Monday, 1 September 2014

Once upon a time....

This isn't the rather large chicken that went missing, but
her mother - or at least we think it is her mother. She
is the right size and looks kind of similar. a land far away, lived a rather large white chicken. She was one of the morning shift chickens, because her owner let her out in the morning to run around and clean the alpaca house where she lived with the lady alpacas. The afternoon chickens were let out in the afternoon, but that's another story. In the early afternoon the owner went to put the morning shift chickens away and only four were found, the large white chicken was missing. The owner knew that a fox could have been passing or a hawk overhead and the chicken would be promoted up the food chain (eaten in other words), but was puzzled, because the other chickens didn't seem very upset, neither were there any tell-tale feathers blowing in the breeze. The next day, the owner let the morning chickens out again and sure enough there was still one missing chicken, so she hadn't been hiding in the chicken house at putting away time. He decided the alpaca ladies needed their water buckets re-filling since they had upended them yet again, so up he trundles with a big bucket of water. To his surprise, sitting under one of the buckets was a slightly soggy large white chicken, sitting on an egg. She hadn't been promoted after all and even better she was still laying, since many of her companions have stopped because they think it is autumn. So a happy little tale to start off this week's blog.

A rather ethereal look to our oak tree in the autumnal light
I will now explain why we have morning and afternoon chickens. I mentioned two weeks ago that we had fun and games with the chickens. We moved one group up to the ladies alpaca house, so that they could do a little housekeeping and try and reduce the number of flies there. The swallows were working hard, but there was still a problem. There were less flies in the boys alpaca house and so we reasoned that the chickens were doing an effective job of removing the grubs and decided that we needed a cleaning crew up in the girls place. We left the group up in their ark overnight, but when we let them out they mixed with the other group and the cockerel lost control of his well ordered hens, not good. We managed to get the right hens in the right house, but it was not something we wanted to repeat. We put the new ark inside the ladies alpaca house since it is small enough and only let the chickens out into the alpaca house and not outside. All was well and Major Fowler, as we call the cockerel, regained control of his ladies. One particularly rainy day, Ian let the chickens out in the alpaca house, but also kept the alpaca girls inside, so they didn't get saturated. This gave the chickens and alpacas a chance to get properly acquainted. It seemed to stop little Agnese from chasing them around quite so much anyway. After that Ian started letting them out in the morning. We find that free range chickens can be so free range that they don't lay eggs at all, or lay them somewhere else, but by letting them free range for half a day, they get to eat a lot of food they find for themselves and we still at least get some eggs - well when it isn't too hot, too cold or heading into autumn. Finally on the note of chickens, we finally got around to culling the two cockerels that were sat in our horse box for months. I laughed when the little one was de-feathered, there was nothing on him, but at least he did make some stock for a tasty chicken stew. I hasten to add, I didn't laugh at dispatch time, it is still sad. We also culled one of the females as she was sick. When we investigate it looked liked a systemic infection and she had a set egg inside - she would have died soon anyway we think. We won't be having her for a meal.

Herkules at his worse.
On the alpaca front, dear old Herkules seems to be recovering a bit of his old self. He certainly looks more perky these days and he is having some time off from oil treatment on his skin to see how he gets on. The stress of treatment won't help in some ways. He is also putting weight on, which is always a good thing before winter. Agnese is being treated for a foot infection, probably fungal. The foot that looked the worse when we started is looking better, but the other foot seemed to have got worse. I don't think the wet days have helped at all. All these skin problems though seems to make sense now, since we realised that we had got the alpaca ladies mixed up. Herkules and  Snowdrop are related, brother and sister, that we knew. We thought Agnese's mum was called Veronica, but now we realise she isn't then the fact that she has had a skin problem that looks similar to the type that Herkules has now, probably suggests a genetic cause. Presumably age, stress etc. can all trigger an event. Veronica's stress points were moving and pregnancy - as her's seems to have calmed right down. Agnese due to being young, weaning and goodness knows what else and Herk as he is getting on a bit too, plus an eye infection. Well I'm glad that's sorted - well kind of.

Some of our mushroom harvest
The harvest has slowed a little due to the recent cooler wet weather, but we are still collecting plenty of tomatoes along with more and more mushrooms. People often marinate mushrooms here, but we like to dry them for a very intense mushroom taste. I did take the precaution of asking a friend to drop by, since she was taking her daughter to a neighbour, who is a talented musician for music lessons, for a look through my mushroom collection to make sure they were all edible. They were and we haven't ended up in hospital either, so her advice must be good. We have also started to collect apples from our tree at the apartment, the first time it has produced more than about a dozen apples in a few years. They are quite a reasonable size too. Soon it will be time to collect plums, I tested them today and they need just a little longer and then they will be ready. Now begins the anxious weather watching to see when the first frosts will arrive. Our squashes will all need taking in before that event or covering. We are hoping that the frosts will hold off and the days be just a tad warmer and then everything will ripen in time.

Another of Ian's Franken creations, this time a drier for herbs
beans or whatever else needs a sheltered airy spot to dry.
This week we had a short visit from the young lass who interviewed us a few weeks ago, with a request for a lift to university. She was due to start today for the first time and she had no one to transport her with all the various things she needed to take.  We were delighted and so we took a trip into Riga yesterday with her and her brother. Her brother came home with us though. Poor lad, we dragged him around Depot while we tried to remember all the things we needed from a large DIY place since it was on our way. Poor Mum too as she was feeling a little emotional as she waved goodbye to her firstborn. She will miss her daughter's help around the farm I'm sure.

A butterfly on an echinacea plant
On a more serious note, the calls for troops to stand against Putin have been getting ever more strident and to tell you the truth it unnerves me. There has to be another answer. The war on terrorism only spawned more war, it was not an answer to the terrorists, but played into their hands. It opened up a whole can of worms that even now plays out in truly terrifying ways. For us now nestled in the Baltics the problems in Ukraine is unsettling and even more so for our neighbours who have lived here during the Soviet era; a period still firmly entrenched in people's minds, since it is well within living memory. The call for more tanks and more troops to protect the land we now live in, does not make me feel any easier or safer. For some it is a relief to see evidence of commitment to stand with this nation, to me it is just more sabre rattling that will come to no good.

Not exactly inundated with cucumbers
but that's fine with us. Those red grapes
though have been so tasty and the
wasps thought so too.
I tried to look up the reason for World War 2 and why Neville Chamberlain's comment "there will be peace in our time" was shot to pieces within the year. I thought surely there has to be some lesson from history. I can see that appeasement never wins! Turning our backs on bullying neighbours, never wins! But what can be achieved peacefully? I think I had my answer in the citizens of Mariupol in Ukraine (I still feel like putting "the Ukraine", but after reading an article that said that isn't correct I am refraining). They have formed a human chain to stop the advancing soldiers of the rebel opposition armed only with determination and a few trenches. That is reminiscent of the Baltic Way, just a few short years ago in 1989, when they stood in opposition to the Soviet might, holding hands in solidarity. Dear Lord, hear their cries!

Beetroot and round carrots
Seeing the pictures from Ukraine sends shivers down my spine, as I see apartment blocks similar to ones we can see here in Latvia and indeed like the one we live in, blown to smithereens. People who look like folks I see when travelling around Latvia, particularly in Riga.  It is scary in some ways, but I am an optimist. I believe that God is interested in bringing Heaven to Earth, not that we escape and leave the Earth to its hellish devices and so I will continue to work on that principle. Continue to look for ways that enable people to work together, to overcome mistrust and bad experiences. I will not be intimidated by seemingly huge obstacles and fanatical warmongers and diabolical dictators, I will trust!


  1. what a lovely thing for you to do, to take the girl to University. I remember when my daughter went to University....I was lost, floundering...I laughed at the chicken under the bucket!! Ha....

    1. It was a pleasure since the young lass has been so helpful to us over the year. We will miss her too.

      I thought the chicken under the bucket was rather amusing too. We have certainly been chuckling over that one

  2. I'm an optimist too. These days it can be hard to hold on to that optimism sometimes. But like you, I will continue to work on that principle. May peace prevail sooner, rather than later.

    We've been enjoying some profitable mushroom foraging here too. Nature's bounty is wonderful.

    1. It is hard to remain optimistic indeed Bill. But to let go of that optimism to me is even worse, it is what makes life worth living.

      I saw the mushroom collection on your blog. It did remind me we have some chicken of the woods too. Must go and take a look and see if any is worth eating.

  3. the internet makes everything seem so close no matter where it is in the world , sometimes for our own sanity its better to focus on whats happening under our feet

    1. That is very true Kate. The only problem is that the thought of what is happening in Ukraine is a little too close to home here in Latvia. Latvia has a border with Russia and has just under 26% of Russian speakers thanks to the Russification policies during the Soviet era. This makes Latvia vulnerable to perceived injustices from the Russian propaganda machine that is very much in evidence. The memories of that era are very raw here and you don't have to scratch the surface too much to find all sorts of resentments and worries that surface in situations like this.

      And under our feet where we own our land is the evidence of the Second World War with regular finds of munitions. For my sanity I think I should watch the grass grow :)


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