaving out Christ? Yes but putting in the cross. Happy holidays? Oooohh! Leaving out Christmas and therefore Christ? No, after all holidays comes from Holy Days and that is what Christmas is meant to be, right?

Now what would you call this?
To finish on a more festive note, here it is! The tree Ian selected. We didn't even fall out over the tree, instead we reserved it for processing a bag of leeks - a bin bag full that is, not a carrier full. We were both tired I guess. Anyway as you can see, the tree is up, just not decorated. I will get around to that tomorrow. Must get the decorations out first though. So I hope you all have a super Christmas no matter how you chose to celebrate it.
It's quite a nice tree on three sides,
which is perfect. The slightly
flatter side has been arranged to be
at the back. Not bad for a weed tree


  1. Is that a Frankenscoop? - for shovelling manure by the look of it.
    I like your comments on Christmas and totally agree. Christians can get so upset about some things. Nobody believes Jesus was actually born on that specific day anyway! I just enjoy it - it's a good family time and as you say it does help to bring some relief to a dark winter.
    Happy Christmas to you and Ian.

  2. Well that's a politer word than was used Mavis, but close.

    I'm sure you are as tired of some of the comments that get bandied around at this time of the year. It won't be much of a family time with folks scattered about, but we will share the days ahead with some friends and do a bit of Skyping so that will be nice.

  3. And a Happy Christmas to you too Mavis. Sorry I nearly forgot and just remembered to add that bit just as my finger hit "Publish `Your Comment"

  4. Wishing you a very Happy Christmas Joanna.

  5. Enjoy your days off travelling! And that reminds me I need to cut my nails....

  6. Happy Christmas to you Gina, thanks for popping by

    I shall enjoy my days off Ju and glad I reminded you about your nails :D

  7. It is SO delightful to read all of this! Thanks for the shove, Jo! :-)


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