Monday, 18 April 2016

Summer around the corner

Beginning to green up nicely in the few sunny days we have
This week was the first week after the winter when we ate fresh greens. We had nettles, bitter cress, dandelions, onion leaves, chives and ground elder. It is like weeding straight from the garden into the pan. Later on in the year, many of these plants will not taste so nice but at this time of the year they are like a fresh tonic after the stored produce we have been eating over winter. It is a relief that things are growing now, as we are down to the last few onions and carrots. I think I also have one bag of peas left in the freezer. We have lots of meat though, still plenty of fruit, potatoes and beets, some frozen squash and some that have survived storage over the winter, so we wouldn't have starved - just meals would have taken an interesting turn.

Our neutered kitten. She is recovering very well and been
bounding around from the start
Eyre went to be neutered this last week. We don't believe in letting our cats get pregnant to increase the number of feline murderers of birds. Two is quite enough around here to keep the mice out of our feed bins and stop the mice and voles from eating our newly sprouted seedlings and if anything happens to the cats, there are plenty of replacements from the village. I say we don't believe in letting our cats get pregnant, but we were a little late with Eyre, as the tom that visited the other week had obviously had a successful visit, however the vet terminated that pregnancy. I am pleased we didn't wait any longer.

Old manure forming raised beds
Other signs that summer is on the way is our ground preparations. Ian moved the old manure heap to make some raised beds. His next job will be to fence it off so we can plant potatoes in the beds. He has also been trying to clear the areas where trees are down so that we can get to parts of the field ready to prepare that ground too. We have had some nice sunny days, but we have also had spring showers that means we can't get the tractor out to work the ground, one is too heavy and would chew up the ground, the other small walk behind tractor would not cope with the wet and sticky soil. Hopefully it won't be too long though, as the ground tends to dry out quite quickly at this time of the year as the newly growing vegetation laps up the moisture. He has also been clearing trees in preparation should we make a final decision to fence off the land. It is obviously quite a bit of money and so we have to way up the pros and cons carefully.

Out on the grass
We moved the cockerel tonight into his new home with the good egg producers. He was such a sucker. I put a handle of grain down on the floor and then easily moved into to grab him. We will attempt to get a few more hens this year but we are not going into big production like last year. Although we will wait until we know we are not going to be out and about so we can take care of the little ones better. The cockerel wasn't the only one to be moved, the sheep finally got moved out of their enclosure. They were getting noisier and noisier because they could see the green grass and wanted to be out on it, even though there isn't really much and it will harm the grass to be eaten down to low. We decided to put them in an area that we don't mind if it harms the grass because it will be ploughed over anyway. It is not as if the sheep were starving, although they were getting through the hay at quite a rate, so we are pretty sure they are pregnant. Our neighbouring farmer friend who has sheep paid us a visit to check out for us and he thinks they are pregnant too. He came to see us as I got a bit confused with the timing. I suddenly had a panic and thought they might be due when we are planning trips out and it wouldn't seem fair to leave friends and neighbours in charge of lambing sheep. Fortunately we are pretty sure they are due at the beginning of June.
They had had enough of being in here over winter and were
nibbling the grass through the fence and in the process broke
a few corner posts - so definitely time to move them

If you look hard you can see a rainbow. We don't often see
rainbows in this direction, as it was from the early morning
sun and we aren't on the land that often at that time in the
morning at that time of the year. Anyway I missed it, but
Ian saw it as he was letting the animals out
Another sign of summer being around the corner is we have started living in the caravan again. We spend as often as we can out there during the summer months and it is now warm enough to be able to do that, albeit the caravan is still in the greenhouse because the ground is just a tad too wet to get it out. The problem was that just as we were preparing to nip home to get all the things necessary to sleep out in the caravan like a quilt and pillows, another sign that summer is around the corner turned up - cyclists. Two ladies from Riga came up to see the alpacas. I was expecting Ian to come back to collect stuff to take home and seemed to be taking rather a long time considering we had things to do, when I realised I could hear him talking. I peeped out of the greenhouse to see him walking across the hills with two lycra clad ladies, so I went to introduce myself as I don't like to miss out on chatting to visitors.

Mari demonstrating the use of a communal poo pile
We were busy chatting when we heard a car and since the ladies bikes were down near the road, we were a bit worried in case a car had stopped to nick off with their bikes. Ian set off at a jog to make sure everything was okay and a car drove up onto the land. Another group of visitors. I stayed chatting with the cyclists for a few more minutes, while Ian showed around the next group. This group were very interested in what we were doing and we chatted for quite a while - meanwhile time was ticking on. Eventually they left and we got ready to go home and eat and bring back what was needed - needless to say, it was rather gloomy when we got back with our car full of stuff. We just had enough time to sort things out when it was time to roll into bed. We slept well enough, as it is so dark and quiet out on the land. We slept even better the next night when we got the pillows the right way round - I had Ian's and he had mine.

Chanel always looks like she has a lovely smile
We had other visitors too. We had a surprise phone call from one of our Estonian alpaca breeder friends to say her husband was in our village and could he pay a visit. We thought he was going to come in the evening but I got another phone call in the morning to ask if they could come. We decided to go to the hotel and guide them to our place as it is a bit hard to explain over the phone (will be easier with our brown sign). Our friend was doing a 4x4 course and the instructor was joining us too, so we had a 4x4 entourage back to our place. Mari, Chanel and Mr. P. all decided to ignore our friend - typical of animals really. I think it was really because they were enjoying finding those blades of grass too much.

If there is a blade of grass they will find it. Don't worry though
there will be plenty of time for this grass to recover before it
is eaten again. This year the animals have got even more space
to feed from that last year due to separating the boys and girls
further apart
One of the reasons for being away is that Ian has been offered shearing jobs up in Estonia and so we are trying to work out how to organise all of that. It should mean he will be shearing around 80 animals, not including our own. It is unlikely he will make much money this year, but it is the experience and finding out about the logistics that will be helpful for the future. He will then have a better idea of how much to charge next year.

More signs of spring, the grapevines are now showing signs of
Trying to track all the different things going on at the moment is a bit exhausting but I feel at least like I am ticking off jobs and getting things done. I am doing two courses at the moment and I hope I haven't already mentioned them and repeating myself. One is to make sure I have the right technical language for writing up my thesis later on in the year and the second one is to help us develop the business side of things. It is about social entrepreneurship, rather than straight ordinary business but it still gives me the right kinds of information that I need to get straightened out with the business side of things. I got a bit behind because this online course started whilst I was in the UK and then there is group work - challenging across time zones etc. One of the groups is now working together nicely, but the other one not so much. Not a lot you can do when it is like that. It is amazing though that it is possible to do group work in different countries, even me here in the caravan in the middle of nowhere. We have used Skype, Facebook, Google docs and an online Wiki. Quite a combination, but it worked.

Estelle finally beginning to look a bit pregnant. 
Another aspect of the Social Entrepreneurship course is that I have to do an interview with a social enterprise, but the problem is that in Latvia there are no formal social enterprises. I have opted to interview our neighbours who have a camp. They were the ones that lost the sheep not so long ago in a huge barn fire. They often employ people who struggle with work for one reason or another and that had become part of their goals, so it is the nearest to a social enterprise as I will get without an official designation of the business. The sheep business also helped to fund campers to attend the camps. Of course there will be issues this year, but they are working through them and seeing it as an opportunity to show value to people they employ as well as re-evaluate what they are doing - not much option really with farming. You have to carry on regardless of the losses to keep the whole thing going and to get subsidies that keep farms afloat. It is the reality for many in the farming industry and not all get through it, but I think, hope and pray these folks do and at least they do have a lot of other support, unlike some farmers.

This one is not ours but it is this sort, a very wide carder with
a large drum. We have got as far as opening the box and not
had a chance to play with it yet.
Finally we got a carder delivered this week. A carder combs the fleece so it is easier to use for spinning and some types of felting. It also cleans the fleece to some extent. I also brought back a felting machine with me from the UK. It was kindly donated to me by a friend and the felting machine has been on an epic journey. My friend lives up in Northumberland and it just so happened that another friend of mine was going up that way and so he collected it for me. The plan had been that his daughter would then take it down to Bath where she lives and another friend collect it from there as her children go to school in Bath, she would have then brought it back to Latvia (Did you follow all that?). My last minute plan to go to the UK though, meant that I could bring it back. So instead of going to Bath it went to Derbyshire where my daughter lives and then travelled back with me in hand luggage, after removing all the sharp needles and putting those in the checked in baggage. It did cause quite a laugh in security and it was a good job my daughter gave me a small suitcase to put it in, instead of the wrapping it had because I had to take it out of the bag as it was classed as an electrical item, like computers.


  1. Pleased you made it with the machine. Looking forward to seeing what you make!


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