Monday, 2 June 2014

It's a girl

Agnese and Veronica. The extension
has come in useful, as Ian has been
able to fasten Veronica and baby in and
yet she can still see the other alpacas.
They are like siblings, can't bear to be
apart, but spit at each other if they get
too close
Little Agnese was born to Veronica on Tuesday of this last week. Ian helped a little with the birth, as he thought Veronica was struggling to push, but nothing major. All, however, did not go to plan. Agnese didn’t really get going with the feeding and we had to get our neighbour in to help us milk Veronica to get some colostrum off her. We got some but not a huge amount. Feeding didn’t really get going, as she seemed to have trouble finding mum’s milk and even when she did find it she definitely had trouble latching on. Our vet gave us some oxytocin to encourage the milk supply and we tried to milk her ourselves, but we were totally in experienced and not getting much at all. Our nearest neighbour was not able to come and help, so another of our friends came. Our neighbour and our friend, both have experience of milking cows and not really alpacas, but at least they were more successful than we were. We managed to get a good bottle full of milk and finally little Agnese or Aggy as Ian calls her, cracked the feeding lark. That was of course after a visit to yet another of our friends, who has got goats, to stock up on goats milk, as a substitute. Our friend came a few times too to ensure that Veronica’s udders didn’t get so full that Aggy couldn’t feed. So we have been extremely grateful for such wonderful support and the lessons we learnt from Benedikts.
This one reminds me of ET
One of the chickens coming to investigate
We thought all was going well, until today when Ian noticed that Aggy seemed to be straining to pee and now we are beginning to wonder if Aggy is not getting enough milk from mum. Oh boy! On advice from our friend we have locked up mum and baby, so mum can get extra feed and isn’t neglecting baby. She seemed to be doing quite well at first. We are now thinking that we won’t mate mum again this year, but give her a rest. Alpacas can get pregnant within days of giving birth and have 11 1/2 month pregnancies and it is quite normal to have a feeding mum who is also pregnant. We wouldn’t want a birth much later on in the year, as shearing a pregnant alpaca is not our idea of fun, so she will get a rest for a full year. We are still waiting for baby number two. Snowdrop is looking relatively unperturbed, but looks absolutely enormous.
Chasing off Sofie. She had only come to have a look
Up and about
I could have done without the drama really, as I have had work to complete, so I have been working in the caravan for some of the time. I managed to finish my essay, well sort of. I did the first two sections and a conclusion but I guessed it was enough and I was right, as the tutor gave me an A and said it was thorough and well written. It didn’t feel that way and I felt I was throwing stuff at it, in the end, but I do have the advantage that English is my native language and not that of my tutor. The day for completion was Friday and I finished it on the Thursday morning. I didn’t have a choice as I had a workshop to prepare for the Friday and I hadn’t more than an outline sketch for it. It was nice to relax a little in the afternoon doing the planning and preparation. I even got out the scissors and paper and made some window outlines and a flower picture from torn paper. It felt so good to be creating something for a change, rather than reading academic papers and typing.

Okay another cute picture of Agnese
Talking of academic papers, I had a reply back from the journal where I submitted a paper to and as expected I have to make some revisions to it. The three reviewers liked the theme, but said it didn’t contain enough sociology theory in it. That is a bit frustrating, I know it is a sociology paper, but there is a need for some inter-disciplinary work to be done on conflicts. It is a people problem and that definitely fits in the sociology framework, but there is more to it than that. I am trying to get my head around how it will fit in and what amendments to make. Hopefully I can chat through with my tutor soon on the subject.
An amazing piece of work. Not really
sure if it is macrame or crocheted, but
impressive nonetheless
The room where the workshop was held and where they
were preparing for an art exhibition
As I mentioned I had a workshop to prepare and that was good fun. The coordinators of the organisation I was using for the connection came and translated for me and we spent a bit of time at the end chatting about the outcome of the day. It was wonderful to hear people talk about how they believed ideas could work since the founder of group, who I had prepared the workshop for, had moved into the area. She really encouraged people to be open and contribute and they took the initiative to get things done. Quite a change from many small villages in Latvia, where they is such a sense of helplessness. They were also even beginning to think about life after project grants and how to become self-funded - an enormous step to take after reliance on top-down initiatives from state led programmes. That is not to say the average Latvian is at fault here, but it is a legacy of the Soviet system that imposed quotas and didn’t encourage an entrepreneurial spirit.
This rather intriguing set up is a giant
photo of a meadow. You sit inside and
imagine you are a child again. The size
of the photo is meant to be the size that
a child would perceive the meadow to be

Hay sculptures, there was also a hay castle, but didn't manage
to get a photo of that. They hold a hay festival every year
and make hay sculptures. Here is a link to another sculpture
The ferry wending its slow way across the river
Getting to the workshop was a bit of an adventure though. I borrowed a car from a friend, the only problem was that the radiator cooling system wasn't working properly. I did okay for the first hour, but then started to suffer from overheating issues. I had to stop a few times to let the car cool down. I also had problems with roadworks, one that blocked a short cut we usually take and another major one through the town of Jekabpils, where they are replacing a rather nasty junction with a roundabout. In the end I was 3/4 hour late, but fortunately they were flexible enough and understood. On the way home though, I knew to turn on the fan heater full pelt and then the fan up high to blow the excess heat into the car. Fine on the asphalt roads, but not so good on the dirt roads. I was following someone, so we could take a different route back and avoid the roadworks, and had to have the windows wound up due to the amount of dust thrown up. There was that much dust that at times I couldn't see the car in front and wondered if I had lost him. Still we got to the alternative crossing of the river, one of the few remaining ferry crossings. After that we got to the asphalt and winding down the window was fine.
The ferry man

"Just don't say a word! You're next" Tellus, the one with
harness on managed to espace from his holding pen. He
didn't get too far though and he is easier to catch than
his brother.
After that rather heavy week, it was time to wind down and relax, with a little alpaca shearing, as you do. Ian’s contraption worked and we managed to shear the alpaca boys ourselves, all three in six hours. Although that doesn’t sound like an improvement on last year at two hours an alpaca, that did include rounding them up, separating one off and ensuring the other two didn’t go far - or tried to. It also involved a tea stop and a quick sandwich. Toe nails were also cut and one of them had their teeth trimmed. I ached the next day though from ensuring they were pinned down, particularly their head. I didn’t do a lot of physical work, but having to kneel or just be draped over an alpaca on the floor is heavy on the knees and back at times. Ian didn’t give them a close shave but he did cut the hair on the top of their heads. It didn’t look quite right though, Turbjørn could have done with some being left on top I think, but we will have to remember that next year. Ian won’t be winning any shearing competitions this year, but at least it is done and they don’t look too bad. You should have seen the looks on their faces, as they emerged from the shed though. You could almost hear them hiss and say, “I know and don’t you dare laugh!” In fact they seemed to spend a bit of time sniffing each other, as if they were checking to see who it was. They are quite unrecognisable as the same animal that went in.

Making friends again! Ian's sweatshirt was
black when he started, but was felted
with white fibres after shearing
We went home for a shower and then returned for a night in the caravan. We are staying out on quite a regular basis these days. One of the reasons was so that Ian could be up early, before the rain to do any chores that were needed, one of them was moving the sheep fence. That thought must have been in my mind, as early the next morning I heard, or at least I thought I heard, the sheep bleating. I swear that I could hear them reasonably close to the caravan and that would have meant that they had escaped. I looked out of the window, but I couldn’t see them. In the end I got up, even though it was 4:45am, and went out to look. They were where they were supposed to be, after all. Well we were both awake by then and so decided that we would get on and move them straight after an early breakfast and then the job would be done before the rain came. It was good timing indeed, so after a second breakfast we snoozed as the rain fell. The rest of the day was spent tidying up the greenhouse. Pity I can’t say the same for the rest of the gardens at our apartments, the weeds have suddenly started popping up and I am going to have my work cut out sorting that little lot out. Oh well! Another day perhaps.

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