Monday, 29 August 2016

500th Post

Preparing our evening meal in the greenhouse kitchen. It has
been great to use this space at the front of the greenhouse this
year. Normally it is planted up with tomatoes but we decided
it was better to utilise the space for when we have groups and
the felting workshop. It was a good plan
A momentous occasion don't you think? Well I do! I am surprised I got this far, five hundred blog posts representing over eight years here in Latvia. As I mentioned last week it is hard to believe we are doing what we are doing now and wouldn't have envisaged life playing out in quite the way it has done over the years. Would we change anything? Not much! We love the life we are leading, even with its frustrations, but my one regret is not living closer to the grandchildren. Still won't be long before we get to see them again.
I went for a swim in our new pond. It was a nice warm day
so the water was not too cold, but I did find out that the distance
was just a tad short for a good swim. It needs more solid sides
when it is so short or I just end up muddying up the pond

One of the cut sections
So what's happened this week? It rained all night at the beginning of the week and I mean allllllll night - it was a bit noisy in the caravan. The ground that was nicely drying out was once again saturated and the beginnings of the well which was due to be dug out this week was once again very nearly a spring. Despite the soggy ground we decided that we had to go ahead with cutting for hay.
Hay stacked in the barn now under cover

Ian has been mowing the grass around the ponds and where
the well will be, otherwise by the time they come it will be
too long and get in the way.
There is such a difference between cutting hay in June and now. In June the days are very much longer in our northerly latitudes. The sun is often starting to peek up about 4am and doesn't go down until around 10pm, which means plenty of drying time and not much dew on the ground. This time of year is a different matter with much wetter mornings that don't dry out until mid-morning at the earliest. One day we woke to thick fog that meant the ground did not dry until early afternoon. Instead of at the most two days for hay to dry and only maybe needing to turn once, the grass was turned twice and took three days to dry and even then the bales were heavy.
A butterfly on our echinacea plants

Four fleeces all ready for next years
felting course. Lots of long locks, mainly
because they were so late being sheared
My friend and supervisor, who is the son of a sheep farmer came at the weekend and helped us with shearing the sheep, since they were dry enough to do that finally. He managed to do all four thankfully and Ian just trimmed toe nails. After a late lunch, he took off back to his summer home and we got on with collecting the bales of hay. We collected about half of them and stacked them, but Ian was tired because they were so heavy. We wondered about leaving them, as the forecast had been good, but he decided to check to see if they had changed their mind - sure enough they had. So we summoned up some energy and went and collected the rest of the bales, stacked them and collected up some loose hay that had taken too long to dry to be baled and put that in the boys alpaca house. It was a good job we did as we had quite a downpour in the late evening.
The Jerusalem artichokes are flowering too. The chickens will
be happy as they make great winter food for them

500kg each and now sat outside the girl's paddock. Hope it is
not too long before they get moved to their final resting place
During the week we had progress on the well. We had a delivery of four concrete rings for the construction. Unfortunately the driver managed to get his lorry stuck on the grass as he was trying to turn it around to back it up and drop the rings off. Each ring weighs a half a tonne and so you can imagine what that did to the ground. Ian felt bad enough with our little tractor as he was leaving tread marks in the soft ground everywhere, not something he likes to do because it is damaging to the soil. At one point we got pieces of waste wood and the guy jacked up the lorry on the lorry supports to get the wheels clear, they then put more wood underneath those. Ian then pulled it out with his little tractor. Good job the tractor is actually quite a powerful little machine.
A stack of waste wood and some deep tyre treads in the ground

All set up for the arrival of the group
During the escapade we noticed the guy who was due to dig the well had a bandaged finger that he was struggling with. He doesn't speak English and I think he decided it was too complicated to explain to me, so later on in the day his colleague turned up to tell us that the well digging itself was going to have to be postponed. It was probably a good job as we also had another coach group in at the weekend. Another 29 folks to show around; a group of kindergarten teachers and their families. Just about every group we have ever shown around are fascinated by our greenhouse, especially the grapes and there were a few folks who were taking pictures of friends with the grapes. We had one lady also explain that she had heard about our felting workshops and was determined to come to one next year. That's a great start and a great encouragement too for us.
Items for sale

Our own items for demonstration purposes or waiting to be
finished off
I mentioned last week the storks left and so Ian has had a lonely time cutting the hay. Normally he has a group of them who follow his tractor looking for frogs, mice, moles and the occasional corncrake. There were no storks or thankfully corncrakes either. All have left for their winter lodgings. I have heard the cranes around still and I was surprised as I thought they would have gone - they are noisy birds. Most of the swallows have gone too, hundreds of them turned up one day to say goodbye and then they were off. Ian did see a couple of them around today, but they might be sick ones or too young to go yet.
These chickens have a bit more outside space than the others,
but the little ones keep escaping. We have been gradually adding
to the reinforcements, but still they are getting out. One day
Ian found three of them sat on top of the gate and that is despite
the fact they have had one of their wings clipped to stop them
flying out.

The main culprits are the white one at the front and one of the
small grey ones, not sure from this photo which one. Our two
older chickens the brown one at the top and the black and white
speckled one on the right are still our best layers, despite their age.

My garden is getting a little wild with the squash plants allowed
to ramble where they will and the self-seeded hemp plants which
have grown incredibly tall this year. 

The girls have a long walk down to their field at the moment,
but they seem to be enjoying it, as they make the trip down
there quite often. 

Monday, 22 August 2016

At last!

Taking hay to put in the chicken arks for bedding
At last we had a few days sunshine in a row without rain. This has meant a lot of feverish activity as farmers were out in the fields cutting hay while they could. We have hung back to let the ground dry as we are not in a backlog of folks relying on others to cut and bale, we have our own equipment. It is forecast to rain tomorrow and then after that it should be dry again for a longer period of time. Instead we have got other jobs done that are on the list of to-do when it is dry enough.

The finished new herb bed. So far it has garden mint, hyssop
winter savory, thyme, golden thyme, chocolate mint, garlic
chives, sage, tarragon, variegated sage and some
lavender cuttings. 
Ian wanted to get the old wood chippings up off the road, as they have been down a few years now and starting to rot, which means it gets wet rather than giving us a good road to drive on. The aim is to add a new deep layer of chippings since it has worked so well up until recently, but before we did that the old chippings had to go somewhere. Since they are well rotted now, it was decided to use them for a herb bed and cranberry bed that I intended to make, which in turn meant I needed old logs to construct them with. The logs had got covered with bracken and other vegetation and so Ian had to strim the areas, find the logs and then move them with the tractor - now that the ground was dry enough. Some smaller rotten logs were also cut with a chainsaw to provide the main base of the herb bed and give the herb bed some water retaining content that should rot down over time. I was rather pleased with the result and it now means the herbs which are not so vigorous don't get swamped by the marjoram or the autumn raspberries that are now taking over the old herb plot.

The cranberry bed is on the other side of the pond, by the
forest. It is in a raised bed just to keep the weeds at bay, so
we hope it won't dry out too much for them. At least the
wood should hold quite a bit of moisture.
The rain has caused us a lot of problems, as I mentioned before. Our friends from America have not been able to help around the place, as much as they would like. They have cooked us meals and frozen lots of berries, which is really helpful and time consuming but many of the jobs we had anticipated doing, have just not got done. They did manage to get some posts in for our fencing this last week, so all we need to do is put the wire on when we get the chance, but that was all they managed to get done one day before the rain set in again.

I think this is a damselfly rather than a dragonfly. A pretty
colour anyway
We have still been busy of course, picking mushrooms (I really must take the camera with me sometime, as there are so many different sorts this year and unusual ones I haven't seen before), weeding the garden, mowing grass and running for cover from the rain. Yesterday was a lovely day and so we uncovered some sawdust in bags that were a bit damp and needed to dry out for our composting toilet. There was no forecast of rain and so we left them uncovered overnight. During the night though I heard the rain starting and so I quickly got up and ran outside, barefoot over the grass. It was a good job the rain was warm and we live in the heart of the countryside.

This is my favourite part of the bed. I managed to divide the
golden thyme into three and planted it with the chocolate
mint. I think they look great together or will do when they
grow a little more
Ian made table for helping with the cleaning of the wool. It is a wire mesh on a wooden frame, so it can be used for laying out the fleece and getting rid of particularly dirty bits - that is for the sheep fleece mainly though as they have much dirtier fleeces and is called a skirting table. Sounds a silly name really but refers to the outer bits of the fleece, which is where the dirtiest bits are and comes from the same word we get outskirts from. Being a mesh means we can also lay out wet fleeces that have been through a cleaning process to dry. Now we can start to process some of the fleeces for dyeing more easily. Little by little we are making progress.

The amaranth in the greenhouse is growing really well. We
were worried at first that they would shade out the chillis,
peppers and tomatoes, but the tomatoes don't seem to
mind and the chillis and peppers seem to be even thriving in
the shade, which surprised us.
Our chicks this week have been proving adept at becoming escape artists. Chicken wire is expensive and so we only use it to make a small enclosure for the chickens rather than use it to fence the whole garden. I tried to extend the area for them since there are now seven of them in a small area but didn't have any more chicken wire and so I attached net bags to the outer fence. They can just walk through the outer fence as the holes are too big to keep chickens in and only to keep sheep in and wild boar out. At first I found out they were getting out by walking up the corner support post and then just jumping out, so I put net bags over that to stop them walking out. They had had their wings clipped or rather half of one wing, to stop them flying over the fence, but they have been flapping and clawing their way up the net bags so I re-clipped their wings to see if that would help and found it isn't. I feel like the farmer in Chicken Run, those chickens are up to something.

A close up of the cranberry bed
Ian has been able to get on with flail mowing in between the showers. Normally it is just to keep the grass down in areas where we live at the moment, so around the caravan and greenhouse and part of the field. This keeps the insects down to a more manageable level. Ian also occasionally flail mows areas where the animals will be moved do, as they don't eat long grass. If we had cattle, they would be put on first and then followed by the sheep or alpacas to eat the grass down before resting the area. He also mows after the animals have been on it to cut down the type of weeds they don't eat, such as ground elder and docks, so they don't dominate the grass afterwards. We aim for animals to eat in the same area around twice in one year, to give the grass plenty of time to recover.

Having a bad hair day
This week though Ian managed to clip the boys paddock fence with the mower and broke some fence posts. They were already on the list of jobs to do because they were ready for replacing fortunately. He also flail mowed the oats and clover. The clover was planned as it is being used as a cover crop at the moment, but the oats were because they had been flattened in the rain and there was no point in collecting them. So we have plenty of mulch, just nothing much in the way of grain crops and something we need to re-evaluate in the years ahead.

A nearly full moon
Normally at weekends we make sure we are on site to welcome visitors but this week we went to our friend's celebration on her farm. It is such a privilege to see how far she has come, as we knew her before she had even bought the farm and watched the first few painful years as she adjusted to the life there. She had helped run a sheep farm and camp before, but her farm is now more isolated in winter and the first few winters had a lot of snow which proved a headache. Slowly though she built up a flock of goats from a few - I think - donated ones to the point she now has about 70 including kids. She has also built up a reputation for her cheese and people come from all over to buy some and visit the farm. It made a nice change to be part of the party wishing her success in the future.

Lady V getting comfortable in the shade
We had a test drill for a well just before the rains started but not seen anything of the guy recently, so we asked a friend to make some enquiries to see what was happening and finally he turned up this weekend with another guy who speaks English and helped us with our electric supply a few years ago. They did another test drill to check out the exact layering of the area where they think there's a good water supply and it was looking good. Apparently we have soil first, then a layer of clay, then a layer of water bearing sand, followed by clay again. They are going to start to dig the well on Saturday so hopefully that is another step forward for us.

You have to look hard but the specks in the distance are the
storks flying way up high, just before they went
It was a bit sad today as we said good bye to our American friends as they set off home after their two month stay. They have been in our apartment most of the time and we have only been back to do the washing and have showers, so it will seem a bit odd now for them not to be there, when we go. We don't intend to move back yet though, we will stay out on the land until it is too cold for us in the caravan. The signs that winter is approaching are all around though, from the occasional tree turning autumnal to the storks gathering and leaving. It is an odd feeling when the storks do that. They start gathering a few weeks or days before and then one day you may see a whole flock of them circling higher and higher, then the next thing you see is they suddenly veer off and they are gone. The swallows are still around, but one day they will just disappear off too and we won't see them until they return in the spring.
Four hung around just a few minutes more

Our boys
As we were in our village to say goodbye to our friends we decided to eat at the bakery for lunch, as we haven't done that in ages. We used to go for a walk every Sunday and have a pastry at the bakery, but now we are out on our land doing tasks or welcoming visitors. Things have changed such a lot for our friend, but also for us over the last few years. None of us really envisaged doing what we are doing now about ten years ago. Maybe we dreamt of doing something similar but not exactly and certainly for us, we never imagined it would be possible to be farming alpacas, in fact we wouldn't have even been sure what an alpaca looked like exactly and we would have been like most of our visitors who get mixed up between alpacas and llamas.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Is it raining with you?

This is the lower pond where Ian removed the drainage
channel and blocked the exit. We are not sure if that did the
trick or it is just all the rain we have had, but it sure is filling
up fast now. We were also excited to see the fish swimming
around in it today. We haven't seem them since they were
put in just before all the water receded and left them just a
small area - deep, but small. It seems like they have
survived well and grown quite a bit in the process.
It sure is raining here on a frequent basis. We've had some sunny spells but a lot of rain. The ponds are full, the road is a mess and plants are struggling with the damp conditions - so is Ian. Ian does not like the rain, I'm from the soggier side of Britain and used to frequent trips up to the even damper Lake District as a child and so I don't mind so much, but even I would like to see a spell of dry weather again, maybe not as long as the last time, but still is a week too much to ask for? Every time it rains I have one of two songs going through my head and for those who recognise the lyrics from the title, one of them is Annie Lennox's "Here comes the rain again" or alternatively Supertramps "It's raining again." I think I'm getting a little tired of those earworms.
The baby swallows have all grown up now and left their nest.
They are still roosting in the girls' alpaca house at the moment
though, but we are not sure for how much longer before they
take off to sunnier climes. It was amusing to see them all hovering
around inside this evening as we treated some itchy patches on
Agnese's nose. Five young swallows all making a noise
because we were in there.

Today's collection of mushrooms from our forest in the
bucket. Some advantages to the damp days anyway
Some of our potatoes are showing signs of blight due to the soggy weather and it is a dilemma as to whether to dig them up yet, but it might be still early when we need to store them over winter and besides, did I tell you? It's raining again! That of course makes it difficult to dig them up. Mind you, the ones we have dug and are free of blight have been lovely. We are finally getting an assortment of vegetables and we were even able to offer some vegetarians an evening meal just using the vegetables from the garden and not feel like apologising for the lack of variety. Since we only have a halogen oven, one hob and a slow cooker I settled on a vegetable stir fry and baked potatoes. So we had peas, cauliflower, carrots with some carrot leaves, lovage, marjoram, sage, nettles and hollyhock leaves. Today we had wild boar pie, carrots, peas, onions and mushrooms in a white sauce and baked potatoes. Rather tasty too, if I do say so myself.
We emptied the water out of the well to see if it would fill up
again - it did! We could see the water level rising immediately
after we emptied it, so that was encouraging. We are still waiting
to hear whether the guy is going to help us dig the well, as Ian
is still not quite sure how to go about it yet. Still if the
worse comes to the worse, he can have a go himself. At least
we know there is water there.

Mari drinking deep
This week I went to some church meetings. We haven't done that in a long time, as the nearest churches are quite far and we are quite comfortable not attending meetings. We haven't given up meeting with people of faith and wouldn't want to, but our rich heritage from our previous churches has more than sustained us over time. I went primarily to connect with some folks who we haven't had the chance to meet for a while and also to hear the main speaker who was Terry Virgo. I'm not a fan of big meetings and definitely wouldn't traipse half way across the country to listen to some big speaker, as I know that God is quite capable of speaking through people without special titles as much as those who are held up as leaders in the faith. However, it did amuse me that a famous speaker would come to a little camp down the road from us in the middle of rural Latvia, so couldn't resist going to listen.
At least we have onions. These are hanging in the barn to dry

Tellus (left) and Turbjørn (right) in the sun that lasted until
10am this morning. 
Ian came as well but he was a bit late as he had to wait for the vet to microchip our male alpaca. The last time she checked she was not able to find a signal and it did concern us as they were all microchipped before we got them, according to the breeder. Tellus was meant to be going to visit some females and so we felt he really ought to have a readable chip. In the event the vet did find a signal but it was much deeper in the shoulder than she would have thought - at least we are relieved he does have an original chip and the number does correlate with the one we were given.
Slicing pie, as you do in the barn. The fridge is in the barn
and not in our greenhouse kitchen for a reason - sometimes
it gets too hot in there. Admittedly it has not been that hot just

Brencis with a green patch at the top of his neck. He and Mr.P.
have been having some spats and lots of we hope play fighting.
Nothing seems to be particularly serious, but we will have to
keep an eye on it as they work out their place in the
hierarchy of the herd
The meeting was nothing startling, as I said, we have a rich heritage, but it was good to hear someone speak of Jesus being here and now and building his Kingdom rather than we are all just waiting around for him to come back again. It was also interesting to watch Terry Virgo as he does remind me of a friend of mine and the way he tells Bible stories, bringing out the little details that can be overlooked when purely reading the story compared to imagining yourself in the story. I also went to another meeting on the Friday morning and was encouraged by a young lady who came up to me and asked if she could pray with me. Her words were reassurance from the Father's heart to me and although she did not know me, she prayed for clarity of mind - which towards the end of doing a PhD is particularly poignant.
Asleep in the greenhouse

A new Olympic sport? Synchronised
eating courtesy of Tellus (front) and
Herkules (back)
As I mentioned Tellus was off on an adventure to see some ladies which entailed a road trip. He wasn't particularly happy about going into the horse box, but quickly settled down. The journey was not great, too many roadworks and the roads were dreadful after the rain, but we got there. We took Tellus into one of the sheds and showed him the girls, only he didn't seem that interested. We left them alone while Ian went to practice his dentistry skills on llamas. He has cut alpaca teeth before but not llamas. It was a little more interesting from the point of view that it took just a couple of minutes to sort the teeth out but it took them a good ten to fifteen minutes to get the llamas pinned down, one in particular was really difficult. The two alpacas, however, were done and dusted in just a few minutes. We don't think Tellus actually mated with the girls but we were anticipating him spending two weeks there so that he would have time to recover from the journey, instead we understood that he wasn't required - so not really sure what happened there apart from some form of miscommunication. Still it was nice to have Tellus back with us, it was a bit of a worry to send him out to someone else, even if we do have two other breeding males - well potentially, one is still a bit young yet.
Mari looking thoughtful - or just deciding whether to bother
going out in the rain or not again. 

Looks like Mr. P is having a laugh, but actually he has a
droopy mouth after spitting at Brencis
Chanel's coat really glows in the sun - when it shines
Alas dear Yorik, we knew him well! Or tomb for the unknown
farmer! Those are just two of the quips we came up with
for the new rockery. This is just across the road down
to the barn outside the greenhouse and is there to stop
little children running straight out of the greenhouse and
into the pond. It is also a place for our herbs for tea to grow.
Despite the rain we've had visitors again this week. One group came from the camp where we had joined in with a few of the meetings. The weather was lovely for once and we had afternoon tea outside in the sunshine. They brought some cakes from the bakery in the village and nearly all of them had black tea with milk - we had almost forgotten what it is like to have friends who drink black tea - or rather "normal" tea with milk. Our second lot of visitors also brought cake, a huge slab of home-made Latvian blueberry cake - absolutely delicious and I contributed a cake made from sour dough and roasted grapes, which worked fine. I am so pleased that it doesn't affect my blood sugar as much, in fact it is lower the day after - of course I know I still should take it easy on the sweet stuff but it is nice to find that as long as I watch the portions I can eat pretty much everything now, especially after having lost around 18llbs or around 9kg.

We were also pleased to welcome back the Northern English couple who had visited us previously and the reason the blog was late last week. They will be heading back home soon, the long way round via Finland and Sweden - quite an adventure and we wish them well. The weather wasn't quite so kind and so we were in and out of the greenhouse while we chatted for around five hours or so, which is why they stopped for tea. Being Northern I could say tea and not dinner or evening meal.

A golden coloured alpaca house at the end of the rainbow
It was lovely to hear of folks who had enjoyed Latvia so much that they are determined to be back again and hopefully they will visit us again, maybe to even help on the farm. Something to look forward to. It also really feels like we are building something worthwhile when people feel inspired to try something different after we have been chatting. I'm sure many folks could do a better job of what we are doing and if we can be an encouragement on that journey then that is fantastic.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Just a typical week really!

Not quite sure why the picture is cropped the way it has, but
never mind, I love the cloud scene anyway
What a range of visitors we have had this week, from India to Liverpool. The reason for the lateness of this blog was an unexpected visit from some folks from what we jokingly call Northernshire in our family, in other words from the Northern parts of England. It is bizarre to meet people here in the middle of rural Latvia who come from near where I lived as a child and close to where my parents now live. There were a couple who were from Blackburn and Preston who were house sitting for a young chap who has a house nearby and is a regular visitor to our farm now. They came with a friend who had come to visit for a few days, who was from Liverpool. Well we extended a typical northern welcome and invited them for some tea and cake, which they graciously accepted.

A marshmallow plant
I'm afraid that sometimes the offer of tea and cake can send some folks on their way for some reason. Not sure if it is my cakes - they're not bad really, ask Ian - or just not used to being invited for a cup of tea or they really do have to be on their way. Still it was nice they accepted and we had a great time chatting. They were really open about where they are at in life and we talked about our journeys. It is exciting to hear of some young folks who are willing to be different and experiment in life, but sadly as they say, they have nothing to lose these days.

A soggy unshorn sheep. We need some dry weather again
They appreciated my feelings that I feel my generation have let them down by taking so much and expecting so much from them too. It annoys me that rents and university fees are so high, when our generation benefitted from much better provision for the future. We were thrilled too that they felt inspired while chatting to carry on pursuing what is on their hearts. We were all amazed how time flew and by the time they left it was time to make our evening meal and then I had chanterelles and some boletes mushrooms to sort out for drying and they couldn't wait or I would have wasted the hour or so that it took for me to pick them. Not forgetting that I also had chickens to feed and put away for the night.
Lots of mowing done

Grapes ripening
As usual in July my supervisor and his wife come to visit us, or our alpacas really. This time they brought a fellow PhD student, his wife and their little four year old, who are originally from India (we are clocking up an amazing array visitors from many different countries now). The little one was a bright spark, who spoke good English and presumably Hindi, but not absolutely sure and a little Estonian, but on this day she was adamant she was speaking English. Being Indian but spending most of her time in first Edinburgh and then Tartu, she was not familiar with some of the plants we have here on the land and unfortunately discovered nettles. I had to show her what they looked like so she could avoid them and I also had to get out my spray for itchy spots and bites, which fortunately worked well on her, although she looked very dubious about it before she let me spray the area that she had stung. We were amused to hear her talking about the "sting rays" afterwards.
More early morning sunshine, but don't be deceived it clouded
over later.

Starting to get a regular supply of tomatoes now at last
At one point she asked me why we had buckets under the caravan and I explained it was to catch the rain water. With absolute logic she stated they should be put out on the grass away from the caravan so they could catch more rain. I could not convince her that all the water from the roof of the caravan trickled down at these points into the buckets and would collect more water that way. She was quite insistent that they should not be there. I wonder if one of our own granddaughters would display the same forthright opinions on such matters when she comes, I could imagine she will.

It would have been nice to share some of the photos from
the visit, but we haven't seen any yet and we are too busy
showing people around to take photos normally
We also had a coach party in this week again. We were told it was going to be a group of about 30 with special needs but weren't given much in the way of details. We thought that meant 30 total with some who had special needs, not necessarily 30 with special needs plus about 20 helpers. When the bus turned up, we realised it was going to be a few more than 30. Fortunately most were mobile with only three in wheelchairs. Much as we would like to be accessible, we are not entirely and the only reason we were was because the ground at the time was still relatively dry and Ian had been able to mow the grass around the girls' paddock area to make things easier. If it had been today, it might have been a bit of a struggle with the wheelchairs, as it has got very muddy with the very wet weather we have had over the last few days.

A sunflower in the brief spell of sunshine we had this morning
We gave them the talk, with one of the ladies from the group translating, about what we do with the alpacas and many of them were really engaged and were asking questions afterwards. One young guy was really lovely and went onto tell us that his uncle uses a horse in their garden and he combs the mane of the horse. Those with special needs are not well integrated into society here and people tend to look down on them, however, we have had experience over the years and love working with them. They were a really warm and friendly group. We explained that if they were calm and quiet the alpacas would be more likely to come to them, and bless them they really were very gentle with the animals. We gave them carrots to feed the alpacas and let them into the girls' paddock.

The soggy barley has been mulched
We brought two of our young males across too, as we didn't think it would work to take them across to the boys' paddock as that was a bit too challenging with the wheelchairs. Ian made sure that those in the wheelchairs got to feel the soft coat of our youngest alpaca, Brencis and the smiles on their faces was priceless. When it was time to go we walked down the road with Brencis and Ian gave one end of the leading rope to the young chap who told us about his uncle's horse. There was a cluster of young boys as well who also wanted to hold the rope. I don't think they really wanted to go. There were lots of happy faces and cheery waves as they left in the coach. If all coach parties were that easy, it would be lovely.

At least we have some squashes ripening
Of course there were other visitors too, who were all just passing and had noticed the alpacas in the field. There was a group of four cyclists who Ian spotted in our field taking a look, he had quite a chat with them as they were really interested in what we were doing. I had to cut short chatting with them as another couple came on. I could tell by the way the lady was talking that she was more business orientated as she was asking about the marketing of the place and I explained about using Facebook and how word of mouth seems to be quite effective. Later on she asked if we believed in God and I explained how we felt we should care for this wonderful world he gave us. They couldn't stop long but they asked if they could pray for us, which was really nice and to cap it all they wrote a lovely piece about our place on Facebook.

A soggy Mr. P.
There was another group of three who were also just passing but we had a problem with the language. They still enjoyed the visit and the young chap was on the phone to someone telling them about the llamas, to which his mother corrected him and told him they weren't llamas, they were alpacas, which amused me. At least someone got it! We often have to correct people who think they are llamas. Close but not quite.

Rain clouds gathering
Our other animals were also up to antics this last week. Our youngest cat is getting to be quite a pest for cleaning up after we have finished a meal. She hardly even waits for us to leave before she is up on the table investigating. We have lost cake and bread in our forgetfulness. We now have tins on the table ready to put that kind of thing in. She also tried to bring a live mouse into the greenhouse. Not helpful at all. I ended up fatally injuring the poor thing, as we can't afford to have a mouse loose in there. Ian ended up evicting both cat and mouse.

Early morning sunshine though
One of our chickens went broody on us and I had to put her in a box last week to stop her from hogging the nesting box and stopping the other two from laying. It appears though that putting the chicks in seems to have helped as she has now adopted them. Not sure if they appreciate this fact, although one night I opened the nesting box a bit later than normal, as I had forgotten to check for eggs and found the previously broody hen surrounded by all the chicks. I guess they appreciate her some of the time though. It is amusing to see her clucking away to let the chicks know where the food is.

Our forest and the wood pile where we are growing
the squashes
Last but not least we had a visit to the accountants to chat through some ideas of ways forward. We were relieved to find that we don't have to have a signature on all the receipts for money that people give us for tours around the place. We just need to write it down in the book and give one of the copies to the accountants. That makes us feel a lot better, as most people are just leaving and thrust some money in our direction as a thank you, they don't want to spend the next ten minutes while we fill out the receipt book with name, address, number etc. What we do need to do though is to investigate if it would be beneficial to have an association or non-profit at the moment, while we build the business. I was thinking that it might make it easier for others too, as it would then be possible to make donations to enable more visits from those with special needs and maybe at some stage we can work on how to make our hilly piece of land that bit more accessible for wheelchairs and those with reduced mobility. Maybe a golf-cart or something similar- now there's an idea!