Monday, 27 January 2020

A week of calm

I'm sure Jakobs draws his eyebrows every morning. Mind
you, it is not as perfect on the other side.
I have been back home for over a week now, with no plans to go on any jaunts for a while - well if you discount the day trip into Riga later on this week. That means back to writing, writing and errrr, more writing. There was some sorting out of admin and some catching up where necessary as well, but not much else.
Recycling time. It was pretty bad that we've
been using scraps of papers to mark the
prices on the items we produced. Unfortunately
we just hadn't got anything better at the time.
I bought a tag punch when I was in England
and started making tags from a classy calendar
that a friend of ours produced a while ago.
Much better!

This was the first point that the animal tried to get in
I mentioned last week that over a period of a couple of days chickens were disappearing in the night on our farm. We had managed to get all the chickens in the ark box while I was there and hoped that would sort the problem out, but no! Whatever was taking off with our chickens was more persistent than that. One night of no access to chickens wasn't enough. Ian emailed me to say he had found the cockerel dead and one other chicken had disappeared. He put the remaining two chickens into one of the other arks and made sure they were all away that night. The cockerel was largely intact, so Ian plucked it and brought it home. We weren't wasting it. We had already been deprived of three other chickens.
We've had another dusting of snow, but its been and gone again.
At least the sun shone

We think it is the wind  that has blown the snow across the
pond, rather than some animal. The ice would be rather thin
to take the weight of an animal this year.
Unfortunately, chickens are not always blessed with the most wonderful of brains and so some of the chickens are not going away at nights despite the danger. They are more secure than in the other ark, because their arks are resting on logs with no gaps, but with some digging it would be possible to get underneath the logs. The chickens are not even eating that much, so cannot be enticed in with food, like normal. They seem bored with their food just lately. It hadn't done the cockerel much harm as he was the fattiest bird I have ever had to prepare for cooking. Maybe it's the weather, it has been pretty gloomy again. It may also be they are unsettled due to the animal that has been taking the others. Still, you would think they would be anxious to be put away in safety. Not so! If the animal finds a way in, then that will be another ark to cull, rather than be food for the local wildlife. It will be a shame if we end up having to buy chickens next year to replace them.
Vanessa looks like she's just got up

You're supposed to eat it, not wear it on your nose Silla. Silla
is a bit of an odd one. She often sits outside, even in the
pouring rain. Doesn't seem to do her any harm though.
I had some good news this week. While I was away one of my supervisors asked if I could do some other work. I could begin slowly but it would last until June. Well that is three months longer than my contract now, so I said yes, especially as I am winding down on getting my thesis done. I was even more delighted to find out that I will get a pay rise when my current contract runs out at the end of March. That should provide me with a bit of a cushion to see us through for a bit longer.
Our old man, Herk. He's been looking quite sprightly and so
Ian was a little shocked to see he's actually lost quite a bit of
weight just lately. Ian has ordered some feed that might at
least help him put some weight back on. It might be that his
teeth are not so good now, which will make it harder for him
to get the most from his food. He doesn't seem to have an
overload of parasites fortunately, as Ian has just tested his poo.

Honeysuckle starting to bud. I have a feeling it is going to
regret that later on in the winter. It isn't over yet! Or is it?
I made a point of more or less taking the weekend off. I did reply to some emails, but nothing major. I recognise that some of my colleagues also work some odd hours and so we are all often juggling getting work done around other tasks. I went out with Ian to the land. We are having some very mild winter weather compared to a normal Latvian winter. It hasn't been much below freezing so far this year, in fact it was colder and snowier in October and November. What that does mean, though is that I was able to get some gardening jobs done. I mulched some beds with old hay, rather than digging them over, which I had planned to do agggggesss ago. I also pulled up some grass that had made its way into my herb bed - that should have died off long ago, but it was looking rather spring-like. I also trimmed some maple trees that we were using for hedging and had got too big.
Our old lady, Lady V, continues to plod on. Her legs are getting
more bent despite the Vitamin D injections but her body score
is still good, so she isn't losing condition overall.

Turbjørn enjoying the sun
Towards the end of the afternoon, as we were having coffee before putting the animals away, some visitors arrived. They had planned on arriving earlier but they got delayed. Fortunately they have been before and the main reason for coming was not to see the alpacas, although they did say hello to them, but to see us. We were going to chat about..... business (that reminds me of The Muppet Christmas Carol, where Ebenezer Scrooge sees his old headmaster again -youtube link here). This young couple were quite enthusiastic about helping us plot a way forward and could see a lot of potential in the farm. So could we, but actually bringing the ideas to the point where we can do something, is always an issue. We need a push and some routes to realise some of our ideas and some of their ideas too. We went back to our apartment to continue the conversation and over a meal and the next few hours, we chatted backwards and forwards. Our heads were fair buzzing that night.
Ian does have a backlog of orders now. This is some of
Freddies fleece on the carder
A nice pile of carded fleece
The following day I planned to do some tidying up. Not that remarkable really but a novelty for me with being away so much. Instead I was ill. Grumble! Grumble! I got a bit done but generally just lounged around, drinking lots of cups of tea and feeling sorry for myself. So much for some quiet tinkering around the house, getting some sorting out done. Ha! Maybe next time.
Ian sat amongst the bags of fleece, spinning
away. He's getting very good now. We had
another order from someone I have met on my
travels too. That will keep him busy for a whle
yet then!

Marie in contemplative mood
I mentioned last week that Ian's oldest brother passed away. I've been thinking over the week about what I could write about him. The most memorable thing about Ian's brother, Ron, was that he was always someone with a smile on his face and ready with a quip to make others smile. Even in his later years when he had issues with diabetes that meant he had limbs amputated and experienced a lot of pain, he was still ready with a smile. His jolly face always lighting up. There was one day last year we had a family party and since he was in a wheelchair he wasn't so free to move around the house to join in where everyone else was. I saw him sitting quietly and perhaps a little sad that he was missing out, but as soon as he saw me, he was back to his jovial self and smiling.
Ilvija our little walking haystack

Eyre out in the sunshine. Sofie comes back to visit from time
to time. Most likely she comes back when she gets too warm
in the cow shed at our neighbours.
Ron was also someone we greatly admired for turning his hand to a multitude of jobs. He lived in a time when children's education was decided at 11 with the 11+ exam, but like Ian he was a late flourisher, so failed it. Ian, however, made it through to university because they had scrapped the 11+ by then. Whether Ron would have ever gone to university of course is up for debate, but he showed an amazing amount of talent nonetheless. He was a panel beater when I first met him, working in a car repair shop. He was good at his job. He left that and I think his next job was in a pub, which he also did with good results. Next job I remember was his time as a baker. He not only baked the bread and the pies, like his grandfather before him, he built the brick ovens to bake them in. Each job seemed to be cruelly taken away from him, but he would then take on something else and do well until illness took its toll. It would have been nice to see him get more breaks than he got though.
Brencis on sentry duty

That of course was not all there was to Ron, he would make things, do diy and helped to raise his grandkids. He was a lovely man and it was sad to say goodbye. Rest in peace big guy.

Monday, 20 January 2020


The beach at Beadnell, Northumberland
Well it has been quite a start to the New Year. It seems so long ago now since I welcomed the New Year in at my daughter's house in the UK. I'm back home in Latvia now and getting into the normal work routine groove - well as near normal as I can get.
George looking dapper

It hasn't been the best of weather during my stay, but this
day was glorious. 
The New Year's party was quite entertaining, with 7 adults and 9 relatively small children. They did pretty well, even if one of them was a bit over wrought and spent the count down with a bucket in case he was sick. I joined in a virtual reality game, which involved virtually swinging light sabres at virtual boxes with arrows on. I think it was more entertaining for those watching and apparently I looked more like I was dancing, than swinging a light sabre. Good fun anyway.
Brencis practising his singing again

Ian and I had a lovely walk along the beach and then back
along the tops of the dunes. 
On New Year's day I headed back down to my son, who had the surprise 30th birthday party the week before. My older son took me down and dropped me off, as he was heading home with his family. We were a bit late arriving and so as soon as I arrived, I was off to another surprise party. It wasn't a surprise to everyone else, it was a surprise to me, as I didn't know I was heading off to a New Year's Day party. At least I knew everyone there and so not a problem. It was a lovely afternoon in fact.
A beautiful frosty moring out on the land.

Peekaboo! Amanda peeking out
We got to visit a few different places, like a city farm near the end of Birmingham airport runway. It is possible to watch the airplanes coming into land from the park nearby. Unfortunately they were coming in from the opposite end that day and so not as impressive, but that was okay as I got to spend quite a bit of time chatting to my granddaughter as we sauntered around the park. I also felted some fingerless gloves with her from the wool I gave her for Christmas.
The cattail rushes look kind of odd just sticking out of the
centre of the pond. One of the problems with the pond drying
up the year before is the rather large amount of vegetation
that grew there.

Northumberland has some great beaches, just a tad cold
from time to time.
One of the reasons for not posting until now is trying to be available to my family and spend time with them as well as fit in my work. I can only be so flexible. Another reason was a change from my planned itinerary. Ian phoned me to tell me that his brother was back in hospital and wasn't expected to live more than two weeks. Ian was already struggling with me being away, the dark and miserable weather and the alpacas not being pregnant and so not a good start to the New Year for him.
A snow bath

There is snow on them thar' hills. They are also a long way
a way. The area has a large waterbird population that nest
there in the summer months. There are also lots of geese
around in winter too.
I transferred some money so Ian could book flights and then started working out a plan to get us up to see his brother. Our kids also swung into action and between us we organised where everyone was staying and travel plans. Gratefully we all managed to say our goodbyes to Ian's oldest brother, before he passed away last week. Despite the sad reason for us being together and having the pain of saying goodbye, it was actually mostly a pleasant time. We got to spend time with Ian's next older brother (Ian is the youngest of three) and Ian's niece, who our oldest son was staying with. We promised the next gathering of the clans will not be for such a sad occasion.
Antonia glowing in the light

The ubiquitous windmills in the distance. Can't think why
they would have them there :D
After the few days up in Northumberland, we dropped Ian off at my daughter's so he could be taken to the airport in the afternoon and I travelled with our oldest son to his home. Home for him is now a caravan. He and his family got sick of being shunted around whilst renting. They are making a good go of raising three kids in a caravan and they seem to be enjoying the experience for the most part. It was always going to be a challenge to share a caravan in January, but they bought a little pop up tent to put in their awning. It worked - I'm used to caravan life and life on the road now, so not so much of a problem, apart from when Storm Brendan swept in. We stayed up late waiting for the wind to die down before I headed to bed in the awning. Unfortunately the wind picked up in the middle of the night, so there were a few sleepless hours listening to the wind. I was snug in my little tent though and the awning survived, even if my son and I had to nip out in the evening to re-fasten one of the storm straps.
A glorious sunset on the land

We had lunch in the conservatory looking out at the dunes.
It is a holiday cottage owned by one of our nieces and Ian's
brother works as a caretaker for them. So while he worked
we relaxed. 
After an eventful time with family, I headed home to Latvia. I sat next to two young women, who seemed to be trying to figure out how to get to their accommodation in Riga. I explained how to get bus tickets and how to recognise where to go. I had hoped to get the 3pm bus from the city centre but our plane arrived late, so no chance for that, especially as I had to wait for my luggage. My travelling companions went off to get tickets and I waited by the carousel. I was watching as one lady with two small children struggled with them, a buggy and a large suitcase. In the end I went over and offered to help, I couldn't bear it any more and no one closer was helping. I walked with her suitcase out to the taxi stand and we chatted a bit. She promised to come and visit our alpaca farm in the future - not sure if she will or not, but at least she seemed happier than when I first saw her, she even called me an angel.
Ilvija wearing her dinner

A cheery face while I do a bit of work.
I caught up with my travelling companions and so we got the bus together into town. I helped them get orientated and waved goodbye. I had a couple of hours to kill in the bus station but time passed quickly enough, especially watching the security guys who were moving on the drunk homeless guys. I have to give them credit for doing that in a respectful way and not in a heavy-handed manner. Mind you, they were big guys and not the sort to mess with. I felt sorry for the homeless guys though, often they just wanted to sleep and one had such bad legs he couldn't have walked well, even if he wasn't drunk.
Ian has been busy fulfilling orders for
yarn. He cleans, cards and spins it himself

Mr. P. in his snowcoat. You can see the problem he has with
his teeth. At least they are not sticking out tonight
On Sunday and Monday morning I caught up with some work. Ian had some bank issues to sort out and so went to the big town but picked me up before he headed back to the land. The aim was to cut Mr. P's teeth as they had got far too long. He can eat hay fine but grasses in spring would be an issue. Once we sorted that out we went for a wander around our land and returned to the greenhouse to puzzle over the disappearing chicken saga. Over the last two nights one chicken has disappeared. It didn't help that not all of them have been going into their arks at night. There are gaps under the arks but we couldn't see how an animal could have dragged out a chicken and there weren't that many feathers left. Anyway, tonight, I climbed into two of the arks and physically made sure all chickens were in, since there were a few of them not going in. Ian got the ones in the other ark as I couldn't reach. Hopefully tonight they are all safe and sound and whatever has been pinching our chickens will give up.
Brencis with a peachy sheen to his coat
A photo of a photo. This is Ian's father at 65 years old. He
died in 2007 at the age of 80. Ian's next brother looks fairly
similar as he heads towards 65 and Ian is beginning to look
more and more like his brother, so I guess this is what Ian
will look like at 65.
So there you are, that's what I've been up to since the last time I blogged.

Monday, 6 January 2020

Change of plan

I am still in the UK but some family health issues means I have to work tonight and not do the blog.