Monday, 16 May 2016

Slow week

Ian talking to the tourism group
Well it was only a slow week if you take into account that travelling around Estonia involved many detours, as we took too many wrong turnings, so we were slow getting anywhere. Apparently GPS would not help either according to the people we met along the way. It has actually been a very busy week. We started off with another tour around our land by a local tourism group. We felt we had got a much better approach to telling the story of what happens on our farm than the day before, which seems to work better. After they left we moved the sheep onto fresh grass so they didn't escape to greener pastures while we were away and I planted tomatoes until there was no more light to plant tomatoes by. In the end I dug a trench and soaked it to put the unsorted tomatoes in so that they didn't have to be watered by our friend.

I forgot I had this picture on my camera and it is Ian busy
building the toilet the week before. You can tell it is May
from this photo, Ian is wearing shorts, so it is warm enough,
but it is also before the biting insects come out - then he
covers up again.
We had three places lined up for shearing on Wednesday but they were at opposite ends of Estonia and only 9 alpacas between them. It was a good learning experience and we met many lovely people. On the first stop Ian was asked if he would shear some sheep - the answer was a polite but firm "No!" Our own are bad enough. Alpacas are much easier, once you know how to restrain them. We were offered coffee but had to decline so that we could get moving onto the next stop. Up to that point we were doing rather well, but after that timings went out the window. I tried to navigate using the Google maps that Ian had printed off, then we tried using the mobile internet but that wasn't working so well. In the end we stopped and went old school by buying a map book, after that we progressed much better.

As requested the fleece was left around the faces of these ones
and the "socks" left too, hence the hairy legs. The owner said
they never went into the trees, but obviously they were intent
on getting away as far as possible after shearing.
The next stop was at a lovely home of two lecturers near Tallinn, the capital in the north of the country. We could have stopped much longer and chatted, but we didn't have time. Part of the problem, apart from arriving late after detours was we had to help them round up the alpacas as they were new alpaca owners and hadn't got the hang of getting them to come in when necessary (we remember the same problems when we first got ours). We stepped in when we realised the alpacas were not going to cooperate readily and with the use of some ropes we corralled the four into the space where we needed them. These alpacas has been recently imported from England and hadn't been sheared in eighteen months, they also liked to roll in gritty sand and the cutters we used quickly became blunt. Still we were provided with food and cups of tea and an offer to stay over next time. It would certainly make a nice holiday if we did it that way and something we are seriously considering for next year.

Lady V enjoying the early morning sunshine. Later on in the
day it has been too hot for her.
We found the right area for the next stop but didn't find the entrance to the road to the farm, fortunately after a phone call the owner drove up to the main road and waited for us to guide us in. It was getting really late, but at least these alpacas were fastened in. We had to finish the last alpaca by artificial light, which considering we are quite far north and at this time of the year the nights are short - it tells you how late we were. We got to our friends where we planned to stop for two days to shear around 35 of their animals at about 1am and rolled into bed at 2am. At least we didn't have to be up too early, but it had been a long, long day.

The first day went okay, Ian steadily got faster and improved all the time. The lady also showed him a different method to shear that she had found worked for her and Ian found that was easier in some ways. He has to find his own method in the end that works for him and gets the job done quickly, so seeing a different approach helped. Our friends were very patient to allow Ian to train as they would like us to be able to come back again next year to help again. It has been hard for them to get shearing done as they expand and also host many groups coming from the nearby coastal resort. Although we would like to expand too, we don't have plans to get as big as they are now - our land wouldn't support such a large herd, so if this works then it is a good experience for all of us.

Mr. P. looks all skin and bone and it doesn't help that he has
been rolling around in the dust, which on a black alpaca
highlights how thin he is. Alpacas are supposed to be this
thin by the way, underneath all that fleece.
Unfortunately we had a cutter problem again (or to be more precise, cutter and comb problem - the cutters on the top, the comb at the bottom). Ian had run out of combs due to the problems he had on previous days. We had to call it a day and we also had to tell someone else that we wouldn't be able to make it to their place the following day. We are thinking of getting a sharpener so that Ian can sharpen the combs on site, but they are pretty pricey at around £850, which is why he didn't bother this time around. We had to know it would be worth it. Although it would take a few years to pay us back, the time saved on sorting out sharpening and the wear and tear on the car, backwards and forwards to the place, which is an hour and twenty minutes away, to get them done quickly makes it more reasonable. We could take them to the local vets to get them sent over but it would take at least a week that way and with multiple trips to Estonia in quick succession, it won't work.

It will be interesting to see what Chanel looks like underneath
her fleece. 
It has certainly been an interesting experience and like I said at the beginning we met some lovely people along the way. Ian's instructions for size of shearing area seemed to help and each place so far has had a reasonable working space and a good place to anchor the restraints. Sorry not many pictures from the trip as I was helping too.

A weird sunset after the rain
Getting back to our place has meant catching up on some jobs that needed doing but the dry weather we have been having has meant it hasn't been worth planting too many seeds yet. We only got the first reasonable amount of rain last night and I noticed when planting out some cauliflower plants that the ground was only damp down to a few inches. It has now gone cooler again too and so we shall just have to be patient and do a mega planting session next week.

Lovage is usually the first herb to come through
Spring is definitely coming along though and peas are beans are beginning to show through that were planted a few weeks ago and well watered in. The golden biscuit is back too, aka golden oriole; we have only seen it once, but the call it makes is very distinctive. Another distinctive call is the call of the cranes, they are so noisy at mating time and they are certainly ratcheting up the calls these days. The swallow is nesting and we have put a few more eggs onto incubate. We haven't put many on, as we would like a new cockerel for breeding, but we will see what we get with this lot.

Good King Henry - such a fabulous name for a rather plain
looking plant. Still it makes a good spinach substitute at this
time of year and I don't have to replant seeds every year
We have also had another group who we were told were a choir group from Cesvaine, it turned out to be a group from another village instead and we have no idea if they were a choir or not. They also arrived an hour early and we weren't quite ready. Never mind, it doesn't matter it worked out in the end and we had a lovely time with people promising to come back again. We had just packed up after they left and sitting down having a cup of tea when a car load of people turned up. They said they had seen our place on a tourism programme on the telly, which was news to us, but obviously word is starting to get around now.


  1. I had to consult the Google re. Good King Henry. It looks familiar, but evidently we don't have it here. We do, however, have a bumper crop of lambsquarter this year. I think you call it Fat Hen.

    1. Fat hen it is or goosefoot, another related species of the same family. All edible anyway.


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