Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Spring Cleaning

The bird cherry is flowering this week
Some people clean their houses in spring, not us! We clean out alpaca houses. Our house might need a spring clean but there isn't time for that. Cleaning out the alpaca houses is one of those jobs we know we have to do and pleased when it’s all over, mucking out is never an easy job and it took us most of the day. We have tried an experiment with the boys’ house this year and instead of just putting wood chippings in the drainage channels which worked well, we put a whole layer of them over the floor. We will see if it helps to keep the bedding drier even in the wet times and if it makes cleaning them out next year easier. If it is we will do the same in the girls’ house. We must admit though that we hadn’t got the energy to do the same in the girls’ house this year, as it meant finding one of the wood chipping piles that we have around and then shovelling it into the trailer. If we decide to do it next year though, we can be prepared beforehand.
A cleaned out alpaca house with some of the wood chippin
layer.

It looks quite creative now with the contrast between the
soil and the green. The barley is growing well and the two
stripes on the left are clover. The beans and sunflower
seeds went in the curved section in the middle
That wasn’t the only major job that was done this week. We also prepared the garden at our other flat and put the potatoes in. It might be a bit weedy this year, as they have gone into a rather weedy old strawberry patch, so I am not looking forward to keeping on top of the weeds, but at least there are only two sites this year for planting, as we have given up one of our gardens. Ian also rotavated the field out on the land again, so I could plant sunflower seeds and beans and in preparation for buckwheat and oats. We have a seeder to put in the larger seeds and although it was rather pricey for what it is, in terms of materials used, it has been worth its weight in gold for saving us both time and backache.
Now the chickens and caravan are out of the greenhouse
Ian has been able to prepare the beds for the summer veg

There are lots of cowslips this year

Here's a close up. 

Ladybirds are back
Seed trays planted up
It hasn’t saved aching feet though. There are several plates that can be fitted in the hopper depending on the seed that is being sown, so of course I chose the bean one for the beans. I noticed though that instead of planting one at a time it was planting three, so I decided to swap plates to one for peas that seemed to fit better. Which of course meant a long trip back to where I had put the other plates, so I wouldn’t lose them, one of the reasons for foot ache. For the next lot of beans which were a different colour and of course a slightly different size, I had to swap back to the bean plate – but only after noticing of course that it wasn’t always dropping seeds. What a palaver. The other reason for aching feet is the number of miles walked, backwards and forwards with the seeder.
The sheep are behaving themselves this week and making
an impression on the grass already

The new vegetable bed with straw paths for when it gets
wet, so I can still have access to the beds without getting
muddy feet. 
We still haven’t got the oats in as we would like to have done, we still need the seed and not sure if it might be a bit late now, but no harm in trying. The buckwheat is a short-season, frost sensitive crop and so can go in near the end of the month, the same as the squashes. I have though planted up about ¾ of our new vegetable bed with parsnips, carrots, beetroot, more beans (pretty coloured ones though), onions and some dahlias. I am not sure if the dahlias will come though, they look a bit dried out as I couldn’t plant them last year. I have planted up chickpeas, celeriac, broccoli and other things that I cannot remember now, in trays in the greenhouse. I have labelled them though, thank goodness and written down all the seeds I have sown in my veg plots in a book where we keep those kinds of records. It works most of the time, unless I forget – which has been known.

Riga near to part of the Latvian University
I have also been to Sigulda and Riga this week to join a summer school for a day. I had thought of joining them for two days, but it didn’t look very easy to get back home from the places they were visiting on the second day and so decided not to. I have enough of trying to figure out bus routes as it is. Since I was due to arrive in Sigulda a little ahead of the group, I fitted in a visit to a friend. We had cowslip tea, something I had never tried before and it was the brightest of yellows. It was a good year to have cowslip tea, as there are lots in the fields. I know in England they were over picked for cowslip wine and so much rarer, but here they are pretty abundant, as are most things that grow wild here. If it can grow, survive or emigrate to Latvia, then it is abundant. So wild garlic, storks, forests, wild boar – well I think you get the idea.

Who are you looking at!
One of my Masters students is out on military manoeuvres this week. 10 days of compulsory exercises, which I presume will have more of an edge this time around with the noises being made from over the border in Russia. It really brings it home who will be in the forefront should there be any action, young men and women who have nothing to do with the decisions that their leaders make. Having said that, I should say that some people feel that it is actually the media that is hyping the threat. I know I read more about the threat on American news sites than I do on Latvian or European ones. It is a worry, but so far it is a distant one.
The grapes are really taking off now and there is the promise
of lots of fruit again 
Snakeshead fritillary 
I must admit to being tired. At one point I asked God to prove he exists due to the disappointments of not seeing changes that I wanted to see. I have never, ever done that before, but God is the kindest person | know and gently showed me, he is still around and I am who I am because of my beliefs. I guess it could also be hormonal changes adding to the tiredness, since I am that sort of age for all that kind of thing, but you'll be glad to know I am feeling much better this week. I might be physically tired but not as emotionally tired. I think that has something to do with having done very little academic work this week and the physical activity has helped my brain to settle.
Lot's of dandelions again
The five spice has lots of flowers on this year, so we are
hoping for lots of fruit too

8 comments:

karen said...

your preparation is like a military exercise! I am sure it all pays off though. Loved the images this week, the wild plant life looks very beautiful.

Joanna said...

It is and it isn't really. Sometimes we look at the weather and decide we have just got to get on and do what needs doing at this time of year. It is less planned than it might look and it is more down to experience and watching what others do at this time of the year.

Bill said...

It's hard to keep up this time of year, isn't it? Everything is growing like crazy and here there's no time for weeding, mowing grass, trimming fence lines, etc. I've cleaned out some of our stalls and sheds, but I've still got a couple of more to do.

Joanna said...

It does indeed, but I do at least like the way it comes in seasons. There is a lot of weeding whilst trying to get plants established, but once they are growing well a few weeds won't hurt and a good blanket layer of hay seems to do the trick (I know that puts weeds in as well, but it is still less work than doing lots of weeding)

ju-north said...

I'm not surprised you felt tired! I did when reading about all you do! On another note, one of our grandsons is going to the school at the end of your mil's house street

Joanna said...

Still working on a balance of activities. I can't call it a work-life balance really.

Towards the end of her life I think she used to enjoy watching the comings and goings from the school, there wasn't much activity along that road otherwise.

Gunta said...

Things are looking good at the farm. I was glad to hear you were feeling better. I'm trying to get caught up with your blog (I've fallen way behind), but if the old house sells, there may be a move in my future. Yet to be determined. In the meantime, life just seems to get busier all the time.

Joanna said...

Thank you Gunta. Hope all goes well with your housing situation. Glad to see you still have time for your wonderful photos on your blog