Monday, 28 December 2015

A tasty Christmas

Our Christmas cake - dark chocolate sponge, layered with
blackcurrants and soaked with rum and orange juice. The
toppring is sour cream dusted with cocoa and coffee. As
you can see it was close to a disaster as the sour cream
nearly ran over the plate but fortunately stopped at the
After last week's debate over what to eat for Christmas dinner it was decided by friends when they invited us to dine with them and so we had a very British Christmas dinner with turkey, stuffing, gravy and plenty of veg, followed by Christmas pudding and mince pies. It was lovely and shows the advantage of having a flexible diary. Tim's bro, the chicken in our freezer that I mentioned last week was cooked the day before though. There wasn't a huge amount of meat on him compared to supermarket chickens in the UK, but it more than made up for it in taste and so a little goes a long way. The meat of our chickens is dark and not pale and even when boiled for a while in the slow cooker the meat retains its taste and gives lots of wonderful stock with just the addition of a few herbs and a bit of seasoning.
The temperatures dropped yesterday and we have had frosts
but escaped the snow in other parts of the country

The advantage of sunrises at this time of the year, is they
don't require getting up at an unearthly hour
Our Christmas decorations did finally go up on Christmas Eve, which is fairly normal for us. We chose a tree off our land the day before and we were going to bring it home but it was bucketing it down with rain when it was time to go home, we would have got wet just trying to get it into the car. Most of the week has been very dark and the ground is saturated - at least we haven't had the floods like elsewhere, but then again we are on high ground. Our ponds were overflowing though and our temporary lake keeps appearing and then disappearing. Surprisingly the water table is still low and so the water must be running off and not yet made it down into the ground to recharge the underground water levels.

I love the rosy glow of crisp winter mornings

A little Christmas and New Year greeting

Ian likes to follow Santa on NORAD and around 9.30pm Christmas Eve he told me that Santa was ahead of schedule. Well sure enough shortly afterwards our doorbell went, obviously Santa was not going to tackle our rather narrow chimney. As Ian had disappeared out of the room, I thought for a minute that he was playing games with me and maybe he had gone to fetch something from the car. I went to the door and instead of it being Ian it was actually a friend of ours with the most humungous box of chocolates, a bottle of wine and a candle with crocheted cover that his wife had made. He wished us Merry Christmas and all God's blessings for the following year. Such a surprise! Oh yes! Ian was actually just having a shower, so he missed the fleeting visit.

A golden glow

Brencis is starting his halter training. It was amusing to see
him come up to Ian a little while later as if to say "Please
take this thing off now!" We need him halter trained to take
him down to join the boys when he is old enough, which
won't be much longer now. We just need to know he has
been fully weaned off his Mum.
We didn't buy each other presents this year. I will be getting my new glasses soon and Ian has got new winter tyres for the car. If there is anything we need, we buy it and we are not really into buying things for the sake of it, so when I say "need", I mean "need" and not just a want. Having a nice Christmas Eve meal together, then the home-made croissants for breakfast on Christmas Day itself was present enough for us. Even so we had a few presents each to open on the day, Ian got socks from my Mum and Dad (he was very pleased with them, a good pair of socks for Ian are obligatory and Smartwool socks are some of the few he has found to be comfortable to wear), he also got some cycling clothes from our son and his family, along with a box of biscuits - all his favourite ones too. I got a book about the Duddon Valley from my Mum and Dad. I have mentioned the Duddon Valley a few times on my blog and it is one of my favourite places in the UK to visit, as well as being a place I visited often as a child because my godmother lived on a hill farm there. I also got wool to knit a hat from my son and family. Our daughter and her husband came up with a very thoughtful gift for the both of us, they have given us money, but on the proviso we go to the local hotel once a month - something we haven't been in the habit of doing as we were trying to save our money, so it will be greatly appreciated.

Eyre, our kitten, kitten likes to follow us wherever we go.
The alpacas are curious about her and we are not sure how
safe she is when she gets in, but so far she has run off before
coming to any harm. 

Ian has been busy laying new beds in the fields using some
old hay and putting manure on the top. The idea will be to
cover them either in black garden cloth or plastic to kill
weeds and then either plant into them after the weed seeds
have been killed off in spring or maybe even the following
year. We are still at the planning stage. 
Of course our days haven't changed much because it is Christmas. The animals still needed to be let out and fed, so we have been going out to the land every day as normal. The days have been mild for much of the week and so I have dug up the last of the leeks, and cleared out many of the Jerusalem artichokes from one of the two beds we have of them, as they were getting a bit overcrowded. I covered the bed with straw and layered straw onto the other bed that I will dig up in spring - they will be some of the first fresh vegetables of the new season that way. I have used some old tyres to make a clamp in the greenhouse to put the ones I dug up in, along with some potatoes that had been grown late on in the greenhouse. They have been surrounded by soil and topped off with a thick layer of straw to stop them freezing - well hopefully. It won't matter too much as they are mainly for the chickens anyway. I found some carrots that hadn't been dug up in the garden, I think they had been too small when I dug up the rest and then forgot about them. Carrots dug up in winter are often sweeter and these certainly tasted wonderful. It has been nice to have some fresh veg and maybe next year we will leave some in the ground and mulch with a thick layer of hay to stop the ground freezing on top of them and see if that works for late winter veg.
Not the best place to get a drink, that pond is only just

Winter coat 
I have had a few days off from writing another paper. That has been so slow, but I think a few days rest will be helpful to get it processed to the next stage. Instead I have been sorting out seeds for next year's growing season, dealing with a batch of honey that was still on the comb, trying to make sure the washing got done and at least a stab at the backlog of cleaning. So nothing too exciting for the Christmas season, but definitely restful for my mind and I suppose that's a good thing and something money can't buy.
Our little kitten is not so little any more

Enjoying a new bale of hay. The feeders can be stuffed with
hay and they will still come and feed off the new bale
One of the jobs I forgot to mention last week was sweeping the chimney at our other apartment. That is usually one of those marker jobs of the year, although it is usually done earlier on in the year. Normally we would go up to the other apartment at weekends to heat it, watch a DVD and just chill. It is only worth doing this once the nights get long enough to watch a programme or film at night and so is an autumn and winter treat. This year the days have been relatively mild and so not much point in wasting wood heating the other apartment, which is one reason we haven't bothered to sweep the chimney until now, also we haven't had a huge amount of time - at least Ian hasn't. The forecast was for colder weather this next week and so we needed to get a move on and sort it out.

Not the most glamourous of poses. Hehehe. It does show
the alpacas very mobile lips though. They are able to move
the two sides of their upper lips, which enables them to
be very specific about what they eat. They can move an
undesirable plant out of the way to get to the one they want

A little hard to see, as Ian had to do a lot of cropping on this
photograph, but it looks like it could be a hazel grouse. I
was quite chuffed with myself as I thought it looked grouse
like and so it gave Ian a clue in which section of the bird book
to look at. 

Monday, 21 December 2015

Not quite ready for Christmas yet!

There weren't many pictures this week - too dreich by far.
It was so dark today the light didn't even go off in the flat,
so I have been playing around with iphoto 
Christmas! Bah humbug! Well actually not quite. Christmas is different here and we are not quite in the swing of it yet anyway. I was always one to have the decorations up on Christmas Eve and not before, although this has changed to fit in with family visits from time to time, as in last year, or because here in Latvia and when we lived in Denmark, Christmas Eve was the day of celebration and so Christmas Eve then seems a bit late to be putting up decorations. We did listen to a whole evening of Christmas music yesterday and some of my favourite tunes were played, for instance "I believe in Father Christmas" by Greg Lake, "Driving home for Christmas" by Chris Rea and the theme from "The Snowman", so it feels a little more like Christmas.  Meanwhile we get on with the daily chores and I try to finish off some work before taking a break.

Again this is from last week but isn't much different today
I am not quite sure what we will be eating for Christmas dinner yet. A few weeks ago we had thought that if the hunters brought us some wild boar meat, then we would have roast wild boar. However since they turned up with the humungous beast it means we have already dined on wild boar meat several times  and we will  be eating it for quite a while yet, so suddenly the humble chicken seems much more appealing. We then had the kind of discussion that only those who homestead will probably understand, when Ian asked, "So who is it?" referring to the chicken sat in our freezer, as it is would be one that we knew personally, "Is it Tim?" Tim was the the cockerel that at first was quite friendly but a bit lacking in the brain department who managed to lose three of his girls to a fox or bird of prey, instead of defending them. Not terribly helpful! After he turned more aggressive and got ideas above his station, he was dispatched to our freezer. Anyway it won't be Tim we are having for dinner, it will probably be his brother, who never got a name, but was dispatched for being far too greedy and elbowing his ladies out of the way to get to the food - no manners at all.

The young alpacas have been having fun running around the paddock

Sheep in black and white
The ground was reasonably well frozen so that we could drive across with the tractor at the beginning of the week and therefore we took the opportunity to get some bales of hay out of neighbour's barn where we have them stored (yes they did know, just in case you were wondering). I got to the barn only to find out that our hay bales were now behind some rather large ones. There was no way I could shift the large ones at all. Ian had dropped me off while he went to let the animals out so that I could start the process of moving our bales to the doorway and I had forgotten my phone, so there was nothing for it but to just try and manage the best I could to lug thirty bales up and over the large ones. I couldn't physically lift them completely over the top, they are still too heavy as they have not lost a lot of weight in the drying process of being in the barn. I could lift them onto our small bales though and then up end them onto the large bales where I could then roll them off. I managed to get all thirty moved just as I heard Ian arrive with the tractor. Between us we managed to shift one of the large ones to one side to give us a clear path for when we collect the next load later on in the winter.

This is Eyre's first winter
After shifting hay we then had to take a trip to see the family doctor again. She wanted to know how Ian had got on last week with the consultant and she took the opportunity to ask lots of questions about us. We asked her about the price of the operation and she got straight on the phone to find out - no messing. Unfortunately we found out that the operation was definitely €700 as a private patient, otherwise Ian would have to wait a long time to get the operation - it would probably also mean taking money away from other patients due to the limited resources of the health service here. Waiting would also mean increasing the risk of serious complications. At least the timing of the operation is perfect for us (well as perfect as any operation can be) as February means Ian does not usually have that many jobs to do. The only downside is the problems we could have with the weather, but we cross that bridge when we come to it and make sure that there is plenty of hay close to the alpacas.

Trees with a dusting of snow and ponds full
It has been a rather expensive week in other ways too. Our car has not been handling very well on the rather dire roads we have around here at this time of year. That usually means that the tyres are in need of replacing. The depth of tread is fine for normal road use, but not for the mud soup we have at the moment, or the slippery conditions of earlier on this week. We ended up buying some winter tyres, rather than our normal all weather ones and the plan will be we will switch back to the old ones in the summer where we will get at least another year's wear out of them. It was a bit of a trek to get them though.

A picture from the only nice day we had this week
A friend of ours tried to put us in contact with someone in the big town, Madona, but that didn't quite go to plan as the owner wasn't there when we arrived, even though our friend had tried to organise it earlier. We hung around for a while to see if he would turn up (as we do on a fairly regular basis it seems) and I even managed to get an appointment for an eye test and order new glasses in the meantime (oh yes! more expense) but no news, so we decided to head out to another place a few kilometres away. This tyre place advertised on the internet and it said they had the kind of tyres we wanted, but when we got there the person behind the counter was obviously not going to go out of his way to help us, so we gave up.

A picture of Ūdensroze from their facebook page.
By this time we were pretty hungry and more than ready for some lunch. I had heard good reviews about Ūdensroze at Vecpiebalga and so it seemed as good an opportunity as any to go. It turned out to be a good move. It wasn't the cheapest place, but not too pricey either (especially compared to the UK). I was amused at the translation of shepherd's pie as I felt sure that it wouldn't be anything like the shepherd's pie that I know. The Latvian name for the dish was Vecpiebalgas jēra pīrāgs, which to me would suggest lamb in tiny bread dough pies (I must take a picture of pīrāgs one day to show you), but it was nothing like the dish that turned up, which was a very tasty English style shepherd's pie with a potato topping, so the translation was correct after all. As we were eating we got a text to tell us the tyres would be €140 each, which if you say it quickly enough isn't too bad and not for the type of car we have. The tyres were duly ordered and Ian would collect them another day, meanwhile we headed home as these dreich short days means the animals need putting away around 3pm. The only thing that worries us about the new tyres that our purchase of new tyres often seems to result in bad winter, so I am going to apologise now - just in case!

Just to remind us that there is sun up there somewhere
The other news is that my paper about the conflict over the management of wild boar here in Latvia has finally gone to the publishers. It is available online, but not completely finished. I haven't seen it yet as a completed paper, but I have seen it pop up on a google scholar email alert which amused me. The novelty will wear off I'm sure. At least that is one job permanently crossed off my list now. I am so relieved.

Seeds waiting to be sorted. They have been drying for
months on the radiator. They didn't need to dry that long
just not got around to sorting them yet.
Driech days are definitely days to ponder on life in general and one of the things I have been pondering on is one of my favourite verses from the bible is from Isaiah 43:18-20 (New International Version)

18 “Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.
A skein of wool spun by Ian and plyed together ready
to be knitted into a hat or woven. I haven't decided yet.
It sure needs washing though
Often I used to read it as God transforming the desert so that new things spring up and the desert is pushed back, but lately I am seeing a new perspective on this. Not that the first one was wrong but right for the time. Desert experiences are not all bad, they can help us re-evaluate what is important to us and help us see somethings with greater clarity. The desert is lifeless to those with no knowledge of the desert, but to a desert dweller they are full of life. Rain in the desert, although rare, can transform the landscape with breathtaking speed revealing the hidden life in all its technicoloured splendour (This amazing video captures the beauty of the transformation, link here). "There is life in the desert", the writer in Isaiah is saying, "can you not see it?" As Joyce Hugget mentioned in her book, Listening to God, that I am reading (something I talked about last week), desert experiences are not comfortable but can be valuable experiences, something to draw us to deeper places.

The nearest we get to a desert rose, this is actually an ice
flower that we found in December 2009 when the
conditions were perfect for these formations. Never
seen them since
I wouldn't like to live in a desert but it can be similar to winter here in Latvia. There are the dark days of November and into December sometimes, then the harsh cold of winter proper, with hopefully snow on the ground to brighten the days. It can seem like it goes on forever, then the storks arrive and the grass starts to get green, the coltsfoots bloom and you know spring has arrived and new life is bursting out in an almost unseemly rush. We know that life is there, waiting, because we have lived through it. Although drab and dreary, life is on hold, waiting for the sun's rays to waken life again. There is life there, can you not see it yet!

The drabness of the days since the snow has gone helps me to realise why there should be a festival of light at this time of year.  So on the shortest day of the year, when we look forward to the return of the longer days I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Having fun! Sort of!

Someone mention fun?
It has been an interesting week and believe it or not one filled with a lot of laughter and fun. Ian went to the hospital this week to have an ultrasound scan and we are happy to say "it's a boy!" We are considering putting the scans on the fridge - that's what everyone else does isn't it? Seriously though and at risk of too much information, what he did find out, is that it isn't prostate troubles as he feared. Instead it is a bag filled with stones attached to his bladder. It is an area that doesn't get flushed out and so there is a persistent infection and the reason the stones formed. So henceforth he will be known as Bladder Man! Oh yes! Ian has inherited his father's black sense of humour. When in doubt, you may as well laugh.
A gorgeous morning sunrise and if you look carefully, you
can see the alpacas out grazing

The green didn't last though and we have had another
dumping of snow. At least the over hand on the new alpaca
house gives them some shelter even when they are out
We had to hurry from the scan to the family doctor, as there was a urologist in the village that day, but when the doctor saw the report, she recommended Ian to go to a different urologist with more experience. We had to drag a friend in off his sick bed to come and translate this for us. It was amusing to us that we could understand most of the report because it was latvianised medical terminology and so we were able to help our friend out, who doesn't know those kinds of words and he filled us in on the general gist of what was being said.
But they still spent a lot of time indoors

Or gazing out onto the snowy scene. Lady V has been much
better behaved this week and isn't picking on our new
alpaca so much. Now she just acts like the occasional
grumpy old lady that she sometimes is to all of them.
Ian didn't have to wait long for the referral, he went off to Cesis on the Friday to see one of the best urologists in the country. Apparently the ultrasound technician (or doctor) had rung this consultant to tell him he had seen an interesting but unusual case. It makes a change for Ian to be on the other side of an interesting case after all those years of being a lab technician in a large teaching hospital in the UK. Ian's field though was leukaemia and HIV diagnosis using flow cytometry but they often saw unusual cases, due to the size of area they covered. The department covered tests for a population twice the size of the Latvian population and that puts in perspective the problems for Latvia with retaining highly qualified doctors. Anyway upshot of this is that he has to go for an operation in Valmeira on the 15th February. We deduce from this that it is fairly urgent, but not an emergency. We also found out that he is booked in as a private patient, which we don't understand the reason for and it will cost €700 and entail a week's stay as an in-patient. The family doctor rang our friend's wife and asked her what had happened at the consultants and so Ian is back off to see the family doctor in the morning - with translator and the further results. He might also be able to find out the reasons for the costs - maybe it is normal, we don't know yet. We thought we had been here long enough to be considered as normal residents.
Just for you Bill! A close up of one of the sheep

The fence around the sheep's winter quarters is now
finished. We had to clear the snow away around the
perimeter to attach it. Winter got a head start on us this
year, although it might warm up again and give us or
rather Ian, a chance to catch up and put the road markers in
Well that's enough of our medical woes, although as you can tell, we are not especially worried and making light of the matter. No point in worrying unnecessarily. That isn't all we have been laughing about though, laughter has also abounded over a discussion we had on communication. We often take these kinds of discussions to extremes. It started off as a discussion on what we value and how we interpret what the other one says. I am not particularly romantic at heart, but what I do prefer is respect for my ideas - you don't have to agree, but I do like it if you realise that I am not making some unthought out random statements when I talk. I put a lot of thought and research into my views, or I like to put ideas out there to test them. I don't mind being challenged on them, but I don't like to be talked down to - that is always guaranteed to raise my hackles. Ian doesn't do that, but I sometimes feels he puts too much emphasis on why something won't work instead of looking for ways it could work. We have come a long way though on that sort of thing, as you would expect from people who have been married for over 31 years now and can still laugh.
I think they are appreciating the shelter now and the beetroots
that are still in the ground under the snow. I dug up another
wheelbarrow full before they were moved in, but left the rest
for them to find, as they surely will.

There is that much space in the new alpaca house that Ian
has put in some hay bales to save lugging them in when the
weather is bad or maybe when I am looking after them in
That conversation though meandered away and we started talking about actions that have strings attached to them. In other words when we do something because we expect something back, or expect it to be taken a certain way - all that non-verbal communication that is so open to misinterpretation. Well Ian has now taken to offering me a cup of tea (my idea of romance) with no strings attached, although there maybe a bit of wool attached since that is all that is lying around, with my knitting and Ian's spinning. Oh we do get silly sometimes.
Oooh! Are these for us? 

It was shortly after this we realised that this was not going
to work.
Talking of romantic gestures and communication, most men bring home their wives flowers, chocolates or wine or at least something of that ilk. Oh no! Not my husband! He brings home a whole wild boar, all 45kg of meat of it. So the hunters made good on their promise to give us some meat! Some? Sheesh! The only problem was that after he had carried it up the stairs - in two parts I hasten to add - we realised we didn't really have the right equipment at home and so we needed to go back out to the land and finish carving up the beast in the barn, using an axe, garden clippers and kitchen knives. Oh such good fun! It was also freezing. Butchery is not our strong point, but we managed and we now have a freezer with plenty of meat in it and I must say, it is very tasty and surprisingly tender meat.
Dinosaur chops. We don't eat much meat normally and so
these may even do two meals for the two of us. We did give
up with the shoulder area and roasted that whole, but there
was so much meat that we are definitely going vegetarian
tomorrow for a few days at least and that is despite freezing
several helpings of the cooked meat.
Plenty of the white stuff again!
Some good news for me was that finally, finally, finally my paper on the wild boar conflict in the area where we live has been accepted for publication and now on its way to the publishers. Such relief! One down, two to go! Well at least two. I have also agreed to do a consultation loosely based on some of the research some students did for me last year. I had to rearrange the consultation for March, as it was going to be mid-February, but that works, as I will get paid too.
But it is wet slushy stuff, so sliding off the greenhouse
easily, thank goodness

She is so cute.
Some of you who have been following this blog for a long time know that our lives are very much based on our faith and our view of how we feel God leads us. We try to be open to change and listen to what he says. For me this is based on many years of prayer walking around our village, where I feel I learnt to tune into the Father heart of God. I felt guided, comforted and challenged by him and I sometimes felt I heard words from God to encourage and challenge others. This year and to some extent the year before has been a serious challenge to walking in prayer with God. There was even a time my faith wobbled, but at least I felt God's steadying hand on my heart.
Outside the apartment window

Our baby is getting big now
This personal pilgrimage in prayer was started by reading a book called "Listening to God" by Joyce Huggett. I found her guidance immensely helpful. I wondered from time to time where the book had gone to and realised I must have lent it to someone. When I went back to England my daughter-in-law gave me two books to take back that I had lent her and one of them turned out to be the Joyce Huggett's book. I have been reading this again in the mornings and I find it refreshing to remember some of her helpful comments, but also to re-read the sections where she found it hard to pray like she used to, due to the busyness of a writing and speaking schedule. She also wrote about the times she felt God was not speaking or even hiding, called by many "The Dark Night of the Soul." Re-reading this book has brought a lightness back into prayer times and a sense of reassurance for which I am very grateful.

Monday, 7 December 2015

I just don't know

Oh so huggable! Well maybe. Alpacas might look cute,
but not many of them enjoy a cuddle.
I am not a sit around the circle, touchy-feely hippie sort, even if we do grow our own vegetables and raise alpacas. That isn't to say I don't like touchy-feely hippie sorts of people, I do! I have come across a number in my journey through life. I have immense respect for their counter-cultural ideas and their willingness to experiment with new ideas and new ways of living. Okay some of those things apply to me, but I still wouldn't describe myself as a hippie. Neither am I sold on capitalism though. Markets have their place in society, but rampant capitalism does not make happy communities, as far as I can see. All these things swirl around my head. Testing, sifting ideas. It all ends up a cacophony of noise at times, especially this week. The problem is that fear brings out the worst in us and I have seen the outcome in some of the responses to the atrocities in Paris.
Big bird is still going and is looking more healthy now,
than she has done in a while. She is also travelling further
and making herself a nuisance too.

Storm Desmond visited us too. Ian only commented
yesterday that the feeder was in need of some repair. I
think that is now an understatement. Fortunately the
main components are okay, it is just the side supports
I make no apologies for not going along with bombing in Syria. Does that make me a terrorist sympathiser as David Cameron seemed to suggest. I don't think so! I just don't think that is helpful to bomb Syrian sites when the majority of the terrorists are in the country where the atrocity occurs and not from Syria. There is a systemic problem here. Locking our doors and staying inside doesn't make us any safer. Knowing our neighbours and looking out for them, taking care of them, showing an interest all helps - and I am talking to myself as much as anyone else as we go into lock down over winter here in Latvia. It is too easy as winter hibernation mode sets in. I know there are no easy answers. Terrorism is not new, but it does thrive in fear. We have to make choices and choosing not to give into fear or take knee jerk reactions are just two of them.
Our nearly dry pond is now full to nearly overflowing 

A good chat with the neighbours is always a good idea
Likewise nations are no safer if they lock their borders. There are hurting, needy people out there, fleeing some awful situations, fleeing the situations we don't want on our doorstep. Stopping them coming and bombing their homes doesn't make the situation go away. Showing compassion and helping them settle to a new way of life for as long as they wish to stay is one way forward. Developing strong nations with people who care for one another is also a way forward. Will this all help? I just don't know, but what I do know is that the alternatives are far worse. We can't give into fear!
Looking very aristocratic

No! No! Don't roll in the mud please! 
So what has our non-hippie alternative living style week been like? I will tell you a bit about our ordinary week, well ordinary for us. Ian finally went to the doctor about his prostate (hope that doesn't embarrass anyone, but these things need to be discussed openly). It has been slowly bothering him more and more over rather a long time, and so he finally gave in and went through the rigamarole of enlisting a friend's help to translate. He went to see a "surgeon" at our local doctor's office. I have surgeon in inverted commas, because we are not quite sure what that title means here. He certainly does minor surgery from what we understand, but what else, we are none the wiser. Anyway he told Ian he needs an ultrasound scan and then he will be referred to a urologist and we will see where we go from there. He also got some antibiotics for a minor bladder infection and a prescription for a herbal tea. Herbal remedies are quite popular here, so it will be interesting to see how that works out. I have probably mentioned somewhere that I am quite into herbal remedies and looking at growing some more medicinal herbs.
At least Chanel is not rolling in the mud, just gathering bits
of grass instead.

Another of our more aristocratic alpacas
The hunters came eventually too. They just buried the wild boar that Ian found last week- what was left of it, after the crows had been at it. It was a bit frustrating as it would have been nice to know beforehand if that was the best thing to do. We were just not sure if it should have gone for testing or not. Maybe it should have, no idea., One of the hunters offered to buy our Lada though - the one that had the mouse living in it that had managed to store half a sack of sheep grain in the roof space (presumably by taking it piece by piece, unless it acted like a hamster and stuffed more than one piece in its mouth at a time of course). If the hunter doesn't buy it then I think it will be best to scrap it or sell it for parts. The only problem is of course, then we have to find storage for the spare bags of grain. Oh well. They also said that we will get some meat too. Well maybe that will happen, we shall see.
Who are you calling aristocratic? Just call me handsome.

Really settling in well now.
I got my paper uploaded to the journal yet again. In fact I have done it twice this week. I uploaded it earlier on in the week and on Saturday evening I got a reply that had about six very minor points. These points were quickly rectified or explained and it went back in again this evening. I really do think that will be it this time. So that just leaves me with a paper to proofread from someone else and my other paper to write and ...... well you get the idea, more writing and more thinking to do.
When is grub up?

I want food and I want it now!
I went to the art course again this week. This time there was a lecture on "Fantastic Art" or fantasy art. I managed to follow along with some of the concepts because the lecturer often used words which were just Latvianised English words and sometimes the context was easy to see. It does help that I have done some of this type of work before and so could follow what she was trying to put across. All good practice though to sit and listen to Latvian again.
Someone mention food?

The fence finished and the girls happily eating
I helped Ian over the weekend to finish the fence for the alpaca girls (and the youngest boy) and then helped him to move them.  It was rather interesting, trying to encourage them to make the journey to a new area. Part of the problem is that the temporary wire fence that Ian made from the orange, electric fence wire is not very visible against the brown grass and they went straight through it and into the area where they have been for a few weeks now. We managed to encourage Agnese, followed by Snowdrop up to their new area first, through the fenced off corridor. We wanted to fasten them into the new house while we brought the others up, but they were not going in when there was new grass to eat, so we left them in the paddock.
Still eating

The boys enjoying their change of scenery too, with their
new quarters behind them.
That left five more to encourage up to their new home. It was a real test of nerves. Too fast and they would panic and bolt through the fence, too slow and they would try to wander back. Little by little with Ian leading and with me walking slowly, step by little step behind. There were one or two times we thought we were going to lose them, right near the end. They didn't like walking across the muddy road for sure. It was such a relief when they walked through the gate and into the paddock area. The boys were much easier, as they didn't have as far to go. They practically walked up on their own, with just a little persuasion. They all seemed to have settled in well too, which is also a relief. We didn't want any haring around the paddock trying to convince them to go in at night. It is a little chaotic once inside, but that is because they haven't really established an order yet, but that will happen soon enough.
The sheep fence will be the next job. Glad to see they are
making use of the hay as a bed!

Such a cutie
One of our neighbours who has helped us with the alpacas before, contacted us and told us she had been doing some thinking too. The alpacas have been very therapeutic for her, she loves to come and see them and has been a few times over the year and brought various visitors too. She would love to see if the alpacas would be good therapy animals for those with special needs, similar to the ones she works with. Unfortunately special needs education and therapy is not well developed here in Latvia. It is changing but there is still some way to go and financial restraints within the country makes provision for activities difficult. Still it is a start and we will investigate to see if we can make it happen, meanwhile she is going to start coming on a regular basis to get to know the animals better. At least that will be good therapy for all of us. It is nice to know that there will be someone who can step in and help us, who knows the animals and the animals know them. We were worried with the higher numbers that it would be more difficult.