Monday, 20 June 2016


A contrite cat? Not!
Our cats are working animals with jobs to do and to a great extent they do their job well, they are often seen with mice, voles and even moles sometimes. They also manage not to bring too many live ones into the greenhouse and never into the caravan. However, they have not had such a good hunting season around my garlic. It would seem that over three quarters of it have simply disappeared and I wonder about the carrots, as there were times that water would just run away down a hole. The voles must have also had some of broad beans, as one patch seems to have only a few that seem to have germinated.
Brencis is getting big now. It is hard to think that he is one today.

A nuzzle from Mum
I don't make matters easy for the cats in some ways I guess because there are times they follow me into the garden and I am not entirely pleased with them when they wander across my seed beds or worse use them as a toilet. Not helpful, so maybe my vegetable plot is not their most favourite place to be. Sometimes when Eyre, our youngest cat, follows us it does not lead to a good outcome in other ways too. From the swallows that dive bombed her causing her to crawl along the ground to avoid them, to the time that she decided that near us was the perfect place to pee (sounds familiar) and so she scraped away at a convenient scrap of soil amongst the grasses. The next thing we saw was one cat hairing up a tree at a rate of knots, because of course there are only two sources for convenient soil patches in amongst the grass, mole hills and ant hills - she chose the latter. We laughed!

Resting under the trees under Mum's
watchful eye.
Eyre seems to have a special sense of where not to sleep and she has been shooed off my pepper plants, she got too close to tomato plants that were under fleece that she loves to sleep on. I have found her on top of the chick heater - fortunately they are safe under wire that they cannot pop their heads through. I also found her recently sat on my squash seedling tray. I wish cats had a sense of what to sleep on and what NOT to sleep on. It would be useful. It is one of the reasons for having catmint under a basket to keep it safe from cats until it has established itself properly to handle an invasion from them.

These little fellas have been safe and sound in the
boys alpaca house. They are getting big though so we thought
it probably won't be long before they take flight and join their
parents eating the insects. I love watching swallows
in flight.
One of the worst features of the cats is the fact they find small birds make a great delicacy. We had noticed a bird going in and out of the old alpaca house and were quite excited that a pair of birds had made it their home. Unfortunately we were responsible in part for their sad demise. The last sheep to give birth had to be put in the shed so that we could milk her to try and save the lambs, which if you read last week we were unable to do, but our cats thought it was a great adventure to follow us down to the shed each time we went. They seem to be less afraid of the sheep than the alpacas, as the sheep by and large ignore them, where as the alpacas are liable to investigate, which frightens the cats off.

Today they flew their nest. It was obviously getting a little
cramped in there
I always shooed the cats out of the alpaca shed, especially when they started climbing. One of the biggest problems for birds is the fact that Sofie is an excellent climber. One day we spotted her as she was starting to climb up the outside of the alpaca house, she was obviously after the nest. We shooed her off and she scampered away, but we knew it was likely to be only a matter of time. That night she hung around while we put the animals and chickens away, she was unusually attentive. Maybe I am reading too much into her behaviour, but it was as if she was making sure we went in and were out of the way, before she returned to an uninterrupted feast of baby birds. The evidence of torn and shredded fleece that was stapled to the side of the alpaca house to stop the snow in winter and help warm up the interior of that particular shed was enough to let us know what had happened.

We are quite relieved to see these two spending time with their
mother. We were worried at first that they still hadn't bonded 
well enough and she didn't seem especially attentive to them,
unlike the other mum.
The season has been tough on the plants. We finally got the rain we desperately needed and we were surprised that it appears it might have just arrived in time to save some of the shrivelled buckwheat, but it is still not as good as we would hope. Potatoes are finally starting to poke through and some other plants are finally beginning to put in an appearance after their winter sleep and so are the weeds now. It looks like we might have a grape cutting that overwintered successfully, but it has taken until now to show any signs of life. The rain might not have been in time for some of our blackberries. They were flowering away well and then suddenly started dying off. Most of my sage plants don't seem to have even bothered to appear, there are still no signs of life. One small sage plant fortunately is already in leaf and flowering but the large bushes - nothing!

Fortunately our solar dryer only blew over without any
significant damage. 
The unsettled weather unfortunately also brought a storm with it. One night the caravan was shaking with the wind and the next morning several trees were down, along with the branches in the middle of one of our cherry trees. Our new small greenhouse collapsed, but fortunately that was due to poles coming apart rather than breaking them. Connectors broke and there was already a small tear in the plastic and that got a bit worse, but it has been repaired and put back up. We are still not sure how well it will fare in another storm. Our old one is still going, despite the fact the plastic is getting brittle in places and seams tearing. That one though is well anchored into the ground by burying about 10cm or so of it into the ground and that seems to be the trick to keeping it safe. We are glad that our Christiania bike went to its new home though before the greenhouse collapsed as it was being stored there.
Fortunately this was not as bad as it looked and Ian has been
able to repair it

What I don't understand is how this shelter is still standing. It
has definitely got more and more of a lean on it, but the storm
didn't finish it off. It will be going soon though as it needs to
be taken down to make room for an office for me.
Ian has had his fair share of escapades this week. He managed to get the tractor stuck digging more holes to encourage water to stay on the land rather than run off elsewhere. We are trying to strike a balance between having somewhere for water to go when there is too much, which happens frequently and somewhere to store it for when we do not get enough rain, that also happens too frequently. He dug some larger holes in a ditch but it wasn't quite as dry as he hoped and whilst digging hadn't realised that the big wheels were sinking deeper. He spent a fruitless afternoon trying to get himself out before admitting defeat and calling for reinforcements from one of our neighbours (unfortunately no photos, as I wasn't there, I was at our apartment doing some sorting out). I saw our neighbour afterwards and he said it was easy, like plucking a carrot out of the ground. Amusing! The good news is that the holes in the ditches are full with water after the rain and the big pond that Ian dug last week is slowly beginning to fill up. The ground around is still likely to be boggy around there and so we are going to plant that area up with cranberries and blueberries. Hopefully we can take some cuttings from our other plants.

Mother and son are doing well. He is a little photogenic lamb
I often wonder what we have done over the years here, especially when considering how precarious our residence is with such things as the EU referendum in the UK. If we left tomorrow would we leave a legacy? I then think of the times that people have looked again at the rural area around them and realised how rich they are, if not in monetary terms, but in natural resources. We may not have been successful farmers or business people, but hopefully we have encouraged some to re-evaluate what they have here in Latvia and value their natural environment that is in a better state than some of the land in the UK with its over-intensified farming. Where in the UK can you hear a cuckoo on a regular basis? Where can you regularly see ospreys and eagles circling over head? Where do you see the flower rich meadows? Where can you see so many stars on a clear night that it takes your breath away?

A rather large visitor of the feathered kind. It is still amazing
after all these years to see so many storks. Not a common
sight in the UK
Many people who come are amazed at what we have managed to do over time, as they don't have the vision to see something like this happening in rural Latvia. Okay we are not turning a profit and sometimes there is a lot of work to do so we get tired, but we are eating the sort of fresh food that you pay a fortune for in the supermarkets, we are enjoying the outdoor life and the companionship of our alpacas. We have people come and visit who have heard about our alpacas and Ian never tires of telling people about them. Occasionally we also have visitors where a real connection is made and it turns into an opportunity to have a chat about lots of other topics and sometimes those chats help them to think that there is something more to hope in and there is something in the path we have tread. I am sure there are those that can tread a similar path and make more of a success of it than we have and I'm fine with that, in fact I'm more than fine with that.


  1. We have same precarious situation here now, as our barn cat is trying to figure out how to get to the barn swallows nest. He's becoming less bothered by the dive bombing. We're hoping the nest is safely out of his reach and (like you) wishing he would concentrate his efforts on the garden-eating critters.

    I've been meaning to let you know that I'm sorry about the losses you've had lately. I know how they can hurt. And I was thinking of you and Ian when I saw the results of the referendum. Hoping things work out well for you all. All best wishes...

    1. At least our swallows are safe, our cats might adapt to the dive bombing from the swallows, but they haven't made friends with the alpacas where the swallows are based :)

      Thanks for thinking of us, we appreciate your kind words. It has been a tough time


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