Monday, 11 August 2014

Whose my mummy?

So here is Agnese in front, we know this is Agnese because
we named her, but who is it behind? Is it Veronica or
Snowdrop? We call her Snowdrop and she is not the mum
of Agnese. The lady facing into the wall is Agnese's mum
but is she really called Snowdrop or is it Veronica as we
have been calling her? Hmmm!
We had a bit of a shock this week, we might have got the lady alpacas mixed up. We bought three alpaca ladies and were given another alpaca for free, because she was old, back in October of last year. The old lady we had put down in May of this year, because she never really recovered from unexpectedly giving birth in January. Unfortunately baby died five days after being born. We then knew that two of the ladies were pregnant and they gave birth in May, one baby survived and the other did not. We decided to microchip the baby Agnese and so the vet came round to have a look at our animals, particularly one of the boys who is struggling with a skin problem and the mum of the baby to check her udder, as it is a bit swollen. Before microchipping the baby, she checked where the chips were put in the ladies. She couldn't find Estelle's chip, but she found Veronica's and Snowdrop's, only there was a problem. The names we had been calling the ladies, didn't match with the chip numbers, they were the other way around.  Now Ian is trying desperately to remember why he thought they were named the way they were. The old lady was easy to identify, as she was black in colour. Estelle was easy too, she was the youngest by far and not pregnant. Now this wouldn't matter too much, but we have got a young alpaca that needs to have a correct breeding line identified. We know who the father is for definite, but is her mother really called Veronica or is it Snowdrop? Not sure how we sort that one out yet.
This tomato was big enough to feed five of us on our
ham sandwiches
The dishwasher, aka  Joanna! (I only found out this week
that aka is actually an acronym for also known as. I just
thought it was a word. You live and learn!)
Another surprise, although not quite such a shock, was some American friends coming to our village. We knew they would probably be coming, but weren't entirely sure when and so were surprised to have contact asking if they could stay that night and then for the following week. We were able to accommodate them on the first night, but the next night we already had a request for a young family to stay who had a one year old and they didn't want to stay in a tent for a conference that was happening in the camp nearby to our land. As we had been really busy, a group of three folks came and cleaned up some of the rooms in the apartment, such as kitchen, bedroom and bathroom, so it was at least liveable in, prior to our friend's request to stay. Which worked out rather nicely I think. So our friends stayed one night and just slung a sheet over the bed to keep it clean and then we directed the young family to the apartment for the next night. We kind of got talking and it was midnight before we got to our own bed that night, but the young couple were so intrigued about what we were doing and seeing the alpacas, they organised to come and see us the following morning out on the land.
A humongous caterpillar. I think it might be an elephant
hawk moth. Certainly big enough
We have found that the addition of the new extension to
the alpaca house has resulted in rain running off the roof
and into the alpaca house, causing the bedding to become
saturated. Ian has now dug a trench around to try and take
the water away and it is getting its first test tonight.
The next morning our American friends came to help us shift bales of hay - the last load of good or at least reasonable hay, up to our neighbours barn for storage and just as we were finishing the young couple came for their tour of our land. Their little fella loved all the animals, but was completely fascinated with the chickens. It was quite amusing to see how captivated with the chickens he was, he was obviously not aware that chickens can be seen in many places, but he won't often get to see alpacas in Latvia - well not at the minute anyway.
We found the cranberries this week. Not ripe yet, but still
safe inside our giant lobster pot. Surprisingly enough no lobsters yet! 

The barley was chopped up in a garden shredder and it
seemed to do a good job of separating the seed from the
stalks. The shredded stalks will be bedding for the
chickens and some of the seed will be sifted to get pure seed,
the rest will be give with chaff for the chickens to sort
through in winter. At least the principle worked and next
year we could manage a bigger plot of barley.
Our American friends split their time between us and our friends who live on a goat farm. They helped us with some of the jobs, like gathering in the barley, some of the buckwheat and some of the beginnings of the tomato glut, but some work we couldn't do because of the weather or just too tired. For Ian, especially, it was a good time to sit down and talk about what has been happening, which was a bit like having a holiday for him. It has been a bit of a tough year and so we both feel a bit drained at times and just processing what has been happening was good for us. They also took us out for a meal, something we haven't done in a long time. We have had pizza in the big town, but that was out of necessity and not just because it was a nice thing to do (the pizzas are amazing and made by an Italian and so necessity works too), so having a meal, just for the sake of it was a refreshing change.
Barley seed
Yes that is me, up in the tractor bucket
collecting rowan berries to make rowan
berry jam. It is very tart and goes nicely
with pork, but we like it on toast too.
It is supposed to be good for sore throats,
as are most berries.
The weather this week has either been really hot or stormy. It has been 35C (95F) some days and I have been finding that it is not ideal having hot flushes in this kind of heat. Hot flushes in winter at -25C (-13F) fine, even helpful, but not at 35C. It's a good job they are not real humdingers of hot flushes, just mildly uncomfortable. One storm in particular was a sight to behold though. We are used to torrential rain and I have told you about the gulley washing storms. It is kind of normal from our experience of summers in Latvia, but one night the rain was so hard that it looked like a power shower on steroids. The gutters for the apartment couldn't handle the rain, we are not sure if they are partially blocked or just weren't up to that volume of rain, but they overflowed and ran down the wall of our home. The water then found a gap just under the window and started raining in. Ian fortunately spotted it and constructed a way of catching the water in a bowl, by jamming a tea-towel into the hole with a brush that was jammed against a piece of furniture and then the towel dripped into the bowl. It worked anyway. Ian was worried though about the animals and the barn out on the land and so late in the evening he set back off to the land to see what was happening, only to find out the storm was very localised and there wasn't a problem out on the land, so he arrived back at midnight.
See it really is me!

Our shot of the perigee moon
I forgot to mention the other week that I helped my friend who has the goat farm translate her website. She told me approximately what was said and I had to write something that made sense in English along the same lines. It was really hard. My friend speaks perfectly adequate English and we understand her pretty well, but it is still with a very Latvian way of speaking and trying to put that into a more normal English sentence structure, rather challenged my brain and made me realise how long it is since we left the UK. Sometimes I can't find the right words at all and sometimes my own sentence structure lets me down. So anyway, here is the website and if you spot any mistakes or want to make any suggestions to improve the English then you are more than welcome to send me an email.

The swallows are growing up fast. It probably won't be
long before they are flying and then migrating.
Seems hard to believe when they are so tiny.
Other little snippets of news this week includes the ongoing saga of the oat crop. Well it is no more. Ian and I went to see if we could salvage anything and there wasn't even any seed left on the battered stalks, in fact the whole of the field was flattened by the time the wild boar had finished. I guess that is why I am not too upset that African Swine Fever seems to be creeping nearer and nearer to our land. I realise I shouldn't, but the numbers had been allowed to get unnaturally high, by feeding the little darlings through the winter and this is only to be expected. Hopefully nature will right the balance and we we can all live happily ever after again with just some damage every now and again. We are not sure if the wild boar ate the seed or it is just trampled into the ground. We know that at least some of it will have been and so we are going to leave it as it is and wait for the seed to germinate and cover the area, then we can put the sheep on it to manure the patch and hopefully trample the stalks into the ground. At least that way there will be some use from it.
Not to be left out, Estelle and yes, this really is Estelle.
Her ear tag matches the notes 

Ark 4 with the little chicks. This ark may make its way up
to the girls paddock. Ian has noticed that there are a lot
less flies in the boys alpaca house than the girls and he
thinks it may indeed be due to the presence of the chickens.
We often joke that the cleaning team are going in, as the
first thing the chickens do when let out is go straight into
the alpaca house to have a scratch around. The chickens
have been a bit of a nuisance, but if they make our alpacas
lives a bit easier by reducing the flies, then they have their
Ian played bird saviour again this week, this time from the jaws of our cat. After a spell in a shoe box to recover, he let it loose in the woods where it flew off into a tree, hopefully a much wiser little bird. We keep telling Sofie, our cat, "furry things, good, feathered things, bad," but she isn't getting it. She still is getting furry things and demonstrated it today by bringing me a live mouse for me to catch. I wasn't playing and so I don't think she was impressed with my hunting skills either. One day this last week, we could see Sofie was on the alert and watching something. She set off slowly as if on the hunt. I got up to check on what it was that she was hunting, only to find it was one of our new chicks. They are proving to be great escape artists, which is not helpful with cats, ospreys and storks around. I know the ospreys are going to be off soon, as we have seen them gathering and many of the storks have already left, there are just a few who will also leave soon if they are not too sick to do so, but the cat will still be there and so those little fellas had better watch out.
One of the many ospreys we have seen this week. Looking
for a chicken dinner? Good job the new cockerel, seems
to be doing his job.
Close up of ark 4. Definitely a franken ark, made up of lots
of scraps, mainly from the girls alpaca house.
One of my supervisors was at his holiday home in Latvia and so we took a trip up to see them. We had a great time chatting and a lovely lunch with Yorkshire puds - a rare treat for us northerners far from our native land (said in a heavy northern accent, just in case you are having a grammar fit). A colleague of my supervisor works for a Latvian university, but also has a holiday home in the area and so my supervisor tried to connect us up. He rang and rang and in true British style we started to make jokes about this colleague that I had never seen. I had heard him talked about many a time, by both supervisors, I had even had an email from him, but did he really exist? Eventually a little later than planned, someone did indeed turn up, still we didn't see the ID, so the question remains, does the mysterious colleague really exist? Joking apart, at least he is going to try and encourage some of his new students to do a project with me, so I can get the kind of data I require for my own studies. I shall find out whether he was successful by mid-September. 


  1. I haven't visited for a while but I see you are as busy as the mother question, would DNA testing be possible or is that too expensive?

    1. DNA testing wouldn't really work, it still wouldn't tell us which mum was which. We know which alpaca was the mother of the baby, just not certain which alpaca it was of the ones sold to us. We can probably get back to the breeder and find out, just takes a while sometimes


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