Monday, 18 September 2017

Squelch!

A selfie in my new raincoat. Good job I got
it really
Is that the sound of a babbling brook I hear? Or the gentle running sound of a waterfall. Errrr! Yes! Not that there should be on our land. We have swamps and streams that dry up in summer but not exactly babbling brooks and there definitely shouldn't be a babbling brook near our greenhouse, but today there was. Actually there was a torrent of water running down into our ponds. We also have a stream running across our lower field and the drain from the road is under water - we didn't venture near to find out by how much though. In one or two places we had to back track from our investigations because the water seemed to be rather deep.
The top pond into the middle pond. We could
have had trout instead of carp in this pond. Mind
you at this rate we could end up with carp in the
middle pond if those carp have spawned.
The middle pond flowing into the bottom pond


Sweet little Frederiks
We haven't had as much of an issue with escaping animals this week, as our neighbour has now put up a more permanent fence with wooden posts and barbed wire. It seems to have done the trick anyway. Frederiks though, bless him did manage to end up on the wrong side of the fence. He seemed almost relieved to see Ian, as went up to him - they are usually quite shy still at his age. Winter seems to change that as they get used to being fed with grain. Ian wasn't able to actually get hold of Frederiks so I helped to corral him and he jumped back over the fence since it was down in places. The electric went back on to remind him what it is for.
George's fleece looks wonderfully soft, it will be interesting
to know what it will be like when he is sheared next year

Herkules has now remembered what the electric fence is for
since this photo was taken
Our usual suspects, Herkules, Mari and Veronica have all been eating through the fence to get to the greener grass and so the fences have been switched on at various times. They get through the green stuff at a much faster rate at this time of the year and fences need moving more often, especially when it has been as wet as it has been this week. We don't have them on permanently as we get through too many batteries otherwise and so use them judiciously. The sheep fence is always on though and gives a hefty kick, they wouldn't stay behind it otherwise.
Our babbling brook next to the greenhouse

Aggie's fleece interestingly showed the time she was sick
with the tooth abscess. The fleece diameter  declined quite
steeply at one point and so she must not have been not eating
properly for longer than we realised. Good job she made a
good recovery once we realised she was poorly and knew
what the issue was.
We found out an interesting fact this week as we got the fleece results back. We found out that our animals tend to get fat over winter making their fleeces not as good as they could be. The hay and probably lack of exercise does not help - just like humans really. Looks like we might have to run them around the paddock this winter to ensure they don't overeat. At least we don't have to worry about the quality of the hay, it is obviously more than adequate to keep them going and this year we do not have as much worry about not having enough like last year.

Down the side of the greenhouse. Ian had
to lift the extension cable out of the water

Ian had to move the water buckets that catch the water off the
roof so that the water could drain away

Frederiks with his mum, Chanel
Our friends from the Alpakafarm in Estonia visited us this week too, so there was plenty of alpaca talk. They were visiting Riga for shopping and called in on a bit of a detour. Mind you at least it saved us a trip as we needed some more alpaca feed, which they supply us with as they are distributors. They have stopped using the Estonian company for their own animals though and reverted to the more expensive Camelibra, produced in the UK. They weren't happy with the quality of the feed. We are also going to try the Camelibra and we shall see what effect it has on our animals as some of them are getting skin issues again and it could be linked.
We also discussed mating issues of alpacas with our friends.
We don't seem to have had a problem with Mr. P. though. Ian
checked one last time to see if the girls were pregnant and they
were definitely not letting Mr. P. anywhere near. He looks quite
calm here for a jilted lover

I love the purple colour of this mushroom
It hasn't been wet all week, just very wet when it has rained. On the dry days we try and get as much done as possible. I've picked more peas, taken up plants, cleared veg beds and sorted out areas for Ian to dump the alpaca poo over the winter to rot down into the nice rich soil we get from it. I have also been on caterpillar hunts as they have finally started appearing, which is a pain as the cabbagey type plants were doing quite nicely up to that point and really started to get going. This is also the time of year for collecting seeds from poppies, dill, mustard and hemp. I did leave some hemp though as I kept being told off by a Willow Tit (at least that is what I think it is) who was feeding off the hemp seeds. I thought it was just one, but it turns out there are two of them and they are bold little chaps.
The little fella is up there on the bean pole giving me a good
telling off as usual. That jungle passes for a vegetable garden

Our rather full and murky pond

A rainy day job, sorting out the ditches to
make sure the water runs away from the
buildings. A bit of a problem when our land
is so hilly
Since it seemed so wet for most of the week, Ian has been ticking off some jobs that needed doing. He fixed the boys feeder which got broken and one day he finally made me some shelves to fit the Ikea shelving units that I asked for earlier on in the year. He even came with me into our village to fit them. It was only when we got there though that we realised we hadn't got enough of the screw bolts. Doh! Seems like I will have to wait a bit longer to finish putting up the shelves and sorting out. He also spent a whole morning trying to scan receipts so that finances are in order before he heads off the UK. You can tell how wet it is when he spends time doing this before he needs to, he would rather be outside.
At least Aggie does not put her head through the fence like
Mari and Veronica, but she still likes to nibble the grass on
the other side

Such pretty mushrooms. Apparently they
can be eaten once parboiled first as the poison
is water soluble, however I'm not going to try
it. Too risky for my liking.
Still Ian has managed to get outside on those dry days and he has been doing a lot of strimming in the forest to make it easier for himself in the winter when he does the forest maintenance work. He also cleared a path through the forest along the edge of our border, so we know where the border is and it makes a nice walk too. We did try mushroom hunting again this week and we found a few, but not the huge numbers we expected due to the damp conditions. I am beginning to wonder if the nights have been too cool. If it warms up a tad then I think there will be more.
More of the pretty Fly Agaric mushrooms. Of
course I was telling someone I hadn't seen any
this year and then we go and see lots of them
No Veronica. you are not supposed to be eating the leaves off
the oak tree

Before the babbling brook got started in earnest


Monday, 11 September 2017

Harvesting between the showers

A barrowful of potatoes, fairly blight free, scab free, wormhole
free and fork hole free
The seasonal cycle turns and another milestone of the year passes. We are heading into autumn and so  harvesting of the main crops begins. The forecast for this next week is not good and so I took advantage of a dry day to start taking up the potatoes. I was going to write digging them up but some of them didn't need digging up. This year we tried a different approach, in winter and early spring of this year Ian put some of the manure from the alpacas on the ground and then in late spring he put in the potatoes by making a hole through the manure pile to the hard soil underneath. Alpaca manure is not as strong as other manures and so can be put directly on the garden. Later on in the year, as the potatoes poked through I and one of our helpers put old hay around them to encourage them to put out more roots and keep the weeds at bay.

The dark rich soil and not a bad
return, with each pile coming from
one original potato
To harvest the crop I took up the hay and found the potatoes, as some were on the surface of the soil just under the hay. It was then just a matter of sieving with my hands through the deep black soil to find the potatoes. The soil, despite all the rain we have had was rich and crumbly and so easy to find the potatoes. One group of potatoes though were a bit more rooty with weeds, which made it harder, so Ian used a fork to take those up, while I forked over the other beds for stray potatoes and any roots before covering up with hay again. It was much less stressful than in previous years as it didn't feel like a major exercise to organise, especially now all the gardening is done out on our land - we finally gave up the allotments last year. I got started on them and when Ian had finished doing what he was doing, he joined me to help.

The boys, by and large behaving themselves. Mr. P (our black
alpaca) was up to see the girls again, but was rather
disappointed, they were not having any of his advances. We
are fairly sure they are all pregnant now.
Another milestone that happens about this time of the year is escaping animals. They all seem to make an attempt at it. With the alpacas it is usually because one of them decides to start eating over the fence and so the electric fences get switched on more at this time of the year to remind them of their limits, but it isn't usually a big deal. This week it wasn't our animals that were the problem initially, it was our neighbours cows. They have escaped a few times already and that is why our other neighbour wanted to put up a fence last week. Well they escaped again this week and caused us a bit of a problem this time.

One layer of panelling completed. It will stop like this for
the time being, as we don't need the extra room yet and it
works better like this for a barn.
It had been a rather pleasant day to start off with too. Ian had been putting up the panelling around our newest alpaca house at last and he ran out of nails, so he needed to take a trip into our village to get some more. I had been doing some computer work and fancied a break and so I suggested a trip to the bakery, where we had a nice cup of cocoa and a pastry. On the way back Ian saw the neighbours cows out and so when we got back, as I went to go hunting for mushrooms he did some investigating.

I'm not sure if this is one of the edible ones
or not, so I took a photo to compare. 
So now picture the scene. I am wandering through our forest hunting for mushrooms. There are so many delightful looking mushrooms, and plenty of the edible ones that I know well enough to pick. Some are huge, chanterelles were also now appearing in different places to the ones where we know they grow regularly. The mushrooms were here, there, popping up everywhere. I love mushroom picking, as it is a great excuse for a wander around the forest, meanwhile……

Our winter squash collection is growing
Ian is not having such a delightful time. He had spotted that our neighbours cows were now in the road, he tried to phone our neighbour and couldn’t get through. He drove up to see her and on the way spotted three rather familiar faces - our sheep. Not where they should be but on our other neighbours land. He tried to phone me, again and again… my phone was back in the caravan. Whoops!

Finally apples from our trees in our small orchard, well more
than about three like we had last year. 
I got back to the caravan and discovered the number of missed phone calls. I rang to find out where he was and what the calls were for. He wasn’t best pleased. Our sheep are out, the neighbours cows seemed to have broken the wire, or freaked our sheep out. Either way our sheep were across the road and not where they should be. I had to set off to find them armed with a bowl of feed.

Maybe not so clear as I had hoped, but I love
the Cross design in the middle of
the courgettes
I saw them on our neighbours field but realised that the fence we had agreed to was now between me and them, somehow they had got through. I found out they must have just worked there way around it and so I trundled around to entice them back. I had to do this slowly to give Ian time to re-build the fence in a different area as it needed moving anyway.

We are gorging on grapes at the moment
At first the sheep were happy to follow, but when they realised that I wasn’t giving them much food from the bowl the older female in particular was starting to look towards going somewhere else. It also started raining. I had to keep moving. At one point she was quite determined to move off in a totally different direction. She then heard a sound and stood listening, she could hear Ian across the road hammering posts. She knew what that sound meant, it meant food! She started to trot off. Yikes she was heading for the road on her own. I phoned Ian and told him I was going to have to move to get her attention again. He wasn’t finished. 

I started to move to a safer crossing place away from the corner where the trucks coming hurtling along. I didn’t have much time to listen, I had to keep moving to keep the sheep behind me. I went across the road the sheep thankfully followed but then hesitated at the edge, reluctant to make the way over the rise onto our land. A car was coming! Fortunately it encouraged them in the right direction. Ian was trying to lay the wire, the posts were hammered in.

A picture from back in mid-August in
the paddock where they escaped from.
Madam who was not convinced by my
feeding occasional bit to her is on the
left
I took the sheep into the centre of the newly enclosed area and I started to drop feed to keep them interested. The lambs were fine with this, but madam was not. She expected a full bowl and that chap over there was one who usually provided it, so off she goes to Ian. Too late she and the lambs who were now following her crossed the one strand of wire. Ian managed to encourage them back in but when they realised that Ian was trying the same trick I was, whilst I was trying to wire up the fence in Ian's place they decided to take off up the hill. Smart!



Our friends who made a rather nice
wine from these are collecting these
ones to have another go at making
wine with them. They are going to take
all of them. I tried ours and it is still
a bit rough - will keep us in mulled wine
over winter though
Ian was worried they would freak out the alpacas. I headed on up with the remaining feed, over the hill to see the sheep trying to head towards the alpacas - you know the big sheep with the long legs and necks. The gate was open on their old paddock though, I managed to get the sheep’s attention and went into the paddock. This time I put the bowl down and let them eat it all, while quickly covering the gap with the wire. I also realised at this point the other gate was still open, so had to nip back behind the wire, re-close it and then head up to the other gate before they noticed. Fortunately they were still too interested in the feed.

Eyre enjoying cleaning out the pot of sour cream ready
for recycling
At least now the sheep were penned in and the alpacas did not freak out, although Brencis kept making a noise as if to say what are these strange stunted alpacas? I was also by now saturated. Good job my new raincoat arrived the day before. After finishing off making our mushroomy meal we headed on into the caravan to change and eat. Farming can be exciting, but not always quite the kind of excitement we want. Still everyone was fine, the sheep under control and we dried out, so no harm in the end.
The sun does shine sometimes

Carrots, squash, onions and grapes ready for
roasting
The rest of the week was fairly mundane. I have been marking work, working on my paper, and harvesting beans and tomatoes. Ian has been moving fences, writing updates for our alpaca adoptees and pumping out the well again. We are pleased that we have found the well now gives us about 75-85 litres of water a day up to about 700 litres or so, when it then starts to slow down. Mind you, it has been wet just lately, so of course that might help. I'm glad we don't have the sort of escapades our sheep put us through every day of the week.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Autumnal

A soggy Mari. I will be glad when her hair grows back, it
will look much better. Still it had to be done to get out all
the muck out from the top of her head
The weather at the moment is dreich - that great Scottish word that sums up dreary, wet and windy weather that can go on for hours, days or even weeks. Well let's hope it is not the latter but certainly the weather has been rather dreich for the latter half of this week. It is not cold, thank goodness, but certainly looks autumnal with the nights closing in.

A soggy Frederiks too
The first half of the week wasn't too bad and we had a visit from some friends with their children. The boys and their father had popped in from time to time, but their mum hadn't been for ages. The land was officially hers up until three years ago and so it was nice to show her all the changes since the last time she had been. They also helped Ian load up the trailer with the roofing panels that he would need to fix the alpaca boys' roof.
Not sure what this plant is, so if anyone knows
then please let us know. 

Lady V will definitely not be having any more babies, she
is officially retired now
The roof has been leaking badly all summer due to the prolonged rains we have had. At first we didn't fix it in the hope the swallows would come back, they didn't, then we were busy with hay and then it rained. Sigh! Finally we had a few days forecast without rain, although that is still not a guarantee of anything. The forecasters are really struggling to give an accurate weather forecast even a day ahead these days. Ian prepared all the beams and battening in the hope that it would only take a day to take the roof off and then replace it. Unfortunately it took longer but it worked out in the end.

A soggy Lady V
While Ian took the roof off and with not a lot else to do, I got the chopped wood stacked in the horse box so it was ready to take to the apartment that we have to heat with our own wood supply. That took me most of the day. In the meantime Ian got the roof off and put the beams on, although he did have company. The local building inspector, aka Sofie would appear on the beams every now and again to inspect his work. When I finished stacking the wood, I got the screws out of the old roofing boards - well most of them. They were hard to see and we found some I had missed as we stacked them onto the trailer to take away. I also cleared up the broken bits of board lying around and bits of  wood offcuts, leaving Ian free just to get on with the roof. We only had time for some egg sandwiches that evening and Ian worked into the night to try and finish the roof, working by tractor lights.

George running around
One side did get done and we tried to get the boys into the half finished building while there was still some light, but they weren't happy about it. They ended up staying outside for the night. At 10pm Ian called it a day and rang me to ask me to help him clear up for the night. I had taken the opportunity to finish off some marking for my online students, since there wasn't much point in standing around in the dark. It wasn't easy ensuring the place was safe for the boys overnight by torch light but we managed. At least the tractor lights are very bright so that helped.

A handsome young chap outside his alpaca house with the
new roof on
The next morning Ian got back on with the roof despite being tired as the forecast was for rain by midday. There wasn't much I could do and I ended up sorting out his trip to the UK to attend a parasitology course later on in the month. He's going with the Hungarian alpaca owner who visited us over the summer so they can share costs. It is a bit pricey to do it on your own, so this way makes it a bit more affordable and hopefully the money we save on parasite testing and the peace of mind of being able to check all the alpacas will outweigh the costs in the end. He will also be taking the chance to see the kids too, but he can sort out that on the wet days.

A matching set of red roofs now


New beams and battens too. Ian even managed to save the
old swallows nest. It's a bit hard to see in this picture
but it is there saved from the old beam and fastened onto
the new one
The afternoon, however was not as bad as the forecast, in fact it turned out to be quite nice. So nice we took the afternoon off - well sort of. We pottered about and then went to collect mushrooms in the forest. We even found a chicken in the woods, or chicken from Tescos as it got nicknamed. The mushroom has quite a meaty texture hence the name. We first just tried a bit fried first of all because some people react to it, but we were fine and so it was made into a risotto the next day. It went well with the other mushrooms we had collected and some peas and beans from the garden.
Not one we would pick, based on the fact we
don't know what it is and better safe than
sorry

Chicken in the woods

Hopefully pregnant and eating for two. It is amazing how
at this time of the year the alpacas spend so much time
eating. I think partly because they are not plagued by the
flies so much but also because the winter is approaching
and soon the grass will turn and not be so nutritious.
They must sense it
Mr. P has been to visit the ladies again, but we think they are all pregnant now, judging by the fact that Ian got caught quite a few times in the crossfire. Mari just runs away, she is not a spitty animal at all. She will occasionally spit but not regularly. Aggie, however, is a little like her mother used to be and can spit when she is pregnant. She has been so lovely just lately, it almost seems a shame, but now she is back to being her hopefully pregnant spitty self. Chanel is a bit more of a spitter normally, although better than she used to be. She was sitting down for Mr. P. again, which makes us think that maybe she got pregnant but then lost it, but now she is back to putting up a bit of a fight - hence Ian being covered.
Herkules looks grumpy when wet, but not sure he is really

Feeding or hiding from the rain? 
Since that lovely afternoon the weather has rained on and off and more on than off at times since. I managed to gather broad beans and peas to shell for drying - at least the shelling can be done in the greenhouse. The rest of the time we have both been catching up with either admin or online work. I have now managed to finish writing up the lessons and assignments for Development Studies and Ian has been working on the adoption updates. We now have five adoptees. I had some encouragement in the tutoring with a lovely email from one of my students who finished Sociology in June. Despite a horrendous year with family ill health she did well and she wrote to thank me for the way I had tutored her through the course. She mentioned that my style of marking had encouraged her to work harder and she was now going to take an A level Sociology because she had enjoyed the course so much. One of my other students may also take the A level and I will help her through that if it all comes together.
Turbjørn always looks like he's trying to work out how the
world works in an intelligent thoughtful kind of way

An elegant if wet Turbjørn
We enjoy having visitors and like to see our neighbours, but there is one person who always makes us groan when we see her. She is our local eccentric. She had come about a fence, that was as much as I understood clearly. I worked out she wanted to put up a fence to stop another neighbour's cows from coming on her land but the details were beyond me. There was also something about deer and winter, but I got a bit confused about that. She tried to phone people, but they weren't answering. I managed to get through to one of my friends and she must have already heard because she immediately told me what she was trying to do. Our eccentric neighbour can make a lot of work for people, which does not always go down well. It turns out she wanted to put up a fence and was firstly checking to see where our land finished - yet again! And then she was checking to see if she could attach her temporary fence to an electric pole that was definitely on our land. We gave her permission and went on our way. Phew!