Monday, 22 June 2015


Four baby swallows in the alpaca house
It has been a week of deliveries, but unfortunately one of our alpacas is still hanging on in there and probably waiting for the holiday period of Ligo/Jani to get fully underway. We have been spending some of our nights out in the caravan so we could take advantage of good weather to get things done. We have made slow progress on the weeds, but in some places we are getting there, or at least we were until it rained a lovely drenching rain for three hours yesterday. Weeds appeared overnight then. In one crazy moment this week we were dreaming up ideas for a drone to do the weeding in our field. Surely in this day and age something small enough, but powerful enough could be invented? It probably has, but more expensive than a good old fashioned hoe and no quicker.

This was taken at 10:23pm on Saturday night. It shows how
light it is until quite late. 
Thursday was one particular delivery day. We were sitting in our caravan awaiting a phone call for delivery of shears. We had ordered a new pair for two reasons. The first reason is that they are supposed to be better for the finer fleeces that we are expecting off our heavy fleece producer, Veronica, who will be sheared very soon and for next year when the babies are sheared for the first time. Our current pair managed with Agnese but it did struggle a little. Secondly it is also good to have a reserve pair for when we have more animals, or if Ian does any shearing for anyone else. Mid-morning there was a phone call and we realised that the instructions for delivering out on the land was not going to work, or at least that was what we deduced from the phone call, however it was not the shears, it was Ian's passport. At least I managed to understand that the guy was going to be at our house in twenty minutes and we agreed that Ian would be at home to collect the delivery. After that Ian then went onto deliver some poo to a laboratory in Madona, the big town nearby, for internal parasite tests for the alpacas. While he was in Madona he was also able to take in his passport to the immigration office to update their files, so good timing!

We have had our first strawberries for
breakfast this week, all two of them.
These are our greenhouse ones, the
ones outside are still green
The results came back clear for the parasite tests so no need to give them worming injections. We had been routinely giving them injections, but I was beginning to wonder if this was just as bad as giving routine antibiotics and so was not happy with that. It doesn't help that the injections are also getting expensive. Mind you, so is screening them, but we figured that one aggregated sample was enough to decide whether we had the presence of parasites or not on the property when we only have seven animals. If one was infected, they would all need injections anyway.

Comfrey, a wonderful healing herb
While Ian was away, a couple turned up. At first I thought it was our delivery, but it turned out not to be the case. It was a couple that had seen the sign and decided to come and see the alpacas. They didn't speak English and so tested my Latvian to the utmost again for the second time that day. I must learn some key words to describe alpacas, such as soft and try and learn some spinning terms. If I understood correctly they were just driving past and were willing to pay, but since we are not set up for that yet, I declined. Also without Ian it was a short tour, as I didn't really want to freak out our heavily pregnant ladies. I think I also understood that they knew that alpacas are sometimes used to protect sheep, although our particular male alpacas are rather soft for that particular job we think. Still they seemed happy enough to see our boys at a distance. For some reason they wouldn't feed them, I think they may have been afraid they might spit - but that was another reason for not visiting the girls as one of them does from time to time.
The onion, lettuce, poppy and hemp bed

Plantain (no not the banana type fruit but Plantago major)
I only wish I had discovered this plants amazing
anti-histamine properties earlier. Whenever I get a bite, I
chew one of these and then rub the leaf on the bite. Works
a treat and easy to find, we have a huge area "infested"
with them
A friend of ours turned up next to borrow our trailer again and still no delivery. We were just beginning to think they would not arrive when there was a phone call from our village to enquire the way. So the detailed instructions did not make any difference after all. I managed to communicate that I would phone a friend and she would phone him and tell him where to deliver the shears. At least that worked and the deliveries for that day were complete. Still no babies though.
One uncomfortable looking mother

Minutes old
Finally on the Saturday Veronica gave birth and I was actually there to see my first alpaca birth, due to a change of plan on the morning. She started first of all by moaning a lot and then rolling about, which fortunately we know to expect. It does look a little alarming seeing an animal who we suspected was in labour to be doing so much rolling around, but apparently it is to get the baby in position for birth. Not sure how thrilled she was with the attention, we even got chairs out to sit and watch her. At one point she went outside the alpaca house and we were worried she was going to deliver outside, but eventually she went in and  the babies legs appeared. There was a huge sigh of relief when the head appeared too and Ian broke the sac, since that was still in tact and it looked like the alpaca baby was trying to breathe. He then gently pulled on the body to help it out. We weren't taking any chances with this one, as she lost her baby last year. The chord ruptured close to the body again, but not as close as the baby she delivered last year.
A little help to start the feeding process. Normally Veronica
will not let any of us get this close if she can help it.

All a bit much for him after a wee run around. At least
Mum is feeding well

A bit wobbly on his pins

That grass is tantalisingly close but he's more likely to land
on his face

A little uncoordinated there

Legs akimbo 

Meet Eyre. She has an eye infection unfortunately but we
were given the cream for it when we picked her up. She is
three months old
We did have a bit of a conundrum on the Saturday. We suspected that Veronica was in labour, but we had also organised to pick up a kitten from one of the neighbours. We had put out a request through our vet for another cat, since it is better to have two out on our land to keep the small furry population in check and although our cat is a good mouser it is a large area for one cat to cover. I don't really like loosing lots of vegetables to furry critters and one seems to have taken up residence under my orchard plot at the moment. Not good! The only problem was it was someone who can be difficult to get away from, lovely though she is. Lack of language is not always enough to plan a good escape. I did get away lightly and with a few extra tomato plants too. Our little kitten already had a name Eyre, as in Jane Eyre, but pronounced Air-er, which sound a lot like Euro in Latvian. She has three colours grey, yellow and white and so is considered lucky in Latvia especially in terms of money. Maybe with a golden alpaca and a lucky cat we are in for a windfall or the house sale of Ian's late mother will all come through anyway, since I am not of the particularly superstitious kind.
She is a feisty little madam, but has learnt that we don't like
her crawling across the table already and knows the sound
of cat biscuits in the bowl. Unfortunately she also gave a scare
to Sofie our older cat, when she hissed at her We will have to
work on that relationship I think. 
That head is a bit heavy on such a long neck
To our surprise the baby was a deep golden colour. A quick look on the internet and as we suspected, the baby must have passed some meconium sometime in the delivery process, which is not good. However, the baby, a boy, appears to be fine and up on his wobbly legs and feeding from Mum, with help at first. He was a good 8kg in weight. I half wanted to call him Dzintars - amber in Latvian, but that would have messed with our naming system where we are working through the alphabet, so it had to begin with B, so we finally settled on Brencis. If I am correct it sounds like Bran-ts-is, but Ian has already nicknamed him Big Bren. This is our first alpaca that was conceived on our land and the second to be born here, so his official name will be Griez─źtes Brencis.
Food is in there somewhere


A little nudge from mother in the right direction

Getting whiter now and a little less
wobbly, but his legs look like they
maybe knock-kneed like his Mum
We were thrilled this week to have another group of visitors, someone who has translated for us for official documents and also who invited us into school to teach his English class. He brought a little sum of money for travelling expenses, which was very welcome and he brought his family with him to see us. We had a great time. Since he was an English teacher I made scones but we drank green tea using herbs from my garden and not typical English tea. Fresh marjoram makes a really nice refreshing drink. He had seen our presentation in the classroom and got a glimpse of some of the things we have been doing out on our land, but he obviously hadn't really got the full flavour of it and was amazed and inspired by the things we have done. It has now encouraged him to make more use of his own land and see what he can do there, which I find really exciting. If more people can be encouraged to make better use of the land they already own, I will feel that our work has been worthwhile. Making the land work for them more helps to bring satisfaction and a reason to stay in rural Latvia. It is just a part of the jigsaw puzzle of making life in the rural regions more worthwhile. I know it is not as simple as do this and do that and you will have a successful enterprise, if it was, we would be better off ourselves. But by making the land work for us, has meant our money has gone a long way.
Holding his head up now when he's resting


Not everyone is pleased to see him. Snowdrop is not
impressed and pushes him away. Hopefully she will have
her own to sort out soon.
Getting the hang of this feeding lark now. We weren't so
impressed with Veronica's mothering skills on Sunday
though. We fell asleep as the rain started and after a rather
longer sleep than we anticipated, we realised all the alpacas
were still outside and drenched. Ian put them all away early
and dried Brencis off with a towel. Fortunately we think he
 is none the worse for wear, as you can see.


  1. The "baby" pictures make me smile. I especially like the "nudge" photo. :)

    1. It is rather cute to see her do that.

  2. I used to think that newborn lambs were the cutest things ever, but this darling Brencis tops them all!

    I need to do some research on this Plantain. It sounds like a really handy plant. I wonder if I could grow it here and whether it tends to be invasive.

    1. He is still pretty cute even now.

      Plantain is definitely very handy


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