Monday, 8 June 2015

Open all hours

Still waiting, but Snowdrop is getting
much more interactive and almost in
your face with Ian, a sure sign something
is either imminent or something up.
As I said it would be last week, this was another varied week. Tuesday we hared off to Madona to get a photo done for Ian’s passport. We already had some photos, but after some rather fruitless searching around the house that did not unearth the previous photos, we decided it was quicker just to head into town and get some more. So Ian’s passport is hopefully now in the process or lost in the post. I spent the rest of the day getting ready for being away for a few days and even baked some cakes for Ian. I don’t usually cook for when I am away, as Ian is perfectly capable of cooking for himself, but cakes are more difficult. One day I hope we have an outdoor oven out on the land and that will make things much easier for him, hahaha.

The view from my hotel window in Nitaure
I joined the Latvian Rural Communities Parliament for the first day and got to hear the outgoing Latvian President for the first time. I also sat behind him at lunchtime, but I didn’t actually speak to him or anything. Not much point anyway since by the end of the week the next President was announced. According to someone I was chatting to, at least the new President is not connected with one of the oligarchs who wields, or at least did wield, too much power over the Parliament, so hopefully a step in the right direction.
My room in the hotel

There were lots of painted birds on the walls of the hotel
this one was in our room

The folk band "Ore" with three kokle's, a Latvian folk
instrument with a gorgeous sound
It was good to work on some suggestions and solutions for problems facing rural areas. The first one we worked on was the use of IT in rural areas. Since I work online, I have a Masters gained through an online course and utilise the Internet to connect with supervisors and colleagues for my PhD all while living in a rural area, it was quite a good opportunity to share my experience and highlight the positive aspects of the net for rural dwellers. Another lady from Estonia also shared her experience of working using the Internet as a medium to work and she shares office space in the local village hall with other entrepreneurs, so of course I have her contact details.

The owner of the woodworking place,
Vienkoču. This boat is just for demonstration, it is not perfect so he says.
The next day was a chance to network, with people involved in development from many different countries and organisations, from a young chap working with the World Bank to a lady working with migrants and potential migrants in Moldova. It is nice to have some intensive chats about development in particular and from that respect it was far more practical than listening to pre-arranged lectures. This continued on the next day, as we went on various tours around the area. I went on a tour to meet the Master craftsmen of Ligatne, the village where the events were being held. We visited a craft centre that works as a hub and meeting place for the local village, a bakery and café that was set up in two mobile units and from those two units they catered for over 300 people at the event I attended and a woodworker who specialised in making objects from one piece of wood. I would definitely recommend these places for a visit, as they were fascinating (Link to these places and others in the area). The range of tools in the woodworking museum was astounding; I have never seen so many axes, planes, awls, froes and many more things I could not even begin to name. He even had a cabinet full of Stanley tools from Sheffield – a place where Ian and I have lived for five years and some of you dear readers know that place so well.
These have been used. You can see the woodworking
museum in the background too.

A model mill, one of the many miniature buildings along
a trail associated with the woodworking attraction

A playground made from wood
A cordwood house with bottle windows - I want a shed/office
like this
It was amazing how many people I had met previously who were at the event. Some were only to be expected as they were at development or academic events but some were a little more surprising. One lady said hello and although I knew her face, I could not place where I had met her before and embarrassingly had to ask; it turned out to be a local event earlier on in the year where she was talking about Leader projects (a European rural development programme). Another young man was staying at the hotel I was in and we got chatting, again his face kind of looked familiar. This time it turns out we were sat on the same bus last year while I was travelling from Tartu and he was working on his computer and I happened to notice some interesting information for my research in what he was typing and started chatting to him, as you do! He remembered me too, once the connection was made. I suppose it is not often someone gets asked questions by a nosy, English lady on the bus. My roommate for the event was a lovely young lady from Slovakia and since she goes to a charismatic church there, we were able to chat a little about our faith too. During the week before the event there was a cartoon about how awkward it can be when greeting people, do you nod and say hello, shake hands, give them a hug, give them a hug and a kiss and is it one or two kisses. So confusing, especially with an international crowd. I was rather surprised by one guy, who I have met a few times now who gave me the international hug and kiss on the cheek, but then he has just returned from the Ukraine, so maybe they do that a lot there, just not necessarily a very Latvian thing to do.

A close up of our old lady, Veronica
While I was away Ian had a visit – typical when I am away. I have lost count of the number of times he emails me to tell me he has had visitors. This family had travelled all the way from Bauska and were heading for Cesis, so it was rather surprising they found us. They spoke excellent English and so Ian had a really good chat with them for an hour and a half. He explained about our growing small-scale grain, but said we had a bit of a problem processing it. It was fine for the chickens as they can sift through it themselves but no good for the alpacas. Apparently the chap has an old seed sorter and said if we want it we can collect it and he even emailed us to show us the photos. We hope to get some help over the summer and so maybe we can take a day trip out to pick it up. That will be fantastic and help us enormously. I guess we will have to build a shelter for it though.

An onion growing at home
for fresh leaves.
They weren’t the only visitors though this week and so I didn’t miss them all. In fact it is beginning to look like we are on the local tourist trail, as we had three groups over the weekend. The first group had come with their grandmother who lives nearby. We wonder if she had been wanting to see us, but was waiting for a visit by her grandson and his young family who do speak English. I was down in the field hoeing beans when Ian phoned me to say we had visitors, so I could actually get to meet some. The old lady was lovely and really thanked us for being so open and sharing and she finished by shaking my hand really warmly.

Ian shearing the neck of Tellus, whilst
strung up with ropes to stretch Tellus
out. The boat pulley made the job
a lot easier and the animals were happier
with the carpet we managed to get
that was being thrown out. The tarpaulin
we used last year freaked them out.
The next group turned up, just as we were about to start shearing the boys the following day. They even said hello in English and not labdien in Latvian when they saw us and were obviously aware that we spoke English. They were neighbours of ours and one of the guys Ian recognised from a previous visit. So it sounds like word is definitely getting round. My supervisor then also turned up as he had volunteered himself to help for the day with our shearing. I am so pleased he came, as it meant someone to help with Turbjørn’s teeth, which we also did at the same time. He is one of our most difficult alpacas to handle and his fighting teeth had started to grow back, unfortunately. Also three people, just makes the job that bit easier to do.
One down, two to go. We sheared Turbjørn first since he
is the most nervous of the animals, but he actually behaved
the best on the day. Here he is looking quite smug, since we
are sure he knows the other two still need to be sheared

The boys out in the field
Shearing was so much easier this year. Ian’s shearing was much more fluid, there was a greatly reduced amount of second cuts – which is the short bits that shouldn’t be in the fleece if cut well and the animals just looked so much better finished this year. While we were shearing one of the animals though, another group turned up, so it was a really good thing there was three of us, as it meant that I could show the group around. They had two little children with them and unfortunately a dog that followed them onto the land, as they didn’t live far away either. Fortunately one of the guys corralled the dog and went and put it in the car. They also knew we spoke English and so I didn’t have to ask. I could only really show them the girls as the boys were already a bit nervous and this group didn’t quite understand the needs of the animals – they weren’t badly behaved or anything, just alpacas do need a bit of space, as they are not really petting animals, especially when Ian isn’t around. I had to get food for the girls, because they were not coming near to me, even Agnese who is usually such a show off. They did come for food and even ate out of the little ones' hands, so they still managed to get some good photos I'm sure. There were a few alpaca selfies going on.

Agnese after shearing. The finish was not as good, but that
reflects the fact that her fleece was so much finer than the
rest (see last week's post to see the difference)
I don’t think Agnese will be quite such a show off today though, I think she is in a state of shock, as she got her first shearing. There was just Ian and I today and no visitors, so we were fine. Estelle got sheared first and that went much better than last year and Ian got a nice finish on her, but then it was Agnese’s turn. Shearing wasn’t as much fun with her as her fleece was so incredibly long and fine. She also seemed to have longer fleece in more inaccessible areas such as her belly and so even starting the shearing process was difficult. The shears also started to struggle more with her fleece, but thankfully not as bad as last year, so it kept going. The tooth-a-matic also worked well on Estelle’s teeth, which was fantastic, as the last time teeth cutting was attempted with her there was three men holding her and Ian still got hurt in the process. Admittedly we did have her stretched out this time in what looks like a medieval instrument of torture, so she wasn’t going anywhere.
Estelle after rolling around in the dirt afterwards. She is meant
to be a pale ecru colour, not beige
A moody shot of Herkules. Unfortunately his legs still look
a mess, but that is partly because now his fleece is sheared
I can go back to putting oil on his skin to get rid of the hard
areas. While he was strung up, I was able to get a really good
application of cream onto it.
To finish off this week, I marked a Sociology exam from one of my Sociology students – part of my online work. It is so nice to be able to access the internet, even when in the caravan and even nicer that it is convenient enough to do some alpaca work in the morning and early afternoon, have a sleep (getting old) and then mark a paper in the afternoon and be able to send it off to my student (well I could in theory but not in practice as I can’t remember the procedure for doing that, but I emailed my boss to find out, since it is the first time I have done that).


  1. Hilarious, a wonderful romp in the country with you! Thank you both!

    1. Glad you could join us, even if it was only in a virtual way.

  2. Oh! I want a cordwood house like that one too! And I love the look the freshly-shorn Estelle is giving. :)

    1. It is such a gorgeous house, so organic and evocative of fairy tales. It is a very wary look from Estelle I think.

  3. The cordwood house looks like something for the Hobbits.


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