Monday, 30 March 2015

Reboot Spring please!

The scene this afternoon
Will whoever turned off Spring and re-inserted Winter please stop it! I mean, we have had some lovely Spring like weather and now we are all white again! Heh ho! The joys of living in a northerly latitude. At least I don't feel too bad being stuck inside doing my writing, and yes I finally did get started on the actual writing phase. It was a good job that nobody visited me today, I had bits of paper all over the floor trying to organise my thoughts. It was only after I had printed out all the quotes to help guide my thoughts that I thought of a way that would be less paper intensive. I am sure I will get to test out my theory soon. I have plenty more writing projects to do yet.
Pieces of paper all over the floor

The beach at Tūja
It hasn't all been reading and writing though, I actually got to do some more interviews this last week. I headed off at the crack of dawn to rendezvous with my Masters student and we headed up the coast to a little village called Tūja. It is very popular in summer but rather deserted this time of the year and rather miserable in the rain, but we still managed to find some wonderful folks who agreed to be interviewed and tell us about themselves and the place where they live, even if we did nearly freeze to death in the process. The cup of coffee and biezpiena cake offered by one lady was most welcome. The place certainly has a few different issues to the ones I have come across elsewhere, but that is more due to its location on the coast compared to more inland rural places that I have studied before. At least that proves one of my points that each village will have its own particular issues and so there are no one-size-fits-all solutions beloved by the developers and policy makers.
A beach famous for its large rocks. 

A happy big brother with his lovely little
It wasn't the only excitement this week, we became grandparents for the fourth time to a lovely little girl. She has been given the middle name of Lolly after her recently departed Great-grandmother, which I think is rather lovely and one that she would have appreciated. Our granddaughter's big brother is paying her lots of loving attention and reminds me of when we brought home our second child, his big sister enjoyed her role immensely and loved having a cuddle. We were alerted to our granddaughter's imminent arrival by text at 11:22pm and were awoken by repeated texts at around 5am to say she had arrived- oh the wonders of modern technology. It would have been even better if I had a smart phone, as my son tried to send a photo, but that phone packed up in the summer and I am back to a phone that Ian had in the States; so rather ancient by today's standards and certainly not capable of receiving picture texts.

Love the atmosphere in this shot. Ian can certainly take a
good photo
I am trying to be good and rest my brain properly for a couple of days a week. One of the days off  is on a sunny day of the week and so it varies. This week we took off to the nearest big town, as the car needed to go for its technical. We were hoping that it would fail so that we could bump the test to the following month. It is difficult if anything goes wrong for Ian to work on the car in the cold weather. Instead the car passed, but even better, for some reason we don't quite understand we got an extra few weeks anyway and it won't be due for the next test until April 22nd 2016 (yes we did double check that it wasn't for 2015). It was quite a productive day, as we managed to find a replacement printer at a reasonable price, bought food for the alpacas, got Ian's passport photo done and found some more Sodium Hydroxide for soap making, all that and even managed to stop for some pizza at our favourite Italian pizzeria - the real thing, made by an Italian.

Ian drawing pretty pictures with his plough. We are trying
out another experiment to reduce the water flow down the
hill, which causes flooding in the bottom half and washes
away nutrients and ungerminated seeds if planted at the
wrong time. Ian has roughly followed the contours of the
slopes with plough lines to give the water somewhere to
run into and then seep into the soil. 
The other day off is usually a Sunday when we head up to the other apartment for bath night and to watch a DVD. It also keeps the place heated, so pipes don't freeze. Before I went I made two scarves using a darker base material to felt onto (nuno felting if you want to look it up). It seems to work, sorry no photos yet. I also attempted to decant some liquid soap that I had made into a bottle. I wanted a soap base that I could use for hand soap and ended up with something the consistency of thick snot. I only intended to make about three litres, but by the time I have added enough water to it to make it liquid enough to pour, it is more like 6 litres. Those manufacturers sure know what they are doing when they sell hand soap for such a huge sum of money compared to a bar of soap, when so much of it is water. Only approximately 1 litre is oil with about 125g of Sodium hydroxide to turn it into soap. It should keep us in hand soap for a while anyway. I just need to play around with scent combinations now.
Frog spawn

There has been a short film by a 12 year old American girl of Latvian descent doing the rounds just lately on facebook. I watched the film, which is about the Baltic Way and wept. There are evocative scenes of so many people standing hand in hand against Soviet oppression, with nothing but a sense of determination on their faces and dreams in their hearts. I didn't weep for the image I saw of those people, I wept for the broken dreams. I wept because some on the video who spoke about that time with such emotion, used their freedom to leave. I don't blame them, I really don't, it is just that freedom has been so hard. I see those who stayed here who work and work and work to do the best they can to keep this country alive, buried under a layer of exhaustion. I see those who found the adjustment hard and are slowly drinking themselves to death. I see those who are trying to work out their painful past and not quite figuring out how they fit in today. I see those who had dreams in their hearts which turned to sawdust in the reality of a cold market place and wondering what they have to do to earn a living? I see neighbours not trusting each other and seeing a building fall apart because no one wants to take on the responsibility of doing something when all they get is aggravation for their troubles.

A sign of Spring, can you see it? Okay I know, I
have to learn to zoom in with my iPad, but I was
in a rush and it was cold when we opened the
window to take this shot. The stork arrived back
this morning, just in time for the snow. 
But I also see a beautiful country with signs of spring after a long winter, even despite today's snow. I see a people who long to see a better world and trying to figure out how that happens. I see the potential for those dreams to reawaken and grow like a pruned bush in warmth of the early spring sun. I have hope in a group of people that can appreciate a herb tea, picked by their own hands at the height of summer because they know which herbs are good to pick and which are good for health. I have hope in a group of people who know how to raise a garden of vegetables and think it is the most natural thing in the world to do. I have hope in those who struggle on despite the setbacks to reach for that dream of something better that cannot be bought with money. Putin maybe causing us worries from time to time and the American army might be over here to "reassure us" whatever that might mean, but I still have hope for the future.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Don't panic! Don't panic!

Herkules or Herk as he is more often
known, is our oldest male. He is
castrated. He is looking a bit grotty here
due to the oil treatment he is having on
his skin. He is quite a good natured
animal though and stands quite well
and puts up with all the messing around,
not happily but he does do it. He will
quite happily eat grain from your hand
 I tried to organise quite a few meetings this week and failed. One will now be via Skype, so at least that works. One will be conducted during travel time to a seaside village for some more interviews and the other one postponed until April. Some you win and some you lose. I also tried and failed to get a couple of other people organised to send me information that was promised. I do despair at times of trying to get my life organised, when others seem to think that two or three weeks before an event is soon enough to let me know what's happening. It wouldn't be so bad if that was all I had to do, but I have got some dreaded deadlines looming again.

We have had snow showers over the weekend and today.
The return to cold weather was not very welcome, but the
trees did look pretty. It didn't show up so well on the
photos though and so I did a bit of playing around in iPhoto
This last week has been a time of reading, reading and yet more reading in preparation for a paper that needs to be finished by May 1st. So all the interviews need finishing and analysing plus the literature review done before the end of this month.That is for an 8000 word paper and on top of that I have two small papers to finish of around 1500 words and a presentation. I had forgotten about one of the short papers, but fortunately I set a reminder on my computer. Will there be more? Who knows! Depends on when I get answers to those questions I have been trying to find out about. What I do know though is my reading speed has picked up, but I do miss the chance for some deep reflective reading.

So as you can see, rather a dreary sight and not quite like
Thursday when we sat outside drinking coffee sat on
the hillside on our land
I have been trying to be good though and take a couple of day off to do something completely different sometime in the week. I usually aim to do that when Aggie and Herk need some treatment to their skin problems and I also aim to do that on a nice dry day. There is nothing worse than trying to apply ointment to soggy alpacas and is a waste of time anyway. Up until the last few days we have been enjoying some really nice weather, so it was the perfect opportunity to spend some time out on the land. On one of the days, Ian and I both went for a walk with Estelle and Aggie. They were very good but we were a little perturbed to see a dog roaming around that looked a lot like a German Shepherd. Not the ideal dog to have roaming around with livestock about. On another day I went out with Ian to get the milk and we took Aggie with us, so she got to walk up the road. I'm sure it would be good to help keep her toe nails short if she did that more often, but isn't really feasible all the time. I also helped Ian clear some trees that he had cut down and sifted compost to plant up some cabbage seedlings. It felt good to be out in the sunshine and fresh air.

We might not have seen the Northern Lights, but we did
get to see the solar eclipse. Ian took this picture with a
polarising filter and pair of sunglasses over the lens.
The morning was nice and clear and of course it started
to cloud over just as the eclipse was beginning,
but I think it makes for a great atmospheric shot
I noticed on the internet and via a friend's facebook post that there was good chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis. I hadn't realised that there were posts with details of imminent magnetic storms that give rise to the phenomena of the Northern Lights until recently and so it was quite exciting to know when they would arrive within a few minutes. I kept looking out, but couldn't really see anything, but we have street lights now and so of course it is not going to be so obvious. I decided to go out for a walk to see if I could see them, as we don't have far to go before street lights peter out. I still didn't see much, but the sky did look a little weird and lighter than would be expected for a night without the moon. As I was walking Ian drove up in the car and we headed out to the land instead to see if we could see it there. We had quite a romantic night out as we walked hand in hand up the hill - that's because Ian had the torch though. We still didn't get to see the Northern lights, well maybe we did but it was faint and looked like a glow in the horizon where there were no villages. Where we live is not very heavily populated. The sky was amazing there were so many stars that it was hard to pick out the constellations that are so familiar. It makes me wonder how the sailors in olden times managed to navigate by the stars when there are so many, especially since there would have been even less light pollution then, they must have seen even more than we could. I also got to see two shooting stars.

A bit grim really
We are still trying to sort out our heating issues as far as the bills are concerned. I have taken to emailing them and actually getting some pretty fast responses, which is quite remarkable. They are still not answering the questions, but at least it is faster. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that we had changed our electric providers at the beginning of the year. I eventually found out we really did have an account with the company, even though we still don't have any paperwork for it and I dutifully entered the readings for the 1st March. I kept checking, almost daily to find out how much we owe. I even got a  friend of mine to look at it to see if I was missing anything. It wasn't me who was missing something it was definitely the electric provider. Finally on the internet a sum came up to pay and after a bit of hunting around I found out who to pay, so I paid the money for each property separately, only to find about three days later that I could have paid it all in one go and they actually sent me an email invoice. At least I now know how it all works and know they will send me an email. I feel happier knowing that. I am also happier knowing I can enter the reading on the internet.
A wee bit chillier than earlier on in the week

Lance Corporal
Jack Jones from
Dad's Army 
One of the news items this week, surprisingly more in evidence on Russian sites than anywhere else, was the Dragoon ride. It was a procession of American tanks mainly through the Baltic States meant to reassure everyone in Europe that the American army is around and also do some logistics and manoeuvres along the way. What I would like to know though, is it just posturing? It sure doesn't reassure me, it just reminds me of the unstable situation that people feel and perhaps the media is feeding. How unstable it is in reality I have no idea. It also potentially inflames the situation and I wonder if it might also bring back painful memories for people? I don't know! Maybe others feel reassured, I don't. I just have that scene going through my head in Dad's Army of Lance Corporal Jack Jones shouting "Don't Panic! Don't Panic" and then

Monday, 16 March 2015

I don't believe it!

I mentioned in the comments last week that I might
introduce some of the characters we have on our farm,
particularly the alpacas. So here we have Veronica, also
known as Lady V and that kind of gives you a clue to her
character. She is too proud and probably too old now, to run
around with the youngsters. She is our oldest alpaca at 12
years old. She is also the most cautious and makes the
most fuss when I go up to see them, as she knows it usually
means something needs doing and someone isn't going to
like it. She is also the one we most have to watch
for kicking with her hind legs when she doesn't like
something. She gave birth to a cria last year, but it didn't
survive unfortunately, but hopefully is pregnant again this
year. She seems to have a very good and most productive
fleece of all of them. We don't know how fine it is, but it
handles nicely.
I can't believe I managed to let one of the most significant milestones of the year go by without mentioning it here on my blog last week. It is seven years since we moved to Latvia. We did go out for a meal to celebrate but just forgot to mention here. It is important because for the last seven years we have lived on savings and those savings are not going to last another seven years and so we have to transition into a new phase, whatever that phase is. It is still not looking clear yet, but we are ever hopeful, or at least I am. Seven years is a nice biblical number and I am often reminded of the story of Joseph, where Joseph interpreted the dream of Pharaoh about the period of seven good years, followed by the seven poor years that ate up all the produce from the seven good years. The last seven years haven't been poor ones for us, we have enjoyed them immensely and there is not much we would have done differently. They did just about eat all the savings of the previous seven years though. So we will be sowing seeds for the future now, both literally and spiritually and see where the next year will take us.
The little scamp

Trying their best to eat what little grass there is. They are
probably eating more moss than anything else. This is
why they are still not let out of the paddock yet. Not until
the grass is growing strongly.
There were also other significant milestones last week that I forgot about; the swans have been returning, heralds that the migrants are returning. They were followed by the geese, although some of them seemed a little confused as to which direction they were flying in, as Ian saw a flock heading south, but I am glad to say that most of them seem to have got the right idea. On Friday of last week we also saw two cranes flying in, or rather we heard them first and then saw them fly over. They are noisy birds. We are still waiting for the storks yet though. There are still patches of snow around, but they are few and far between and the weeds are starting to race away, getting a head start before the grass in our pasture areas. Still ground elder and nettle soup before long I think.
The moss is greening up lovely

The manure heap has been moved to the next plot where
our garden will be extended to next year. Ian has dragged
the spring-tine through it to start to break up the soil
I had a minor embarrassment, which wouldn't have happened if we had managed to learn Latvian in these last seven years. I misunderstood an email from a company. I thought they wanted the meter reading from last year and thought they had inadvertently put in this year's dates. Apparently they were trying to tell me they only want a yearly reading and they will do that themselves and not be sent monthly readings like many of the companies do here. Part of the confusion came from the dates which roughly corresponded to the dates when I transferred the name of the account over to me and not our friend who we bought the apartment off all those years ago. I know! It was rather a long time to get around to it, but we got there in the end. Part of the problem was using google translate which asked for a conversion reading. Google is far from perfect for the Latvian language, but usually I get by. Anyway it is all sorted now.
This area has been cleared of old logs, rubbish, some hay
bales and the solar dryer. The spring-tine has been put
through this too
Space for coffee time, out on the hill
I think for nearly as long as we have been here, we have had issues with the heating company that supplies heating to our apartment block and if it isn't the heating company it is with some of our neighbours over the heating. The issues have been many and varied, from not turning on heating promptly due to unpaid bills from other householders to incorrect charges, from sending cold water through the pipes and charging astronomical bills to homes being too hot. It would be nice to have our own system that we can decide when it goes on and when it goes off and how hot it runs in between, but it doesn't look like that will be settled any time soon. We are still arguing with the company over how much we owe for heating. The only change is that we now email and I actually get responses back within days. That's a bit of a novelty. These are some of the reasons we would love to sell or rent out our flat, but with heating bills like that, it makes me wonder who would want to.

Geese heading north
A little church, just outside of Rugaji
 This week we took a trip out to Rugaji, somewhere closer to the Russian border. I didn't see Putin at all, while I was there, but we did meet a very nice lady who is trying to help her community by helping them to apply for project money mainly from the EU. She loves the place and loves to help and yet the family still are not able to stay together, as her husband does not live with them. He is off driving trucks in another country to make ends meet. So many families here live separate lives with husbands or wives off in different countries, sometimes even leaving children with grandparents while they try to earn a living. For some it is an opportunity too good to be missed, for some it is a chance to get away from communities or governments they don't like and for some it is purely because they have to. There is so much land and forest here and yet it is more likely that the only jobs available are ones with small salaries, the majority of the money heading out to Swedish or Danish companies, who run forestry companies or agricultural enterprises raising rapeseed crops. It is a pity they haven't brought the more cooperative management style with them here to keep more of the money in the area.

A farmstead opposite the church. Rather different to our
hilly area, but more typical of rural Latvian landscapes
Ghostly looking Tellus and Turbjørn in the fog. Tellus is
looking remarkably white now the snow has gone.
The rest of the week was fairly mundane. I started some cabbage and onion seeds off and they are now racing away. We continue to treat Aggie and Herk's skin problems. Aggie gets a wound cleaner solution on her feet to keep them free from infection and they are healing nicely. Herk looks awful again, but this process always takes a while to get the hard crusty skin to soften up and come off, meanwhile he looks dirty and grubby with raw looking skin in places - although it isn't as raw as it looks because he doesn't flinch in the slightest when applying the oily cream. The good thing is that it does mean that these two are unlikely to be picking up new mite infections as both applications have mite deterrent herbs in them. This time of the year is the worst for mite infections as the numbers start to increase in the warmer days. The rest of the time has been spent on catching up with some odd jobs that I needed to do now the academic paper is out of the way, like actually doing some reading for information's sake and not for a paper and cleaning the apartment. Now I am preparing for the next paper that needs to be written and have a time scale for that to be done and prepare a presentation for next month. I have to get cracking on those before the spring sowing season really ramps up, which is close now that Ian has started preparing the ground for a new extension to the vegetable garden out on the land.
Enjoying the sunshine
Herk sitting and ruminating
Something I was pondering about this week was where do we get some ideas from? Often when listening to UK radio or reading a British newspaper, someone comments that Britain is such a small country. Not sure where we get that idea. It is an island true, but it isn't that small. It ranks 22nd (out of 249) in the world for population and 2nd or 3rd in the EU depending on which figures you look at. So Brits are fairly numerous. It is also about 80th by size in the world and 8th within the EU, so not huge land-wise but not small either. It does mean that Britain packs more people into the land area though (we always said it was way too busy). So why does it still happen that journalists etc. trumpet how small Britain is? Do they not check their facts? It is fairly easy to do after all with a little search through Google. Now if we were talking about somewhere like Denmark for punching above it's weight, so to speak, then you have somewhere that is small population wise i.e. 111th in the world and small size wise i.e. 133rd  (unless you include Greenland that is also part of the Kingdom of Denmark, which I'm not going to). Wonder what other facts we accept as truth that aren't really true?
Hopefully this works, but here is a video of Ian taking Aggie for a walk

Monday, 9 March 2015

It is finished - again!

Ooooh Good! The snow is going! 4th March
The academic paper I have been writing for absolutely ages on and off, has been submitted yet again. Not sure if the reaction will be better this time or not, but I don't think I will hear anything for about six weeks and so I shall just put it out of my mind until I hear back from them. It is nice not to have to think about it and it means I can concentrate on other work that demands my attention. I have now also completed the work for the online educational organisation I work for and so the first year's curriculum, including exam is finally written up and loaded onto the website. I even marked three lots of work sent in by one student who seems to save up his work to post to me at the worst possible time. Normally work should be returned in three days, instead I acknowledged I had it and said I would get onto it as soon as possible. I don't feel too bad about that when someone is not posting work back regularly. I also have interviews either booked or in the process of being booked, so I feel like there has been a lot of progress on many fronts. 
Oh no it's not! 5th March
Oh yes it is! 9th March In fact it has been quite tropical,
relatively speaking that is. 
I am really looking forward to the interviews, as it will be a change of scenery and I get to do them myself, as the ladies I will be interviewing can speak English quite well. These are people who have taken an initiative to bring development to their communities and so I shall be trying to find out what motivates them and how they have found it, their struggles and their highlights. Doing research is a great excuse to be a bit nosy really, but I hope in the process to be able to point to ways that others can follow or at least help to make sure these initiators are given the kind of support they need to do what they do best. Well that's the theory anyway.
Spring has sprung. This is the 5 spice plant in the greenhouse

The comfrey is peeking through
Ian has been doing a lot of thinking and planning just lately. He is trying to think about the best way of moving forward with keeping alpacas, It is no good me telling Ian what to do all the time, I can make suggestions (something I can be rather too good at), but at the end of the day, he is the one that has to do most of the work with the alpacas and on the land. I also have a lot to think about with my research and so it is nice to listen to his plans for a change. One of the decisions he made was to go on a shearing course and that has now all been organised and booked. He will also do an intensive husbandry course at the same time and then stay on to help them do the routine shearing. Staying on to help out means that he gets the shearing course for free and thus saving us some money and gets Ian some extra practice at the same time. He is also going to stay with one of my regular blog readers who came out to see us a few years ago, so that works out rather nicely.
Fresh onion leaves soon
And the Brussels Sprouts survived too, albeit a bit squashed
We lost one of our chickens this week, well not quite lost, she was caught by a falcon, possibly a peregrine falcon, but it dropped the chicken and so Ian managed to recover the carcass. It was a shame as she was a good layer and not that much meat on her. Still she made a tasty pot pie and soup. It might sound a bit harsh, but just burying her would be a waste and it was a clean kill, so not much of a risk to our health either. Of course that meant that today all outdoor chickens had to stay inside. No point in encouraging a falcon to think we will provide endless meals.
The hawthorn is budding too
Agnese coming to take a look as always
Ian has spent most of the week cutting down trees and taking Agnese for a walk. One day I shall have to get a video for you to see. The tree cutting is part of the ongoing thinning process we are doing to help the rest of the trees grow stronger, as well as provide us with fuel for next year. Taking Agnese for a walk is part of her training and Ian's training. Having never trained an alpaca before and only having books to learn from, he is taking it slowly and just seeing how she reacts. He says she even seems to be enjoying the walks, after all alpacas are fairly curious animals. There are alpaca farms where you can take an alpaca out for a walk and I think it would be fairly therapeutic, as they need a calm and steady manner to walk quietly with you. It is also good to know how to train an animal if we ever want to take an alpaca to a show. Halter training an animal means it might make it easier for Ian to deal with an animal if they are sick or need some treatment and I am not around to hold onto them.
Tree cutting. What you cannot see so well in this picture
is the orchard fence to the right. Ian was pleased that he has
managed to miss it, despite the rather close proximity to the
forest edge
Agnese's fleece. This is a bit different to the other fleeces.
It had us looking through on the difference between Suri
alpacas and Huacaya alpacas. Suris have long silky fleeces
and there is a hint of this in Agnese's fleece. Suri genetics
though are dominant and it is unlikely to be Suri from two
Huacaya parents, but I do need more information on that.
Someone asked fairly recently what people think about the situation between Latvia and Russia and to be honest I am not really sure. I haven't really had much opportunity to ask anyone. A quick chat with a friend today suggests it is not a current conversation, but could still be on people's minds. It has been on my mind a bit this week for a few reasons, firstly Ian mentioned an article which talked about pensioners who had had to move away due to fighting in the Ukraine. Some had loved ones on both sides of the buffer zone and one old man had had to move away during the Second World War and even spent time in Dachau and now at the age of 87 years old was torn away from his home again. He then had a dream where he let the animals free and then we packed up the car and horsebox and headed south. Lastly today Putin finally admitted to discussing taking back Crimea even before the little green men headed in.
Estelle's fleece - much fluffier and less stringy looking and
more like a traditional Huacaya fleece
Agnese's Mum is looking in much better shape this year
than last year. I guess she must feel far more settled
I am not sure what game Putin is playing at, but he certainly is playing a dangerous game and we do need to keep a wary eye on what is going on. Does this mean we are planning our escape? No not really. As I ponder what we would take if the whole situation was to blow up, it makes me realise how traumatised people must be as they have to make decisions on what to do with animals and their possessions. Which of our possessions are precious enough to fill a horse box with? What would be considered necessities? Pots, pans? Or furniture that once belonged to my grandparents? Books? What an awful dilemma so many folks in Ukraine have faced and are still facing and it is sad to say they are not the only ones.

Tellus' fleece is thickening up a lot just lately

Our not so favourite animals have been back, the wild boar.
They have not done a huge amount of damage, but it is getting
persistent and our neighbour has told her she has a hectare of
land that is full of very deep holes now. Not sure the African
Swine Fever has had much effect around here then.

Sofie with her very long winter coat exploring more and
more out of the greenhouse. She is also acting rather daft at
 times, charging around all over the place. That cat can
move fast! I suppose she must be sensing Spring around the

Monday, 2 March 2015

Just an ordinary week

An eerie misty morning
I have been home now for over a week now, which is rather nice. It has been one of those weeks though when I have been really busy, but not really got much to write about because I have been mainly writing up transcripts from interviews and finishing off the paper using the recommendations from my American friend and supervisor after the Skype conversation last week. So lots to do but not the most stimulating of topics.

A very Christmasy look
Even though I had got the writing up to do I still had to go out to the land and help Ian. We needed to get the alpaca toe nails cut. Monday of last week was nice, but of course the day I could go out it rained. Instead of letting the alpacas out to get wet and then try cutting their toe nails we kept them in to work on, but they didn't like that. In the morning they just want to get out and about a bit and so they are a little more antsy. We mostly managed but had to give Turbjørn time to calm down before finishing his toe nails off, in fact we ended up putting the halter on him and tying him up to get the job done. He is a bit of wimp really. Aggie also kicked me in the leg, but fortunately she is not that strong and their feet are padded. She is a little monkey at times.

A rather damp looking alpaca
Herk still needs oil on his skin and so he had a double dose of messing around with. It is a good job he isn't like Turbjørn and although he would rather not, he will stand still to have work done on him. I have also made an alcohol rubbing medication for Aggie's feet to clean them up and that appears to be working. I daren't put oil on Aggie's feet, I think it would be a breeding ground for bacteria. It is funny trying to work out what natural remedies might be effective for our animals, it sort of combines my desire to be a vet when I was a kid, my degree in Pharmacology and my love of herbs. It makes me laugh to remember that my Nan asked why I hadn't done anything with my degree during my years as a stay-at-home mum.

She shouldn't be up there. What is it about our sheep and
Ian and I also did a presentation for a group of people who were mainly from a small village close by to where we live. Our topics were alpaca breeders, wild boar researcher and experimenters. For people who like to hear other people's stories, we seem to spend an inordinate amount of time talking about ourselves and what we are doing. The people were interested in the alpacas and we took along the shawl that I had made for Ian's mother and a couple of pieces of felting I have done recently. The lady who had organised the talk had brought along some spinning wheels. I am not sure where she had got them from, but they were a bit old and had loose joints. Some ladies had a go with them and even managed to spin a little of the alpaca wool I had taken.

Our rather damp looking barn, but no floods so far. I hope
that doesn't tempt fate.
It was with some trepidation that I talked about the wild boar research I had done. Most knew nothing about it, but there was one gentleman in the audience who I had interviewed and he was keen to know what my findings were. I explained what my research had shown and he disagreed with one point that I made and that was according to the literature hunters should not shoot wild boar mothers or rather the matriarchal head of the herds. The reason is because it affects the herd dynamics and can result in dispersal of the piglets to cause more widespread damage and they can even breed earlier when not in a stable family unit (sounds familiar). He was right to disagree with me on that point because his land is so damaged that he says there is no meaning to have animals there at all now. He even has deer problems too now and I wonder where they came from (said with heavy sarcasm as in all probability they came from the same place that encouraged the high wild boar population in the first place)? In that particular area so many wild boar need culling for the sake of the farmers and the ecosystem that there needs to be a 2/3rd reduction and so mothers would have to be included in that sort of cull. Before any animal activists get uptight about the subject, consideration needs to be taken of the other animals in the area and the impact that the wild boar is having on them, not to mention all the vegetation they are digging up and giving rare plants a hard time.

Puddle walk
We got to talk with some more friends across the pond in America. Skype is certainly a plus for us.  Our friends are planning on joining us again this year and it is good to be able to talk through about their plans and where they could possibly help us. Although we didn't have many ideas, at least we know how it would fit into their overall plans and that is helpful. We also got chance to Skype with our little granddaughter again during bath time this time.

Disappearing snow. Normally when this happens we are
glad to see the back of it, because it has been down so long.
In some ways we still are, especially Ian, but it is only just
heading into March. I would be happier about these scenes
if it was the end of March. It still feels a little early to be
heading into Spring here.
Our snow has been melting away this week, but there are still some places that are quite deep, as we found out when we went for a walk. Sometimes it was up to my knees and so I sank in the slush. Ian weighs about the same as me (embarrassing to admit that, but let's be honest), the difference is though that he wears much bigger boots than I do and that spreads his weight. So I would be walking along behind him in his footsteps and then suddenly the snow would give way. It wasn't as if this happened all the time either. One minute I would be walking behind him fine and the next I would be floundering around trying to keep my balance. Shall we say it was a good work out. The reason we took the route we did was to examine the wild boar damage at the top of our land. It is not bad and within a few metres of the forest and so we are not too bothered about it. There is more damage on a neighbours land that we can see but it is amongst the trees and so the wild boar must be more cautious this year. Good that suits us fine, wish we could say the same for the guy with the huge wild boar problem to the north of us.

Water flowing out of the overflow from our large pond

Slowly, slowly going - well apart from today when it was
melting much faster

The rather soggy girls paddock. You wouldn't think that
it would be so wet at the top of the hill
Earlier this year the electric market opened up in Latvia and presented us with a conundrum. I thought I would be brave and change our electricity provider to one providing green electric, since there was only one - not that I think growing endless hectares of maize is particularly green but it is greener than gas power and  green power is also generated by hydroelectric dams (a legacy of the Soviet era when they gave no thought for the environmental effects of dams in the drive to generate power). I wanted to send the right kinds of signals to the energy market, for what it's worth. It was brave from the point of view that I could do it in either Latvian or Russian, but not English unlike for our previous provider. Anyway I waited for the contract and heard nothing. I sent an email via the contact page of their website, still nothing until Saturday when I received a text to say their website was down and please send the readings via a different method. I replied via SMS as directed and it said - get lost! Well actually it didn't but said something like, "Not a valid response, contact the operator." I tried that and of course it was busy, or at least I think that was said. Next I had a flash of inspiration, try the website, after all it couldn't be down for that long. Bingo! I have an account and I can see what is happening. Well sort of two out of three were fine, the other not so. Still I managed to fill in the readings and all is well, as long as I actually get an email now with the bill details. It would have been nice to know something about the details on the website beforehand or see a contract.
The freeze thaw at the side of our greenhouse

A mini river from the area around our
horse box. Ian had to cut a channel to
let it drain away

More soggy paddocks but not as bad as the girl's one, despite
it being further down the hill. The slope at least allows it to
drain away