Monday, 16 June 2014


This week there are mainly just stormy photos. This is the
view of the thunderstorm rolling in
Just the way I like it! Well at least for now. There was no drama this week, no tragedies and that's fine with me. Agnese has continued to be fed goat's milk and it is having an effect. Most mornings she is not just running around the paddock, but galloping, so she has plenty of energy. Although she continues to drink goat's milk, she is also refusing some bottles and so we think she must at least be getting the majority of milk from her mum, Veronica. With the cooler weather Veronica, has been outside eating constantly, which is encouraging and probably helping the milk supply. Agnese is also getting a little cheeky with the other alpacas and I don't think it will be very long before she is being taught some alpaca manners and put in her place. I had to be quite firm with her this morning to prevent problems later on in life. She came up all sweet and tried snuffling, but it is not a good idea to let alpaca babies do this, as they then start to think they are boss and a 50kg animal which thinks they're boss can be at best a nuisance and at worst dangerous. I had to insist she give me space and not accept any advances. Hard when they are so cute and cuddly. Estelle and Agnese had a bit of a run around the paddock today. Estelle hasn't been her usual self since we had Alicia put down and this is the first day she seemed to be more of her normal adolescent self.

Looking the other way and it still looks relatively peaceful.
You can see the cutting that Ian has been doing. It serves
two purposes. Firstly we had a lot of cow parsley that we
don't want going to seed and secondly we have
discovered that alpacas prefer short grass, so it is cut about
a week prior to the alpacas going on and then it has greened
up enough for them to start eating it. Ian hasn't been
keeping it short this year, as we are trying to encourage the
grass and discourage other weeds and letting it grow
apparently helps. We'll see, the proof will be next year.
I managed to catch up a little on the weeding front. I finally found all the carrots that have germinated along with fodder beet and beans. I re-sowed seed in all the places where there were gaps just before it rained, so hopefully they are well watered in and not washed down the hill. I also managed to weed and straw up half the potatoes, before running out of straw and having to ask Ian to bring some more from the land. I decided I wasn't going to carry on doing the weeding without the straw, otherwise it means doing the job twice, as no doubt the weeds will have grown back in the meantime. At least the potatoes nearest to the very tidy neighbour's plot are done. Since it rained in the afternoon, I even managed to actually do some housework and so our house is almost presentable. Of course this level of productivity could not last, so when I went to our other allotment plot the following day, I got as far as hoeing some rather weedy paths, putting a few more seeds in of carrots and rainbow chard and I had just started weeding the onions when the heavens opened. The light showers forecast for later in the afternoon, turned out to be a torrential thundery downpour in the late morning instead. Well rain stopped play and it was so heavy, there was no point in going into the garden for the rest of the day. I had planned to work through and have a late lunch, but stuck inside our other apartment and feeling peckish I ended up with the only things I could find - dry cornflakes and raisins, whilst I sat out the storm.

A hint of a rainbow
So most of the week has been spent weeding various plots, putting out seedlings and dodging showers. We did intend on sending our sheep to be sheared at the camp/sheep farm nearby whilst they had the professionals in and shearing our remaining alpaca, but none of that happened. First of all we had to get our sheep into the horse box. Now if you recall we have two cockerels in the horse box while we fatten them up and so that meant finding a big box for them, while we transported the sheep, so far so good. The next job was getting the sheep into the box. We rigged up a temporary fence that kind of funnelled them into the horse box and Ian led them in with a bowl of sheep concentrate. Two of them followed quite happily, but of course one of them wouldn't and headed off out. Well then they lead us a merry game of chase, with two of them exhibiting great show jumping potential at one stage by leaping over the fence we had constructed from a standing start. It shows that if they really wanted to, they could actually clear the electric fence without a bother. We gave up in the end, as they were getting harder and harder to convince to go into the horse box. Fortunately getting them back into their paddock was not a problem and they followed Ian back quite happily. Grrr! Ian went to see the guys at the sheep farm and watch the shearers in action. He came back and said, "it's quite easy really this shearing lark" followed by an eye roll. So if anyone is ever stuck as to what to buy Ian for a present, a shearing course would be an excellent idea. We have arranged for the guys at the camp to come and help us shear the sheep this week, after Ian builds a small enclosure and gets the sheep used to it first, so at least we can trap them in it. Just need the rain to stop now - once it starts it seems to have difficulty stopping.

The storm clouds make the alpaca houses look small
I forgot to mention last week that Estelle also tried out her show jumping skills. We have the ladies alpaca house divided into two with planks if necessary and I was busy putting them back to keep Estelle in the right side to shear her, when she leaped over the first one and smacked into the second one that I was busy trying to slip into place. Somehow I ended up on my back with the plank and was kind of stuck. Not that the plank was heavy or anything, although it did smack me rather hard in the leg and gave me a lovely E for Estelle shaped bruise, but it was awkward and I couldn't swing it anywhere without hitting an alpaca and risk spooking them with me still on the floor. Ian had to come to my rescue. Another problem we have had both times whilst shearing is one of the alpacas piddling on the tarpaulin. Not pleasant. The first one was Turbjørn when we were shearing the boys and we were totally unprepared. At least the next time it was Aggy when her Mum was being sheared, before we decided that actually she was better on the other side of the fence to her Mum.

I love storm clouds, so atmospheric
We still haven't sheared Snowdrop. We planned on it on Saturday and it rained, so we decided that since the forecast was better on the Sunday, that would work. Nope! In rolled another thunderstorm and saturated everything. It turned out nice in the afternoon, but I was due to take a trip up to Tartu, so we have to wait for me to be home and the weather to improve. Still at least I got some weeding done and now I have re-discovered a bed of strawberries and planted out some self-seeded squashes that were growing in the greenhouse outside.

Not our own picture I'm afraid. Not had much time for the
bird photos, but one from the birdforum
One of the delights of being out on the land is the number of birds we see. There seem to be new ones turning up all the time too. The bird box on the side of the barn is now home to a pied flycatcher family and one day we spotted a red-back shrike on our raspberry bushes. Both birds we had to look up to discover what they were, as I haven't seen them before. We see plenty of pied wagtails, and we can identify most finches, I can even identify the grey backed shrikes, but those two had us flummoxed. The osprey continues to hover around and the eagle made an appearance the other day. There is also a hawk, but I haven't been able to have a good look at that to decide what sort it is.

A red-backed shrike from Suffolk birding 
My trip up to Tartu was short and sweet. I borrowed a car from a friend and went up on the Sunday night and travelled back this afternoon. I went to see the PhD defence of a colleague. It gave me a good insight as to what to expect in about 2 1/2 years time. If mine is as civilised as this one, I shall be very happy. As far as the defence is concerned it is mainly a done deal, as they say. The main work is done in getting papers published, which means the work has already been peer reviewed and that is the reason there is a lot of pressure to get academic papers written. Three have to have been published by the time of the defence and it can take over a year to get them through the publishing process, which means getting as much done, as early as possible. One of my supervisors also thinks he may have made a good contact for some collaborative work in Latvia, but until there is a formal agreement, I'm not getting too excited. Still its progress. At the moment I only have one Masters student to supervise in the autumn to begin collecting data, which of course I need for publications. Heh ho!

We didn't get the full force of the thunderstorm, that was
to the north of our land. My supervisor who has a holiday
home about 3/4 hour away said his house shook with the
force of the storm. Glad it wasn't quite that bad sitting in
the caravan
I know last week's blog was not exactly a barrel load of laughs and it was a tough week. I couldn't even face letting others know on facebook about Snowflake's death on the day, while we processed the event. I didn't want to hear any well meaning phrases that can be trotted out in these situations, I just wasn't in the right place for that. I know people mean well, but sometimes well worn phrases don't work. In the end when I did post, folks were much more understanding than I gave them credit for and many just posted "sorry" or "hugs" or something like that, which I find far more helpful. At one point whilst working through stuff, I said to God, what I would really like is a bunch of flowers, something that kind of says "I know." Well I got them! The youngest of the girls from the flat where the water poured down into ours, had been out picking wildflowers and when I turned up, she handed me an exquisite bunch. On the way up to Tartu I had a meal that was rather nice, chicken with grapes and pistachio nuts, but it was more of a starter than a main meal and I thought it would have been rather nice to finish that off with a nice piece of chocolate cake, but I needed to be on my way. When I got to my host's home though, she offered me an evening meal ..... followed by chocolate cake. I feel like it was God's way of just letting me know "I know life's been tough and you don't understand it all at the moment, but just hang on in there." So I will!
Estelle and Agnese having a huge amount of fun
running around the paddock.


ju-north said...

So much going on! No time for 'boring' with you!

Joanna said...

I guess even on a fairly routine week, my work is fairly diverse.

karen said...

phew...I'm exhausted just reading this. There's never a dull moment at your place...

Pene said...

I hope this week is better for you both & your little kingdom.
Now I need to know: do they always run around clockwise?

Joanna said...

There was a few moments when the thunderstorm rolled in and we had to disconnect the electric from the caravan, when there was not much to do, except ride out the storm. Weeding can get a bit dull too

Joanna said...

I hope so too Pene. I consulted Ian and he said that 80-90% of the time Estelle does seem to run clockwise around the paddock. Agnese runs all over the place and has even been known to run in one door of the alpaca house and out the other. Strange though! The other alpacas don't run much, apart from away from Tellus and then Veronica went anti-clockwise, but I don't think she had much choice then.