Monday, 7 July 2014

After the rain? More rain

The radar for Tuesday July 1st. More rain
A certain song has been going around my head just lately

"I beg your pardon I never promised you a rose garden
Along with the  rain there's gotta be a little sunshine sometime"

 - wait shouldn't that be the other way around? Shouldn't it be "along with the sunshine there's gotta be a little rain sometime"? Indeed it should. The rain just kept on coming, as you can see from the picture and we didn't get the worst of it. There has been a change though recently, a yellow ball like object appeared above with a cloak of blue. We checked the ancient manuscripts and the yellow ball is called the sun and the blue is the sky. The only problem is that the forecasts are still not entirely settled and on days forecast to be dry, we've still had some showers, even though at least we did see some sun. The last two days have been dry and now the ground is not covered with a layer of water and we can think about haymaking. The problem is that to do the ski hill we need five straight days of dry weather to cut, turn, bale and collect the hay, four at a push or just a short shower when they are baled with good sunshine afterwards before stacking. Too much to ask for? It's looking that way at the moment.

Finally a day of sun. This was taken about 9:30pm
The rain has meant that Ian has been confined to the land, because he was worried about leaking roofs and collapsing plastic that he tacked up to try and keep the animals dry. He managed to sort out the girls roof, but so much water was running off the roofs, it was just running straight under their accommodation and saturating the thin layer of bedding. It hadn't been built up after the clear out due to the mite infection and we are rather lacking dry bedding as we are on the last few bales. We still have enough for feed, but dry bedding is proving a headache. The boys, ironically for being at the bottom of a slope and the leakiest roof have the driest accommodation, partly because Ian has dug a channel to divert the rain away at the front door and another in the alpaca house itself to drain away behind the shed. The girls are on a flatter piece of land, but at the top of the hill and so it would be expected to drain by itself - but no!

We have three new chicks. These ones are hatched from
some large eggs that we collected from the chicken house,
so we are assuming that they are progeny from the chicken
we named Big Bird, our large white broiler chicken. They
are definitely the progeny of the cockerel and so it will
be interesting to see what they will turn out like
The respite in the weather though meant a chance for a much needed trip to the big town to deal with paperwork. I text a translator who lives in the big town to see if he was free and he was, so we organised to meet at the land office after we had put the trailer through its technical. Of course there was a long queue at the technical centre and a trainee on duty, but at least it passed and we weren't horrendously late for our meeting, not by Latvian standards anyway. We had gone to get our buildings registered on the land book finally and asked the lady about transferring the land into our name while we were there. For those who don't know, it has not been possible to buy land here in Latvia, unless you are a Latvian citizen, but that exclusion ran out on May 1st. The land was still in the name of a friend of ours and we just had power of attorney to do what we liked on the place. I knew the government were, or had, amended the law to make it more difficult to buy agricultural land and I wasn't sure if we qualified or not. As we talked she said if we wanted the land, we should buy it or have it donated to us on that day and not leave it and then she explained what we needed to do. Apparently the following day the government were voting on the new law and she wasn't sure when it would come into effect.

The father of the chicks
As you can imagine, that caused all sorts of difficulties. First we had to decide if our friend was going to sell or donate the land to us, she had given it to us anyway as she was unable to look after it and that is why we had the power of attorney. Whatever we did had to be the least hassle to her and not cost us more than it needed to. In the end we decided on a donation to Ian. I represented our friend and signed it over to him and he will have to declare his "income" at the tax office and pay the 24% tax on it. Fortunately cadastral prices (prices of land as assessed by the government) are pretty low and so it won't cost us lots of money in the grand scheme of things, but still it is money. To set the whole process in motion we had to have a notary agree to write a contract of donation, then we had to run home - a journey of 90km - and pay the remaining land tax that hadn't been paid earlier on in the year, back to the notary to have the papers drawn up, back home again as it was getting late and back to the land office in the morning. Within 24 hours we had the land in Ian's name and no further worries about any decisions that the government would make later on in the day.

Not sure if you will be able to see, but
the little chick at the end of the tray
has feathers on its legs. The father
doesn't and so not sure where that comes
from. Ian also showed one of them to
our granddaughter on Skype and she
tried to stroke its nose. Sweet! 
We did find out later that the new law was agreed and meant that either a person had to have more than three years farming experience - and that could be difficult to prove for some, or an agricultural qualification with attendance of more than 160 hours on a course in a relevant subject (I wasn't sure if  Masters in Rural Development was classed as relevant or not). There would also be a requirement to show a return of some sort of income after one year and no individual or company can buy more than 2000 ha to stop massive buying up by agricultural companies or rich individuals. It was also only due to come into force on November 1st I think, but that doesn't sound so dramatic. One of the humorous points about the whole episode was a statement that if we didn't show enough gratitude for the gift, it could be demanded back by our friend, her children or her grandchildren. This caused much merriment and I sent off a suitably grateful email to our friend to let her know the land was now officially in Ian's name and not hers, she now feels rather over appreciated.

Hopefully this is their mother. She looks a bit cross here,
but she is a gentle soul and will even let us stroke her. I
think this is partly because she is so big and can't escape so
easily. She is quite old for a broiler chicken, besides the fact
that most end up on the plate, it is rare for them to live
past the age of 18 months because they either get to big
for their legs or die of heart attacks. She is not so good on
her legs and limps a bit, but still seems able to get around
As we had gone to the big town we also got some feed in for the animals. We had to fit that in between seeing the notary and going home, but Ian didn't have enough time to store it away while I paid the tax at the local government office. On our way home that evening there were places that looked rather wet and dark clouds ahead. In fact it was raining rather heavily when we got to the land and exhausted and thirsty though we were, we had to swing into action to get the bags under cover, they were wet but not saturated. Fortunately we think they survived, but definitely not something we want to repeat.

A close up of the swallows nest in the alpaca house
The following day after our trip back to the big town to finish off the paperwork we took a bed, that belongs to some American friends of ours that had been residing in our other apartment, to Sigulda where they will be staying when they visit Latvia again. That meant catching our three cockerels that have been living in the horse box and putting them in a cardboard box while we were away. The cardboard box was put into the tractor trailer, but I was a little worried about the sun overheating them, so I rigged up a tarpaulin to keep the sun off and then off we went. We got the bed to its destination no problem and then went to collect an old Soviet cast iron piece of machinery for another of our friends. All went fine and Ian and the owner managed to get the machine into the horse box, but as Ian fastened up the horse box, he felt his back twinge. The horse box was then taken to the next house to fill up with bee keeping equipment, also for the same destination. We stopped for some home-made bread and a cup of tea and then set off to make the next delivery. This supposedly dry day, also turned out to be showery, fortunately not while the bed was in the horse box as it leaks a bit. It was getting late in day, but we delivered the iron piece of machinery and after some false starts and with a bit of teamwork, eventually we managed to work out how to get it out using the tractor and pieces of wood to slide the machine on. Our poor friend at the other end though had to wait until we had gone before she could milk her goats and she has a long enough day as it is. We did get a couple of rounds of goats cheese and some milk for Agnese.

If you saw the blog last week, you will
know that our neighbour downstairs
reported a leak that he thought was
coming from us. This is the mess we
have after checking to find out it wasn't
us at all. There has been a lot of noise
coming from the roof space this week
and so we think our suspicions are correct
 that actually it was running through gaps down to him.
When we got to the land at a rather late hour we could see it had been raining and to greet us we could see three small heads in the tractor trailer. The cardboard box had obviously collapsed in the rain and under the weight of the logs that Ian had used to make sure the cockerels could not escape from the box. We decided that since they hadn't got away to leave them in there, but strapped the tarpaulin more tightly across the top to try and ensure they didn't make a break for it in the night. We put the animals away and crawled into bed in the caravan. We are so grateful for that caravan, it was one of the best investments we have made. The next morning we dropped the tarpaulin down onto the cockerels and caught them and put them back in the horse box. We determined then they had to go and decided Sunday would be the best day. It didn't happen, neither of us felt well enough to go through the hassle of boiling up the water, removing feathers and then gutting them. Ian's back was still twingeing and I came down with a virus. Fortunately we are both feeling better, but something we could have done without.

Agnese growing up, she is not always around her mum now
On a completely different note, Sofie, one of our cats came up to Ian this week and dropped a live mouse in front of him and backed off. This live mouse, also had a baby hanging on with its teeth. Of course they then ran off and Ian and Sofie then tried to catch them. We were laughing as this is the kind of action of a mother cat with her young to try and teach them to hunt. We now know that Ian is a failed cat! You can almost hear her say "Stupid boy! Can't even catch a mouse!" Wonder how she will continue on with the training?

There are plenty of grapes on the grapevines this year
It may have escaped your notice, well some of you anyway, but a certain rather large cycle race set off from Yorkshire this last week. Ian loves to watch the Tour de France and nothing gets in the way of the final day or the stage where they tackle the alp d'huez, unless it is a done deal anyway and this year he made a point of watching the stage going into Sheffield. He would like to watch more but it is a bit complicated at times to manage it. I glimpsed at the race a few times and it was lovely to see all the well-remembered scenery, after all we lived in Sheffield for five years and about 10 miles south of it for 15 years and so we know the area well. There was one point where the cycle route crossed his old route to work and in his mind's eye he was heading once more into the Northern General hospital along that familiar route. He was rather surprised at the end to see a face he knew, one of the guys who he used to chat to about the Tour when it was on, is now the nutritionist for the Sky Team.
All out and ready to start cutting hay tomorrow. We both
had the brain wave that if we cut only half the ski hill, we
might be able to get it done before the forecasted rain on


  1. Glad to hear that you are now proud Latvian landowners!
    BTW the forecast here is for a full week of sunshine!
    May you make lots of hay bales while the sun shines this week.

    1. Thanks Pene. Wish our forecast was the same, it keeps changing and now it is forecasting rain on a critical day. Arrrgghh!

  2. I know I've said this before but your posts exhaust me....I need a lie down. You never seem to rest. Put your feet up girl! Glastonbury was amazing by the way, even with the thunder, lightening and mud...I'm a Northerner...I embraced it :)

  3. All I can say, is it is a good job I don't have a normal job.

    I think our mud would have scuppered even a hardened Northerner like yourself. Good job the weather has changed now though :)

  4. Good luck and best wishes with your haymaking. We got our hay in this year without much trouble but last year the rain was incessant and half of what I cut ended up spoiling in the field (and I worried that our barn was going to burn down).

    1. Thanks Bill. Glad your haymaking season went better this year. If someone had told me how stressful haymaking was, I am not sure I would have believed them. I would have understood the physical nature of the work, but not the stress.


I love to hear your comments and will always reply, so go ahead, ask a question or just say hi