Monday, 25 August 2014


Surprisingly enough, no children were
out playing today. A rather soggy
A rather large area of low pressure has sat over us for the last 24 hours at least, bringing rain for much of that time. At least it held off long enough for me to have a good stint in the garden to get rid of some of the weeds that were beginning to make my orchard plot unrecognisable. I have also started harvesting some of the squash, one sort is spaghetti squash which has grown in a totally unexpected place and the other sort we are not sure what type it is, they are bright yellow instead of the blue of sweetmeat squashes which is what we thought they might be. They have obviously crossed with another type. So it will be interesting to find out what they taste like. The onions are all in too, just in time by the look of them, if they had sat out in this rain, they could well have rotted away, as would some of the beans. Some beans are still nice and green, but others were starting to get the tell tale signs of needing to be picked.

Ian sifting buckwheat. We won't be bothering with sifting
all the buckwheat, the chickens will be doing that for
themselves. This is for seed next year
Having gathered in the hay, the barley and the buckwheat now, I feel that my life is gradually returning to a more measured pace, where I can get some studying done in peace. Actually it is not just the harvests that have been completed, it is also the fact that I have just about completed the paper I was writing and the lessons for the Sociology course I will be teaching online. All had to be complete by the end of the month and so it is nice to just have the tidying up jobs to do on those. I even finished a short piece on what I am actually studying for a doctoral colloquium - sounds absolutely pretentious name for a group of doctoral students errr I mean candidates sitting around talking about what they are doing. I do enjoy going to them though.
The sifted chaff

Before on the left and after on the right
Chanterelles for our evening meal
You can tell what season we are in by what we are eating, we are definitely moving into harvest time. One evening meal consisted of potatoes, carrots, sage and nettles taken from the garden (the nettles were cut from an area that had been cut down during the year and so were tender enough to eat), a couple of large beefsteak tomatoes from the greenhouse, lentils from the cupboard and smoked goat's cheese from my friend Santa. This was followed by windfall apple scones, with sour cream and roasted grapes. It was rather good, even if I do say so myself. Tonight it was mushroom risotto with chanterelles we picked from our forest, since the wild boar hadn't actually dug over our favourite spot this year and a cep - yes only one, but then they are quite large mushrooms. My breakfast is usually porridge, whatever time of the year and I often take it out to the land to eat, to save time in the morning, as I don't like to hurry breakfast. The nice part about taking my breakfast out there is that I can get fresh berries to put in it. The berries that are added changes throughout the year, from the strawberries in early July, through blackcurrants, redcurrants and raspberries to now where they are blackberries, blueberries and autumn raspberries - well that is if the wasps haven't snaffled them first. The wasps have been pretty bad this year, must have been the relatively mild winter we had I guess.
Franken-ramp! We used the shredder to process the grain
crops and it worked rather well, but it was hurting Ian's back
bending over feeding the stuff in. Not much better for me,
holding the sack over the outlet, so Ian built the ramp and
base so he doesn't have to bend over so much. It is also bolted
to the frame for stability
View from a different angle

Outside my office, stood just inside the caravan door
The article written about our life on the farm and put in the local papers resulted in another visit to our land this week. This time it was a relative of one of our neighbours. She had been meaning to come for a while but hadn't got our number or anything, so as my email was printed along with the article, she sent me a message to arrange a time to come. She even brought along her family, her two children, her father and her sister and her family who were visiting. They brought goodies for the animals to see if they would like them and as usual our boys were only interested in the grain but the girls enjoyed the carrots and apples and the chickens enjoyed the bread and the rowan berries. Once again the children were more fascinated with the chickens than the alpacas, but they still enjoyed feeding them.

My office this morning
We had a chuckle about the article the other day. The day was reasonably warm and so we took our morning coffee up to the spot where we hope to build a house one day and sat and chatted and watched the alpacas eating, when we remembered the title of the article roughly translated being "Corncrake alpacas and the hardworking English couple" (Grieze or corncrake being the name of our land or at least some derivative of that name), anyone looking at us at that moment in time, might not think we were so hardworking, but then again, I guess they don't see us the rest of the time.

The heater in the caravan went on today
About a month ago I sent off a letter to our local heating company complaining about the charges they keep adding to the bills. There is no explanation as to what they are and they are added in a fairly random manner. I suspect they add them and hope no one notices. I was fully expecting a letter to say the equivalent of "get lost and pay your bill" - well maybe not quite so rude, but they may as well put that for the replies we have had in the past. Anyway when I opened the letter I was in for a shock. It was very short and so easy to type into Google translate and basically said, "sorry we got it wrong and sorry for the inconvenience." I have never known that company apologise before, however, they only applied the reversal of the charge to the last bill we had and not the the many months of erroneous charges. So that means yet another letter making absolutely clear which charges I am referring to month by month. Obviously I will have to do the hard work for them, despite the fact I told them how much I thought they had added in error.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Bad but not that bad

The view from Ian's home. Well he does spend more time in
the caravan than he does in the apartment
The weather this week has been much cooler, not quite cardigan weather yet, but certainly a shirt over the t-shirt weather or a blanket on top of the sheet weather. We had been forecast some heavy deluges again and since Ian's modifications to the barn and alpaca house have not had a thorough testing yet, he decided to stay out in the caravan so he could be prepared. I was stopping at home to write my blog and then be at home to collect the milk in the morning. Also we were a little wary in case it rained in under the window at home too. In the end it was a heavy drenching drizzle, but not the great deluge.
We processed some more buckwheat this week. Here
you can see the chopped and sorted seed on the floor
of the greenhouse to dry. We also bagged up the wet
grass, leaves and stalks to see if we can make silage
from it. Nothing wasted - we hope!
I love the colours in this photo. In the
front are Adam Tomatoes. No not
Adam's tomatoes, that is the name of them
We are now officially in an emergency zone, but don't panic, it is nothing to do with the Russians or anything that bad. It does have everything to do with the wild boar though and we have been hearing shooting over the last couple of days. So since we don't have pigs on our farm then the threat of the African Swine Fever, for us is nothing to worry about. I am not sure if one of our neighbours has pigs this year and that would be sad for her, as the pork she gets from those animals is amazing. Then again what else would you expect from someone who feeds her pigs on milk fresh from the cow. The African Swine Fever has been spreading westwards from the Belarus border for a few weeks now and so it was not entirely unexpected to see a state of emergency being declared as the high pig population begins to succumb to disease. In some ways it was only a matter of time.
Some of the tomatoes are rather large. Must be the alpaca
manure we used this year
We also have a forest of peppers
We went to the tax office this week to declare Ian's income, well the transfer of the land into Ian's name, which is effectively an income. We were expecting a hefty sum to pay and I transferred some money in anticipation, as it had to be in by August 15th we were told, when we wrote the contracts out for the donation of land into his name. When we got to the tax office, however, we were told that he doesn't need to do anything about it until June 15th 2015, by which time all money needs to be paid and details declared. It was also only half the amount to pay that we were expecting. Bad, but not that bad! What was good news too is that I got a tax rebate that was just over half the remaining amount. Funny how paying out a few hundred Euros can seem not too bad, when you are expecting whacking great bills.
And the squash glut has begun. To be more precise these are
Spaghetti squash, also enormous and self-seeded next to
the alpaca manure heap - do you sense a theme here?
This plant or plants grew from some squash that ended up
on the compost pile
We had a response to the interview that our young neighbour wrote for the local paper about our alpacas this week. A lady from the opposite end of the region asked to come and see us, as she has spun with dog fur, but never alpaca and she would like to give it a try. We let her take away 9 x 50g bags of fleece to try. We have to decide how much we would charge if we were selling it but she has told us that she would charge €10 for a 100g ball. It sounds quite a bit but a commercially produced 50g ball costs over €3 and that wouldn't be wool from our own Tellus. Neither would it be giving meaningful employment to a local person, which is what we aimed to do. It might take her a little while, as she also works during the day and this is very much an experiment. Can't wait to see the result.
One of the many squashes growing in the compost pile.
We are surprised to see so many squashes, since they seem
to have got off to a really late start. Better late than never
I suppose.
Well since there is already a photo of some alpacas, here
is a photo of Bella, our cat, in her favourite sleeping place,
a tray of string on some shelves in the greenhouse.
Talking of alpacas, I forgot to mention the other day that Ian tried to cut Estelle's teeth again, this time with two strong and willing helpers. Unfortunately she still wasn't cooperating very well and Ian ended up with a thick lip and a bit of a bash on the head. Nothing too major and no broken bones for either party. He did manage to take off a bit of her teeth, but not enough and Estelle is still friends with Ian. We have also started putting oil on Herkules' skin again. It wasn't getting any worse and he just seemed so fed up with us messing around with him and the hot weather that it wasn't worth making him feel any more miserable than her already did, so we stopped it. The skin though still looked a little crusty and the reason for resuming his treatment. He also managed to pick up another eye infection and so we were treating him for that anyway. Bless him! He really seems to be picking up anything going at the minute. At least now it is cool he is out eating for most of the day and that can only do him some good. Agnese also has been having a problem with her feet. We are getting to the stage where we are almost paranoid about mites, but I think this might be a fungal infection, a bit like athlete's foot. Cor! If it isn't one thing, it's another.

Our little punk haired chick. These are onto their third home
We have had fun and games with the chickens today. I decided that the arks all needed moving, as they are on a regular basis to give the hens fresh grass to eat and manure another part of the field. The problem is that the big chicks were scalping the area way too fast. We don't mind them scalping the area, as that was working for us in the part of the new vegetable plot that hadn't been planted up, but not good if they needed moving too often. Ian can't move them on his own easily. So we decided on a big move around of hens from one ark to another. The little chicks have been little terrors for escaping from their enclosure until Ian made them a new gate that they couldn't get out from, but they have now been moved into the ark that the big chicks were in. The big chicks have moved into Ark 2, as that has a bigger box and just a little more floor space and Ark 4 which the little chicks were in, was moved up the ladies alpaca enclosure so they could start on becoming cleaners in there, in other words start to reduce the fly population. We had problems with that plan though, Agnese chases the chickens and they escaped through the fence. We were hoping that at least the bigger white ones, wouldn't be able to - well they can when they are being chased by a baby alpaca - it's a bit of a squeeze, but doable.

Couldn't miss Sofie could we! She is being super affectionate
at the moment.
So those are the highlights from our farm this week and sometimes it all still seems surreal, writing about our life on our farm. Someone wrote on their facebook wall, "If you were given a $1 million would you move to a country where you don't speak the language," hah! Well we have done that for less. There are times when the reality of what we are doing hits me, that money can run out and the dream we have been living taken away for some reason beyond our control and sometimes well within our control if we make stupid decisions. It can be kind of crushing and disabling, but I cannot live like that for long, others have risen from depths far worse than this and become overcomers in their lifetime, others have suffered much and so what right have I to sit and bemoan what might happen and hasn't yet? So it may have been a bit of a tough year so far, but there will be other years, both good and bad. So here's to the future and I will keep plugging on.

More grapes, this time very sweet red ones. The wasps seem
to prefer these too, not so keen on that idea.
One of those issues where others suffer far worse is in the current Ebola epidemic in Africa. To me it does seem reminiscent of a cholera epidemic in Victorian times, where the masses can succumb to it and the wealthy don't care, and seeing as many of us in the West are relatively very wealthy, that means us. The upper classes did not put their hands in their pockets to confront diseases like cholera, until it came to their very door, then they realised it was serious, deadly serious. After the rude awakening of their senses they then started to develop public health and sanitary services to deal with such problems. Ebola may prove to be such a disease, with money pouring in, once it is realised that to stop it coming into our own homes we have to support meaningful development of health care in other nations, because it can affect us too.

Nude tomatoes. The lower temperatures usually means that
blight will set in and rather than wait for that to happen
I took off all the leaves and we will stop watering them.
They can just then carry on ripening on the vine and with
plenty of airflow, that should stop the dreaded disease.
Last but not least, I want to advertise a website set up by a follower of this blog. Gunta contacted me a while ago after noticing a comment of mine on another blog. Gunta was born near where we live here in Latvia but moved away when she was one years old when her family fled before the advance of the Russian army in the Second World War. She loved seeing photos of her homeland and hearing a bit about the place and so we have been in email contact and even Skyped a few times - a bit difficult due to time differences though. Gunta takes some amazing photos and now she has a website set up to sell them, so take a look at "Gunta Style"

Monday, 11 August 2014

Dead men's dreams

There has obviously been a lot said on remembering the First World War and there are so many wars going on over contentious issues today, some with such sickening brutality . Have we learnt anything from those who boldly went to defend our lands? Or are we perpetuating the same mistakes, over and over again. Those thoughts inspired or rather stirred this poem.

Dust to dust
And ashes to ashes
Memories of lives laid down
In the cause
of older men’s quarrels
The dead of war
strewn across the land
Dreams of the future
but an empty sigh on the breeze

Does our land cry out
over the burden
of those lives lost
and dreams vanquished?
Does our land cry out
for redemption

Let the whispers in the trees
of dead men’s dreams
tell us to lay down
our quarrels
to seek peace first
to be reconciled to our neighbour
For creation cries out for release
from the bondage
of the cries
of dead men’s dreams
laid buried
in the
of the land
on which

Whose my mummy?

So here is Agnese in front, we know this is Agnese because
we named her, but who is it behind? Is it Veronica or
Snowdrop? We call her Snowdrop and she is not the mum
of Agnese. The lady facing into the wall is Agnese's mum
but is she really called Snowdrop or is it Veronica as we
have been calling her? Hmmm!
We had a bit of a shock this week, we might have got the lady alpacas mixed up. We bought three alpaca ladies and were given another alpaca for free, because she was old, back in October of last year. The old lady we had put down in May of this year, because she never really recovered from unexpectedly giving birth in January. Unfortunately baby died five days after being born. We then knew that two of the ladies were pregnant and they gave birth in May, one baby survived and the other did not. We decided to microchip the baby Agnese and so the vet came round to have a look at our animals, particularly one of the boys who is struggling with a skin problem and the mum of the baby to check her udder, as it is a bit swollen. Before microchipping the baby, she checked where the chips were put in the ladies. She couldn't find Estelle's chip, but she found Veronica's and Snowdrop's, only there was a problem. The names we had been calling the ladies, didn't match with the chip numbers, they were the other way around.  Now Ian is trying desperately to remember why he thought they were named the way they were. The old lady was easy to identify, as she was black in colour. Estelle was easy too, she was the youngest by far and not pregnant. Now this wouldn't matter too much, but we have got a young alpaca that needs to have a correct breeding line identified. We know who the father is for definite, but is her mother really called Veronica or is it Snowdrop? Not sure how we sort that one out yet.
This tomato was big enough to feed five of us on our
ham sandwiches
The dishwasher, aka  Joanna! (I only found out this week
that aka is actually an acronym for also known as. I just
thought it was a word. You live and learn!)
Another surprise, although not quite such a shock, was some American friends coming to our village. We knew they would probably be coming, but weren't entirely sure when and so were surprised to have contact asking if they could stay that night and then for the following week. We were able to accommodate them on the first night, but the next night we already had a request for a young family to stay who had a one year old and they didn't want to stay in a tent for a conference that was happening in the camp nearby to our land. As we had been really busy, a group of three folks came and cleaned up some of the rooms in the apartment, such as kitchen, bedroom and bathroom, so it was at least liveable in, prior to our friend's request to stay. Which worked out rather nicely I think. So our friends stayed one night and just slung a sheet over the bed to keep it clean and then we directed the young family to the apartment for the next night. We kind of got talking and it was midnight before we got to our own bed that night, but the young couple were so intrigued about what we were doing and seeing the alpacas, they organised to come and see us the following morning out on the land.
A humongous caterpillar. I think it might be an elephant
hawk moth. Certainly big enough
We have found that the addition of the new extension to
the alpaca house has resulted in rain running off the roof
and into the alpaca house, causing the bedding to become
saturated. Ian has now dug a trench around to try and take
the water away and it is getting its first test tonight.
The next morning our American friends came to help us shift bales of hay - the last load of good or at least reasonable hay, up to our neighbours barn for storage and just as we were finishing the young couple came for their tour of our land. Their little fella loved all the animals, but was completely fascinated with the chickens. It was quite amusing to see how captivated with the chickens he was, he was obviously not aware that chickens can be seen in many places, but he won't often get to see alpacas in Latvia - well not at the minute anyway.
We found the cranberries this week. Not ripe yet, but still
safe inside our giant lobster pot. Surprisingly enough no lobsters yet! 

The barley was chopped up in a garden shredder and it
seemed to do a good job of separating the seed from the
stalks. The shredded stalks will be bedding for the
chickens and some of the seed will be sifted to get pure seed,
the rest will be give with chaff for the chickens to sort
through in winter. At least the principle worked and next
year we could manage a bigger plot of barley.
Our American friends split their time between us and our friends who live on a goat farm. They helped us with some of the jobs, like gathering in the barley, some of the buckwheat and some of the beginnings of the tomato glut, but some work we couldn't do because of the weather or just too tired. For Ian, especially, it was a good time to sit down and talk about what has been happening, which was a bit like having a holiday for him. It has been a bit of a tough year and so we both feel a bit drained at times and just processing what has been happening was good for us. They also took us out for a meal, something we haven't done in a long time. We have had pizza in the big town, but that was out of necessity and not just because it was a nice thing to do (the pizzas are amazing and made by an Italian and so necessity works too), so having a meal, just for the sake of it was a refreshing change.
Barley seed
Yes that is me, up in the tractor bucket
collecting rowan berries to make rowan
berry jam. It is very tart and goes nicely
with pork, but we like it on toast too.
It is supposed to be good for sore throats,
as are most berries.
The weather this week has either been really hot or stormy. It has been 35C (95F) some days and I have been finding that it is not ideal having hot flushes in this kind of heat. Hot flushes in winter at -25C (-13F) fine, even helpful, but not at 35C. It's a good job they are not real humdingers of hot flushes, just mildly uncomfortable. One storm in particular was a sight to behold though. We are used to torrential rain and I have told you about the gulley washing storms. It is kind of normal from our experience of summers in Latvia, but one night the rain was so hard that it looked like a power shower on steroids. The gutters for the apartment couldn't handle the rain, we are not sure if they are partially blocked or just weren't up to that volume of rain, but they overflowed and ran down the wall of our home. The water then found a gap just under the window and started raining in. Ian fortunately spotted it and constructed a way of catching the water in a bowl, by jamming a tea-towel into the hole with a brush that was jammed against a piece of furniture and then the towel dripped into the bowl. It worked anyway. Ian was worried though about the animals and the barn out on the land and so late in the evening he set back off to the land to see what was happening, only to find out the storm was very localised and there wasn't a problem out on the land, so he arrived back at midnight.
See it really is me!

Our shot of the perigee moon
I forgot to mention the other week that I helped my friend who has the goat farm translate her website. She told me approximately what was said and I had to write something that made sense in English along the same lines. It was really hard. My friend speaks perfectly adequate English and we understand her pretty well, but it is still with a very Latvian way of speaking and trying to put that into a more normal English sentence structure, rather challenged my brain and made me realise how long it is since we left the UK. Sometimes I can't find the right words at all and sometimes my own sentence structure lets me down. So anyway, here is the website and if you spot any mistakes or want to make any suggestions to improve the English then you are more than welcome to send me an email.

The swallows are growing up fast. It probably won't be
long before they are flying and then migrating.
Seems hard to believe when they are so tiny.
Other little snippets of news this week includes the ongoing saga of the oat crop. Well it is no more. Ian and I went to see if we could salvage anything and there wasn't even any seed left on the battered stalks, in fact the whole of the field was flattened by the time the wild boar had finished. I guess that is why I am not too upset that African Swine Fever seems to be creeping nearer and nearer to our land. I realise I shouldn't, but the numbers had been allowed to get unnaturally high, by feeding the little darlings through the winter and this is only to be expected. Hopefully nature will right the balance and we we can all live happily ever after again with just some damage every now and again. We are not sure if the wild boar ate the seed or it is just trampled into the ground. We know that at least some of it will have been and so we are going to leave it as it is and wait for the seed to germinate and cover the area, then we can put the sheep on it to manure the patch and hopefully trample the stalks into the ground. At least that way there will be some use from it.
Not to be left out, Estelle and yes, this really is Estelle.
Her ear tag matches the notes 

Ark 4 with the little chicks. This ark may make its way up
to the girls paddock. Ian has noticed that there are a lot
less flies in the boys alpaca house than the girls and he
thinks it may indeed be due to the presence of the chickens.
We often joke that the cleaning team are going in, as the
first thing the chickens do when let out is go straight into
the alpaca house to have a scratch around. The chickens
have been a bit of a nuisance, but if they make our alpacas
lives a bit easier by reducing the flies, then they have their
Ian played bird saviour again this week, this time from the jaws of our cat. After a spell in a shoe box to recover, he let it loose in the woods where it flew off into a tree, hopefully a much wiser little bird. We keep telling Sofie, our cat, "furry things, good, feathered things, bad," but she isn't getting it. She still is getting furry things and demonstrated it today by bringing me a live mouse for me to catch. I wasn't playing and so I don't think she was impressed with my hunting skills either. One day this last week, we could see Sofie was on the alert and watching something. She set off slowly as if on the hunt. I got up to check on what it was that she was hunting, only to find it was one of our new chicks. They are proving to be great escape artists, which is not helpful with cats, ospreys and storks around. I know the ospreys are going to be off soon, as we have seen them gathering and many of the storks have already left, there are just a few who will also leave soon if they are not too sick to do so, but the cat will still be there and so those little fellas had better watch out.
One of the many ospreys we have seen this week. Looking
for a chicken dinner? Good job the new cockerel, seems
to be doing his job.
Close up of ark 4. Definitely a franken ark, made up of lots
of scraps, mainly from the girls alpaca house.
One of my supervisors was at his holiday home in Latvia and so we took a trip up to see them. We had a great time chatting and a lovely lunch with Yorkshire puds - a rare treat for us northerners far from our native land (said in a heavy northern accent, just in case you are having a grammar fit). A colleague of my supervisor works for a Latvian university, but also has a holiday home in the area and so my supervisor tried to connect us up. He rang and rang and in true British style we started to make jokes about this colleague that I had never seen. I had heard him talked about many a time, by both supervisors, I had even had an email from him, but did he really exist? Eventually a little later than planned, someone did indeed turn up, still we didn't see the ID, so the question remains, does the mysterious colleague really exist? Joking apart, at least he is going to try and encourage some of his new students to do a project with me, so I can get the kind of data I require for my own studies. I shall find out whether he was successful by mid-September. 

Monday, 4 August 2014

No! No! No!

Our oat field wasn't very big. This damage just about
obliterated it. The barley is still okay and so is the
It looks like the wild boar thought that since we had cut down their sleeping place in the hay, then they would go and sleep in the oats instead. Not just once but twice at least. Now much of our oat crop is on the floor. Our hunter assured us he had been a few times to take a look but they are animals that migrate and so it is hard to find them. We do wonder though if he is looking in the right place, but since he doesn’t speak any English, just German as a second language, it is a bit of a problem communicating effectively with him.
There always has to be time for tea though. Here is Ian's
solution to my insulated cup always falling over. It didn't
last though, as a tea cup holder that is, as it was stacked
away with the other bales later

So hot that the little swallow chicks were all flopped over
the side of the nest
It has been one of those weeks when it is hard to know what has actually been accomplished. I seem to have spent an inordinately long time on little jobs that add up and steal time. A few minutes here and a few minutes there. Everything taking longer than I think it will and before I know it another week has gone by. I don’t think the weather is helping, it is very hot in the 30s during the day and mid-20s at night. We have been sleeping out in the caravan sometimes because at least it cools down quicker than our apartment building.

Some commenters on my blog wonder
how I manage to get everything done.
I guess you might imagine my allotment
plots looking like this
The reality is more like this. It isn't quite
a before and after picture. The first
picture is one I did manage to clear and
the second one is one I haven't got around
to yet
Improved storm drain
It hasn’t helped that we can’t leave windows open at night to let the cool night air in. In our caravan it would just fill with mosquitoes and we haven’t worked out a way of being able to put up a flyscreen and yet still be able to open the windows. In our apartment we now get mosquitoes in there too, we didn’t use to, but I think we do now because the trees have got bigger and closer to the building. Even if we put screens on the windows there, it won’t stop the local dog from barking though. It is no wonder then that one afternoon I had a nap that lasted 2 1/2 hours. I don’t often have naps, but I think I needed that one. It didn’t help the productivity output for that day though.

Finally the squashes are starting to take off, well some of
them are anyway
Some of the jobs I managed this week was to complete another lesson plan, some more gardening, tackling the tomato forest in our greenhouse and travelling backwards and forwards to get milk for Agnese. I suppose that is unusual in itself, I’ve actually been driving quite a bit this week.

The buckwheat is ripening
Ian has completed another ark for the baby chicks to go in (picture for that next week). They are growing fast and getting a bit big for the big upturned basket I put them in during the day. I do move the basket around and so they get plenty of fresh greens to eat. Talking of chickens, we swapped cockerels around again. The small cockerel was absolutely and utterly useless at keeping the girls together and so we swapped him for the one we think might be a bit aggressive - he is being given his last chance. So far he has surprised us, he has kept the girls in-line and hasn’t gone for me at all, even when I accidently got between him and the girls. He hopped out of the chicken house when I was feeding them and checking for eggs, but I stepped out and out of the way and he hopped right in again. James would have gone for me in that circumstance. So he has now been named Major Fowler in honour of the “Chicken Run” cockerel, as he reminds us of him.

The barley is ripening too
The storks are gathering, they'll be off soon. Doesn't seem
long since we were expecting their arrival
Ian has also been cutting more grass on our neighbours field. Much of it will just be left as it is no good for collecting, but we hope will improve the grass by doing so. While he was cutting he saw about 10 corncrakes, some of them quite young. One was unfortunately eaten by a stork and so Ian leapt out of the tractor and frightened the stork off, to give the others chance to escape. He also walked through the last swathe to make sure there were none in there, only to have a couple of them fly out when he did make the final cut. The corncrakes got away anyway and into the long grass at the end of the field, where they will be much safer.

The swallow chicks are so funny to see
Ian the Saviour of Corncrakes, has also had other jobs to do that were unexpected. The first one was a puncture on the car that our neighbour kindly told us about. That meant a trip out to the land to let the animals out and then a trip back into our village to get the wheel repaired. Extra fuel, extra time and a job he could have done without.

Feeding the girls
The next unexpected job was due to our errant sheep. We came onto the land one morning to see our sheep asleep in the middle of the field between the caravan and the alpaca enclosure, in other words they were not where they were supposed to be. We were grateful at least that they hadn’t wandered far. Ian went to take a look at how they had got out and found a place with a lot of wool wrapped against the wire, so we are not sure if they got spooked or had just had enough of being where they were. He thought they needed moving anyway and so set up a place in a nice shady spot for them. Where they have been set to work cropping the grass in an area that is difficult to cut due to the pig damage.

Posing with Agnese and no he doesn't cuddle her all the
time. Too much handling is not good for alpacas, but
Agnese knows she is an alpaca and that's good.
Herk (short for Herkules) is giving us some worry again. His skin still hasn’t quite recovered from the mite infestation and putting on oil in this heat, won’t be pleasant and he is already suffering with the heat. To cap it all his eye is watering again, just after we thought we had sorted it out the last time. It could be that with the heat they guys have been arguing again and he has either got something in his eye or bumped it. At least it doesn’t look infected though.

Laughing over the posing for the camera
Our neighbour’s daughter writes for the school magazine and so asked us a little while ago if she could interview us. We said yes and this week we had the interview. We got asked all sorts of questions on alpacas and also our view of farming in Latvia, as well as our views on Latvia itself. It was great to be able to say some positive things about living in Latvia, especially as she said, so many are leaving. Now she has to write all of that into a 600 word article - should be interesting. She set off on her way home and then a few minutes later returned, she had found a four leaf clover on her travels and so gave it to us. I don’t believe in luck exactly, but I’m willing to think of it as a sign of some good things coming along.
Of course this is what I do every day! Not! Only for spectators

Estelle is usually so cooperative