Monday, 9 January 2017

The Worst of Weathers

It was bitterly cold this day and the animals were kept inside.
Ian could only take three photos at a time before having to
warm up the camera
We have had worst weather in terms of cold before, but the combination of damp, dreary weather followed by a sharp drop in temperature is not the best one. Unfortunately as you will know the damp gets into everything and coats it with moisture and then the sharp drop in temperatures freezes it, as you would expect at -28C. It has certainly caused us a few headaches this week.
Cold even in the greenhouse

Cold but beautiful
It all began on Wednesday when the damp weather gave way to snow followed by the precipitous drop in temperature on the Thursday. Ian came back home from the land and quickly changed into something akin to respectable so we could  go to the British Embassy in Riga for a New Year's reception. I was a little more dressed up. We went down to the car and he tried to open it with the remote, which promptly set off the alarm. He tried different things to try and stop the alarm going off, from ensuring doors were properly shut to disconnecting batteries. Nothing worked and so we ended up staying in for the night with the doors of the car left open to stop the alarm going off and annoying us an the neighbours. No one was going to be able to steal the car anyway as the immobiliser was activated. It was a bit of a shame as we were hoping to do a bit of networking for our farm business. Well that's what you do at those kind of things isn't it?
The girls have barely come out at all this last week

A winter wonderland, once again
The next morning I was picked up by one of the farmhands who also lives in the village and drives out our way each day. The plan was that I would see to the animals while Ian tried to fix the car. When I got out to the land I tried to get in the caravan but it wouldn't open, so I decided to see to the animals first. I fed the chickens and the cats and put my bag in one of the feed bins so the cats wouldn’t eat my lunch, they are rather partial to bread even in bags. I cut a quick path in the snow for the alpacas then opened the doors to let them out.
With some drifting

Did I mention the drifts?
Next I went back to the caravan There was no way I could stay out on the farm all day without access to some warmth in the caravan. After phoning Ian for some advice I ended up getting a screwdriver to lever the door open to let me in. I got inside and then promptly locked myself in. Fortunately I had the screwdriver with me.
And that wind!

There were some amazing patterns in the snow though
The next job was to make myself a cup of coffee to warm up. I let myself out of the caravan, this time by dismantling the lock and retrieved my bag containing milk and flask of water from the feed bin. Next I had to defrost the top of the flask using a fan heater to allow me to unscrew the top, as it had frozen on in the meantime, only then did I find that the kettle lid was also frozen on. The temperature in the caravan was reading -18C. I used the fan heater again and defrosted the kettle. Finally I could boil up some water for coffee. I then put the fan heater back into the little room and stood in there to warm up, since it warms up quicker than the main body of the caravan. What a performance.
Snow abstracts

With lots of sparkle
Fortunately for me the rest of the day went fine, although of course all the animals needed their feeders topping up, which meant hauling hay bales around on a sledge. Unfortunately Ian could not get the car started, but at least he managed to get the alarm to stop and the doors locked. He tried to get the garage in the next village to come and help us (we won't use the ones in our village as they are not reliable and do poor work), unfortunately they too were stuck because their transporter wouldn't work in the cold. Neither did any of the local tractors work to be able to help them out. I said it was the worst of weathers, I have not known there be so many problems with vehicles not starting, especially tractors (fortunately ours did fire up the next day but we are too far away too help with the transporter and not road legal since it isn't taxed and tested). Ian decided to go and heat our other apartment instead, just to ensure we didn't have any mishaps with burst pipes again, like we have had in previous winters.
The sheep have thick winter coats on, even if they were sheared
a bit late. They are happy as long as their feeder is full and they
can get some water. Fortunately the well had made that much
easier this year, even though the top did freeze over at one
point because the water level was only about 30cm below the
surface. At least Ian hasn't had to bring the water in each day
which would have been a nightmare with the car problems

A rather large hole
Another mishap that happened this week was that one of the sections of the greenhouse plastic burst with a spectacular bang on the coldest morning. Ian thought it was a gun shot, but no! Almost a year to the day after the last time a section of plastic burst another one went. The cold makes the plastic taut and, unlike the roof that sags a little under the weight of snow, the sides are as tight as a drum. I had to go out with Ian to the farm the next day to help him fix it, as he could only manage a temporary repair on his own. After all our caravan, chickens and cats all stop in the greenhouse over winter and could do without the wind whistling in to cool things down even further and the temporary fleece was not enough to protect them.
A chance for the wind to whistle around the caravan
New plastic attached
A frosted alpaca. Poor lad was shivering a little most
mornings this week. His fleece isn't as thick as our white
alpacas, but then he warms up fastest in the sun
I forgot to mention last week that Santa Claus was a bit late to arrive this year, he still turned up at the door but on boxing day instead, complete with big box of chocolates and two angels for the Christmas tree. He sweetly told us we had been like angels to him; it's nice to feel appreciated anyway. It is also good to have friends who support you and we have certainly felt supported this week through our car troubles. The young chap who has driven us in every day and taken us back most evenings, meant that Ian only had to walk back one evening at -13C, a walk taking an hour and ten minutes. He did look a bit like Nanook of the North with a frosted moustache but was otherwise okay. We are also grateful to the friend we turn to for advice on our car, as well as Ian's brother a car mechanic who he Skyped with and our friend who lent us their car this evening. Of course the day that Ian picks up the car the weather warms up so he decided to give our car a try and amazingly it started first thing. We thought we might have to use our friends car to jump start it at least just to be able to test the alarm. At least that should save us having to get the car transporter out. 
Turbjørn posing, or most likely having a huff with one of the
others. He is a rather mardy soul
Brencis as inquisitive as usual

Aggie with her bleary eyed morning look. She doesn't look
like this when she sees me. She stands up straight and
starts tutting before running off. She doesn't like me, but I
can take that. As long as she doesn't challenge me, that's fine
I understand that I usually mean trouble for her
Ian was talking to a vet this week about Aggie, the vet is into homeopathy - something I don't normally go along with, but I checked up on his recommendation of gunpowder - sounds dire but the important ingredient is potassium nitrate and not in the miniscule dilutions that seem pointless to me. I understand microdosing, using small amounts of something to stimulate a reaction also called an agonist that might kickstart the body, so we thought we would give it a try. Only problem has been trying to source some, but we think we should be able to get some tomorrow - which is helpful when we finally have a car that is running. The vet is also booked to come next week. I think it will be expensive but not as bad as in England where a vet with his standing in the country would require a mortgage to travel half way across the country. We don't have much  choice though as he is the only one in the country with a portable x-ray machine and we really could do with knowing what is going on in Aggie's mouth.
Veronica the old lady, rather wisely spends most of her time

Hand stitched and stuffed with waste alpaca fleece. The
beards are also alpaca as are the buttons.
People often wonder how we manage in winter. This year I mentioned I have felt the cold more and this is probably due to the weight I have lost, so I am grateful that my Mum has bought me some thermals for Christmas. One of the ways to survive in the cold is to have plenty of layers and I have been bundled up like a Michelin man. On the day I went out to see to the animals, on the bottom I had tights, my new thermals,  cotton leggings and padded trousers and on the top I had t-shirt, thin base layer, two thermal layers, thin sweatshirt, thick sweatshirt and a thick coat. All those layers mean walking nice and slow and ensuring I do not get too hot, but at least I didn't freeze. 


  1. My goodness, I didn't know the greenhouse plastic could burst like that. We've just experienced our first deep snow since getting ours and I was very worried about the weight of the snow collapsing the roof. That turned out to be no issue, as the snow mostly slid off the roof. What I hadn't anticipated was a mountain of snow on the side, thanks to the snow falling off the roof and to the drifts. The snow was up to the roof level and I had to shovel it all away. But it all worked out. We had record cold weather but it was bright and sunny so it heated up nicely inside the house!

    1. I am glad the snow slid off for you. We often end up shaking the snow off with a brush from the inside to make sure it does. The weight is always a concern and one we are wary of after our first greenhouse collapsed. As for the clearing away on the outside, oh yes! We know that activity well enough. Ian always ensures there is enough room to get the snowblower down the sides to tackle that one and has been a frequent job over the years. At least you got the sunshine, always a bonus in the winter :)


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