Monday, 20 May 2019

Nearly there

I hope all is well in blog land. Although I have finished helping Ian with the shearing now, we have a few things we have to do before he goes on his travels, so no blog again tonight.

Monday, 13 May 2019

Tis the season to be shearing

Oh yes! We have been here there and everywhere and so this blog will be late again. Catch you later

Monday, 6 May 2019

All things alpaca

Jakobs and Josefs in their new paddock
I mentioned last week that we had just moved Josefs and Jakobs to join the big boys. They have settled in quite nicely and paired up with George and Freddie. Josefs finally stopped moaning around mid-week. Bless him! Aggie wasn't very happy with me either. I had to go and encourage the girls back into their paddock one day before it started to rain and she pounced around the field, tutting away and let me know I was definitely not her favourite person. It was me who led Josefs away and anyway she is much more forgiving of Ian, being her favourite human.
At first they were a little bit separate but eventually they
integrated with the others

As you can see it has been pretty dusty
So yes we did finally got some decent rain this week, of course it arrived just before we planned to shear and so had to keep the alpacas in for a day and a half. It wasn't a deluge, which is probably good but it could have been more and it could have been a tad warmer. In fact at one point it snowed with big fat flakes. This wasn't great as we had a big group of 5 adults and 10 kids to visit the alpacas at the time, but at least the big children had fun trying to catch the flakes in their mouths. Oh the joys of childhood. I also had to lend my rather ancient warm coat to one of the adults as she had lent hers to one of the children. A week ago that wouldn't have been necessary, so I think we are all feeling the cold - I've even reverted to the thermals again.
The number of lorries going past do not help

This is what we expect in the middle of summer, not early
spring
With having to keep the alpacas in to keep them dry they were in a moaning mood for our visitors. At least being alpacas it was more amusing than annoying. We had another group of three after that, so they got to moan to two lots of visitors but were well fed in the process. The last group wanted to take the alpacas for a walk, but despite the rain stopping for them, the grass was wet so we couldn't risk it. We did warn them first and they talked about coming back later on in the year. As it was rather chilly it was perhaps not so bad to have to show them the alpacas inside rather than standing outside getting even colder than we already did.
The boys in a fog of dust

Would there happen to be a wagtail nest in the wood pile
again? By the way, we saw the first swallow of the season
today. Ian tried to direct them to one of the three alpaca
houses but not sure that it listened. We do hope it does as
the flies this afternoon were atrocious. Amazing what a
bit of rain will do
The threat of rain had us running around doing some preparation. Ian sowed some grass seed where the pig damage is and harrowed it in and then we went over to the nearby camp to put mulch on the tilled beds so the soil didn't wash down the hill. Ian has tilled the soil across the contour of the hill to reduce such events but even so, if there is a possibility of a deluge, it would still take the soil with it and so we made sure the mulch was on to slow the effects of the rain and allow it to soak in better.
Yes I should think you are embarrassed for harassing poor
little birds

We were a little worried about Josefs as he did seem rather
agitated and wanted to get back to his mum of course. The
problem is that even fairly young alpacas have been known
to mate and we can't take the risk. He has stopped trying to
escape now anyway thank goodness.
Ian needs to sort out the this year's application for EU subsidies on our land but the times the lady is open in our village are a bit inconvenient this week as we are shearing at a mini Zoo near Riga. We decided to go to a nearby village instead, but when we got there there was quite a queue. The queue also did not move very fast either, this was partly because the lady didn't turn up until after we did and even after she arrived it did not move fast. I had an online Skype meeting that I needed to attend, so we had to give up. Hopefully we'll get it sorted next week. We have until the 22nd.
And now it is spot the difference time. Jakobs and Josefs.
Of course the first thing they usually do is have a roll
after being sheared. Sigh!

A close up of Josefs. We were surprised by how dark he was
underneath
This weekend was the annual Spring market. We've had a few heavy frosts just lately and because we have an unheated greenhouse it took quite a few of our little tomato and pepper plants, even though they were well covered, so I decided to get some from the market. I also got a few plants that were further on than ours such as cabbages to get a good start to the season. I have quite a few planted up, but they have been growing slower than I would like. I may also have spent some more money on plants - well actually a lot of money for me. We got more berry producing bushes that make good hedging plants and a few more herbs to add to my collection. I also got a plant that translated as mushroom grass and yes the leaves do taste of mushrooms. Interesting anyway.
We didn't realise how spotty Josefs was either. He looks even
darker from above. 

As usual Turbjørn was first to be sheared. I'm sure he laughs
at the others
Today was the first day of shearing for us and Ian is not happy. We seem to have caught the Estonian disease of needing lots of combs and cutters because they have been going blunt so quickly. It could be due to the dry weather we had last year and earlier on this year. I'm beginning to wonder if they would have been better outside having a shower, but then they would have been wet for shearing and that wouldn't have been good either. Mr. P was the worst or at least looked the worse, He was also the worst to shear.
A rather dusty Mr. P

Herkules looked rather fed up after his shearing
It was nice that we had help this year. It is a lady and her son who are thinking of buying two of our alpacas and they wanted to see the shearing process. They also had lessons in how to catch alpacas. They weren't meant to be having lessons in catching alpacas, but we had escapees today, not just once but twice. The first escapees were from the training pen where we had put just over half the boys ready for later. There isn't enough room to pen them all up inside now there are so many of them. It is only a training pen and the gate is not the best, well it was even worse than that as it turned out. We let the first sheared alpaca out of the alpaca house - Turbjørn as we always shear him first because he is so nervous - and the next thing we know, Josefs comes running across to see who this new strange alpaca is. Hmmmph! That wasn't meant to happen.
Tellus looks a lot smarter now, well if you don't look too closely
as he has so many fat lumps on him that he always looks a bit
of a mess after shearing. At least he isn't actually as fat as he
has been. That should be good for him.

Freddie and George are still pretty much the same, but you
can see how much darker Josefs is as he is the one with
his head down at the back. Brencis is his usual mucky
colour, having just found somewhere to roll no doubt.
We left the boys out to roam around until after lunch, we then herded all the boys into the training pen usng a rope and then took the unsheared ones across to the alpaca house. Only I managed to let go of Mr. P's lead and he ran off, but I managed to catch him okay. Just as we were finishing off the penultimate alpaca the guy who had come to help us said that there were some alpacas outside the fence. Sure enough, three of Vanessa's crew were stood on the outside of the fence, eyeing up the boys with their new haircuts. Not good news, they are perhaps the most difficult to catch as they are still a bit nervous of us.
So this was the photo from last week's blog of Jakobs

Compared with today's photo. He's still got the little heart
shaped brown lips and big eyes

Freddie close up
Anyway out came the rope again and the four of us panned out holding the rope. The girls headed straight back to where they had escaped from. That at least was encouraging. Ian moved the half demolished electric fence to prevent them going down the bank and we moved in towards the girls with the rope slowly. They decided that it was better to be inside the paddock area and they were then shut in. Phew! Our helpers were quite surprised it was so easy as they have had to recapture their own cows before now and taken a couple of hours to do that. We were just pleased it turned out to be so easy with the girls. The boys were still in the paddock area and unlikely to escape from that, so not too bad. The girls were more free to roam further.

Monday, 29 April 2019

Spring? How did that happen?

The silver birch trees were bare when I left and now they are
green
I went up to Tartu this last week and when I left the trees were bare, when I came back many trees had popped their leaves and there was a green haze in the forest. On the Tuesday morning when I went to catch the 6:55am bus, it was freezing. The temperature was -3C and I had to wear a light winter coat. After about half an hour on the bus my feet were numb with cold and I was pulling the coat tightly around me. Shortly afterwards the bus stopped to pick up a group of students of varying ages. They mainly looked dressed for warmer weather. One young chap looked like he had literally rolled out of bed, put some clothes on and headed out of the door. His hair was tousled and he had that glazed look on his face that said he had not engaged fully with the world yet. Just behind him were two young chaps dressed in shorts and t-shirts. I know the sun was shining but really, it was not that warm.
Someone else doesn't look like a morning person. Although to
be hones this was the evening. It is a good job Josefs is going
to be sheared soon. He needs that hair out of his eyes. Tonight
he and Josefs went to join the big boys. There was much
moaning from Josefs.
Jakobs didn't moan so much about the move. We'll see
how he gets on tomorrow. He is so little unlike Josefs, who
is nearly as big as Freddie and George, despite being a year
younger.

The Cesis opera house
I got into Cesis and headed for my cheap and quiet working place for the next three hours. It is cheap enough for me to keep me supplied with tea or coffee and a light meal before heading for the train and quiet enough to work without interruptions. I also don't have to pay for the loo either, unlike in the train station. A bonus with a supply of tea. Around midday it was time to set off to catch the train and as I sat in the blazing sun on the station platform, I began to realise that perhaps the young chaps weren't that daft as I was boiling. Shorts didn't seem quite such a silly idea afterall.
The new section of the opera house. A
grand place for such a little town, but
well used even so.
A ring side seat to listen to the opera singer
practicisng 

Cesis centre
The sun shone nearly all week, just for a change (said with heavy sarcasm since we have hardly had any rain whatsoever during the whole of April). We did have one downpour while I was in Tartu and I nearly felt like going outside and dancing in the rain. I refrained as I would have had to sit in presentations with damp clothes as I hadn't even brought a coat with me that day. There was no forecast of rain so it was a bit of a shock. Unfortunately for Ian there were only a few small spots of rain on the land and not enough to give the grass a good soaking. Where the vegetation is finding the water is anyone's guess because surprisingly even the ground is starting to green up. Of course with the good weather I was working in an office, but I did get to see an enormous gaggle of geese fly over at one point. I feel sorry for you folks who have to work in an office normally. I was back to my normal pattern of work today, taking computer breaks by checking on our chickens to see if they have laid eggs. Just what the doctor ordered.
A Cesis rooftop

I love the shape of this one. It looks like a hat

A street in Cesis

Part of the castle walls in Cesis

I don't think this gives an idea of the scale of this monster,
but the building behind is a two storey gym
The week at the university coincided with an agricultural exhibition. The university I work for, used to be the agricultural college before becoming a university, which is why we have a veterinary, forestry and various agricultural departments. I don't think that the large agricultural equipment is the way to go to feed the world, but they are certainly amazing to see and the ones I did see are not the biggest either. It is no wonder the agricultural soils get compacted.
Just a little cab

But from this angle you get more of an idea of scale

Hello! Who are you? The two groups of girls have fences
next to each other for the first time. We wouldn't be
doing this if they were of the opposite sex, there would be
trouble.
Out on our land we do not get out on a frequent basis to socialise as there is so much to do, but this week I managed to spend just about every evening at one social event or another. As an introvert it is quite nice to just chill this evening. The first event was a barbecue with my departmental colleagues. I don't actually get to see them that often, even if I am up in Tartu because I am working in another building, so it was nice to meet up with them again in an informal setting.
Mari is fascinated by the other girls

Veronica is more interested in just eating grass
The next night I took my friend out to dinner as a thank you for doing lots of editing for me. The following evening was a little more stressful as I needed to network at an Estonian Sociology conference. Estonians are just as introverted as I am and so it took me a little while before finding someone who looked outgoing enough to be able to chat to. A friend of mine turned up eventually too. He is someone I had met at other meetings and we have a lot of research interests in common, so we were using the opportunity to catch up. He normally works in the UK so was an ideal opportunity. I only found out about the conference from him anyway. Lastly there was another barbecue to celebrate a friend's 65th birthday. So much for quiet night ins with my friend having a natter.
Graffti in Tartu

A mural in Tartu. They have quite a few murals on
the sides of buildings

Dry and dusty already. We expect the road to be like this in
the middle of summer
There was a bit of a panic for Ian midweek. He even phoned me, he was that worried about Mr. P. He rang to let me know he had called the vet out as he seemed to be laboured in his breathing. We are thinking he might have hayfever. He seems to react to dusty hay more than the others and the trees are certainly starting to spread their pollen about. The vet gave him steroid and anti-histamine injections and tonight he just seems to have hiccups and not too bad with his breathing.
The caravan needs a wash, but it is out in its usual spot

At least these ones seem happy enough. They have got the
hang of feeding time.
We had chicks hatch this week too but disastrously one group got overheated and died. If they had been outside of the greenhouse they would have died of cold as there has been a chill wind, but unfortunately the greenhouse obviously got too warm for new chicks and Ian had been busy working at the camp. The older ones were fine. At least we have nine that seem to be quite healthy. We had the normal one with a gammy leg that eventually died, they rarely survive and one just died for seemingly no reason. Not a good result from this hatch really as 25 eggs were set. Maybe some of the eggs were too cold to start off with. We'll only set some more away if someone else wants a batch as we probably have enough for now. We have enough to replace any hens that we might need to.
Poor Chanel is already attracting the flies

If you look carefully on this photo, you will
see tracks up the middle. Someone has
been driving across our land. Not good

Freddie looking rather grown up these days

George still looks a bit of a scamp though

The green haze

The untidy post-winter Greenhouse. I think I have quite a bit
of tidying to do.

Now I can grow my own alpacas!
A surprise present from a friend
that I got for my birthday but only
arrived whilst in Tartu
At first I thought this was my
present from my daughter
but inside was a pebble picture
All these cards arrived while I was away. The disadvantage
of having a birthday over the long Easter weekend