Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Happy campers

The swallows have hatched, there are three altogether, but
there are only pictures of two at any one time
 Sorry the blog is late, as I mentioned, we were stacking and re-stacking bales. Trying to find ways of stacking the rather soft bales we have this year. We don't know if it is just the lack of long stalks in the hay this year or something wrong with the baler or combination of the two. We still have one field left to cut but we need to wait again for a good forecast. The weather's not bad, just not enough dry days in a row and they still keep changing their minds. Baling has been a long winded affair this year and at least round three is now complete. We had to quickly get all the stuff under some sort of cover before the rain - sounds familiar? The heat was dreadful though and with high humidity - it was 35C (95F), 48C (118F) in the sun. At least this baling has meant i have now dropped about 6lbs or close to 3kg. Don't worry I have been drinking plenty, but you should see me shift a 30kg bale of hay these days. Sometimes I just felt too tired to lift them, but towards the end I was throwing them up into the trailer, because I just wanted to get the job done and I think I must have been running on adrenaline. One of the ways I have been keeping my temperature down is to dunk my shirt in the pond and let the evaporation cool me down. At least I know when it was getting critical and made sure I at least wet my head with water if necessary, as well as drinking plenty, rather than over cook. Also slow and steady means I can keep going for a long time.
Looking a little worse for a night out on the razzle I think 
Our official or not quite so official campsite
We had few visitors this week and the village fair to spice up life. Our first visitors camped for a couple of days. When my friend first mentioned camping I said yes and thought "fine, we have plenty of grass", but when it came down to it, we have plenty of grass, but not much is on the flat. In the end we put them next to the greenhouse, as that area has been levelled. Some areas are flat, but haven't been cut, are too exposed, or prone to being inexplicably damp. Must think about that for future reference, as it will be great to have visitors camping out. It was rather hot during the day though and so part of the day was spent chasing the shadow around the caravan to stay cool. We still had work to do with the hay, but it was nice to come back to a bit of company and one night we had a barbecue.
Having tractor driving instructions before turning a bit of
hay for us
Our happy camper Pene picking red
Another visitor was my supervisor/friend. He came to see the village fair with his wife and was greatly amused that I introduced him as my supervisor, but then that is what I call him when I am talking about my studies to my friends and so now people can put a face to the person. It is difficult to know how to introduce someone who I knew before I started studying in Tartu anyway. I was a little hesitant when he rang to arrange to come and see us, as we still had to collect bales of hay. We decided to at least show our faces at the fair, to at least appear sociable, but then planned on being busy in the afternoon and so I felt a little torn between entertaining visitors and getting jobs done. He made the job easier and said he would help. We got some stuff done, but it was so hot, we didn't get all the bales collected. Being from farming stock though was useful, he explained how they stacked round bales and we are giving it a try, well sort of. He suggested arranging them in a circle, but we don't have enough or a big enough tarp for a full circle, but we used an arc of bales to hopefully make the stacks a little more secure than they have been. When we started building it though, it reminded me of a yurt and set my mind thinking. Maybe we could build a temporary hay house? The other job he helped us with was shearing one of the sheep, the other two though did their customary getting over the fence job and escaped. No amount of enticing them got them back in. I am thinking of putting these sheep, or at least the worst culprit in the freezer, after they have produced some well behaved lambs. I can hope! It does help to see how someone does it, as it is the handling we weren't sure about.
I picked this little lot off our kale. The caterpillars started
hatching out this week too. I guess we have got away lightly
so far this year on the pest front.
Another surprise visitor and this one saw us heading for the
internet to find out what it was. It looks lethal. It's about
ten centimetres long, so not a little fella. We think it is
some kind of diving beetle nymph. We have some quite
large diving beetles in the pond and so that would seem to
make sense. Sometimes these things can be top predators in
a pond and I can see why.
We had another visitor today, a rather unexpected one. Ian was out on his own today and heard a commotion amongst the chickens. They were running everywhere for cover, some into the forest, some into the chicken house and he thought he saw one of the chickens sitting by the alpaca house. Ian got out of the caravan and went down to take a look. He heard some noise in the alpaca house and so Ian crept down and stood in the doorway, one chicken was still inside and making a bit of a noise, next thing Ian knew was an osprey flew out of the door and over his head. He instinctively reached up to grab it, fortunately he didn't get it, he was laughing later that he wouldn't have known what to do with it if he had caught it as he was wearing a t-shirt and no thick gloves to handle birds of prey. He thinks it must be a young one as it didn't seem as big as some that fly around. Ian shut the chickens in the chicken house, but one of our chickens has wanderlust and wasn't there unbeknown to him. We moved another chicken down to the chicken house recently, because she seemed to be getting broody and putting the other chickens in her ark off laying and we put another cockerel in there to see if he would be any good at protecting the hens - he isn't, but it does mean that Ian has lost count with how many should have been in there. About half an hour later as Ian was getting ready to put the animals away one of the chickens we call Black tail was by chicken house, and he saw her run into the alpaca house, a few minutes later the alpacas ran out of the alpaca house, next thing Ian sees is the osprey flying out from around the door, he can't be sure if it was inside with the alpacas or not but it does prove those boys are not very good guard alpacas. It does mean the chickens will be shut inside again for a few days. Good job it is a big airy house for 8 chickens.
Agnese is about two months now and still cute
Sorry I don''t know what this one is
called, so if you know, then please
post a comment
Over the last month we've had small but regular damage from the wild boar and of course it is always a worry, as my regular followers will know, when it comes to autumn and the boar move onto the pasture with a vengeance and chew up the pasture where our animals are eating, so we have made contact with the hunter, to let him know the situation. The hunters will be rather twitchy at the moment as the African Swine Fever outbreak is spreading and our area has too many wild boar, which of course increases the risk of the disease. That means they will be rather anxious to deal with the problem and it will help to know where they are. At least that is the theory I'm working on. Must admit as well, the wild boar was another reason for getting our friends to pitch their camp next to the greenhouse as we've never had pig damage there. I do assume that wild boar will avoid any campers, as their sense of smell is good, but I wouldn't like to test the theory on anyone.
I didn't get a photo of eight of them following the tractor
but here are some local storks who were looking for a snack
of frogs, moles and mice disturbed by the hay turner

At last a plant I do know the name of, Scabious. Not a
pretty name for a pretty plant that I spent so many
fruitless years trying to grow in the UK. 
Last week I mentioned that I had blogged on another blog site about farmers needing to have a conversation with scientists and this week a publication by some scientists using statistics is a classic example. It was an article on the BBC called "Beef environment cost 10 times that of other livestock" (what a dreadful headline, it doesn't even make sense). I feel it was a poor piece of research with far too many assumptions made and I wasn't the only one to think that. A re-post on the Farming Futures site that I had posted to the other week highlighted the more nuanced situation of the beef industry in the UK. Not all meat is produced in feeding lots, more is grass fed there. It certainly is around here in Latvia. If there are any industrial style farms they are more likely to be much further south of me. The research suggested that beef fed on supplements in beef holding lots are more environmentally damaging than any other source of protein. Probably correct. There was no accounting for the waste products they produce and what happens to that waste product though. Does that contribute to their pollution or feed into a biogas unit and has that been taken into account. Was the beef grass fed? Is the beef from cows that have been properly rotated through fields that are not suitable for arable? Have the cows been integrated into a system to build up soil quality, because if they have, then the amount of carbon the soil will absorb increases significantly. In other words these scientists need to stop making conclusions based on statistics and get out into the fields and see what actually happens and talk to the farmers from different areas and types of farming. Farming is not just one system, it has many expressions.
The old sheep shelter still stands. It looks rather romantic
amongst the trees there


  1. I do enjoy reading about your life Joanna, it is always so interesting. I've got masses of scabious this year. The bees love it.

    1. Glad you are enjoying the read Gina. Scabious is such a pretty plant, it always makes me smile when I see them in the fields


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