Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Just a typical week really!

Not quite sure why the picture is cropped the way it has, but
never mind, I love the cloud scene anyway
What a range of visitors we have had this week, from India to Liverpool. The reason for the lateness of this blog was an unexpected visit from some folks from what we jokingly call Northernshire in our family, in other words from the Northern parts of England. It is bizarre to meet people here in the middle of rural Latvia who come from near where I lived as a child and close to where my parents now live. There were a couple who were from Blackburn and Preston who were house sitting for a young chap who has a house nearby and is a regular visitor to our farm now. They came with a friend who had come to visit for a few days, who was from Liverpool. Well we extended a typical northern welcome and invited them for some tea and cake, which they graciously accepted.

A marshmallow plant
I'm afraid that sometimes the offer of tea and cake can send some folks on their way for some reason. Not sure if it is my cakes - they're not bad really, ask Ian - or just not used to being invited for a cup of tea or they really do have to be on their way. Still it was nice they accepted and we had a great time chatting. They were really open about where they are at in life and we talked about our journeys. It is exciting to hear of some young folks who are willing to be different and experiment in life, but sadly as they say, they have nothing to lose these days.

A soggy unshorn sheep. We need some dry weather again
They appreciated my feelings that I feel my generation have let them down by taking so much and expecting so much from them too. It annoys me that rents and university fees are so high, when our generation benefitted from much better provision for the future. We were thrilled too that they felt inspired while chatting to carry on pursuing what is on their hearts. We were all amazed how time flew and by the time they left it was time to make our evening meal and then I had chanterelles and some boletes mushrooms to sort out for drying and they couldn't wait or I would have wasted the hour or so that it took for me to pick them. Not forgetting that I also had chickens to feed and put away for the night.
Lots of mowing done

Grapes ripening
As usual in July my supervisor and his wife come to visit us, or our alpacas really. This time they brought a fellow PhD student, his wife and their little four year old, who are originally from India (we are clocking up an amazing array visitors from many different countries now). The little one was a bright spark, who spoke good English and presumably Hindi, but not absolutely sure and a little Estonian, but on this day she was adamant she was speaking English. Being Indian but spending most of her time in first Edinburgh and then Tartu, she was not familiar with some of the plants we have here on the land and unfortunately discovered nettles. I had to show her what they looked like so she could avoid them and I also had to get out my spray for itchy spots and bites, which fortunately worked well on her, although she looked very dubious about it before she let me spray the area that she had stung. We were amused to hear her talking about the "sting rays" afterwards.
More early morning sunshine, but don't be deceived it clouded
over later.

Starting to get a regular supply of tomatoes now at last
At one point she asked me why we had buckets under the caravan and I explained it was to catch the rain water. With absolute logic she stated they should be put out on the grass away from the caravan so they could catch more rain. I could not convince her that all the water from the roof of the caravan trickled down at these points into the buckets and would collect more water that way. She was quite insistent that they should not be there. I wonder if one of our own granddaughters would display the same forthright opinions on such matters when she comes, I could imagine she will.

It would have been nice to share some of the photos from
the visit, but we haven't seen any yet and we are too busy
showing people around to take photos normally
We also had a coach party in this week again. We were told it was going to be a group of about 30 with special needs but weren't given much in the way of details. We thought that meant 30 total with some who had special needs, not necessarily 30 with special needs plus about 20 helpers. When the bus turned up, we realised it was going to be a few more than 30. Fortunately most were mobile with only three in wheelchairs. Much as we would like to be accessible, we are not entirely and the only reason we were was because the ground at the time was still relatively dry and Ian had been able to mow the grass around the girls' paddock area to make things easier. If it had been today, it might have been a bit of a struggle with the wheelchairs, as it has got very muddy with the very wet weather we have had over the last few days.

A sunflower in the brief spell of sunshine we had this morning
We gave them the talk, with one of the ladies from the group translating, about what we do with the alpacas and many of them were really engaged and were asking questions afterwards. One young guy was really lovely and went onto tell us that his uncle uses a horse in their garden and he combs the mane of the horse. Those with special needs are not well integrated into society here and people tend to look down on them, however, we have had experience over the years and love working with them. They were a really warm and friendly group. We explained that if they were calm and quiet the alpacas would be more likely to come to them, and bless them they really were very gentle with the animals. We gave them carrots to feed the alpacas and let them into the girls' paddock.

The soggy barley has been mulched
We brought two of our young males across too, as we didn't think it would work to take them across to the boys' paddock as that was a bit too challenging with the wheelchairs. Ian made sure that those in the wheelchairs got to feel the soft coat of our youngest alpaca, Brencis and the smiles on their faces was priceless. When it was time to go we walked down the road with Brencis and Ian gave one end of the leading rope to the young chap who told us about his uncle's horse. There was a cluster of young boys as well who also wanted to hold the rope. I don't think they really wanted to go. There were lots of happy faces and cheery waves as they left in the coach. If all coach parties were that easy, it would be lovely.

At least we have some squashes ripening
Of course there were other visitors too, who were all just passing and had noticed the alpacas in the field. There was a group of four cyclists who Ian spotted in our field taking a look, he had quite a chat with them as they were really interested in what we were doing. I had to cut short chatting with them as another couple came on. I could tell by the way the lady was talking that she was more business orientated as she was asking about the marketing of the place and I explained about using Facebook and how word of mouth seems to be quite effective. Later on she asked if we believed in God and I explained how we felt we should care for this wonderful world he gave us. They couldn't stop long but they asked if they could pray for us, which was really nice and to cap it all they wrote a lovely piece about our place on Facebook.

A soggy Mr. P.
There was another group of three who were also just passing but we had a problem with the language. They still enjoyed the visit and the young chap was on the phone to someone telling them about the llamas, to which his mother corrected him and told him they weren't llamas, they were alpacas, which amused me. At least someone got it! We often have to correct people who think they are llamas. Close but not quite.

Rain clouds gathering
Our other animals were also up to antics this last week. Our youngest cat is getting to be quite a pest for cleaning up after we have finished a meal. She hardly even waits for us to leave before she is up on the table investigating. We have lost cake and bread in our forgetfulness. We now have tins on the table ready to put that kind of thing in. She also tried to bring a live mouse into the greenhouse. Not helpful at all. I ended up fatally injuring the poor thing, as we can't afford to have a mouse loose in there. Ian ended up evicting both cat and mouse.

Early morning sunshine though
One of our chickens went broody on us and I had to put her in a box last week to stop her from hogging the nesting box and stopping the other two from laying. It appears though that putting the chicks in seems to have helped as she has now adopted them. Not sure if they appreciate this fact, although one night I opened the nesting box a bit later than normal, as I had forgotten to check for eggs and found the previously broody hen surrounded by all the chicks. I guess they appreciate her some of the time though. It is amusing to see her clucking away to let the chicks know where the food is.

Our forest and the wood pile where we are growing
the squashes
Last but not least we had a visit to the accountants to chat through some ideas of ways forward. We were relieved to find that we don't have to have a signature on all the receipts for money that people give us for tours around the place. We just need to write it down in the book and give one of the copies to the accountants. That makes us feel a lot better, as most people are just leaving and thrust some money in our direction as a thank you, they don't want to spend the next ten minutes while we fill out the receipt book with name, address, number etc. What we do need to do though is to investigate if it would be beneficial to have an association or non-profit at the moment, while we build the business. I was thinking that it might make it easier for others too, as it would then be possible to make donations to enable more visits from those with special needs and maybe at some stage we can work on how to make our hilly piece of land that bit more accessible for wheelchairs and those with reduced mobility. Maybe a golf-cart or something similar- now there's an idea!

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