Monday, 24 February 2014

Getting things done!

Our sheep are climbing again!
I managed to finish my homework after the blog last week, but boy was it late for me - 11:30pm. Talking with some of the other students in class, it appeared I wasn't the only one. Typical student I suppose, only I hadn't left it to the last minute to do the work, it was just that it was a difficult topic to do and I had other priorities first, much like a lot of my fellow classmates. You don't usually do a PhD course just for the fun of it, although doing something you enjoy or are passionate about is fun, but because you are very interested in learning and are quite committed about it, just the compulsory courses are not always high on our agendas.

Who? Sweet innocent us?
At least my classmates from Latvia were heading back after the lecture and so I got a lift back to Valmeira and treated to lunch. I had had a sandwich on the way down, so decided just soup would do. The soup of the day was lamb soup, which is not common in Latvia and so I decided to go with that, only it turned out to be more like a stew than a light soup. Tasty though and the lamb was very tender. The trip back also involved two buses and meant a longish wait again in Cesis, but the discovery of the cafe in the supermarket near the train station and even better I discovered it has internet access and that makes the wait just fine. A cup of tea is also just 50c, so not bad! After two cups I was feeling human again after my late night and even better I got to get home one day sooner.

One of our balls of fluff. No wonder they didn't want to
come home to a centrally heated flat, they were roasting
in these coats. Only problem is that they are not the
most practical for barn cats and need a little disentangling
at times.
We went to the big town again this week to take the paperwork for our greenhouse. Amazingly the paperwork was fine this time! I was ready for a fight if it wasn't. Our translator did say that the lady did get a bit worried last time when I asked her to write down the things she was asking for. She refused to do that and insisted that we write down what she said, obviously she had no wish to go down on record. I wished I had remembered that I had my audio recorder in my bag, that would have worried her even more I think. At least the process has begun again and they will leave it until nearly the last day, before sending out someone to survey the greenhouse. What a performance for a plastic covered greenhouse! It even costs us more than the barn, because it covers a larger area.

The new Estonian trains on the right at Valga station. The
old Latvian trains on the left. 
We had a house meeting this week. It wasn't a pleasant affair, as it was a meeting to remove our house manager. We are now in the stupid situation, where there is no house manager to take responsibility for the household dealings. We do have a treasurer who will take the money and she should be receiving all the paperwork, which really makes her the de facto house manager, but she doesn't want that job and who would when people can be quite nasty with their bickering? Fortunately one older man, spoke up and although the majority vote was to remove the house manager, he did say that we need to be kinder to each other and take more responsibility for the house, instead of leaving it to one person. He even volunteered to take on the responsibility of making sure the heating is regulated properly and since he is an engineer, he should be able to handle that okay.

Sitting in the sun waiting for the bus
I went out to the land twice this week. Now it has warmed up a bit and feels more like April than February, it means that it is warm enough to work in the caravan, which also means I can go and help Ian for a few minutes. He needed help giving one of our alpacas an injection, as he has an infected eye, probably the result of bumping into something or banging heads with one of the other boys. He had managed the day before, but an extra pair of hands is always useful for these kinds of tasks. The following day I didn't do any studying, as it was supposed to be a nice day. I say supposed to, it was a foggy start and the sun didn't put in an appearance until late in the afternoon - unlike today which has been glorious of course and I was travelling. All the alpacas needed their toe nails cutting and that is not a job for one person. We decided to halter each alpaca up and tie them up to a hook to make it easier for me to hold them, while Ian trimmed their nails. It is a tough job, as those nails are hard. I half wonder whether they should have a gravel path to walk on to wear their toe nails down, but wonder if this might in turn damage the soft pads on their feet. The alpacas are much better now since Ian has been reading up on how to train alpacas. A lot of it seems to be working, at least most of the time, but like the book says, sometimes you just have to manually restrain the animal to get things done, not everything can be done by coaxing the animal to cooperate and cutting toe nails is one of those jobs. Maybe in months to come, even that job might become easier, but for now there is a certain amount of resistance from time to time and so a little alpaca wrestling was in order, when they started bucking a bit.

The gouges left in the field as Ian pulled the horse box.
At least he got the horse box off, which is more than he
thought he would do at one point. At least we know the
ground will heal, it usually looks worse than this after
As I said, it feels more like April than February and so our snow has disappeared and the land is thawing out, which means mud! Our winter barley looks like most of it did not make it through the winter without its protective coat of snow and parts of the fields are full of moss - not good. Ian has been manuring the fields with alpaca poo by hand and that should help and this year along with the sheep that poo everywhere anyway. He is also going to try rotating the animals faster through the fields, so that the grass has a longer chance to recover in between being munched and he will also let the grass grow longer - which possibly means more fly problems, but some you win, some you lose. We'll see how it goes. Ian has been busy trimming trees in our fields over the last couple of weeks, he doesn't like removing them all, 1) that would lead to erosion and 2) it provides shelter and feed for the animals. He has also helped move one of our neighbours calves for them. Calf? This was no mere youngster though, it was a strapping 18 month old calf. The roads were also muddy and Ian was worried about getting stuck or sliding off the road a few times, but he managed and the neighbours were happy.
Trimmed tree and trimmings ready for shredding. The sheep
will be put down here as soon as the grass is growing properly
then it can be manured and weeds held back in check - well
hopefully, that is the plan. By putting the sheep on early in
the season, we also hope to set the cutting season back a bit
on this section. It is north facing so takes longer to mature
anyway and with an early munch the time to having to cut it
will be longer. Again that is the plan, to make it easier for Ian
The newly refurbished Valga train
and bus station
Today (Monday) is Estonian Independence day which is why I have only travelled up to Tartu today, as there was no GIS training this week. I wasn't sure what would be open and what would be shut. I also thought the buses maybe quieter than usual - not likely. It was busier in Latvia because it was not a public holiday and it was busier in Estonia as people were returning to the city after a weekend away, and students were returning to universities and colleges. The roads were especially bumpy on the first leg of the journey because they are not tarmac roads and that makes annotating pdf files very tricky and made me sleepy into the bargain. The other legs were either too short or too cramped for working on a lap top, so not much work got done today. Still I got some done and that's better than nothing.


  1. very good advice 'be nicer to each other'. If only more people took notice of those words. Thanks for the lemon tip too....

  2. It certainly was a good piece of advice. Let's hope people heed it.

    As for the lemon, hope it works (just in case anyone is wondering what lemons has to do with this, you would have to pop over to Karen's blog and read about trying to work in dusty houses after building work, whilst trying to sew pristine white embroidery - never a good combination)


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