Monday, 9 December 2013

Philosophising - well maybe!

My first piece of felt from our own alpacas. It is not as
flimsy as it looks here. It is quite a sturdy piece of fabric
I had a spare few minutes this weekend, or maybe actually I was avoiding reading vast numbers of papers for my next course, so I decided to make my first piece of felt from Herkules fleece. Herkules is not our best fleece producer and the part of the fleece I used was probably the roughest bit, but at least it  did work. I got a decent size, if itchy, piece of fabric that felt tough enough to use for something. It also came up nice and white in the process. I am not wonder woman, felting is really easy and I even used to teach it to children, quite young children sometimes too. All you need is the type of wool that felts easily, some washing up liquid and as hot water as you can stand or lots of energy if you can't use hot water. Without any extra equipment apart from your hands, it is possible to make felt balls, with a bamboo mat it is possible to make fabric like in the picture. The only problem was that there was fluff everywhere from the process. I will have a go at making some more pieces and see what I can do with them. 

Reunited with the flock. Do you like the Google animation
on this? Clever isn't it!
Our sick sheep has improved and was reunited with our other two sheep. Ian thought it was quite important to do this as it seemed to be developing quite a bond with the brown chickens. Ian lets the chickens run around in the greenhouse for some of the morning and they head straight for a pile of buckwheat and so did the sheep when they were let out. She put her head close down to them and just stood there. She didn't do much, apart from lick a chicken from time to time and they let her do it too. Strange kind of bond, but we decided that she was probably lonely and needed the company of her own kind. We will just have to see how she gets on for the rest of the week. 
One of the brown chickens that the sheep had bonded with

Looking good
All our animals were given vitamin injections and worming injections this week, apart from one errant sheep who Ian couldn't catch. The vet came to help us do this since it was our first time and she also take some samples of skin from two of our alpacas just to make sure they haven't got mites. She loves our alpacas and thinks they are so easy to deal with, even if she had to avoid one of them every now and again, who was registering her displeasure about the skin scrape and injections by spitting. At least she had good reason for spitting, but next time I will knit her a spit bag, so she can't spray everyone at the same time.
Sitting down on the job! The job of eating that is

More snow this week
We re-visited the camelid place this week. I went along mainly to make sure Ian did not come back with a camel or a llama. Well that is what I told everyone. It was a good chance to talk to the ladies who run the attraction place and find out how they look after their animals and what they do to make sure they are healthy. We feel we are on track, but we are going to start giving monthly vitamin injections for the winter, and we are trying some different vegetables to see if they will eat them. So far only the older one likes veg, which actually works out really well as her condition is not absolutely brilliant, she is a lot older and this might account for it, but we would like her condition to be better next year, so she can have one more cria (baby). The others tend to muscle in if there is the sheep concentrate on offer, but the veg they don't care for and so our old one gets the chance to eat all she wants of that, with no interference from the others. 
Sunrise on a winter's morning

Even the lake is starting to freeze in our village
Ian would still like a camel though and wondered if it could be trained to pull a plough. Now that would make folks stop and stare. They are bad enough stopping to gawk at our alpacas. Good job the road isn't a particularly busy one or they would cause an accident. One thing we learnt about camels is that they live for 50 years, so if we did get one, our kids would likely inherit it! Now that would make for a funny reading of the will. The other thing we learnt is that young camels like to play! They jump about and skip and try to get people to join in, only they are bigger than me. I think I will stick to cria, at least baby alpacas are only small. 

Snuggling up in the alpaca house. Unfortunately another
chicken that was doing the same has disappeared

The travelling continued this week. I took the train back to Riga as usual and they are still working on the train tracks, which means getting on a bus for part of the journey. Getting back onto the train though is like mountain climbing, the train is so very high up from the platform at Cesis. I can barely get up with my rucksack on my back and handbag in hand. The lady behind me was struggling even more, she had a huge and very heavy bag. I stopped to give her a hand and between the two of us, we managed to get the bag up onto the train. Makes me wonder how they would manage with a wheelchair - there is space for one on the train with a special restraint for the chair. The travelling is much easier now and time just seemed to fly by. I got work done on my computer and was at the various stops before I knew it. In my weekly travels though, I am always astounded by the ability of young men to fall asleep. They get on, pay for their ticket and then nod off. Youngsters just don't seem to have the stamina these days! (only joking by the way - I need emoticons on this)

Thornless berry leaves
I had a last minute meeting with a lady who is monitoring meetings between a government department and ordinary people. It was quite fascinating and very encouraging to hear about. It seems like the work is going in the right direction, at least in some departments anyway. I had to wait a little while for her to arrive for our meeting and I waited in the doorway of a shop and was much amused to watch two young women photographing a willow structure reindeer with a parcel balanced precariously on its back. They moved the reindeer successively towards the door and then eventually out of it? It was even more amusing to watch them trying to keep the parcel on its back when it was obviously just made out of cardboard and it was windy outside. But what that was all about, I have no idea. As I said the meeting went well and we were chatting and chatting, eventually I said I really have to go and she showed me to the lifts. I didn't know my way around the shop very well and when I got out of the lift, I obviously headed in the wrong direction and came out on a street I wasn't expecting. It took me a little time to get my bearings and ended up running for the bus - well part of the way anyway. I turned up, just in time to see the bus pulling out of the bay. I was just very relieved it wasn't the last bus home, otherwise I would have been in trouble.

Sitting around on straw in the snow seems to be the thing
to do
I have mentioned before that Ian is having to do some of the work that I used to do and this week he had to sort some paperwork without me, not easy. He was going to finalise the papers for the apartment we ended up buying, so someone didn't lose their home (explanation here if you missed it) and also to make sure the greenhouse was registered properly on the land book (the paper that notes all owners, past and present, not much of a book at the moment, but over the years I think it will be). The problem is that I sent him with the wrong file that didn't contain an important piece of paper, he also found out it could have been done at the same time as the barn project was done, which is annoying as I had mentioned it at the time we were trying to sort that out, but we had been told not to bother just then - not the bureaucrats fault this time. Arrrgghh! It means a few more trips backwards and forwards, which is very annoying for Ian, as his time is limited with the short daylight hours.

Tartu university, not the one that I go to, the other one
This week I was supposed to have a full week of "Philosophy of Science" and to prepare for this I was confronted with many, many papers to read of great length and some were really irritating to read. It was even more irritating when the tutor didn't show up in the morning. I have to wait until tomorrow to find out what happened to her. Despite the irritations however, I do like some concepts, such as facts are not facts in a vacuum, they depend on our perception of them. For instance measurements are not absolutes they are relative - what do I mean by that? Measurements are just an aid to measure changes or how big things are, but it is based not on a fact but on a standard developed to measure those changes or sizes. You can measure using imperial measurements or metric, which are both based on standards developed, both equally valid, but different. If measurements were absolutes, the Mars orbiter would not have crashed into Mars because the measurements would have been fixed, instead there was a mix up between the imperial measurements and the metric. Whoops! Only a mere $125m mistake. Kind of makes the point though that which standard you use is important.

Tartu city centre Christmas lights
Scientists like to think they are neutral, that their work is purely based on facts, but they are not as neutral as they like to think they are. It came as quite a shock to me, coming as I do from a natural science background, to realise that my understanding of the world determined the results and outcomes as much as what I measured. I think I kind of realised that when I finished my degree in Pharmacology and Chemistry, as there was one thing I was absolutely sure about and that was, I was not going into the pharmaceutical industry, as I did not agree with the ethics. The pharmaceutical industry is not a neutral evidence based industry, but one based on the profit motive. Drugs are not developed for their effectiveness but for their ability to generate a nice fat income for the company, so forget those one off cures, they are looking at heart disease where the incidence is high and they can keep feeding people drugs for quite a while and don't even get me started on Statins.

Winter jobs, putting fleece around the hay to stop most of
the snow getting to it
Whilst on philosophy I can't leave without mentioning the passing of Nelson Mandela. I have a huge respect for a man who sought peace and lived out forgiveness. He was no saint and that in itself is inspiring. He was grounded in reality and worked hard to see his people walk in freedom. There is still a long way to go in South Africa, but it is inspiring how far he did take the country and not always from the seat of power, as he chose not to stay in that place but work from the outside. I wonder what his legacy will be?
Pathways, roadways and ponds are now marked out with
sticks so we know where they are in the winter when the
snow gets deep


  1. I like your felt. I've seen it done once on a tv programme. It will be good in the future to be able to put the alpaca wool to good use.

  2. I hope we can get some spun fairly soon. Not holding my breath though

  3. Such an interesting post Joanna. I did have to laugh at the idea of you getting a camel!

  4. Glad you enjoyed the post Gina. I am getting worried about the camels though, Ian was even dreaming about them.

  5. please get a camel...if only for the comedy value of the will reading!!!. Love your snow pictures but I know it's not a good thing for you in terms of practicality. Have you broken from study for Christmas yet?

  6. One good reason I guess but I think we would have to start a fund, in order to afford one and to build yet another shed for it.

    As for the snow, we don't mind too much. It's not deep, it wasn't icy and it's better than dark, damp and dreary.

    I have one more week and then I break for Christmas, or rather I get to work on my own studies and not those that I must complete


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