Monday, 14 March 2016

Spring so near and yet so far!

A glorious day that offered the hope that Spring was close
For a few days this last week we almost dared to think that Spring had arrived. Ian has heard the cranes settling in and seen them flying around with bits in their mouths for their nests and the sun has shone. In fact it was so nice yesterday that Ian sat outside the greenhouse to have his morning cuppa and to eat his lunch and I hung the washing outside on the balcony of our apartment. It didn't last though, we had light snow showers all day on and off today and the forecast is for another cold snap down to around -10C overnight later on in the week. Oh well! Nearly there.
Not the best shot, but at least you can see it is a crane

Time to move on from the female alpaca house 
The animals have been pretty restive, especially our male alpacas and so it was with some trepidation that we separated Brencis (or Mr. B as he is more often known) from his Mum and put him with the other boys. He looks so little in comparison and he has moaned such a lot about it. He is obviously not enjoying the change, but it had to be done sometime. During the day I had cut some paths to give them a bit of room to move around and alleviate some of the boredom of not having much space. Fortunately apart from some initial overbearing moves from our older breeding male, where the other two older ones intervened, there hasn't been too much hassle. We have no idea why the other two males intervened, but when Tellus tried to mount poor Mr. B they spat in his face, which put a stop to his antics. We could anthropomorphise the actions of the two males stepping into protect a younger more vulnerable member of the group, but we are not convinced that was the case, but welcomed nonetheless. At least their actions seems to bring a kind of peace to the transition.
Poor little thing spent most of the day near the fence 

Mr. B with the other male alpacas. Tellus who was the most
unfriendly is actually his father. 
Ian has continued to take the female alpacas for a walk, at least he can do that with the snow on the ground, although the routes are a little restricted and monotonous. Mr. B will be given a week off to settle in, as Ian doesn't want him to get too attached as this could cause problems later on down the line. Mr. B has to relate to the alpacas first and foremost, otherwise we could end up with an aggressive alpaca in the long run. Which would be a great shame as he is a lovely looking young alpaca and hopefully with potentially great fleece making qualities.
Here is Mr. B relaxing in the sun though with Turbjørn
standing, so not all bad.

A tree stripped of its bark
There are other signs of Spring out on the land, such as an increase in wildlife as they come out of the forests looking for food. Ian saw three roe deer today and earlier on in the week he saw evidence of an enormous elk (or moose for our American friends). The footprints were of a similar size to mine, but went right down to the ground suggesting a huge beast. It also damaged one of the trees by stripping off the bark - that tree won't live to see another year now. Our chickens are also noticing the increase in daylight and started laying more eggs. About time too. Our youngsters from last year, however, have still not got the idea of what chickens are for and we still have seen no evidence of eggs from them. Chicken hotpot sounds in order soon for some if not all of them.
An elk footpring

The ruler gives some idea of how far
apart the footprints were for this
sauntering beast
The temperature in the greenhouse was even up to 28C this week and the seeds I planted, as well as some weeds have started to sprout. Quite relieved as we could do with some greenery soon to supplement the dwindling supplies of vegetables in storage. It isn't called the hungry gap for nothing in days gone by. We forget these kinds of realities for rural folks of yesteryear when we have a year round supply of anything we like. We also forget the reality of what it takes to get those things to our table though as well unfortunately.
A rather small egg. Maybe one of the chicken's has just started
laying again. This came from one of the more mature hens

Ice-cream? You wouldn't think there was a bucket of fresh
water to drink would you?
It was unfortunate that Ian hasn't been able to work his magic on my mobile that I washed a couple of weeks ago. He got it working and after I realised some settings had changed I got it functioning fine apart from the lack of the down button. It didn't last though and with the aid of a magnifying glass, Ian was able to see that the problem was the contacts had got corroded under the board and would probably just carry on getting worse. Big pain. I'm now back to Ian's old phone that wouldn't charge up, but using my old phone to charge the battery - my phone didn't work apart from being able to charge the battery. Confused! Not surprised if you are!
Tellus our oldest breeding male, normally a gentle soul

Mari still up to her climbing tricks
I have made a few contacts over the last few weeks online, which has been exciting. One of them was with a felter in Poland. It has been a bit of a slow progress as we are still working on an acceptable figure to charge for the workshop, but I'm beginning to think it is a relatively new type of venture when not connected with cultural events and so funded by alternative sources. I tried looking online and there were shorter courses in Riga but no whole day events with lunch provided. I don't think there are many felters wishing to share their knowledge, they may see it as a threat to their livelihood and not another way of earning a living. We are getting there though and soon I should be able to release details.
Sheep sunbathing too

Sun with a halo
The other two contacts were with academics. One was someone who has studied wild boar for over 17 years in Germany. It is fantastic to find someone with such knowledge because here in Latvia there is no one doing that kind of research. I could have done with this kind of knowledge a few years ago when I was doing my own research, but I still keep an eye on what is happening as it is still an important rural issue, especially with the difficulties over the current African Swine Fever in the area. Another contact is looking at groups who decide on how a particular type of EU funding is spent called LAGs - not the most elegant of names but stands for LEADER Action Groups (LEADER being the type of funding and is actually a French acronym that I won't even attempt to write). This is hopefully going to lead into a bit of a collaborative effort and one that might use the format of a reflective workshop that I had developed for another occasion. That will be a nice feeling to know something I have done might actually have a wider use.

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