Monday, 27 January 2014

An eventful weekend

Cold, cold mornings
Before I get onto the more exciting events of this last weekend, I have a few things to run through; the Winter olympics is cancelled due to lack of snow! OK! Well before you think I have lost the plot it is the Latvian Schools Winter Olympics which is cancelled, not the ones at Sochi. I don't think the snow dare stay away from that one. Our village will not therefore, be inundated by coaches from all over Latvia, neither will we see youngsters zipping around the place snowboarding, skating or skiing. Such a shame, but there is very little snow on the ground, despite the freezing cold temperatures we have been having. The cancellation of the Winter Olympics in our village will also probably mean we will not have a sudden miraculous improvement in our heating, as we normally do in that week. Such a shame as it has been running rather low yet again.

Human chain, passing books on a cold winter's day (picture
from the European Commission website)
The low temperatures didn't stop the formation of a chain of folks from the old Latvian national library to the new one. They passed books one to another to demonstrate their love of literature. It never ceases to amaze me in a country, where cooperation in the business arena is poor, that when it comes to voluntary cooperation then the Latvians are there, in fact 14,000 of them. No mean feat in a country of around 2million.

I love the frost patterns on our greenhouse plastic. I always
used to think frosted glass panels were a little unrealistic,
now I'm not so sure.
I was not encouraged by the announcement of the deregulation of the electricity market. As usual it is hyped as an opportunity for competition to drive prices down. Which person in reality, honestly and truly believes this any more? The only way to keep market prices down is by regulation, proved time and time again in the UK and more recently Estonia. On the one hand, rising energy prices might mean that people curb their usage and that is not a bad thing. One thing I do like about the current market is that for the first 1200 units per year (yes you read that right), the price is lower, after that there is an increase. That encourages those who need to save money to keep their electric usage down. Well that's the theory anyway. So how long do you think it will be before the prices go escalating?

Well now onto the exciting bit, the weekend. It was cold this weekend, very cold. Friday morning saw me heading into Riga for meetings and my toes were frozen by the time they got there. Doesn't help that the 6:40am bus from our village didn't warm up until we were within sight of Riga, neither does the temperature of -23C that morning. Anyway I got to my Friday morning meeting and managed to thaw out quite quickly thank goodness. I had visions of having to take my boots off, revealing my none too stylish but should-be-warm socks and trying to get some feeling into them, but I was spared that embarrassment. After the meeting I was then off to find my host for the weekend, the young guy who translated for me recently lives in the centre of Riga and said I could stop there any time I needed to. Him and his housemate are truly open hearted folks and genuinely meant it when they said, "help yourself, to whatever there is in the fridge." Such a joy to meet true hospitality. It wasn't the flashiest place in town, and didn't need to be. Give me a place where the welcome is warm any day, over the pristine houses.

So any guesses what our weekend entailed, if you don't
know already?
Whilst in Riga, I quite often give my young crazy friend a ring to see if she is free. After all we love to talk. She had the crazy idea of meeting for breakfast. We did discover that there isn't a lot in Riga for breakfast at 7:30am on a Saturday morning, it was a choice between Narvesen (a type of 7-11) or McDonalds. Well McD's is not my scene and so Narvesen's won. So there I was eating a bacon hotdog, washed down with a hot chocolate for breakfast on another very cold winter's morning on my way to a meeting about Transition Initiatives, where many of them eat ever so healthy food and the thought of what I ate that morning would have been an anathema. Normally I would agree, but that morning, I really didn't care as long as it was hot. A nice salad sandwich was not going to cut it.

Needed sustenance
It was a weekend meeting about Transitioning to a low carbon economy (translated means not buying so much rubbish and living in a way that is kinder to the earth we live on) and the first day was good. The second day was okay, but I was tired and we were doing "transition of your mind" and trying to picture our ideal world to give us a vision for the future. Well I'm living my ideal world and quite frankly I just wanted to get back to it, rather than try and picture it while sat in the city. That does not mean the organisers were to blame for a poor presentation or anything, it was much more to do with where I was at at the meeting. The organisers were actually a lovely bunch of people and a joy to meet. I had a rally lovely chat with a couple of folks that day, but the day was rather rudely interrupted by a phone call from Ian.

Life's hard when you are born in January
Ian would never ring when he knows I'm in a meeting, unless it was urgent and so I excused myself from a conversation I was having and I answered it. I was in for a shock. "I've just found a cria (baby alpaca)," he said. His mind was racing, my mind was racing. "Snowdrop and Veronica still look pregnant though," he continued. They were only due in May/June so if they had given birth it would likely have been a premature baby, but this one to Ian looked a full term one, from what little we know. "I think it might be Alicia's!" Alicia's? The old lady, who we promised not to breed from? "It's got a darker colouring" Ian said. Well that clinched it. Snowdrop and Veronica are white alpacas and bred to a white male, so no chance of a darker coloured baby. I couldn't concentrate in the meeting after that. I had no idea what to do. I had just arranged to go part way home with a chap living in my direction, as I could either catch the bus from the village where he lived or Ian could come and fetch me. Oh yes! I forgot one other minor detail, the car hadn't started that morning and so he had to walk to the land a trip that takes just over an hour and I had thought that if he could get the car started when he got back home, it would give the car a good run to offset the problems of the cold start.

Not the ideal house guest
My mind was in a turmoil and I wasn't concentrating on the meeting. I suddenly thought of someone Ian should ring and went outside the room to pass on the message. A lady turned up while I was outside who had been at the meeting the day before. She had forgotten her charger and returned to pick it up, she didn't really fancy being around for the transition of the mind part so wasn't staying. As she lived along the road to where I live, even if it was a good way a way, she offered to take me home. I was so relieved about that. On the way we talked about faith and God, her from her standpoint of being a Pagan Priestess who runs a church in her own garden and me from my Christian faith. It was an interesting chat and we were quite enjoying the adventure of hurrying home to see our unexpected arrival, when the adventure turned into a drama. Suddenly the car started to snake on ice and as we headed towards the opposite side of the road in a spin, I braced for a roll. The roll thankfully didn't happen as the newly installed crash barriers stopped our descent down the embankment of the road. The car was a bit of a mess though, with bits all over the road. It was still driveable, but the tyre was flat. I realised, however at this point she would need to get back home and not take me to our village.

Looking kind of cute!
Meanwhile back on the farm I had already phoned some friends to go and help Ian and they were heading in his direction with a supply of milk powder and transport to help him home, so the little one could be warmed up. The caravan was good to get him out of the extreme cold it had been born into and the radiator was helping, but it needed more heat. Another friend who was a neighbour and previously worked as a vet, came and helped Ian as well with getting the situation stabilised and even managed to get some milk from the mother. She is used to milking too as she has her own cows. At least we now knew it was definitely Alicia and the little cria is a boy. In the caravan there was also a poorly chicken that Ian discovered in the morning, probably suffering from the cold, he was jammed up by the radiator to try and warm him through, but other than that he got no attention with the little cria to attend to, consequently he didn't survive the night.

Mum and baby
We are so grateful to lots and lots of good friends we can turn to in a crisis and I had to make a phone call to some more friends of ours, to see if they could come and rescue me. Sure enough, rescue was on the way, but unfortunately they were having to travel a little further than normal as they had been at church in the big town. Well we sat and waited. My new friend didn't fancy trying to learn how to change a tyre on a piece of icy road with cars going past, so we waited for help to arrive. First of all a policeman stopped, but when he realised no one was hurt - we thankfully suffered no worse than a bit of a bump on the head each - he went on his way, as he was going to attend another accident where people were hurt. Great! I phoned my friend to warn the young lads driving to get me to take it easy.

A motherly nuzzle and a little alpaca conversation going
on here
A few cars went past, some even slowed down, but eventually one young Latvian fella in a fancy car slowed down and asked if we needed help. We were only too pleased to accept. He changed the tyre and said I could go and sit in his car while he worked on my friend's car. There was a lady in the car who it turned out was from Estonia and so we had a great chat about what had happened that day and a little bit about the type of research I was doing at an Estonian University. I asked her about her perceptions of the differences between Latvians and Estonians - I wasn't going to pass on the chance to do some research, besides it is always good to get different people's opinions. Eventually the tyre was sorted and my friend could go on the way. The young Latvian chap and his travelling companion then took me onto my home village, as they were going that way. It only dawned on me today, that they must have been one of the cars that went past and then thoughtfully turned back to see if we needed help and I don't even know their names.

Mum looking on and yes it is still cold!
Well I turned up back at home, just before Ian turned up with our new arrival and we got a chance to swap stories around wondering what to do with the little fella. The little fella wasn't doing well he was snorting in a funny way that instinct told us was not right. I had to run around to neighbour's houses to see if any had baby bottles we could use, as the supermarkets didn't. They had milk powder but not baby bottles as our friends found earlier. Fortunately I was able to get a bottle and we spent a while getting down some of the milk from his Mum. It was a struggle. We called the vet out and eventually she turned up, poor lass she had been out skating with the kids. She said at least it wasn't in the night. She gave him an injection of sugar solution, directly into his stomach, something she does for sheep. We scoured the internet and the vet book to see if there was an alternative way but decided that was the best. She even went out with Ian to get some more milk from Alicia, so I could stay behind and keep an eye on the little one. I think she is enjoying the new challenges from our gentle animals.

To think that only last week we had no idea, that our little
old lady was actually carrying a baby. We have to contact
the breeder and see if he has any idea who the father might
be now. 
This morning we took him back out to our land and took him to see his Mum, wondering if she would recognise him or accept him. She did! I nearly cried and I'm not the emotional sort. He had been making little humming noises and she started to respond to his noises. We covered him up with straw to keep him warm and left them to it. We kept going back to feed her and give him a bottle, as he still hasn't got a lot of strength back yet. He can get up and stagger about a bit, but not a lot. Not surprising as we have no idea how long it was since he was born and he did get cold. We are just so grateful that Alicia decided to give birth in the alpaca house, if he had been born outside he would have died for sure. We have brought him home again tonight, the temperatures are just too low at the moment for such a weak one, his Mum wasn't so pleased. We felt awful, but there is little else we can do. Also he needs feeding through the night and she can't provide enough. For now I think that is quite enough. I think the adrenaline is beginning to wear off a bit now and the shock setting in, at our little surprise package. An unexpected bonus gift. Now all we need is a name.


  1. I really enjoyed reading all about your surprise gift - the cria. About a name - how about something along the lines of surprise/wonder in Latvian or Spanish (as alpacas originate from South America)? - Sorpresa (surprise) or Milagro (miracle)? Whatever its name is, it's great to see it and hope it continues to do well. Talk about being caught on the hop! As if you didn't have enough excitement in your life already!

  2. Definitely on the hop. Unfortunately the little guy is not doing so well this morning. Pray for him

  3. What a day! Little cria is so cute! I really hope he survives. I think he looks like a "Joseph". ^^

  4. Wow, this blog post totally read like an adventure story! All the suspense until the very end! Good to hear that you are okay after the car crash and I'm keeping my fingers & toes crossed for the alpaca baby.

    It's interesting that you actually went to that transition towns event in Riga. I really wanted to go, but couldn't, because of an important folk dance event in Tartu. Maybe you can tell me about it when you eventually visit Tartu again?

  5. He is cute Joanna and he is still hanging on in there.

    Maali I would love to meet up with you again. Will let you know when I finally make it to Tartu again, won't be long.

  6. I really hope your new little one progresses well. It must have been a shock for you but a blessing also. I am following your updates on facebook...

  7. Now we have him on goats milk he is doing better

  8. How is our little cria (and his - I presume - very tired humans) doing today? :) Is he gaining strength?

  9. Thanks for asking Joanna. Sadly the little fella didn't make it. I will write more on Monday. We are doing okay, emotional but okay

  10. Aww I'm very sorry to hear that. You must all be pretty worn out after after all the events of the past week. Mum (Liz F.) says you've been working very hard on a PhD too, I think?

    Even though he couldn't make it, I'm glad he was able to be in a loving and warm environment for his short life.
    I hope you'll both be able to catch up on some sleep and rest. <3

  11. I have been working hard on the PhD to, so yes an exhausting week. Thanks for your comments, really appreciated.


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