Tuesday, 8 May 2018

I should be doing....

What a difference a week makes at this time of the year. The
grass is growing fast, the trees are leafing up and the sun is
getting quite hot at times. We are already suntanned due to
working outside so much.
I know what I should be doing and that is doing some more writing on my paper. I have a jobs list as long as your arm at the moment. Typical May really and something always unexpected turns up, so another job to apply for, another conference to go to and a myriad of other things that take longer than I feel they should do. All need prep work, or finishing off. Life is busy, but I know it is a season and there should be some downtime later on.
The Schisandra Chenesis is flowering this year, last year the
flowers got caught in the frost.

Anxiously awaiting the inevitable
The good news is that we have completed one of the jobs that has to be done every year about now the shearing of our alpacas. We did the boys yesterday. It wasn't too bad at all and Ian has got faster, however it is always the setting up, the clearing up in between and sorting out the fleece when there is only two of us that takes so much time. At least this year, it did not feel particularly stressful, the animals were on the whole cooperative enough when down, apart from Brencis who is proving to be a bit of a handful when it comes to trying to work with him. He's a big lad and so when it comes to manoeuvring if he doesn't want to go it takes a lot to move him and yet when he wants to cooperate like going on walks, he is no trouble at all.
A few outside too. George is the great escape artist and had to
be returned to this enclosure several times

All set up and ready to go

When we had finished shearing we had a lady and her son turn up unexpectedly. We hadn't even had much chance to eat. We are open to visitors coming on, but so often they have a knack of turning up, just at our most busy time. Oh well! Can't complain too much. We also had another visit later, but at least this one was planned and we were able to talk farming over a cup of herb tea straight from the garden. Today we sheared the girls. No animal likes being taken for shearing, but Aggie especially seemed to appreciate the coolness of less fleece; she ran up to Ian later on this afternoon and gave him a gentle nuzzle - we like to think it is her way of saying thanks, but maybe we are just anthropomorphising her actions. Still it is nice to feel appreciated.
A rather traumatised Freddie, after his first shearing. He did
recover though and came up and ate out of my hand

The yearly, "who are you again?" They don't recognise the
other alpacas once sheared and so go around smelling each
other to remind themselves who is who.

The three musketeers
Talking of feeling appreciated, we've had a few visitors this week who have lifted our spirits somewhat. There are times we wonder what on earth we are doing, but then there are those moments when people say something and it makes sense again. One group, included a grandmother, mother and son. The son was fortunately very good at English and translated well and he himself was very curious about alpacas and what we were doing here in Latvia. His mother thought it was good that we were here and working on the land, she liked what we were doing. It lifts us when people appreciate us being here and loving the land on which we work. It makes me sad to think that so many folks from foreign lands are not appreciated, even if they work really hard producing from the land, especially those folks who are harvesting the foods for the UK. Not a job that many Brits want to do and yet they are often considered unwanted, economic migrants etc.
Enjoying the sunshine and making up for being cooped up
for most of the day

Mr. P with his trimmed teeth. Oh yes! Ian is also an alpaca
dentist and I am his able assistant

Sorry George, that haircut does not look good on you. It looked
fine when we did it and then it all flopped again and hides his
eyes. He will be getting another trim soon

Another group of visitors were some returnees from the week before. They had asked if they could take photos of the alpacas as a surprise for a couple getting married. The problem was that we are having some quite hot weather at the moment and the alpacas needed shearing and would not look quite so fluffy for a mid-June wedding photo shoot. We explained we would be shearing this week for that reason, so they came with the couple this last Saturday before we sheared for some pre-wedding shoots. The sun fortunately shone for them, as of course it had been a little overcast in the afternoon. The wind was cool, but even so, it looks like they got plenty of good photos and we got some good photos of them taking photos. Brencis was an absolute star, poking his nose in quite often. He's only after food of course, but he's gentle enough not to be too pushy - most of the time anyway. We can't share our photos though until mid-June, so I shall have to leave you in suspense on that.
An elder tree coming into flower

Hmm! I intend making holes in these bales and putting in some
squash plants. I think I may have to deal with some snails first

The ploughed dock field
We haven't spent much time with moving furniture this week, we have been trying to organise the final removals though. The problem is that we are not the only ones busy at this time of the year and so we are still waiting. We can hear tractors going constantly at the moment as people plough their fields or prepare the land. Ian has been doing a bit of ploughing on our land too. We hadn't planned on doing much ploughing but we have an area that has become a dock field. One of the best ways of dealing with it, according to a recent publication by the Organic Research Centre in the UK, is to plough, let the roots dry -which is helpful on sunny and windy days like they are at the moment - then take out as much as possible before planting with buckwheat that will compete with the docks. It's an ongoing process.
Asparagus is growing well. I hope this bed does better than
the last one. We got two harvests out of it and then they all died
on us

It is looking like it could be a good fruit year. Our plums
are actually flowering properly this year. We put them in
about 7 years now, so about time we got something.
Besides the alpacas we also have three sheep. Last year one of the sheep was so loud and persistent that she went for a rendezvous with the freezer. Unfortunately her daughter seems to have inherited some of those traits. She is not quite so loud or persistent, just nearly, but she also has an added quirk. She ranks as one of the most stupid of sheep. Sheep are not renowned for their intelligence and we have had some issues over the years with their ability to panic first and think later. However, this quirk beats that. Last year both lambs were eating through the fence when the grass started greening up, fair enough! This year, the most stupid one has not realised she is now too big to do this. She can get her head through, but not back again. She has not just done this once or even twice but about five times now on nearly consecutive nights. Usually she waits until we are just going to bed and ends up standing their bleating away, until we manage to get her head back through.
Oh yes! The caravan is out of the greenhouse and we can
sleep in in the mornings, as the cockerels are now much
further away.

The grapes are flowering
As I mentioned last week another of those seasonal jobs is getting the seeds in, unfortunately we seem to be going through the dry, windy phase of the year that makes planting most seeds a bit of a waste of time unless we are prepared to water them in by hand or hose. We don't know how long the dry spell will last, often a month, once it was two months and so we are cautious about overdoing it. I have planted trays in the greenhouse and they are doing well and I have planted up some of the tomato and pepper plants I started off a while ago. So at least that is progress.
Two groups of chicken arks outside and tomatoes planted

We have about 20 chicks too. Rather more than we normally
get. The last one to be born has proved to be more resilient
than anticipated for a late one. It was helped out of its shell
which usually means it won't survive. It was kicking and
flailing around, which is not a good sign, but recovered
after all the shell bits were soaked off it. It was put in with the
rest, which usually means it get battered about but it was still
up and running about. I did traumatise it by soaking off some
more stuff off its bottom today and it knocked it off balance.
I found it quivering in the corner. I gave it some fluid, put
it in a box for a few hours and it recovered again. 

A new peony to add to my rose bed
I have to confess to going a bit wild at the spring market this year though. I want to make the area around where we spend our summer months prettier with flowers and not just herbs. Mind you, all the plants I bought also yield something edible, so that's a win. I have been creating more raised beds with rotten wood to put them in and I am pleased with how they are turning out. I just hope I manage to keep the weeds at bay now.

Top right is my new jasmine and I have also moved a
southernwood from a bed getting taken over by autumn

Still more to plant in the green box
Pansies from the market and a rosmary under the jar

Our new little portable washing machine for out on the land.
We will mainly be washing fleeces in it

Mari's cut doesn't look so bad at all. At least we didn't
have to scalp her this year. Just a light trim on the head

Lady V moaned all the while she was waiting, but wasn't so
bad once she was down. She knows the routine.


  1. Your alpacas look so much smaller after shearing... and so cute! Lovely to see you've had sunshine too. Everything is growing at a pace here in the U.K. too with the warmer weather.

    1. It is amazing how little animal there is under all that fleece :D


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