Monday, 27 January 2014

An eventful weekend

Cold, cold mornings
Before I get onto the more exciting events of this last weekend, I have a few things to run through; the Winter olympics is cancelled due to lack of snow! OK! Well before you think I have lost the plot it is the Latvian Schools Winter Olympics which is cancelled, not the ones at Sochi. I don't think the snow dare stay away from that one. Our village will not therefore, be inundated by coaches from all over Latvia, neither will we see youngsters zipping around the place snowboarding, skating or skiing. Such a shame, but there is very little snow on the ground, despite the freezing cold temperatures we have been having. The cancellation of the Winter Olympics in our village will also probably mean we will not have a sudden miraculous improvement in our heating, as we normally do in that week. Such a shame as it has been running rather low yet again.

Human chain, passing books on a cold winter's day (picture
from the European Commission website)
The low temperatures didn't stop the formation of a chain of folks from the old Latvian national library to the new one. They passed books one to another to demonstrate their love of literature. It never ceases to amaze me in a country, where cooperation in the business arena is poor, that when it comes to voluntary cooperation then the Latvians are there, in fact 14,000 of them. No mean feat in a country of around 2million.

I love the frost patterns on our greenhouse plastic. I always
used to think frosted glass panels were a little unrealistic,
now I'm not so sure.
I was not encouraged by the announcement of the deregulation of the electricity market. As usual it is hyped as an opportunity for competition to drive prices down. Which person in reality, honestly and truly believes this any more? The only way to keep market prices down is by regulation, proved time and time again in the UK and more recently Estonia. On the one hand, rising energy prices might mean that people curb their usage and that is not a bad thing. One thing I do like about the current market is that for the first 1200 units per year (yes you read that right), the price is lower, after that there is an increase. That encourages those who need to save money to keep their electric usage down. Well that's the theory anyway. So how long do you think it will be before the prices go escalating?

Well now onto the exciting bit, the weekend. It was cold this weekend, very cold. Friday morning saw me heading into Riga for meetings and my toes were frozen by the time they got there. Doesn't help that the 6:40am bus from our village didn't warm up until we were within sight of Riga, neither does the temperature of -23C that morning. Anyway I got to my Friday morning meeting and managed to thaw out quite quickly thank goodness. I had visions of having to take my boots off, revealing my none too stylish but should-be-warm socks and trying to get some feeling into them, but I was spared that embarrassment. After the meeting I was then off to find my host for the weekend, the young guy who translated for me recently lives in the centre of Riga and said I could stop there any time I needed to. Him and his housemate are truly open hearted folks and genuinely meant it when they said, "help yourself, to whatever there is in the fridge." Such a joy to meet true hospitality. It wasn't the flashiest place in town, and didn't need to be. Give me a place where the welcome is warm any day, over the pristine houses.

So any guesses what our weekend entailed, if you don't
know already?
Whilst in Riga, I quite often give my young crazy friend a ring to see if she is free. After all we love to talk. She had the crazy idea of meeting for breakfast. We did discover that there isn't a lot in Riga for breakfast at 7:30am on a Saturday morning, it was a choice between Narvesen (a type of 7-11) or McDonalds. Well McD's is not my scene and so Narvesen's won. So there I was eating a bacon hotdog, washed down with a hot chocolate for breakfast on another very cold winter's morning on my way to a meeting about Transition Initiatives, where many of them eat ever so healthy food and the thought of what I ate that morning would have been an anathema. Normally I would agree, but that morning, I really didn't care as long as it was hot. A nice salad sandwich was not going to cut it.

Needed sustenance
It was a weekend meeting about Transitioning to a low carbon economy (translated means not buying so much rubbish and living in a way that is kinder to the earth we live on) and the first day was good. The second day was okay, but I was tired and we were doing "transition of your mind" and trying to picture our ideal world to give us a vision for the future. Well I'm living my ideal world and quite frankly I just wanted to get back to it, rather than try and picture it while sat in the city. That does not mean the organisers were to blame for a poor presentation or anything, it was much more to do with where I was at at the meeting. The organisers were actually a lovely bunch of people and a joy to meet. I had a rally lovely chat with a couple of folks that day, but the day was rather rudely interrupted by a phone call from Ian.

Life's hard when you are born in January
Ian would never ring when he knows I'm in a meeting, unless it was urgent and so I excused myself from a conversation I was having and I answered it. I was in for a shock. "I've just found a cria (baby alpaca)," he said. His mind was racing, my mind was racing. "Snowdrop and Veronica still look pregnant though," he continued. They were only due in May/June so if they had given birth it would likely have been a premature baby, but this one to Ian looked a full term one, from what little we know. "I think it might be Alicia's!" Alicia's? The old lady, who we promised not to breed from? "It's got a darker colouring" Ian said. Well that clinched it. Snowdrop and Veronica are white alpacas and bred to a white male, so no chance of a darker coloured baby. I couldn't concentrate in the meeting after that. I had no idea what to do. I had just arranged to go part way home with a chap living in my direction, as I could either catch the bus from the village where he lived or Ian could come and fetch me. Oh yes! I forgot one other minor detail, the car hadn't started that morning and so he had to walk to the land a trip that takes just over an hour and I had thought that if he could get the car started when he got back home, it would give the car a good run to offset the problems of the cold start.

Not the ideal house guest
My mind was in a turmoil and I wasn't concentrating on the meeting. I suddenly thought of someone Ian should ring and went outside the room to pass on the message. A lady turned up while I was outside who had been at the meeting the day before. She had forgotten her charger and returned to pick it up, she didn't really fancy being around for the transition of the mind part so wasn't staying. As she lived along the road to where I live, even if it was a good way a way, she offered to take me home. I was so relieved about that. On the way we talked about faith and God, her from her standpoint of being a Pagan Priestess who runs a church in her own garden and me from my Christian faith. It was an interesting chat and we were quite enjoying the adventure of hurrying home to see our unexpected arrival, when the adventure turned into a drama. Suddenly the car started to snake on ice and as we headed towards the opposite side of the road in a spin, I braced for a roll. The roll thankfully didn't happen as the newly installed crash barriers stopped our descent down the embankment of the road. The car was a bit of a mess though, with bits all over the road. It was still driveable, but the tyre was flat. I realised, however at this point she would need to get back home and not take me to our village.

Looking kind of cute!
Meanwhile back on the farm I had already phoned some friends to go and help Ian and they were heading in his direction with a supply of milk powder and transport to help him home, so the little one could be warmed up. The caravan was good to get him out of the extreme cold it had been born into and the radiator was helping, but it needed more heat. Another friend who was a neighbour and previously worked as a vet, came and helped Ian as well with getting the situation stabilised and even managed to get some milk from the mother. She is used to milking too as she has her own cows. At least we now knew it was definitely Alicia and the little cria is a boy. In the caravan there was also a poorly chicken that Ian discovered in the morning, probably suffering from the cold, he was jammed up by the radiator to try and warm him through, but other than that he got no attention with the little cria to attend to, consequently he didn't survive the night.

Mum and baby
We are so grateful to lots and lots of good friends we can turn to in a crisis and I had to make a phone call to some more friends of ours, to see if they could come and rescue me. Sure enough, rescue was on the way, but unfortunately they were having to travel a little further than normal as they had been at church in the big town. Well we sat and waited. My new friend didn't fancy trying to learn how to change a tyre on a piece of icy road with cars going past, so we waited for help to arrive. First of all a policeman stopped, but when he realised no one was hurt - we thankfully suffered no worse than a bit of a bump on the head each - he went on his way, as he was going to attend another accident where people were hurt. Great! I phoned my friend to warn the young lads driving to get me to take it easy.

A motherly nuzzle and a little alpaca conversation going
on here
A few cars went past, some even slowed down, but eventually one young Latvian fella in a fancy car slowed down and asked if we needed help. We were only too pleased to accept. He changed the tyre and said I could go and sit in his car while he worked on my friend's car. There was a lady in the car who it turned out was from Estonia and so we had a great chat about what had happened that day and a little bit about the type of research I was doing at an Estonian University. I asked her about her perceptions of the differences between Latvians and Estonians - I wasn't going to pass on the chance to do some research, besides it is always good to get different people's opinions. Eventually the tyre was sorted and my friend could go on the way. The young Latvian chap and his travelling companion then took me onto my home village, as they were going that way. It only dawned on me today, that they must have been one of the cars that went past and then thoughtfully turned back to see if we needed help and I don't even know their names.

Mum looking on and yes it is still cold!
Well I turned up back at home, just before Ian turned up with our new arrival and we got a chance to swap stories around wondering what to do with the little fella. The little fella wasn't doing well he was snorting in a funny way that instinct told us was not right. I had to run around to neighbour's houses to see if any had baby bottles we could use, as the supermarkets didn't. They had milk powder but not baby bottles as our friends found earlier. Fortunately I was able to get a bottle and we spent a while getting down some of the milk from his Mum. It was a struggle. We called the vet out and eventually she turned up, poor lass she had been out skating with the kids. She said at least it wasn't in the night. She gave him an injection of sugar solution, directly into his stomach, something she does for sheep. We scoured the internet and the vet book to see if there was an alternative way but decided that was the best. She even went out with Ian to get some more milk from Alicia, so I could stay behind and keep an eye on the little one. I think she is enjoying the new challenges from our gentle animals.

To think that only last week we had no idea, that our little
old lady was actually carrying a baby. We have to contact
the breeder and see if he has any idea who the father might
be now. 
This morning we took him back out to our land and took him to see his Mum, wondering if she would recognise him or accept him. She did! I nearly cried and I'm not the emotional sort. He had been making little humming noises and she started to respond to his noises. We covered him up with straw to keep him warm and left them to it. We kept going back to feed her and give him a bottle, as he still hasn't got a lot of strength back yet. He can get up and stagger about a bit, but not a lot. Not surprising as we have no idea how long it was since he was born and he did get cold. We are just so grateful that Alicia decided to give birth in the alpaca house, if he had been born outside he would have died for sure. We have brought him home again tonight, the temperatures are just too low at the moment for such a weak one, his Mum wasn't so pleased. We felt awful, but there is little else we can do. Also he needs feeding through the night and she can't provide enough. For now I think that is quite enough. I think the adrenaline is beginning to wear off a bit now and the shock setting in, at our little surprise package. An unexpected bonus gift. Now all we need is a name.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Winter's arrived

Sunrise at -18C! Beautiful
Winter looks to have arrived again, only this time we know it is likely to be a bit more permanent than the cold we experienced in November. Now we have the problems of frozen water for our animals, because, despite the cold, there is not enough snow for them to eat in its place, which is what they do normally when we have a cold spell. We have too many animals to carry water easily out to the land and the water situation is not sorted out yet, as it hasn't been the right time to dig the well. We have ponds, but they are frozen over now. Still Ian is resourceful enough to work it out and has been chopping a hole in the ponds to get at the water and today he boiled some up in the kettle, as he thinks the girls are not too happy with the cold water. It took three kettlefuls to get enough to warm the water up and they loved it. Fortunately the boys prefer the snow for now, what little there is of it. Ian is going to have to gather some up from elsewhere and put it in the paddocks. Not that it is hard to collect as the temperatures are down to around -18C (0F) in the mornings, so what little snow there is is not disappearing fast, even in the bright sunshine we've been having, in fact it seems to be increasing with the frosts we've had.

Soaking up the sun in the greenhouse

Two of the newest chickens took up residence in the ladies alpaca house, as I have mentioned before, but unfortunately they seem to have also taken to roosting on the feeders inside the house and for anyone who hasn't had chickens, they poo a lot at night and in this case it was into the hay. Not good! The chickens have actually been doing well up until recently, as they make good cleaners. Any food that the girls don't get, the chickens finish off. Not much use though if they then go and deposit their waste all over the girls food. Ian has put a cap on the hay feeders to try and stop this, but if it carries on, they will have to be removed all together. 
Soaking up the sun outside the chicken house
Soaking up the sun in the paddock
The vet came again this week and gave the alpacas there monthly vitamin injections. She wouldn't have done that, but she was also checking for a skin problem on one of our male alpacas. I am sure the next lot of vitamins will have to be given by me, otherwise I have to learn how to handle the alpacas better. The skin problem must be mites as the none of the boys had a problem until long after the ladies arrived. Maybe the mites arrived because of the stress of moving, we don't know. We need to do something about it, but we can't at the moment, as putting oil on their skin in these temperatures would only make matters worse, even if it did smother the mites. We did suspect the chickens might have introduced the mites, but we have checked them over and they seem okay. 
Even the sheep are enjoying the sun, after so much dreach

More hay please!
Although I am still not actually back at uni yet, I've still got a lot of work to do. I am gearing up to the workload and starting to get more organised and disciplined, which helps enormously of course. I think making a point of doing some knitting (even finished another hat off this week) or sewing is helping, as it gives me a brain break and time to mull things over. I am definitely a great muller over of things and that is where my inspiration comes from in those quiet moments. It is funny how it is the life changes that have thrown me the most and not necessarily the workload. I didn't realise I would find it so hard that the grandchildren are so far. I think it was because I had spent so long as a stay at home Mum that it is strange having to go through the emotions of not seeing the children so much. Especially as my grandson was one this last week.

Yum! Snow!
Still there is always Skype and I have had a lovely couple of chats with the babies and Ian was even around to talk to our grandson. Our grandson was playing with playdoh with what looked like a large plastic swiss army knife and he played quite happily sat on his dad's lap for ages. My little granddaughter was sat in a high chair eating and playing with toys (not at the same time), but she also was quite happy for a good while. Occasionally they would realise that the picture on the screens of either the phone or the computer was actually interacting with them and they would smile at us, which was lovely.
See! Very tasty!
Snowdrop doesn't get a look in very often. Usually off
doing her own thing, but she is getting a little more
interactive these days
I mentioned last week that I was away at the time of posting the blog. Oh the wonders of being able to pre-write a blog and then set it to post while away. I didn't get home until about 9pm and had gone out at 8:30am - a loooong day indeed. It was a fantastic time though. I got to speak to four wonderful ladies who were very patient with me and answered my questions thoughtfully. I did warn the first two that it was the first time I had asked this set of questions and so I wasn't sure how it would go, they were my trial run. My favourite quotes of the day though, were when I asked one lady if she grew her own food because it was tastier than supermarket veg and she replied, "I wouldn't know. I have never bought vegetables from the supermarket." I then asked, "If she had enough money would she still grow her own food?" "Oh yes!" she replied, "because it's mine and it is fresh outside the door." By the way, her tomatoes were tasty. She had then in a jelly of some description and not cooked down like mine, but they had a wonderful taste anyway. Summer in a jar!
Ripe for a caption competition this one. This is Tellus and
he is often photographed.
Looking good even in these
My translator also had a wonderful time too. He was a local lad who now lives in Riga and it was an opportunity to take a trip back home. He would love to move back, but it is a problem for youngsters to find sufficient employment so far away from the city. I think it fired him up though to think more seriously about it and try and find ways to move back. Hearing me ask questions about the community and how people help each other out, about the way people grow their own vegetables, made him feel quite nostalgic for his home village. Not a bad start anyway. My heart is to see more young people move back, but how they do that is another thing.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Lost and found

The roadway is getting a little chewed
up now. At least this week the forecast
is for a freeze and so that will help
I think we lost our sense of humour this week, somewhere in the mud with the dreach weather we've been having and the nasty emails going between neighbours. I can just do without it at the moment. I have had extra things to do with my course, that I should have anticipated, but didn't. For instance I have an evaluation to do, as it is a year since I started the course, but what I hadn't realised is that this is not a cosy chat with my supervisors, but a meeting with a board and a presentation - all to be done by the end of the month. Okay if I had actually sat down and read through all the steps of doing a PhD on the university site, I would have realised that, but just like most people, I haven't. So there is that to do, on top of the reading I still need to wade through and some prep work for a course in the beginning of February, where I shall be learning how to make pretty maps using computer software.
Dreach! A Scottish word for dark, damp gloomy days

Water has been pouring into APH1 (Alpaca house one) and
so Ian has put plastic under the roof, so he can stop it from
raining in on the boys. It is angled to drain out of the house
through the funnel you can see on the right hand side of the
Learning to do maps, reminds me of some of the decisions I made when I was younger. I had to choose between Geography and History at school and I chose History. I did prefer history and I was good at the subject, but there was one more element in the decision - I didn't want to do a subject that my Mum taught. My Mum was a supply teacher at one point and I didn't really want the risk of being in a geography class with my Mum, it was bad enough the one class that I did have where my Mum filled in for another teacher, but that was Chemistry and she just supervised that class, as the teacher had set us some work. Some children don't mind. That particular chemistry class was taught by the father of one of my classmates and he didn't seem to mind. Not sure why I didn't want my Mum to teach me, but it is ironic that I am now learning some of those things that are more akin to geography than history, although there is some of that too in the subject I am researching.
To drain the water away from the inside of the alpaca house

This is one of the hats I knitted. I knitted the one below
first and thought it was a bit too small and so that will
be a present for a young one later. I knitted this one
bigger and went to wash it and was horrified to see it
expand a lot and was now too big. Fortunately it is alpaca
wool, not ours though, and so it felted relatively easily
and so I felted it down to the right size. Worked nicely
as you can see. 
As you can tell I am feeling a bit inundated really, but rather than spend more and more time working, I realise I need to take time off and relax, otherwise I will get less and less done in the long run. I need time to think and mull things over. I enjoyed just pottering about at our other apartment yesterday. I could have got some sewing done, something I find relaxing, but hadn't taken my sewing machine lead up and it was a while before I found a decent pair of scissors amongst all the boxes of stuff I have. I packed most of my stuff into boxes when we had a family staying at the apartment. I realise that I really need to do something about our organisation, I have sewing stuff in two places and rarely do I have the right things in the right place - not helpful! I wasn't always so disorganised, I could be and can be quite organised. I must get more organised again though and then I will be more productive. I find that what happens is discipline slips and then the organisation slips and then I end up running rings around myself and that has to stop.
Thought this looked cute with a little pompom on
for a little one

All three ponds are full to overflowing
I'm writing this blog early because a series of things have fallen into place, which is wonderful when I feel under pressure. I sent off a chance email this last week, wondering if someone had some contacts that might be useful for me for starting my field study and he did. Not only did he have some contacts, he had a meeting with them today (Monday) and I was welcome to join him and his colleague. He even offered to come and collect me, as I was kind of en-route, which was really appreciated. I decided not to take up the offer when another series of things started to fall into place too. A friend of mine offered me their car and suggested a young man we both know would make a good translator and he was able to rearrange his work shifts to go. This all means I can now combine the meeting with some interviews in a nearby village, which is good as it is a couple of hours drive away. This should all get me off to a good start with my research, as I can test the type of questions I want to ask, to see how understandable they are and if they spark the kinds of answers I need.
Not just dripping either, but quite a flow

Estelle, our inquisitive youngster
Ian has been working with the animals to get them used to him handling them and yesterday he even managed to hug Estelle. She is a lovely, inquisitive alpaca though and has a very sweet nature, which is good if we have visitors. Gradually during feed time, Ian has been tickling them under the chin, particularly Tellus and Estelle, as they are the ones we might need to move around to show or in Tellus case as a stud male. He has worked up to stroking them down their necks and feeling more pressure each time. It's taking time, but hopefully it will pay off in the long run. It is always nice if the animals will actually come up and interact with people. Although we may have to work on that a bit, it is at least a start. Ian has been keeping the animals penned up just lately though. One of the reasons is that alpacas do not have lanolin like sheep to shed water, being animals designed for high desert and not lowland wetlands and so with the prolonged rain, they are getting wet. This not always a problem, but we are due to some drastic drops in temperatures and we want them to dry out before that happens. They will cope with the cold well enough, but not if they are wet, especially our old girl Alicia and we want to take extra care of our pregnant girls too.
Mud, mud, mud! This is the entrance to the girls paddock.
Even though this whole area is on the top of a hill, we
will have to look at drainage later on in the year, to stop a
repeat of the mudbath
Even my cranberries are underwater
We took a trip to a sheep farm nearby and stopped for cup of tea. Thankfully they don't speak much English and it forced us to use some Latvian. Our conversation was rather short, but at least it was a start and they were very kind enough to talk slowly for us and repeat things until we understood. That is what we really need. The reason for our visit was to pick up a whole lamb - of the meat variety and not a live one. Even though it was very fresh, we have to butcher it straight away as we just haven't got somewhere to leave it to hang. Did I say butcher? I should really say we hacked the lamb and you probably wouldn't recognise any of the joints from the butchers. Still it is in pieces that are manageable for us and the not so good pieces are minced and the slightly better pieces are cut up into chunks and we have some things that could be recognised, maybe, as roasting joints. I did slip a bit with the knife at one point, but we won't go into detail, just to say all digits and limbs of ours are still in tact.

Ian made some modifications to his Franken-shit stopper
(yes that is what he named it, and I didn't tell you last week)
These prongs are to help rake up the hay, after he has
cleared the poo up. Apparently the pegs were handmade
on the pole lathe or treadle lathe.
I did say we found our sense of humour, our cup of tea with our neighbours and a bit of bonding over the butchering process helped. It also helped to see our grandchildren on Skype and in a video clip on facebook. It also helps that life is just is too much without a laugh and there is no point in hanging onto bad moods. We maybe still have to work somethings through, but a sense of humour does make things a little smoother to get there.

Monday, 6 January 2014

In the Eurozone

Nearly time to put the Christmas decorations away, but not
just yet. I know it is traditional to take them down either
yesterday or today, but ours make the place look cheerful
in this rather dreach weather. You may notice the rather odd
addition to our manger scene. He comes out every year and
is called Dally. 
The first of January saw the beginning of the end of the Lat, which many are quite sad about here in Latvia; although there are some older folks for which is not a problem as they have seen rather a lot of changes of currencies over the years and at least the Euros have bigger coins that are easier to see. It was quite common to see an old lady hand over a pocketful of change for the cashier to sort through, as it was almost impossible to tell a 1 santim coin from a 2 santim coin. We still had some Lats leftover and so we have just about spent them all now, we have until the 15th January. 

Some green grass, but not much
Being in the Eurozone means there is now no more confusion between Latvia and Estonia for me when I'm travelling, since Estonia was already in the Eurozone. There were worries of prices going up with the switch, but since I don't buy much or take much notice of prices when I do - it is what it is!- as our Swedish friend is fond of saying. It is the kind of attitude we have developed over the years of travelling, after it became much to complicated to convert back to a currency we were familiar with. However, I do know my milk, from my local farmer, has gone down in price. It should be 57c per litre but it was reduced to 55c - easier to add up I guess.

Ian has dug up the last of our carrots. Normally we don't
leave them this long, but since the weather has been mild
we could risk it. In fact this is the second mildest year in
Latvia's history or rather since records began.
As I said, the reason we don't take much notice of prices, is the fact we don't actually buy much from the supermarkets. My milk as I mentioned is from the local farmer, we are practically self-sufficient in vegetables, the lamb we hopefully get this week is a swap for some hay at the beginning of the year and we should have some chicken soon, once the cockerels are big enough to dispatch, which all goes to mean that we don't need much beyond citrus fruits, mushrooms, oil, salt, flour, cheese, rice, sugar, margarine, yeast, tea, coffee and toilet rolls. I think that is about it, apart from chocolate and it isn't just me who craves chocolate from time to time, Ian is the more regular consumer of that. 

Not much grass here!
We decided to go on a walk this New year's Eve to watch the fireworks. Turns out it was a little more dangerous than we thought it would be, as one chap threw a firecracker in our general direction. He wasn't even a young chap, so we can't blame the act on youthful exuberance. Fortunately it just made us jump rather than doing any damage. Fortunately the rest of the walk was uneventful and we saw quite a few fireworks. On our way back we saw a glow in the sky and wondered what it was, too low and slow for a meteor, too low for a satellite and not enough noise for a helicopter - besides who flies helicopters on a New Year's Eve? It turns out it was a paper lantern, as we saw it stuck in a tree burning away. The thought that came to our mind, was what if it had landed in a farmer's hay stack instead? I do hope it is a fad that disappears.

The new shelter for the sheep
We've had a little change around on the farm this week. The sheep, as I said last week, were escaping and we can't really blame them. Although they were being given hay and concentrated feed, what they really wanted was green grass and there was precious little of that where they were being kept. Ian could only move the fence a little and they still have shelter and so we decided on a complete change. Around the back of our barn and greenhouse is some reseeded grass that was still long and green. Ian built another shelter from some logs and a tarp we had and between us we moved the sheep up. For two of the sheep it was pretty easy, Ian just walked up with a tray of food and they followed, the other one is a bit more nervy and so I walked behind to encourage her to go in the right direction. That sort of worked, most of the way, but she didn't quite make it into the area we had fenced off and she had to be chased back in to join the other two. Unfortunately she decided to take the quickest route and crashed the fence, breaking one of the fence posts. Oh well! At least now they have the opportunity to eat fresh green grass during the day and they get penned up into the smaller enclosure at night. They may as well make the best of it, as the temperatures might plummet in just over a week's time and we would be lucky if the grass was still green then, or even if it could be seen if it snows. 

Yey! The food man's here! Even when there is green grass
the concentrate is still appealing
Our young chickens have shown signs of growing up this week, two of the cockerels started crowing. These are the two we decided to keep, as we thought they were the more advanced of the chicks. It is funny when they first start to crow, it is almost as if they are shocked at what they have just done. Even the other chickens turn their heads and seem to give them a funny look, as if to say "What was that?" On a slightly different note, we had a visit from a forest ranger this week. In Latvia you need a permit to cut trees down over 12cm wide, which is fair enough as it is to stop people from over cutting the forests. The only problem with getting a permit, is that the forest rangers then start inspecting the forests and expect it to be kept tidy. That means clearing the undergrowth and thinning trees, which is what we were going to do, but at a slower pace than they were hoping for. Anyway we have done the majority of it, and he could see we had done some work on the forest to tidy it. The only thing was that he couldn't speak English and our Latvian is not good enough to hold a conversation. Still he got as much information from us as possible, we didn't have the paperwork out on the land, so that wasn't helpful for him and in the end, he decided it was enough and went. Sometimes it is helpful not to speak the language. 

Yum! Grass!
Life at times takes on a bit of a scary quality - although that seems a bit of an overdramatic statement when you compare our safe lives compared to living in a war zone - but there are times we are not certain of the next step and it reminded me of the "Bridge of faith" in one of the Indiana Jones films, where he has to step off the cliff before he sees the bridge (you can see it in the YouTube clip below). I feel a bit like that at times. I know it might seem stupid, but marking someone else's Masters project felt like that. It doesn't help that I didn't have the kind of feedback that I'm giving to the young man whose Masters I'm marking, mainly because the process is different in the UK. It is only by stepping out though and trying these different things that I can put into practice what I know. I'm sure it will get easier, but it still feels a bit scary. 
Shattered fence post. Not the one the sheep broke, this is
one the alpaca girls broke when they decided to go walk
abouts. At least Ian found out the girls are now quite happy
to follow him too. No idea how they managed to shatter
the fence post though

I’m not into resolutions and haven't made any for years; that is partly because I fail miserably at that sort of thing anyway, but thanks to another blogger who is, I have a phrase to carry with me for a while and that is the phrase “God is enough.”  I do know that really! I have lived that! Time and time again I have know that to be true, but each time the journey gets scarier and the potential to fail higher and each time it is like stepping onto that bridge of faith in the Indiana Jones film, that aspect doesn't get any easier, well not for me anyway.

On the topic of war I know I know, I sometimes get on my soapbox but I couldn't let this pass. A Unicef representative said this last week, "Targeted attacks against children are a violation of international humanitarian and human rights law and must stop immediately. Concrete action is needed now to prevent violence against children." But war full stop is a violation of human rights, not just targeted attacks on children. That is abhorant, but so is blowing them to bits with bombs, so is blowing anyone to bits with bombs. A war by its very nature is a violent act that violates rights. When will we learn? There is no justification for war, ever! Right now I will get down off my soapbox.
I managed to get a little creative this week. I not only finished some presents and sent them off along with the presents I posted the photos of last week- now that the post office is finally open. No photos for those I'm afraid, hopefully the recipients will take photos. I also did some more felting. I managed to find some finer fleece and so made some slightly softer felted pieces than the last time. So here are my efforts for one days work - combing the fleece by hand is obviously not such a quick job, but it was relaxing anyway.
Oh yes, lots of ours to comb enough fleece for this little lot

A piece done on a long silky piece of fabric

Close up of the swirly pattern

Background for a snowy scene?

Felted onto a piece of dark purple and green fabric

Felted onto a piece of lace