Monday, 18 August 2014

Bad but not that bad

The view from Ian's home. Well he does spend more time in
the caravan than he does in the apartment
The weather this week has been much cooler, not quite cardigan weather yet, but certainly a shirt over the t-shirt weather or a blanket on top of the sheet weather. We had been forecast some heavy deluges again and since Ian's modifications to the barn and alpaca house have not had a thorough testing yet, he decided to stay out in the caravan so he could be prepared. I was stopping at home to write my blog and then be at home to collect the milk in the morning. Also we were a little wary in case it rained in under the window at home too. In the end it was a heavy drenching drizzle, but not the great deluge.
We processed some more buckwheat this week. Here
you can see the chopped and sorted seed on the floor
of the greenhouse to dry. We also bagged up the wet
grass, leaves and stalks to see if we can make silage
from it. Nothing wasted - we hope!
I love the colours in this photo. In the
front are Adam Tomatoes. No not
Adam's tomatoes, that is the name of them
We are now officially in an emergency zone, but don't panic, it is nothing to do with the Russians or anything that bad. It does have everything to do with the wild boar though and we have been hearing shooting over the last couple of days. So since we don't have pigs on our farm then the threat of the African Swine Fever, for us is nothing to worry about. I am not sure if one of our neighbours has pigs this year and that would be sad for her, as the pork she gets from those animals is amazing. Then again what else would you expect from someone who feeds her pigs on milk fresh from the cow. The African Swine Fever has been spreading westwards from the Belarus border for a few weeks now and so it was not entirely unexpected to see a state of emergency being declared as the high pig population begins to succumb to disease. In some ways it was only a matter of time.
Some of the tomatoes are rather large. Must be the alpaca
manure we used this year
We also have a forest of peppers
We went to the tax office this week to declare Ian's income, well the transfer of the land into Ian's name, which is effectively an income. We were expecting a hefty sum to pay and I transferred some money in anticipation, as it had to be in by August 15th we were told, when we wrote the contracts out for the donation of land into his name. When we got to the tax office, however, we were told that he doesn't need to do anything about it until June 15th 2015, by which time all money needs to be paid and details declared. It was also only half the amount to pay that we were expecting. Bad, but not that bad! What was good news too is that I got a tax rebate that was just over half the remaining amount. Funny how paying out a few hundred Euros can seem not too bad, when you are expecting whacking great bills.
And the squash glut has begun. To be more precise these are
Spaghetti squash, also enormous and self-seeded next to
the alpaca manure heap - do you sense a theme here?
This plant or plants grew from some squash that ended up
on the compost pile
We had a response to the interview that our young neighbour wrote for the local paper about our alpacas this week. A lady from the opposite end of the region asked to come and see us, as she has spun with dog fur, but never alpaca and she would like to give it a try. We let her take away 9 x 50g bags of fleece to try. We have to decide how much we would charge if we were selling it but she has told us that she would charge €10 for a 100g ball. It sounds quite a bit but a commercially produced 50g ball costs over €3 and that wouldn't be wool from our own Tellus. Neither would it be giving meaningful employment to a local person, which is what we aimed to do. It might take her a little while, as she also works during the day and this is very much an experiment. Can't wait to see the result.
One of the many squashes growing in the compost pile.
We are surprised to see so many squashes, since they seem
to have got off to a really late start. Better late than never
I suppose.
Well since there is already a photo of some alpacas, here
is a photo of Bella, our cat, in her favourite sleeping place,
a tray of string on some shelves in the greenhouse.
Talking of alpacas, I forgot to mention the other day that Ian tried to cut Estelle's teeth again, this time with two strong and willing helpers. Unfortunately she still wasn't cooperating very well and Ian ended up with a thick lip and a bit of a bash on the head. Nothing too major and no broken bones for either party. He did manage to take off a bit of her teeth, but not enough and Estelle is still friends with Ian. We have also started putting oil on Herkules' skin again. It wasn't getting any worse and he just seemed so fed up with us messing around with him and the hot weather that it wasn't worth making him feel any more miserable than her already did, so we stopped it. The skin though still looked a little crusty and the reason for resuming his treatment. He also managed to pick up another eye infection and so we were treating him for that anyway. Bless him! He really seems to be picking up anything going at the minute. At least now it is cool he is out eating for most of the day and that can only do him some good. Agnese also has been having a problem with her feet. We are getting to the stage where we are almost paranoid about mites, but I think this might be a fungal infection, a bit like athlete's foot. Cor! If it isn't one thing, it's another.

Our little punk haired chick. These are onto their third home
We have had fun and games with the chickens today. I decided that the arks all needed moving, as they are on a regular basis to give the hens fresh grass to eat and manure another part of the field. The problem is that the big chicks were scalping the area way too fast. We don't mind them scalping the area, as that was working for us in the part of the new vegetable plot that hadn't been planted up, but not good if they needed moving too often. Ian can't move them on his own easily. So we decided on a big move around of hens from one ark to another. The little chicks have been little terrors for escaping from their enclosure until Ian made them a new gate that they couldn't get out from, but they have now been moved into the ark that the big chicks were in. The big chicks have moved into Ark 2, as that has a bigger box and just a little more floor space and Ark 4 which the little chicks were in, was moved up the ladies alpaca enclosure so they could start on becoming cleaners in there, in other words start to reduce the fly population. We had problems with that plan though, Agnese chases the chickens and they escaped through the fence. We were hoping that at least the bigger white ones, wouldn't be able to - well they can when they are being chased by a baby alpaca - it's a bit of a squeeze, but doable.

Couldn't miss Sofie could we! She is being super affectionate
at the moment.
So those are the highlights from our farm this week and sometimes it all still seems surreal, writing about our life on our farm. Someone wrote on their facebook wall, "If you were given a $1 million would you move to a country where you don't speak the language," hah! Well we have done that for less. There are times when the reality of what we are doing hits me, that money can run out and the dream we have been living taken away for some reason beyond our control and sometimes well within our control if we make stupid decisions. It can be kind of crushing and disabling, but I cannot live like that for long, others have risen from depths far worse than this and become overcomers in their lifetime, others have suffered much and so what right have I to sit and bemoan what might happen and hasn't yet? So it may have been a bit of a tough year so far, but there will be other years, both good and bad. So here's to the future and I will keep plugging on.

More grapes, this time very sweet red ones. The wasps seem
to prefer these too, not so keen on that idea.
One of those issues where others suffer far worse is in the current Ebola epidemic in Africa. To me it does seem reminiscent of a cholera epidemic in Victorian times, where the masses can succumb to it and the wealthy don't care, and seeing as many of us in the West are relatively very wealthy, that means us. The upper classes did not put their hands in their pockets to confront diseases like cholera, until it came to their very door, then they realised it was serious, deadly serious. After the rude awakening of their senses they then started to develop public health and sanitary services to deal with such problems. Ebola may prove to be such a disease, with money pouring in, once it is realised that to stop it coming into our own homes we have to support meaningful development of health care in other nations, because it can affect us too.

Nude tomatoes. The lower temperatures usually means that
blight will set in and rather than wait for that to happen
I took off all the leaves and we will stop watering them.
They can just then carry on ripening on the vine and with
plenty of airflow, that should stop the dreaded disease.
Last but not least, I want to advertise a website set up by a follower of this blog. Gunta contacted me a while ago after noticing a comment of mine on another blog. Gunta was born near where we live here in Latvia but moved away when she was one years old when her family fled before the advance of the Russian army in the Second World War. She loved seeing photos of her homeland and hearing a bit about the place and so we have been in email contact and even Skyped a few times - a bit difficult due to time differences though. Gunta takes some amazing photos and now she has a website set up to sell them, so take a look at "Gunta Style"


  1. Our tomatoes have the blight too. I never considered just going ahead and denuding them. Seems a good idea to me.

    1. I can't remember where I read that advice, but it seemed like a good idea to me too. We always finish the tomato season with blight and so I would have had to have cut the leaves off at some stage. At least this way the airflow is high and reduces the problem - so the theory goes


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