Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Summer!

Okay the absence of leaves suggests it's still
spring but the warmth says summer.

Summer arrived! At least for now. It's hard to believe that even on Sunday we were still wrapped up against the chill winds of wintry-like weather. It was bright but we'd still had the odd snow shower during the past week. Anyway, that is now over, we've even had temperatures in the 20s. Of course the alpacas have now started suffering in the heat and Ian has to make sure they are topped up with water and have access to the shade. 

The red grapes are coming. These are the ones
we love to eat as they are so sweet. The blue ones
are taken by some friends to make wine.
Cowslip wine anyone? We have lots of cowslips
but they became quite rare in the UK as people
picked them too much.
Our ski hill is greening up.

At least the grass should now take off as it is well watered and the heat should help. Our well water is certainly dropping as the growing plants take up the water and drop the water table. In fact it is already starting to take off and Ian got the strimmer out - oh the first sounds of summer, the annoying whine of a strimmer. Still it was for my benefit as Ian was strimming the grass between my vegetable beds. I would like it to be kept under control this year, not sure how long that will last though.

My veg beds are beginning to fill with seeds
and plants.
Our first mushroom of the season. This
one is new to us, we've never noticed
them before on our land but Ian found
quite a clump of them. These are edible
morels. 
Spot the planes. Two fighters with a refuelling 
plane that circled around and around and around.

I was meant to be on holiday last week and we hoped to start on the shearing but it was so cold and wet that we abandoned that idea and with my bosses' permission I worked a few days last week so I can be freer this week to get the shearing done -well for other people anyway. Ian has been hanging on to shear ours as he needs to empty out the alpaca houses, but could not do that until the ground was hard enough and he'd finished using the back hoe to level off ground at our neighbours. Once that is complete (hopefully tomorrow) then he can take the back hoe off and then it's due to rain of course, so back to square one. Sigh! At least the alpacas will be happier with the cooler weather.

So wet after the rain there were 
puddles in front of the loo, err
I mean the office.
Snoozing as only cats know how to.
The streams on our land do not
run all year long. This is the
run off from our field that
floods.

One of the other issues we have is that we are due to shear in Estonia, but currently we are not supposed to travel there. Theoretically I can for work, if necessary but since it's not necessary.... oh the roundabout ways of this current pandemic. Ian has emailed the health authorities in Estonia to see what the situation is, but still no reply. We might have to get someone from Estonia to phone them and see what they say. The problem is that it is also edging closer to our girls giving birth and then we don't move from the farm except to shop in the village. 

Oooh! Girls! The girls do not seem particularly
interested about the boys though.
Our two youngest boys staring intently, but are 
they genuinely curious about the girls or just the
fact they are other alpacas? We won't find out
until next year at least.
This is the view I usually get. Refusing to look at
me, or prancing down to fend me off. I just 
ignore her when she does that and she backs off.

Aggie is still not my friend. We do three days of cream and three days off as she gets a bit stressy about it and that will not help her with the mite situation. This time we put diatomaceous earth on the bottom of her legs where the mites are most likely to be - we don't shear down there with the machine, we use the hand shears, so it won't ruin the shears in the process. She wasn't terribly happy about that but it could have been worse. It could have been Chanel who does not like anyone touching her legs at all and will dance about, sit down, stand up, sit down, stand up and so on. Chanel needs her skin looking at but the best thing to do is to wait just a little longer and then we can make sure she gets a good covering of the powdery stuff after shearing. 

The girls have had a lot of fun exploring each
other's paddock. They still pretty much go into their
own place, except Mari fancied a change one night 
and took a lot of persuading to go back to her 
own place.
Mari can be a bit of a minx at times
A mixed group! Amanda, Ilvija and Valeria.

We took a trip into the big town. Normally we would have a list of things to do at the same time, but this time we just went in and got out again. We had to go and get a new ID card because those are the terms that the Latvian government have decided on for the British population living in their country. There mustn't be any other Brits who need new cards in the whole of the region as they hadn't got a clue about what to do at first. First of all they asked why we wanted a new card as it had not expired, until we pointed out we were British. Eventually the penny dropped and they started working on it, all five of them. They even phoned up to get more information.

Silla is a bit unsure about this unfamiliar 
water trough.
A gorgeous sunny view.

Just how is that comfy?

Getting the photo done was good fun. I had to angle my glasses, presumably so they sat better on my face for the sake of the photo. Ian was told to make his eyes more smiley, which made me giggle. Not like the British passport photos where you are expressly told not to smile. We also had to have our fingerprints done but I think the time in the garden has made mine a bit difficult to pick up on the machine as they are worn almost smooth. The lady had to press my fingers down so it would work. We were supposed to go back in 10 days but I have a conference to attend, even if it is online and I'm presenting in it, so we had to arrange for the Monday of the following week. 

Ginger Tom or GT for short is so cute. Also he 
seems to think that coffee time is affection time.
The rest of the time, he's back to his shy self and
runs off. 
The currant bushes flowering

Ian has been chopping wood this week ready 
for the next heating season.

So this week we got the first shearing done. It was a very pleasant day to do an outside shearing between two apple trees and with plenty of shade from lots of spruce trees. We did wonder if it might be a bit windy but they also provided a nice shelter belt. The spacing between the apple trees was absolutely perfect, as if they had been planted specifically for that very purpose. Ian also got a very good finish on their coats and so they look very neat and tidy. A good start to the shearing season.

He hasn't finished by a long way yet, although this
hopefully is for the following heating season as 
this wood is fresher.

The lawnmowers are in.

Next job. They made short work of the grass 
around the car and trailers. Now they are keeping
the grass down between the trees.

Plenty to go at? Well maybe, but there is also a lot
of ground elder, which they will eat in spring but
not that keen on.

Freddie has obviously found a leaf of grass anyway

And Brencis has found the dandelion leaves.

Tellus the wise old man now.

Mari sat in the shade of her own house.

Blue sky and a swallow - yes they are back and 
fighting over the alpaca houses. I'm sure there is
enough insects for all of them and plenty of room
to nest.

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Ugggh!

One of our summer visitors.


Shall we say the weather today was not the best. I heard the wind and the rain start about 2am in the morning. It has just about stopped now and it is after 8pm. Most of the time it was heavy sleety snow. I even had to move some snow to get into the greenhouse to feed the chickens tonight. Not because we had a large accumulation of the horrible wet stuff, but because I use the north-facing door to get in and that has been the direction it has blown from most of the day. 
Two tone alpacas!


Now he is supposed to be two tone, but the damp
weather made it more obvious.
Yes that is snow on the bank there 
and it isn't even our village where
the grass was mostly covered in
the white stuff.

We went for a trip out to see some alpacas and llamas to cut their fighting teeth this morning. Many fields on the way were substantially flooded and the rivers were running high with water as a brown as a Yorkshire cup of tea - in other words they look well stewed. The alpacas and llamas were a tad wet but not too bad considering the weather. It's always a worry when we go to somewhere the first time, what will be the conditions and will they be able to catch the animals. Fortunately in this case there were enough helpers on hand and the jobs themselves were relatively easy - at least with three reasonably hefty guys to help keep the llamas still. 

A strange abstract piece of work?
Nope! Just the cat hiding on my heated box of 
seeds. Hmmph!
Silla with a rather damp and mucky hair do. 

They will be aiming to shear their own alpacas and so we suggested they come and see how we do ours. We have enough to do with the current customers we have and the tight window we have to shear, so we are more than happy for people to learn how to do it for themselves. They seemed quite happy about that, so with any luck that means a few willing extra pair of hands on shearing day. We already have one couple who will be coming to help us. It's not the case of the more the merrier, in fact that could be the more the more stressful, but when they know how to handle animals it usually works out okay. 

Has Vanessa been having a disagreement with
someone? The droopy lip suggests she has been
spitting. 
Sometimes, you just have to have a good scratch.
Lawnmowers in action. I like these self-
propelled lawnmowers, much easier. Well,
I would say that. I don't have to move the 
fences.

It was nice to be able to call in at the bakery on the way back to our caravan and pick up some hot food to eat too, so we didn't have much to prepare to eat. We must have got a bit cold this morning and maybe disturbed by the noise of the wind and rain in the night, because as  soon as we had eaten and warmed up, we both fell asleep. Not something we do in the middle of the day on a regular basis. I spent the rest of the day on the computer, even though I'm on holiday from work, but it has meant that I've managed to do some sorting out that I've just not had chance to do. I've had a desk-tidy up folder for ages when the clutter on my desktop got too much and so I just shunted it into a file to sort out later. Well it's gone now and that makes me feel like I've done a good spring clean. Not bad when there was no chance of getting in the garden due to the weather.

Amanda looking quite rotund and very tired. Not
long now to go.

The three amigos 
Another bad hair day

Even though I've been on the computer for half the day, I haven't really been on the internet much. Our internet generally suffers when it is a holiday in Latvia and bad weather doesn't help at all. Facebook in particular is far too slow when the internet gets lousy, so I haven't been on all day. Pretty unusual for me, I do like to keep up with everyone's news and so tend to spend too long on it. It just shows though what an utter drain on energy Facebook is when it takes so long to load. 

Love the angle, makes Ilvija and Mari look like their having a kiss.

A layer of mucky fleece but then nice and clean.
Phew! Not long to go now before shearing time.
Lecturing 2021 style. My 
backdrop was a field of alpacas
though.

I gave a lecture to a German university this week. I was given permission to be controversial, so I threw a few comments in to get students thinking. I also outlined some of the problems that farmers face at certain times of the year, when the job can be so draining. I gave an example of us at haymaking time when the clouds are rolling in and we have to load up the hay. A time when we might be barely talking to each other because we are both irritable, tired, dusty and hungry. Those times when there is no clocking off at 5pm because you work till you're finished. It wasn't to make us look good, because our days are not all like that, but I wanted them to understand how advising farmers to diversify makes a mockery of what they do in those busy periods. If their income is not enough, then it is because they are not receiving the benefits they should for the hours they work and the system is broken. 

A little daffodil. They are still hanging on in there.
I thought we might have a mass of them by now,
but the wild boar thought they were tasty a while ago.

And what else does the modern lecturer do? Feeds
the chickens of course. They are still in the greenhouse.
I was tempted to get the arks outside but the cold 
forecast put me off and I'm pleased we didn't.
We've had some lovely days too, just a bit cold.

One student asked how they could support farmers to be more efficient and I challenged the student on whether that was a good thing to do because efficiency is a rather difficult term for someone facing the challenges of climate change. To be sustainable and resilient might not mean becoming more efficient. What is efficient in a factory or a laboratory is not necessarily efficient in the field. It is not necessarily efficient to plant four crops, but if one fails then there is always the other three to fall back on. It is efficient to plant up one large field with one crop because it doesn't require a multitude of machinery, but then that might not be sustainable or resilient, particularly in a bad summer weather-wise. I certainly enjoyed the challenge of the presentation and I look forward to hearing the feedback from the students.

Chanel looks very proud of her grass balancing trick

Turbjørn is at least eating well. He is still struggling
a bit though and some days are better than others.
It is amazing how similar these two are in 
colour. They have the same father, Tellus, but 
George on the left has a white and brown mother,
Mari and Freddie has a dark brown mother,
Chanel.

I also finished my own seminars this week. My students still have an essay to hand in, but there are no more whole class meetings. It was a good job it wasn't today, as I think I would have had to cancel it. I think I will miss them. It was only a short course, but I've enjoyed hearing the progress they've made in their ideas and it was great to hear how they are thinking about including people, even children, in future planning. If that is the route they take then that is something to be optimistic about. 

Josefs is a lazy one, can't even be bothered to stand
to eat. Don't worry, there's nothing wrong with him.
He can run around and leap about when he wants to.

Not as clever as his brother George, but still quite
a bright spark is Jakobs.
You can see the alpacas share our
challenges! Don't worry, they are
just sunbathing.

On the farm itself we've had a few challenges of our own. One day I went to our fridge that we keep in the barn to find that a mouse had obviously been in it and left a few calling cards. Ian had even put wire over the back to stop them getting in, but it wasn't sufficient. We think it might have hurt itself on the wire as there were also a few spots of blood. Well the fridge has been fixed now and Ian has managed to work out a way of attaching a piece of metal over the only possible place it could have got in. It was a bit tricky and it is into the foam insulation, so we hope it holds enough to deter a mouse.

Poor Aggie. Her nose is sore. I will be giving her
another course of cream to ease it. We do it for 
three days then stop because she gets so fed up
with it and gets awkward. More stress won't help.
Mr. P tucking into the grass too. He's much 
better. He was staring longingly at the girls today.

Mr. P has been having antibiotics and steroid injections most mornings but at least his breathing seems to have improved. We think it might be an environmental allergy of some kind as Ian realised he asked our vet out to listen to him this time last year. We knew it was a regular thing but hadn't realised it was tied to a particular time of the year. It's a good job that Ian is very methodical in his approach to note taking - unlike me!

Some glorious days indeed.


Aggie is looking huge. 
It hasn't been a bad week, weather-wise up until today as Ian's managed to get quite a bit done around the place. He got the back hoe on the tractor and dug out the old remains of electric poles that are always an issue at haymaking time; he's filled in pig damage on our neighbour's land where we also cut hay. he's also expanded the pond on the other side of our oak hill and dug out the drainage ditches to help drain the field better - not that it worked this time but it was an exceptionally large amount of water in a very short period of time and all our other ponds are overflowing.

Josefs is an inquisitive chap.

Silla was the bravest and went into the field first.
Mari and Aggie were having a sniff to see who
she was before Silla decided to make a rapid exit.

The grass is still growing slowly as the days have still been a bit cool and so the animals have needed to be moved fairly regularly. They started to eat through the fences rather too quickly - even though they have plenty of hay they could eat instead. Ian ended up having to sort out the charger units as they seemed to be not working well enough. So they are cleaned up and working now. Ian also took the opportunity of letting the two groups of girls mingle together. This will help us later on in the year when the youngsters need to be separated from their mums. It means we can create a new herd with less stress. We'll see how that works obviously later on. 

The rest of Vanessa's group starting to investigate
the field where Aggie's group were.

Aggie's group investigating Vanessa's paddock

They have better trees to scratch through.

All together now. They are still not quite acting 
as one group, so still easy to separate. 

So on this rather blustery wet day, when it still cannot quite make up it's mind whether it's spring or winter that is about it for life in our little rural place.