Friday, 16 June 2017

Part 2

I'm slowly catching up with my adventures over the last few weeks. It has been a hectic time and not letting up just yet. I am away at the moment too. Still I have a few quiet moments to upload the scribblings I did on the bus on the way here  (or should that be scrabblings since I did these on the computer?). Anyway so here goes, Part 2.

Starting the tour of Riga with our guide
Now where was I? Oh yes! Our Latvian Alpaca Adventure. We got off to a slightly messy start as people arrived at different times, but we managed to gather everyone together and had an interesting tour of Riga. There were a few anecdotes I hadn’t heard before and some streets I had managed to miss. Nice to learn something new. Then we had the problem that we set off from Riga a bit late and got stuck in traffic which set us back for getting to Sigulda, putting the proverbial spanner in the works as it meant we didn't have long in Sigulda. At least we got a fabulous meal at Fazenda and Livkalns turned out to be a lovely hotel in nice grounds. Some of us also got to watch a bit of the sunset at the head of a steep valley.

Art Nouveau section of Riga
The group gelled together well on the first day and it had a lovely relaxed feel of being on an outing with friends. I couldn’t hope for a better introduction to hosting a tour. We did at least manage a quick tour around Sigulda castle, but it was not good to see such large scale renovations going on that meant we had to find our way around the back of the castle. There are some nice workshops though in the ground and I think we all bought presents there.

Heather Potten and Ieva Prane our felting tutors
Our first full day was felting with Ieva Prane and this went very well. She encouraged them all to draw a design to work from, which I don’t think any had done before and a little out of their comfort zone for some at least. However the result was worth it and they enjoyed incorporating some material that Ieva makes herself and gives a lacy effect. We had to me what was a basic lunch of salad, bread, cheese and ham but this was received well and I appreciated the help of Ieva’s daughters in preparing the meal in her kitchen. Ieva played some of her husband's music in the background and folks enjoyed that so much that we finished with purchases of CDs along with some refreshments of coffee and Latvian style cakes and pastries.
Taking advantage of the nice weather
and felting on the decking. Ieva's work
can be seen on the screens behind too

Felting in the shade too
Next we headed to our own village, going deeper and deeper into the countryside. I threw in a few comments about the landscape but probably needed a microphone. Maybe next time. We managed to get our timing right for this day and we arrived in time for our evening meal. The main course was great, but we had a dessert we have never had before that was a little weird. Note to self: Delete that one from the menu. As it turned out, not many were into desserts and so later on in the week we ditched those from the menu, to be substituted with some pastries and the cakes which always went down well. We even had a non-rhubarb eater eating the rhubarb cake. Not surprised though, they are tasty.

A rather mucky looking Mari. She had been taking advantage
of the cooling rain
Ian starting the tour of the farm
The weather was always going to be an issue for us and we ended up having a tour of our farm in the morning and heading to the school for the afternoon to felt due to the forecast of rain. The headteacher kindly allowed us to use the place and even brought people in to see what we were doing. We hope to maybe do an extra lesson another time where we can teach some of the locals and maybe some children. It wasn’t easy working in the school, but we managed. Unfortunately we found out that the neck fleece on Brencis this year was not so good for felting. At least we highlighted the issues of felting with different alpaca fleeces, some are much better than others and also we managed to work on the techniques more to get the best out of the fleece. It is definitely different in the way it behaves to that of merino sheep wool.
Brencis going for a walk

The greenhouse does make a great gallery
Next on the agenda was scarf making and this was held in our greenhouse. It worked really well and the ladies made some wonderful scarves. The lessons from the previous day were used and it was funny to hear the names of the alpacas as discussions were held about which ones to use. “I’m using Aggie, who are you using?” or “I’m using Brencis this time.” Each alpaca gave a different effect, which really adds to the adventure of using alpaca for felting and helps us to realise why some people have had such a disastrous introduction to using it, if they got the wrong type of fleece. One of the ladies took some samples to look at under the electron microscope to see what the difference might be. It will be really interesting to find out if we can actually see any differences that way, because it is not so obvious to ordinary sight.
Felting in the greenhouse
A scarf using Brencis' fleece

Soup over the fire
After the scarf making we went to the moonshine laboratory. We had soup rather than bbq because the weather was still a bit hit and miss. Unfortunately the mossies have arrived, which meant spraying with the dreaded DEET, but it was still a beautiful place to be. We also made some soap using flowers we had collected the day before. The highlight of the evening though was the entertaining sampling of hooch made on the premises. They had to guess what was added to the birch sap and it was very amusing to watch, after all I was driving. I think everyone went away with at least one bottle of something they had liked.
Evening sunshine on the girls' alpaca house

Whenever there are people around, then there is Eyre. She
keeps hoping that someone will bring her treats
For the following day I had prepared a variety of threads, examples and pictures and we used our greenhouse as a gallery of my work. Each of the ladies were able to either do embroidery or needlefelting onto their previous work. I taught the felting tutor to do French knots - not easy for a right hander to teach a left hander how to do it, but we got there. I am really pleased with the effect on her piece of work too and look forward to seeing the final piece when she has finished with all the suggestions we came up with.

Some of the felted pieces and sketches from Ieva's tutoring
The afternoon was such a surprise, even for me, who planned the excursion. I had organised for the local choir to come and sing for us some traditional Latvian songs when we visited the local museum. It was such a thrill to see so many of them sing to us as we got out of the van and funny to see them taking photos of us taking photos of them. The choir were mainly elderly folk but they sang well and showed us some traditional dances. Some of them even prepared Latvian style food and drink, so we had chicory coffee made with goats milk, beans and rhubarb cake. They looked as pleased with the opportunity to show off their Latvian culture as we were to see it.

Having some fun at the moonshine laboratory
Many of the evenings we spent on the farm just enjoying the peace. With a bottle of wine, some food and plenty of good banter, we had a great time. It made the hosting of this event such a joy to have people there who appreciated our farm and the peacefulness of it and not itching to go somewhere and do something.
A very tired looking Aggie

No idea what this was but it looked rather interesting
For the last day of activities Saturday we went to our friend’s to see her goats and take part in making cheese. It didn’t go quite to plan due to some miscommunication along the way, but we still enjoyed it and I am sure we can make it work better another time. It was only to be expected that there were some hiccups along the way, considering this was the first time we had organised such a thing. In fact I am surprised that on the whole it went as smoothly as it did. I am sure that it had everything to do with those who came and threw themselves into the adventure.

Sunshine and clouds
We had a tour of a Porcelain factory that went really well. We first painted porcelain pieces that were then put in the kiln while we went for a visit to the factory to see some of the processes. It was great to be able to have coffee and cakes in the studio afterwards where we had painted the porcelain while we waited for the firing to finish. It also gave us an opportunity to chat more with our translator and the factory owner. Lastly we rounded off the venture with a trip to Marciena Spa Hotel where we had our final meal, which was excellent with great service.
A felted cuff

A close up of the scarf I made
What was really good about the whole venture was the fact we were able to put something into the local economy too. From the hotel accommodation and food for lunches, to the money spent in the local bakeries. There was also an opportunity for folks to buy local textiles such as a crocheted shawl, hats and linen work. We will hope to incorporate that more into the trip the next time, but I have to make some more contacts to get that sorted


Gina said...

What a wonderful experience for all who took part.

Joanna said...

It certainly was for me and I think it was for those taking part. We feel happy enough about the adventure to do it again next year :)

Lyn said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful time!

Joanna said...

I did Lyn thanks :)