Monday, 27 July 2015

Done! Well some of it!

One bed of Amaranth found amongst
the weeds. Believe it or not there is
another on the right of this picture and
another four beds you cannot see.

It has been a week of a lot done and a lot not done, such is summer time. I managed to finish the paper I have been writing for ages. Hopefully this re-write satisfies everyone. We will see! I didn’t think I would be able to edit it down to the correct word count, but I amazingly managed it. I was very chuffed with myself for that.
Fortunately not all weeds are quite so
large. This was in our small greenhouse
that is more like a storage area and errrr
weed incubator.

Food mill and halters for the alpacas arrived from our good
friends in America. If only this package could talk, it would
be interesting to know why it was sent from Oregon to
Florida (diagonally opposite across the country) then up
north to New York? It took 12 days to leave the US and yet
we were give a delivery date of 6-10days. Oh the efficiency
of the US postal system, I guess. Fortunately after that it was
flown straight to Latvia and took a day to go through
customs before being delivered to our local post office.
Of course there has been much weeding and processing of berries, as usual for this time of the year. I got my new food mill that meant I could process a whole load of berries for the freezer. I decided not to do them all, but wait until later on in the year, when the weather is not so good and process the berries first by steaming to get juice and then through the food mill for jam or berry sauces and that means I can just sling them in the freezer with leaves, stems the lot. I think we have just about finished the strawberry harvest though now - so sad when that happens. We had been really enjoying the strawberries on our porridge for breakfast.
Blackcurrants ripe for picking

The barley is ripening
The season seems to have turned here and it has a definite feel of late summer now. The weeds are slowing down in growth (thank goodness) the leaves on the dandelions and strawberries are going red or mottled and the leaves on the trees are the dull green of the end of the season. Birds are also starting to congregate in preparation for migrating soon – it may still be a few weeks away yet, but the signs are there.
The first cabbage of the season. The cool weather has
favoured the brassicas this year and our cabbages are
looking quite good. We are not necessarily great
cabbage growers usually. Mind you, the snails were
out in force tonight and I had to pick quite a few off and
squish them underfoot.

We are not sure if we should be worried about the
appearance of these bugs on our redcurrants or not. Not
really sure what they are.
We are still getting summer visitors too, which is rather nice. This week the chap who wanted us to meet his German friend the other week and who Ian keeps meeting at the car technical place, came with his wife and young son. They stayed for quite a while chatting. Ian showed the wife around, since she had never been before and I got into a conversation with the chap about hunting. It is funny that I can explain the Latvian system to a Latvian, as I know more about the topic. Still not every Latvian is acquainted with the laws of their land on the topic – they don’t need to be in general and I did spend quite a while studying the ins and outs of hunting in Latvia. We are enjoying it when many visitors come, they bring chocolate - always welcome in our place and we had only just eaten up the last one from a previous group.
These bugs, however are a very welcome sight - ladybird

Oats all behind an electric fence.
Talking of hunting, our hunter told us he had shot a wild boar on our land the other day. We are pleased as we are starting to have more serious trouble with them and we had to put an electric fence around the oats to try and prevent more damage. Unfortunately the electric energiser we have available to use is not that powerful, but it might make them think twice – it made our kitten think twice when she came into contact with it. A learning experience for any farm cat!
Rather close to the barley field but an area the boars do
dig regularly next to the trees. Apparently boar are not
so fond of barley - probably due to the stiff hairs that
stick out of the head of the barley ears.

You won't see a sight like this very often. It has been nice
and warm but not too hot this week and so a chance to wear
a t-shirt and not a long, sleeved top to keep the sun off.
The reason we knew the hunter had shot an animal was because we had been to our local festival and they were having a grilling competition and he told us that on the menu was the wild boar that he shot at our place. We really wanted to organise taking our alpacas to the festival and show the fleece to people but yet again we didn’t get organised in time, not easy when we need translators for it. Maybe next year (that sounds like the gardeners’ refrain when something doesn’t work)
We have seen more bees this week, which is good news

Eyre, our kitten, obviously under-whelmed by Le Tour!
Our kitten has also been learning other lessons this week. Firstly she has been getting quite good at catching insects, unfortunately she tends to bring them into the caravan to play with, which is not what we really want. Neither was Ian impressed with the dead stinky mouse she brought in and even less impressed with the live one. We are not sure if Sofie, our older cat, had caught the mouse earlier and was trying to train our little one, or whether our little one had actually caught it herself. Either way, Ian made sure she caught it again and then evicted her from the caravan with the mouse in her mouth. She caused us a bit of consternation, just before we are about to leave the land tonight as she went missing Ian looked all over for her. Just as we were about to give up, she turned up.
Venturing out. She often accompanies us on our walks now
but gets very panicky if she cannot see us and we have to
whistle or talk to her so she can find us when we are going
through the long grass.

There are lots of flowers blooming in our meadows at this
time of year in the areas we haven't already cut
Our other visitors this week were friends of our goat farming friend and she brought her friends around to see what we were doing. It was great to hear their ideas on the things we are doing and they asked lots of questions of the sort that you know they know a lot about the topic. They have also used a seed processor before and loved the fact we had one. They reckon that ours is over a hundred years old. We were also told that the old Russian tractors use belts like the processor one and so we should be able to replace it without a problem. They told us there was a screen missing and what it would do and explained that the movable sieves underneath could do with some repair, which we thought might be the case. Other than that it was fine. At least we feel a little more confident that we know what it does and how it should work. We thought we had worked it out, but it is nice to know that from someone who has really used them. It was also nice to get an email from the people who had donated it to us where they mentioned that they think the seed processor is in good hands.
The hemp is growing well

To let more light in when we are
checking over the animals in the
evening, Ian made the back door into
a half door. It helps, but we could still
do with more light in. 
We have been trying to do some planning this week. Sometimes we get so busy we don’t really take time to think ahead, which is not so good. Ian put all my planned trips away into his diary and so he should now know when I am likely not to be around. Basically every month I am away somewhere now until November. Our daughter also asked if Ian would go over to their place to help her husband work on their new house and so that means Ian will be away for part of the time too, leaving me home alone with the animals.
We didn't have much in the way of seed for the sweetcorn and
didn't want to risk it outside anyway - heavenly food for boar
- so we planted it in the greenhouse, which it seems to be enjoying

Cooking the chicken out on our land
means using our halogen oven in the
greenhouse. It was too warm to have it
cooking in the caravan. We call our
halogen oven "Robbie." can't remember
Part of our plans included dispatching three cockerels, since they are not really needed. One was making itself a nuisance by pestering our other free-range cockerel. One was favouring one particular hen and her feathers were coming off on her back, so hopefully she will recover. The other cockerel didn’t have a nice temperament and so we had no wish to keep him any longer. We had the bad tempered one for our evening meal, he was chewy but tasty. The others will definitely be put in the slow cooker.
Are we worried? These are the chicks and not for dispatch-
well not yet anyway. Some will be when we are sure which
are cockerels and which are not.

The grapes are beginning to turn too
Other plans for the future included prioritising new fences for pastures and fields, digging for water, and sorting out a container for winter storage. We started to put a list together of what needed doing when and who we needed to talk to about the plan if needed - or in other words, I got out a paper and pen and wrote it down. It’s a start. We also chatted about all the requirements for a happy and long marriage. Since we have been married for over 30 years, we feel we have some experience in the matter. We decided that deliberate mis-communication, selective deafness, repeated story-telling repeated and of course all that has to be washed down with a liberal dose of humour, otherwise all of that will end in tears. Well it did help the planning to go down a little bit better, or there would have been many a cross word I think.

Brencis is growing up fast. His mum, who
is sat behind him, must be giving him some
good stuff.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Didn't we have a lovely time, the day we went to...

It has been our turn to do most of the visiting this week and it has been a rather nice if tiring change. Our trailer was due for its annual technical inspection and so that entails a trip to the big town and a chance to pay a return visit to the teacher who we have been helping in English class and who helps us with translation from time to time. He and his wife wanted to show us their gardens and summer home, just outside the big town. Shortly after arranging the visit, the young man who Ian had met previously at the technical station also rang and said a German friend of his wanted to meet us. We were a bit surprised, but agreed to meet up in a small town on the way to the technical station and spent about 3/4 of an hour on the forecourt of a petrol station gassing (okay talking, I couldn't resist!) to the German friend, discussing in general terms about the Baltic states and trying to explain that the prices of agricultural land in the UK was rather more than in many countries in Europe. Here you can get agricultural land for around €1000 per hectare, in the UK it is more like €36,000 a hectare. Before you all start rushing over here it is now more complicated to buy than it was last year when we got in before a change in the law requiring purchasers of agricultural land to hold a specific agricultural qualification.

Another rainbow over our land. Still a bit wet this week
Someone had a close call with the bank on the corner of our
land. Not quite sure what made the mess, possibly a
piece of equipment on a tractor, because there are no tyre
So after that exchange we toddled off to the technical station where the trailer passed without any problems (I was going to say hitches but that is one pun too many). Funnily enough we met the young guy who had wanted us to meet his German friend too, he also was having his trailer tested. Ian and him seem to be making a regular habit of meeting there. We finished up our business in the big town and then headed for our translator friend's place, where we were treated to a lovely lunch after looking around his allotment. It was going to be a barbecue but unfortunately the weather was not on our side that day. During lunch we found out that our friend also had a German friend he wanted us to meet, but first we were going for a trip to the summer home to look around. It was a gorgeous old place, with so much potential, but of course as so often is the case, it also needs a lot of renovating which is expensive, if done with traditional techniques. Our translator friend's wife dug up some good old fashioned scented stocks and a strong type of mint to take home. We also were given chocolates at lunch time but we managed to leave them, unfortunately. I was surprised that they rarely stayed at the old place, I could understand in winter, as it would be cold, but in summer I would have wanted to stay out there all the time. It had a lovely view and seemed very peaceful, but I guess they were involved in too many activities where they live to spend more time at their summer home.
Just chilling outside. Ian does occasionally herd them out
onto the field to eat. They can be a bit lazy at times

Sorry no photos from our visits - too busy talking. These
are the pied flycatcher chicks in the bird house on our barn
So onto the next visit. The German friend was opening up a dog and cat shelter and in the process of building all the necessary enclosures for the endeavour. From his appearance he did not strike us as the devoted animal type with his tattoos and all but he certainly had a soft spot for them and a ring tone on his phone that had me looking for the cat I had stood on every time. No I didn't stand on a cat there, it just reminded me of the sound our poor little kitten made the other day when she got under my feet. The place he had bought several years ago was a hogweed infested site and he still battles it in a few places, but with hard work and persistence he had made a large area safe. If you don't know, hogweed is a highly dangerous plant that can lead to some very nasty burns when the sap gets on the skin and then is exposed to sunlight. He showed us all over the place and explained his plans and then asked us for our story. Needless to say we went home with a jar of jam and a bottle of mushrooms at a rather later hour than we should have, but fortunately our animals went away without a problem. One of the most interesting aspects of the day was that our translator friend had to translate from German into English and vice a versa and he was translating for people who were enthusiastic about his country and loved living there. I mentioned as we were leaving that sometimes it takes outsiders to show people the good things they have around them and I think our translator had enjoyed hearing the good points of being in Latvia. It is easy to get negative when circumstances make it difficult to make a living and so many leave.
A fledgling that had an altercation with our window at our
apartment. A little stunned, but judging by the lids after it
had flown, it appreciated the food and water

Gorgeous colours in this sunset. Unfortunately my camera
did not do it justice
Our next visit was somewhat longer. We weren't sure how long we were going to be away or what time we would be back. The days can be long in summer, but even so the animals need to be away by 9pm and so we organised with one of our neighbours to put them away in case we weren't back in time. Our mission was to pick up a seed processor that a previous visitor to our farm had said we could have, but what we weren't sure about was whether we were going to end up with a full tour of their farm or just pick it up and go. We weren't exactly sure of where we were going when we set off, just the general direction, but fortunately a text got through and we were given directions to a place we could meet up and be guided in the last 8km. We quickly got onto politics - not my fault honest! It was interesting to hear someone speak up for Putin, not in an unthinking way but from someone who has considered the subject long and hard. I don't agree with all that was said, but I took the point that Putin does indeed give many of the Russian people the sense that he is for his country and cares deeply about it and the people. How many politicians can we say give that impression?
A photo I found on my camera of Ian cutting hay a few weeks

The beast itself on our land
After quite a long discussion over tea, bread, cheese, meat and biscuits we went on a tour of the farm before heading back for more discussion and tea. We were offered blackcurrants and raspberries and since ours were not ready yet we accepted, only we ended up picking them ourselves, on our own while they got on with other chores, which was fine, especially as we got to keep the much needed food grade buckets we were given to put them in. We were not allowed to go though without having a meal which we were not expecting, but grateful for, apart from the fact we were heading to another friend afterwards and we rather suspected that there would be more food. It is a good job that in Latvia we are always prepared to eat whatever is put before us and Ian can eat anyone out of house and home anyway with his appetite. Before finally heading off though with the seed processor or winnower we were also given metal spikes for earthing rods, bee pollen and a full super of honey (that's the frame that the honeycomb is built on which contains the honey). Such a generous heart! They kept apologising for talking so much about politics, philosophy and the difficulties of farming, but that was no problem for us. We are quite open to talking about most subjects and to be honest it gave me some fresh insights into how different people think and the problems they encounter in the countryside. I admitted that I was mentally taking notes for my research.

Inside! Not sure if it is supposed to look
like this inside or if some bits are missing
Vents on the side to open and shut. Pieces of wood nailed
on to stop some parts of the wooden structure from falling
off, but it does work. Ian oiled it and put it back together
and tried a bit of the grain we had left over from last year
and there was clean grain at the bottom. Perfect! Ian says it
is wonderful to work on, because the parts come apart to be
cleaned and then go back together, not like modern rubbish!
Those who have followed my blog will know I am studying to complete a PhD with an Estonian University, you may or may not know the full title of my research which is Mainstreaming Participatory Development in Rural Latvia and Estonia. Now if you are scratching your head and wondering what on earth does that mean, then it simply means putting people at the heart of development and helping them to realise their hopes and dreams for the area they live in. Not as a nice little add on, or, as is usually the case, we have made our plans and to get the money "we have to make a semblance of asking the people what they think" type of way. I have been thinking of this in terms of Latvia and Estonia, countries that have gone through the Soviet system and so not attuned to making their own decisions, but having decisions made for them from some central authority many miles away. I have watched the EU debacle over the Greek crisis and realise that it is not just Latvia and Estonia that need to look at how to help ordinary people develop the place where they live. The dictates from the EU to Greece rides roughshod over the ordinary people who are crying out against the bankers. As our discussions with the farmer the other day shows, there is a great need for politicians to listen to the people in a way that shows care and concern.

Brencis and Agnese coming to see what I was doing
I mentioned that we were going on to see other friends after picking up the winnower. It was a good job they are good friends of ours, as we had to keep them waiting for our arrival. We knew they would understand, or at least we hoped so. They have been in Latvia long enough to know the unpredictability of visiting people, especially for the first time and people you don't know well. We were right about the food, but it had been a long day and after a cup of tea and a good old natter we were ready to eat again. We set off back to our land rather late though and rolled onto our land at 12pm. We parked up with the winnower still in the trailer and set up the bed in the caravan and went to sleep. We didn't even bother going home. The problem is that we hadn't planned on stopping out and so we had to go back home in the morning after letting the animals out and had breakfast there. Not sure how Ian managed as he usually has breakfast as soon as he gets up, but he did. We picked up what we needed for the day and then headed for a lazy day out on the land - if you class picking a bucketful of gooseberries and mowing lawns as lazy that is.

Monday, 13 July 2015


Electroman setting up another fence for the boys. This one
is not generally electrified though, although it can be if one
in particular keeps escaping. Generally if there is enough
grass they do not bother, so Ian should be safe from any
shocking events from this fence.
Imagine the scene! I am busy weeding the new vegetable garden and Ian is mowing around the raspberry bushes, when suddenly there is a yelp from Ian and he's last seen heading in a straight line to Riga, hanging on to the mower. Well seriously - no I can't be serious, in fact I laughed a lot - what actually happened is my dearly beloved, whilst manoeuvring the mower, backed into the electrified sheep fencing and his derriere (French just in case you are not sure) made good contact with the fencing that is currently pumping out 8000V due to the damp conditions we have had this week. The electric exited through his arms that were holding the metal handles of the mower and so to earth. What I saw was Ian dancing around alternately flapping his arms and tucking them under his armpits to try and reduce the pain. I assumed that he had just got too close the fence whilst mowing, what I hadn't realised that he had backed into it and when I found out I was in stitches laughing. Not very sympathetic at all.
We thought we were going to be in for quite a storm and
wondered if Ian was going to go one better than being in
contact with the electric fence and lawnmower as this time
he was out cutting grass with the two wheel tractor. Fortunately
the rain only slowly came and we had plenty of time to put things
away. It rained heavily, but not that bad. Not the gully washing
storm we were expecting anyway.

Sofie decided that I would make a nice place to rest while
I was doing the weeding.
The rest of the week was filled with jokes about Electroman and where he would have got to if the current had been any stronger - I hasten to add that I'm not the only one telling the jokes. The amount of merriment that filled the air after that incident lead me to conclude that maybe there was something in the rationale for ECT and every time Ian seemed remotely grumpy I would tell him, very sympathetically, to go and play with the electric fence. If anyone watched The Hulk when they were younger, you will probably have an inkling as to the way our minds were constructing stories around Electroman and the way he would change in an instant and the effect he would have. Well anything to lighten the mood around the never ending weeding we are doing at the moment. Crazy! Probably! But it helps.
We cannot say that Sofie and Eyre are best
friends yet, but they are beginning to tolerate
each other and even get quite close

The newest arrival
It was not the only shock of the week, the first one was the arrival of our newest Grandson at a whopping 8lb 15oz or 4.060kg. The largest baby I had was my middle child at 8lb 10oz (3.91kg) and I thought he was big enough. Our grandson arrived by c-section, since he was in no hurry to make his entry into the world, which also makes hims sound a lot like our son. Hope he is as chilled, so far he certainly seems to be. We had our first Skype conversation the day after he was born and he was suitably unimpressed with the whole thing and slept through it all. At least our daughter is fine, well after getting over the giggles about re-telling the tale of her father's escapade with the electric. It is not helpful to make anyone laugh after a c-section.
A close up from our flowery ski hill

A rainbow from this evenings shower
The warm spell broke this week and it has been a week of sunshine and showers and so plenty of opportunity for lots of sleepy time to make up for last week's activity. After a couple of days of feeling intensely tired, I think I'm pretty much over it now. There are still moments, but I think that is when I look at the amount of weeding still needing to be done. Fortunately at this time of year, the weed growth starts to slow down and I can actually clear a bed of weeds and it looks reasonable for longer than a day. The beetroot has germinated well, but the parsnips and carrots have not. We will have enough, but obviously the fresh carrot seed we are generating this year will be needed next year and we will have to buy in fresh supplies of parsnip seeds. They are notoriously bad for not germinating after a year. The packet of parsnip seed that I planted late on last year, worked really well. They are ahead of the other parsnips and were not bothered by weeds, as they outgrew them very quickly. We wonder how many other seeds we can do that with and certainly something we can experiment with when we generate our own seed. It is more of a risk when it is bought in seed as it can cost a lot if it doesn't work. We always thought it was far too cold to plant seed just before winter but it might actually be an advantage. Rather than rot the seed due to the damp and cool conditions, it might just sit there in hibernation.
The grapes are growing well

Our evening meal. Broad beans, peas, kale, Chenopodium
giganteum leaves, fat hen, garlic scapes in a cheese sauce
with pasta
The germination rate of the seed is not just due to the age of the seed but also the cool, dry spring we have had. The cabbages are loving it, but the carrots are always slow to germinate and worse if the weather is not good for them. We will still have enough to store over winter and this year we really could do with a root cellar. We were discussing this the other day and I suggested using an old shipping container and then piling up soil against it. We even decided on a spot to put it. It is an unsightly spot of soil from the barn building and weeds and so needs dealing with anyway, but there won't be enough soil. Instead we decided that we could put hay bales around it, they will rot away eventually, but gradually over time the soil level will build up, as we add more bales. So hopefully that is something we can organise soon, as Ian's mother's estate gets wrapped up. We are still waiting for the house sale to complete - it always takes ages in the UK, but at least some money will be coming through soon, as the pensions authority have said nothing is owed to them and all bills have now been paid.
I love the look of our green path with a
frothy pink edge of flowering grasses

The box of chocolates were were given and the
contents from a parcel Ian received today. These
came from our middle child and his family and
are a belated father's day present. Ian was quite
impressed with the detail of these ones.
We've had three groups of visitors this week. One is our neighbour who regularly visits but hadn't seen Brencis. She had organised for her brother to borrow our trailer so he could move house. The second group had emailed us a couple of weeks ago and organised to come. They brought carrots for the alpacas and a big box of chocolates for us. They were a group of about six adults and five children. The children, blessedly were pretty well behaved. We had kept the alpacas locked up that morning, since we knew they were coming and it was raining in the morning. Nothing worse than wet alpaca to touch. We have got a good system now, where we lock the chickens away, so the cockerels do not attack anyone. We always lock Snowdrop away separately with some food, whilst everyone looks at the other alpaca girls (and boy), that way she can't catch anyone with spit when they get caught in the crossfire. We always explain that she doesn't generally spit at people, unless they are trying to do something nasty to her, like me or the vet, but she does not like other alpacas coming near her and taking food. She is very possessive over food.
Brencis looking as cute as ever

Along with the toy alpacas were two cards that I pinned up
on his noticeboard. He is at home so little, it didn't seem
right to take them home and put them up there.
I think one of the reasons the children were good in this group, some were used to large animals as some of the group were beef cattle farmers. I was really interested to hear how the young man had always lived in Riga but used to visit his grandparents every summer in the countryside, as have many Latvians. He trained as a car mechanic at Riga technical university and then went to Switzerland to work for Saab. After doing that for a while he decided he had had enough and came back to Latvia and started farming in a small way, but gradually built up to the large farm he has today. My radar was up and working and I asked him if I could interview him sometime about his experience. I explained I was a researcher and looking at how people can be involved in development and his experience would be very valuable. So I have a phone number and will arrange to see him sometime soon.
Eyre asleep in a rather contorted fashion

8pm one evening and still very light
The third group of visitors came today. They are staying at our other apartment for a few days. We weren't expecting it to be free over summer, but our American friends who had been planning on coming decided that it wasn't right for them to come across at that time and so it was free after all. The young couple have a little boy about the same age as our oldest grandson, 2 1/2 years old. Poor little chap though has been through a lot and had chemo last year. Some of you on facebook may remember me asking for prayer for the little one. I haven't asked anything about it, they are on holiday after all, but he seems to be well enough at the moment. He loved our alpacas and they seemed to love him too. You should have seen the grin on his face when they let him touch them and when they kept nuzzling his hat. Apparently they will come back tomorrow and see them again - a big fan obviously. He also got to pick some of his own strawberries, looked at the chickens, the cats, the sheep and got to sit in the tractor. Again his little face lit up and he didn't want to get out of the tractor for ages, he just sat there with a big grin on his face.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

In clover

Veronica. Unusually nosy for her!

It has been an intense week this week. Although we often do lots of different activities, the pace we go at is usually fairly relaxed, but not this week. First of all Ian moved the sheep from where they have been all spring to somewhere nearer to what they would consider civilisation (being herd animals and only three of them, I think they miss the company). The poor things were so hot, but we did make sure their feeding ground include trees for shelter, but did they use it – no of course not! They had to sit in the hottest spot next to the gate.
The sheep were over this hill behind Ian taking the photo.
He then moved them all the way over to a spot to the
left of the greenhouse. They were very good and didn't
scamper off at all. I think it was just too hot

If you don't examine them too carefully, they look much
better today. Still, if they could, they would change their
The reason for moving them nearer to civilisation was to bring them closer to an electric point so we could shear them using the mains electric and not a generator. It went so well at first, we managed to stop any of them escaping first of all and we then tied their legs together to stop them running off while we sheared. Before you think we were being cruel, you have to remember these are animals that cleared a four foot wooden fence by scrabbling over it. If these sheep did not get sheared that day, they weren't going to get sheared for quite a while and in the heat we had this week, it was the less cruel option. Unfortunately Ian has not been on a sheep shearing course and the finish was not very professional, in fact they looked a proper dog’s breakfast - if you get what I mean. Still they fairly skipped around in the rain yesterday. Better than the big wool coat they were wearing.
Brencis looking gorgeous
Brencis' fleece. You can see it is definitely not pure white

The instrument of torture ..errr I mean
the hoist. We need to find a wider belt
for it, but at least the principle worked.
It was funny holding Snowdrop
because she would audibly sigh as she
was being milked. I think it was a relief
Although Snowdrop lost her baby last week, she was quite full of milk. Rather than waste it and because we know that she is likely to have problems feeding a baby in the future, it is always good to have spare so we milked her. That is now in the freezer – not much but at least it is something - a feed's worth. It may contain colostrum, but I'm not sure if colostrum is always the first lot of milk or whether it is only within 24 hours. We did try to milk her while she was pinned down for shearing but it didn't work. We then tried it while she was standing up, but she kept cushing (the alpaca term for sitting down with their legs underneath them, which of course means it is impossible to milk her like that. In the end Ian made a hoist to stop her cushing. I'm glad to say it worked well.
Wheat and Poppies - not red ones though

Amaranth. These have been competing
well with the weeds and Ian has been
able to keep just ahead with these.
We have also got quite a bit of weeding done, but there is not much to show for it, although I did find some carrots and dill, not many, but they are at least there. Of course at this time of year, if you don't keep on top of the weeding, the weeds tend to take over. We had some old seed and a bad year for germination and that hasn't helped. I have some carrots going to seed in the greenhouse, so that should give us plenty of carrot seed for next year and I shall buy some fresh seed from a seed company, so that we have a good genetic mix of carrots. I let enough carrots go to seed for our own use, but not enough to make sure they provide us with healthy plants genetically in the future.
Lots of wonderful flowers at this time of the year and until
Monday was blissfully relatively free of biting insects.
Monday the really large horse flies suddenly appeared.
They look like something out of a horror movie, but
fortunately they are so loud, you can hear them coming
and be prepared. It is the pesky small ones that are harder
to get.

Because we haven't got any chick pictures
this week, here is one of Eyre looking
sleepy. She has been ever so good at going
to sleep in the toilet area of the caravan when
we have been sleeping in it. She is quiet until
we wake up.
Talking of genetics, we are have bred some lovely looking chickens, with gorgeous black or grey feathers, unfortunately we seem to have bred out any sign of intelligence at the same time. All our other chickens have only taken about three days maximum to get the idea that when food is put in the back of the ark, that means it is time to go away for the night. The food is an incentive to go into the box to be fastened up. However, this lot have been chased around the ark lots of times to catch them. It would be the most awkward ark too. It was designed as a small ark for chicks to go on the floor, but then we extended it upwards to give them more room and there isn't as much access for humans. At least they are finally getting the idea, apart from one and even that one is finally getting it. It tends to look around as if to say, "where has everyone gone?" before the penny drops and into the box it goes, a good minute after the others. I do hope the folks that got their siblings are not having the same bother.
Sour dough bread buns freshly baked for

The sweetcorn is doing well in the greenhouse
Apart from all that it was an intense hay cutting, baling and shifting week. We reckon we may have shifted about 4 ½ tonnes and I have certainly walked miles behind tractor. The good news is that it would seem the UK got our heatwave and we only had to put up with temperatures around 28C (82) and not over 30C (86F) like we normally do. I certainly felt the benefit. I don't even feel particularly sore, just like I have done a lot of work.
Some of the cuttings from one of the grapevines in the
greenhouse seems to have taken. We aim to plant these
ones outside and see how they will do there.

The rain on Monday battered some of our oats. Not sure if
we will get anything out of this bit. It maybe okay. It is
not as if we need to harvest it with a combine harvester.
We might just use the scythe 
One of the first things we had to do was shift some of last years hay that we still had in our neighbours barn down to our place to make room for the new hay. While we were doing that our neighbour came into the barn carrying two freshly baked goodies, straight out of the oven. She was supplying the camp nearby with things like cinamon rolls, biezpiena rolls (kind of like a cross between cottage cheese and curd cheese in a sweet roll) and pizzas. They were absolutely gorgeous and much appreciated. She does look after us.
Tomatoes are starting to form on our plants now

Looking down from the top of the ski hill at the area
we cut, baled and cleared

This is to the left of the picture above
A remnant from the Soviet era. The signage
on this electric pole is in Russian
It was close but we managed to get all of this year's hay into the barn and stacked in the space we were allowed. I think we could have only got one or two more bales in. We had around 70 bales leftover from last year, and over 180 new ones. That will be more than enough and means we do not have to worry about trying to bale and stack any more from the land. We needed more in past years because we didn't have any where to stack it to keep it dry and ended up throwing a lot of it away. It feels very nice to know that won't be as much of a problem this time around.

Not the strawberries I picked after the hay stacking but ones
I cut up to dry. The strawberries are huge and tasty this year
and we have been having them on our breakfast all week.
Such a hard life!
I feel like a true farmer this year. We knew some rain was coming, so got all the hay collected and stacked and since the rain was imminent Ian went and baled hay we had cut around the side of our greenhouse that had been re-seeded a year or so ago and was lush and tall not like most of the hay this year. I also went and collected all the ripe strawberries because the expected rain was due to be heavy and I didn’t want to waste them. We just finished those jobs as the first few spots of rain began to fall, at that point we finally went and ate and then slept for an hour or so. I don't even feel that bad today. I thought I would have been quite stiff, but I just feel like I have over done it yesterday and need to take it easy today. So not bad, must be getting stronger each year, or not as drained in the lower temperatures maybe.
These four bales of hay came from the side and rear of the

Three bales from this section and one from behind

The uncut patch is to keep everyone guessing what we are
up to :) or the other explanation is to allow the clover (the
purple splodge in the middle that you can see) to go to
seed and spread around that area. The grass in that area is
rather thin and so hopefully the clover will add some
We have found that the hay every year is very different due to the growing conditions.  Often the grass is tall, but the cool, dry spring meant this year's hay was on the short side and not so dense. What we have noticed though is a huge increase in clover. I have identified at least three sorts, possibly four. There was also vetches and lady’s bedstaw in abundance. So the hay will be very scented and possibly rather fattening with all the leguminous plants– so not much grain supplement will be needed for our boys this next year, they are fat enough as it is.