Monday, 7 September 2015

15 minutes of fame

Tommy tomato
We had our first signing session this week, we were all highly amused. Ian and I went to get some chicken food from the agricultural merchants and the ladies at the till pulled out the newspaper with the article about us. Ian jokingly pretended to sign it and they handed him a pen for him to do it for real and then I had to too. We were giggling about it for much of the day afterwards. We boringly only signed our names but we should have put some greeting on it I suppose. Didn't think about that until afterwards.

A red rainbow
One of our neighbours has been visiting regularly and this week when she came she mentioned it was her son's birthday that day. She explained he doesn't like big flashy presents or a big birthday party, even though he is only 8 years old. He likes time with his family and to make a birthday cake with his Mum. He was thrilled to get a walk with Agnese as a treat and a bunch of grapes. It is lovely when a youngster is so appreciative of the little things in life. Mind you, those grapes are good.
A moody view from the greenhouse during
coffee time

20m3 of wood, cut and stacked ready to start on the new
alpaca house. I am only there for height comparison and only shifted a few planks. Ian did the most of it, along with a little help from the guys cutting.
We had a bit of confusion over a school visit this week, and so on a day we were expecting a visit from the school that didn't materialise we took a visit to Depot - a diy place in Jekabpils and spent mucho money. We needed screws and metal brackets so Ian can get on with the alpaca houses. We also bought a leaf blower, not for blowing leaves you understand or even to vacuum them up, but to blow the alpaca fleece when it is in the tumbler that Ian made earlier on in the year. This will help clean the fleece of dirt and small fibres. We also bought some big bags for sawdust and a kneeling stool for gardening.

Agnese posing for the camera for the
smiling alpaca selfie
Eventually the mix up was sorted about the school visit and four very enthusiastic girls and their teacher turned up for an extra-curricular English lesson on alpacas. Ian talked about alpacas and their care and then we all went for a walk with Agnese. She did very well, as of course the girls wanted to keep close to her and stroke her. In fact she was so good she produced the most amazing smiling alpaca selfie. Funnily enough we got a booking today from another school for a school visit. I will be away and so Ian will have entertain them, but since he did  pretty much all the talking the last time, I don't think that will be a problem. It would be more of a problem if it was me, because I don't think Agnese would cooperate to go on a walk with so many children, in fact she might even be quite hesitant to come near as I am the big bad veterinary substitute - in other words they see me more often when one of them needs treating for something. Ian also knows much more about the alpacas' daily habits because he looks after them all the time.

A picture by a very talented friend of ours
We have had rain on and off this week, a definite indication that the seasons are changing. It is great we can sit in our greenhouse when we have visitors if it is a bit damp, as we did one morning, sitting under the grapevines eating grapes and drinking coffee - perfect! It was a very early visit by someone who has been going to visit for quite a while and not quite made it yet. We were beginning to wonder if the guy who was cutting the wood thought we just had a never ending stream of visitors as we have had so many while he was working. I suppose we have had this year. Quite a surprise for us really.

I forgot to take a picture of the potatoes, but I did manage
to remember to take a photo of the carrots I harvested.
Although there weren't many, due to using old seed and
the rather slow germination rate, there were still more than
in the picture, honest. You can see also see one of the three
or four wheelbarrows full of weeds I removed.
During one dry spell we got our potatoes harvested. We were a bit worried about how many potatoes we would get this year because we only planted a smaller area and it has been a cooler year, warm, dry and not always sunny days but cold nights. Despite all of that we got as much as last year and a far better size. Many of them are chipping size (not that we make regular chips any more and Ian has to make do with oven chips, but it gives you an indication of size) and quite a few were even baking size or even extra large baking size at that. Ian decided that since it had rained the area would be too wet and so difficult to use the two wheel tractor for lifting the potatoes, so it was decided to dig them by hand. We weren't looking forward to it, but when we got there and removed the soggy straw off the top, the ground was actually bone dry. If anything we would have had difficulty due to the ground being a little hard in places. On the whole though it was fairly easy work.
Many of the carrots were also a decent
size, despite having fought valiantly
amongst the weeds (maybe that's their

There is still a bed to harvest. Spot the
As we weren't looking forward to it and Ian seemed in a bad mood, I asked him if there was going to be any swearing. His answer was "there might be." He was very good though and he didn't swear once, I on the other hand did. Nothing that bad and for many it wouldn't even be considered swearing really, but if you know me you would realise that swearing isn't something I do. The first occasion was after picking up what I thought was a potato and thinking it felt a bit weird, as if it was hollow; it turned out to be the most enormous earth coloured toad. I am not sure who got the bigger fright. Fortunately I hadn't speared it with the fork or anything and so it made its escape, although I do confess it flew a little way. The next time wasn't so drastic and was because I was standing on something that I had been trying to avoid standing on (can't even remember what it was now). Not having kids around is obviously not good for me. I will have to behave from now on.
A weird sunset after the rain and before the day of showers

Waste wood! Well not quite waste, but all the odds and
ends that now need sorting into wood for burning, for
chipping for the road way and so on.
After potato harvesting we had just finished lunch at home when we got a call from our neighbour to ask where we were. She was out on our land with her husband's brother and they wanted to see the alpacas. It wasn't a problem and we were on our way shortly after the call. They had a teenager with them and unlike the four girls that came earlier in the week, she was not going to see the alpacas and stayed in the car. Funny how different people can be. The little girl of the family enjoyed seeing them though and fed Agnese and our neighbour did really well telling the family many of the details of their care. That could be because she does look after them for us from time to time.
Some of the sawdust we can now use for our composting
toilet. Should last us a while

Just in case we run out, here is some more. We also use it to
store carrots and beetroot and there are plenty of those
One of the regular parts of the day is we have porridge for breakfast every morning. I know many people will go yuck! but we make up a big batch and have it cold, it is just easier and cheaper for breakfasts that way. Ian likes to eat as soon as he gets up and therefore hot porridge in the morning will not work. We have also been eating our porridge with berries pretty much since July. First we had the strawberries and just as they finished we had blackcurrants, redcurrants and gooseberries, albeit with a little gap in between. Just after those the raspberries ripened followed by the grapes. Now we are eating blackberries along with the grapes that are still going strong. We have just a few more of the red grapes and then the green grapes seem to be ripening along with the autumn raspberries. Perfect!  Even better, our neighbour gave us some strawberries that ripen later on in the year and so hopefully in years to come we won't have so much of a gap between the strawberries and currants ripening. For winter we also have a few of the berries that I managed to bottle in syrup and some grapes dried to make raisins. After that it will have to be fruit from the freezer.

Our kitten says thank you for building her a very large
One of the weirdest things to happen this week is I have a gorgeous bruise on my chin as if someone has socked me one. I can't even really remember hitting my chin hard on anything, I sort of vaguely remember catching myself one day, but for the life of me I can't really think of what exactly happened and certainly nothing to end up with the bruise I have. The only thing we can think of is that maybe I hit myself in the area where I had a filling earlier this week and perhaps it was something to do with the area where I had an injection, because the filling was nothing major (unlike my previous visits). I don't usually bruise easily either and so that is not the reason. I just have to be careful not to be seen around town with the bruise and end up giving Ian an undeserved bad name.

After all that playing around it is time to sleep. She looks
all cute and cuddly there, but I am not so sure that is a
good idea now. I found fleas on her today and one of the
fleas escaped. Hmmm!
I will have to do some changing plans this week. I was hoping to go to Sweden for at least a couple of weeks to work with a university there, but it is looking like this is not possible now due to a lack of funding. Estonia have had a good programme of funding for higher education that funds two trips a year. My Aberdeen trip was funded by it. The funding period ran out at the end of May or June and they were supposed to have a new funding period in place by the end of May, which didn't happen and it is still not in place for the beginning of the academic year that always starts 1st September (unless it falls on a Sunday, not sure about Saturdays these days). It is now really too late to apply for funding to have it in place for the beginning of October and so it looks like I will have to cancel the trip. There is no funding from the Swedish side either, there would be if I was Estonian or Latvian, but not for British citizens. I could find funding for a 3 month stay but that is not really something I would be happy to do and Ian certainly wouldn't be happy with that. Rather frustrating, as I only wanted to spend two or three weeks there.


  1. What a fabulous photo of Agnese... It's as though she knows she is having her photo taken!

    1. I totally agree. If I hadn't seen the photo straight after it was taken I would have wondered if it had been photoshopped. It would still have been amusing though.

  2. Those carrots look great to me. In fact, I'm envious. I've never been able to grow any. A couple of years ago I quit trying.
    Funding for graduate students to travel?? Wow. Nothing like that here. Sorry you missed out on the Sweden trip but hopefully something else will come up.

    1. Our carrots don't always look like this, it has obviously been a good year for them. We are definitely keeping the largest ones for seed, for two reasons, one they did well of course, but also because they germinated from old seed, which is always a plus. Carrots really should be grown from fresh seed.

      Funding in Europe is different in different countries but on the whole I think they are pretty good at investing in education. Unfortunately of course current economic conditions means this is being squeezed, which is a big shame. I know that the countries cannot fund endless numbers of students, but investing in research and development can only be a good thing for a nation to overcome hurdles in the future.

  3. signing autographs? a tomato that has a look of one of my relatives? What has been going

    1. I know! See what we get up to while your back is turned for a few minutes. Wonder what your relative would think if they knew they looked like one of my tomatoes? :D


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