Monday, 11 January 2016

A chilly week

My herb garden looking like a scene
from Narnia
I'm sitting here wondering what on earth I have done this last week. Sometimes I write notes to remind myself, but somehow they didn't get done this week. It has been a week of chopping and changing of plans, I remember that much. I meant to get on with sorting out the details for my evaluation that happens every year for my PhD studies and will be sometime before the end of the month. I managed a little of that today, but not much before. I meant to finish some Sociology lessons and I managed a few of those too one day whilst trying to warm our other flat through to prevent pipes from freezing.
One of our projects this week was to get black plastic on
some field plots before it snowed. The idea is that in spring
these will warm up quicker and encourage all the weed seeds
to germinate, which will then die off underneath the plastic
leaving us a cleaner bed to plant into, either in spring or later
on in the year depending on what we decide to plant in it.

My orchard allotment plot
It has been bitterly cold and we saw -28C (-18F) one morning. Fortunately the car has not let us down, even though the diesel in the car is only rated down to -21C (-6F). By now it should be rated down to -30C (-22F) at least. Our alpacas have been shivering a little but on the whole they are doing okay and certainly relishing the increase in temperatures to a giddy -9C (16F) today. As a friend of mine wrote on facebook, you know it has been cold when -9C (16F) feels quite warm. One of our alpacas, however, is not doing so well. I spent a few nights this week making first one coat out of an old sleeping bag and then another one lined with an old fleece underblanket. Now she is wearing both.
Looking rather cold and bleak

Coat number one. Not bad considering I don't have a
working sewing machine at the moment. I had to sew it all
by hand and my fingers are still sore. The edges aren't
finished either, but I reckon she is not that bothered about
I was quite proud of the result from my efforts. I had been wondering how to make an alpaca coat for emergencies for a while and this week we checked them out online as our poor Snowdrop started to really suffer in the cold. Although we found some reasonably priced ones, the problem was that we needed it right now and not next week. I suddenly had a brainwave when I remembered an old nylon sleeping bag that had seen better days. I halved the sleeping bag, then cut a section off the bottom - otherwise it would be too long - and used that to make some flaps for the front of the coat to fasten around the throat. I used some velcro straps from a fleece jacket that had started to look tatty and a strap from an old bum bag (I know I have a few followers from America and I suggest you look up the translation, as it is not a word I like to use in polite British circles).
The new alpaca house can be seen in the distance

Despite the cold there have been some glorious days too
Unfortunately it wasn't sufficient to keep her warm and Ian said it had never made a good sleeping bag anyway and it always felt cold. I used the other half, but this time I lined it. I had to use a strap this time off an old Garmin heart monitor that was no longer working, as I had no more bum bag straps. You can tell from that list that we keep rather a lot of stuff that normally would and perhaps should be thrown in the bin (trash can). There is a pile of such stuff in the middle of our living room floor that has been there a while waiting to be sorted, but the pain of throwing things away is weighing heavily. This is not helped at all by the above example of the possible ways to recycle broken and old things. It just makes the job doubly hard. From where I sit I can see the Christmas tree (yes ours is still up) and see the baubles made from old lightbulbs that were sprayed red and decorated with gold paint and the soft balls made from an old bronze dance dress and stuffed with the contents of an old pillow. I can also see two pictures where one is made from old scraps of cloth and the other made from torn tissue paper.
And some rather nice sunrises

Out of the apartment window, looking one way
It has been an eventful weekend. Firstly we met a fellow Lancastrian, called Andrew, who also lives in Latvia (I hasten to add that I am the Lancastrian, i.e. born in Lancashire, Ian is not, he is a Geordie, born in Northumberland). Andrew is more famous than we are, he made the Latvian news, which is how I came to find out about him. Our friend who teaches English and often translates for us sent us the link to the news article about his blog a while ago and so I posted a comment. Eventually we made contact which resulted in him and his wife coming out to see us (you can see Andrew's blog here). We had a lovely few hours and I made wild boar stew in the slow cooker, which was rather tasty, if I do say so myself. The next day our neighbour who often comes to see our alpacas came out with another neighbour and her daughters to show them the alpacas. She had to show them around and explain about alpacas, which she is very good at now, since she has heard so much about them and has helped us out quite a few times, because Ian unfortunately had to call out the vet to Snowdrop and they were busy dealing with her when our neighbour came out.
Further down the street

The extra string was supposed to stop
the sheep from thinking of escaping
from their new paramour 
The alpacas appreciated the carrot snacks our visitors brought but two of the sheep decided to freak out and escape. It was a shame because they had been so much calmer this week because the girls now have a man. We have been quite startled by how much less demanding they are, now they have a ram around. The ram is a much calmer meat merino from the neighbouring sheep farm, which we went to choose earlier on the week. We are not sure there has been much in the way of mating going on though unfortunately. The idea was that we have the ram for about a month and then pack him off for a rendezvous with the freezer. That would then mean we have some hopefully calmer lambs to replace the skitty sheep we have now, meanwhile still manuring and trimming the pastures as required. Not sure how that is going to work out now if he doesn't get the girls pregnant. It might be past the breeding season, apparently.
Penned up waiting for the arrival of the ram - just in case they
freaked out.
The meeting went quite calmly really. Hello ladies, I'm
your new fella and that was about it. 

The new ram is not so used to Ian yet!
Anyway back to Snowdrop, since she has taken up quite a bit of our time this week. The coats have made a difference to Snowdrop insofar as she is actually warm with both of them on, but she is now a very sick alpaca. The vet gave her drips yesterday and something to help clear any blockages in her stomach, since she could feel a lump there. Today we have been pouring oil down her and our vet came back and gave her another couple of drips. Snowdrop isn't getting up on her own and she has been sat next to a radiator to keep her warm. We are grateful Ian managed to get the alpaca house done and wired up for electrics, even if it has meant several extension cables to get to it - not ideal but in a push it has to do. We only finished treating her at around 5pm tonight and couldn't have done that without the lights and the radiator to keep us warm as well as Snowdrop. She did at least eat a tiny bit of hay, which is a promising sign and made attempts to spit at another alpaca. Snowdrop is usually very ready to display her displeasure of any other alpaca who gets to close to her, she is normally quite a feisty madam in that respect, but not over the last few days.
We think the greenhouse tore due to the
cold. Fortunately we had plastic to
replace it with.

Poor lass! Not a happy lady.
It is hard to have to make her as comfortable as possible and then just leave her overnight and we half expected to find she had died when we arrived on the land this morning. We had even been talking about how we were going to bury her if necessary - not an easy job considering it has been so cold just lately. It would have involved chipping away at the layer of ice for several days and covering it so it doesn't freeze lower down, before we can get the back hoe out to dig a hole deep enough. Fortunately that wasn't necessary today. Unfortunately it has started snowing and we are not sure how much snow we may get tomorrow, we may miss the worse of it, we may not so we need to be prepared for a night out in the caravan if necessary.


  1. A hard week in many ways but you managed it with grace. X

    1. It has Ju, but thanks for the encouragement along the way


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