Monday, 31 July 2017

Haymaking time!

Always start with the cutest alpaca photo :)
Oh gosh! Time flies again and I will have to write a blog covering two weeks in two parts, so here is the first instalment. In someways there is not a lot of variation in the first week, just lots of work to do in the garden, haymaking and preparing to go away. The obsessive weather watching continued and eventually we had some dry weather and to our amazement the grass on the ski hill had survived the downpours and was decent enough to bale. There was even a reasonable amount of it too.
Dinner time

Some sunshine at last! Hmmm! That feels good
Last year it was so dry and we had to cut early as the grass was turning, but we only got 50 bales off half the ski hill, then the weather turned and we couldn't cut any more until about September. This hay was not good and we ended up with many mouldy bales and only just about had enough to keep us going for the feed for the alpacas. There was barely enough bedding to cover the floor and that was too damp to soak up much, so the alpaca houses got wet through. Not pleasant. This year we had to bale the hay on a looser setting so we did not break the baler again and so that meant they are not as tightly packed as in previous years, but we still got 145 bales, so rather more hay than last year.
Scratching! Those pesky insects

Making the most of an unstrung bale that needed dumping
Not only did we manage to get 145 bales from the half ski hill, we managed to cut the hay from the rest of the hill. I used the two wheel tractor while Ian used our regular tractor. I cut as much as possible but one section was so steep and bumpy that I couldn't manage to keep going. My hands ached for a week afterwards. Ian finished it off after he finished with the big tractor. A friend of ours came and helped me to load half the hay bales in the horse box and then load them into our alpaca house, while Ian continued turning and cutting more hay.
A rather large annoying insect. Poor Mr. P. and Chanel seem
to attract them

Hello! Is it me your looking for?
While we were sitting around having lunch on the Saturday with our friends, one of them made a comment about the fact I was setting off on Sunday. I had been convinced I was going on the Monday, well I was ....kind of! I was flying by plane on the Monday at an unearthly hour and I needed to organise a hotel for the night before so I could get some sleep rather than none. I sure was not in travel mode. This meant a lot of sorting out and organising in between collecting hay and gardening. I managed to book a hotel near the airport, sort out my luggage for the week, organise a lift to the airport with the folks who had been in our apartment for over a month and were heading back into Riga at about the same time and make sure Ian had enough food in for the rest of the week, as he was going to end up with finishing off the haymaking on his own. So that was my Saturday!
Also enjoying one of the unstrung bales

A plump alpaca. Brencis showing what happens when there
is plenty of good grass and some visitors where he knows
there will be food for him, because he is such a "friendly"
The day before the conference on the Sunday, I helped Ian shift the remaining bales then collected strawberries as I didn't want them to go to waste. I put them onto dry while Ian started baling up more hay. Once I had finished the strawberries I got into the field to start putting the hay bales into batches to make collecting them later easier for Ian. At 6:40pm I left the field, quickly scrubbed up, changed, fed the chickens and wrote out a receipt for the folks who had been borrowing our flat. I was ready for just after 7pm when they came to collect me. Ian carried on baling until 10pm that night. I explained this a lot at the conference to highlight why a rural sociology conference should not be held in July. August was bad enough two years ago, but July is ridiculous.
I think Herkules looks so happy in this photo

This grass is sure chewy
Monday I had to transition into academic mode, as I met up with a group from Latvia who were travelling to the same conference. I happened to be sitting next to one of them on the plane, which was good as we had not booked our seats together. It gave me a chance to have a good talk about different topics, including if there was ever any opening in the department I could be interested. It was also nice to travel in a group, rather than on my own and we had a drink together in Warsaw, Poland where we had a stopover while we waited for our flight to Krakow.

Poor Aggie, still pregnant and missing all the fun due to
staying in the shade with all her fleece on
I also hitched a lift into the city in their taxi, which saved some money and hassle of trying to work out how to get there. However, I was supposed to be only 10 minute walk away from their hotel to my hotsel, but my phone sat nav decided to take me to another hostel owned by the same group that was a further 10 minutes and so ended up with a bit of a long walk to find the right hostel Fortunately the trip was pleasant along the river and through a park. I finally arrived rather hot and sticky though. I decided not to meet up for lunch but just grabbed some food nearby and then met up with them in the evening for the start of the conference - and that is why I didn't manage to write the blog last week. I did manage to find a little coffee shop near to the venue with a really nice relaxing ambience so that helped.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Sorry yet again

I'm at a conference and didn't have much time to write because the Internet in the hostel is incredibly slow

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Rain, rain go away!

Two wet best buddies
We have baled about 30 bales of hay, or semi-wet grass, which is not recommended as it is likely to go mouldy. We have put them under cover with plenty of air circulation and so far most of them have not got hot, which would be a sign that they are decomposing rather than drying out, so maybe we have got away with it. The problem is that we have now cut half the hay on the ski hill too. It looked really promising as it was drying nicely and it was a better harvest than last year, but then it rained. Not a tiny little bit like the forecast suggested, but frequent showers through the last two days. We still have more we can cut, but it is not looking great so far. We can only hope that the next few days are really as dry as forecast and any possibility of rain does not turn into a downpour. At least we are not in danger of a drought and the ponds are full to overflowing and even the well is filling up faster now.
Well when they are not fighting that is

Drenched. Fortunately this is not so catastrophic as a few
weeks ago. George is not showing any signs of his poor
start in life and is very active now.
All this rain has turned us into obsessive weather watchers. We lose count of the number of times we check the radar and the weather forecast. It has been so unpredictable that I think it is not really helping. At least with a radar it is possible to see the rain coming, but sometimes that is just downright depressing, sometimes it is the spur to get a job done, but not so much at the moment.
Frederiks reaching that itch behind the ear!

George nibbling on cow parsley
The insects have not been quite as bad for us this year but the animals have been bothered by them. It seems that the mite problem has flared up and the flies have been taking advantage of small bits of raw skin. Ian has been putting fly spray on, but the animals are not so keen and so it is more difficult when they are out in the field. Ian tried to take Tellus and Mr. P for a walk with our young helper but there were too many insects irritating them and Tellus gets really cross with them. It didn't help that Mr. P kept trying to walk through long grass, so they gave up. We have also used Fiprinol on some animals with the mites, which often sorts the issue out, but we are well aware that in itself could become a problem if the mites become resistant, so we are trying to monitor the situation to ensure it does not get out of hand.
Frederiks has been losing some fur from off his nose, so we
are starting him on some cream.
Ian sporting the newest head covering. Our young helper
made the hat for him
As I mentioned before, this year it has been easier to keep on top of the garden and not have unkempt look. I think it is easier because even the weeds have been fairly slow to grow. I bet they are waiting until I am away at a conference to leap forward with wild abandon. One bed did get rather weedy and there wasn't really anything to plant in it yet, so we have planted oats and barley for a green manure and to keep the other weeds in check. They have germinated well, so that is a help. I do plan to sow some autumn crops soon though as well, as I have plenty of other spare places. It is nice to be able to concentrate on the garden on our land and not have to make sure I get the gardens weeded in the village too. Even if it does get in a bit of a mess, at least it doesn't affect my neighbours.
A still heavily pregnant Agnese. Come on, hurry up Hilda
- at least we hope we finally get a girl this time.
Chanel before shearing
We finally got most of the girls sheared this week. Agnese still hasn't produced and so she is still waiting for her haircut. I tried to comb through Mari's hair but there was so much matted fleece and remnants of hay from two years ago that I gave up. With Chanel we decided to give her a shorter look than we would like to give her as she had the same problem as Mari. At least now it shouldn't get so matted. We will sort Mari's hair out at the same time as we finally shear Agnese. Our young helper helped out with the shearing this year and she sat with the alpacas heads on her lap, which they seemed to be remarkably calm with, even our spitty alpaca Chanel, who only spat once and not while she was being sheared.
And after shearing. Sorry Chanel! The haircut was a bit
drastic but it will grow back, honest!
The wood pile is growing
Our other helper has started making an impression on the wood pile. Ian had logged up the wood and the young chap split it. He has to work on his knees as he can't stand for long, but Ian gave him some knee pads and that helped. He worked really hard and even when we stopped for coffee he would get up before us and get back on with the job. It is really nice not to have to insist that someone get on with a job. He was pretty tired when it was time to go home though.
Mari before shearing
And after with the rather funky hair cut. That will be going
We've had a few minor miracles this week. The last large hay bale was split up and mercifully this at least had some good hay in it to use as bedding for the girls. We have had to clear it out again for shearing as it was just too wet. We also saw the fish in both our ponds. We haven't seen the ones in the lower pond since last year. It is hard to see them in that pond due to it being so overgrown but there had not even been a glimpse of them. We haven't seen the ones in the top pond either for over a month and thought that maybe a local heron had managed to get them, despite the steep sides of the pond.
We really do have fish in the pond!
Veronica before
Another miracle is that we also narrowly missed our chicks becoming a snack for our cat and a hawk. They are escaping on a fairly regular basis at the moment and Eyre spotted one and started to go for it. Fortunately she stopped after we started to make a commotion. She never bothers while they are inside their netting. The hawk also made a swoop for them, but I don't think there is enough room to fly in and fly out by swooping and so they are safe as long as they stay inside the netting. I have tried clipping their wings to stop them flying out, but not sure this is having the desired effect. They seem to be able to flap and sort of walk up the netting at this age. Plan B will be a cull of some older birds and make room in one of the arks, then there will be no escaping. Oh yes! And finally, there are 15 chicks and I thought we only had 14.
And after

And finally the two best buddies having a rest in the alpaca house

Monday, 10 July 2017

A little drama!

I am quite chuffed with myself for capturing this shot this
week. Usually Ian takes all the photos but this week there are
some of mine. It was a sheer fluke that I captured this shot
I have to admit.
We have drama again this week, but not due to baby alpacas fortunately. Little George is much better now and beginning to bully Frederiks about, despite his size. We are so pleased he seems to have fully recovered.
A bit of communal time around the water bucket, but those
little ones had best beware, Aggie is not in a good mood

George is a great observer of life. Our visitors loved the little
ones of course
Our crazy young friend hung around till the middle of the week before heading back off on her travels. We are so pleased she managed to make it out to us as it was good to catch up on life since we last saw each other. A lot has happened in the three years since she was last out here. From that perspective it was good that it rained, there is not much else to do than talk, so may as well do that in good company. Although we have had quite a few visitors to see us, we haven't had as many tourists turning up to see the alpacas just lately, but this weekend we had a couple from the local village. One of them we know quite well from a local shop we frequent, which was nice.
Our summer home

Best buddies! Well sometimes. 
Our young helper was also back out to help us this week, but just on her own this time. Mind you, I think we tired her out with a back to back English practice this week. She is still shy and gets a bit flustered about lunch, but we think we have sorted that out now with her mum. We might not be able to talk directly but at least we can talk via email and understand each other - or at least I hope so.
Our chicks are growing up. I do hope they are better layers
than the other ones we have. We had one egg today and we
have 12 hens. Not a good ratio really.

One of our visitors
The good thing about having someone out to help is it keeps me motivated to go out and get the weeding done. It also means of course an extra pair of hands so that my garden is almost looking neat and tidy. I say almost, the weeds still out compete the plants in places and the ants are not helping. One other reason for the tidier garden is only having the one place where I am gardening. We have now got all our planting based here out on our land instead of at our apartments. I have gradually given up those gardens over the last couple of years and it has been much easier for my own peace of mind. It is still hard work of course to make sure there is food on the table, but it is a lot easier when everything is one place.

Sofie on mouse patrol
One of our dramas was Ian waking up at just before 5am and saying he had heard sheep. Sure enough there were three sheep by the pond where there should be no sheep. We were both up and ready quickly that morning. Ian went to check on the fence and I went to make sure that they were not heading off in a direction like my gardens or the road. They were a bit skittish and I wondered is something had spooked them. Eventually I realised that the only way to make sure they didn't go off anywhere they shouldn't was to get them back in the alpaca house they had been in over winter. Fortunately despite being jumpy they still followed me into the shed for some food. There they stayed for a day, as quiet as anything.

Aggie is still keeping us waiting
Ian moved their fence, just in case they were thinking that there wasn't enough grass and I lead them to their new location the next day. Again they followed me for a bowl of food, even though they were a bit unsure of the gate arrangement at one end. By moving quickly through the gate rattling the bowl, they didn't have time to think and Ian came in behind me to close the gate. Done!

Turning the hay with the usual accompaniment of storks
The biggest drama of the week was the start of the hay cutting season. It wasn't a sudden or dramatic drama, but one of those that builds over the week. The temperatures have not been so high this year and so drying hay is taking longer, a bit like last year but at least the days are still longer. We cut hay, turned it and so far so good, then it rained, it dried and we tried to bale, but the bales were heavy and the baler broke - it was probably a good job because if that had happened on the big run when we do the ski hill that would have been a disaster. However it was still very frustrating. The baler broke on Saturday night and so no chance to get to the shops to find a fix. Then it rained. Each time it rained our hearts sank.
All turned and it looked like progress. The hay looked good
and unlike last year there was plenty of it. Then it rained
One stork explaining to another that this was his territory
and he was most certainly not welcome
Finally the rain stopped today and we had some hot sunshine. We had to cool the girls down but we neeeeeed the hay and we neeeed it dry. We ended up turning the hay by hand because the turner was just making grass rolls from the long stringy grass and the more it was turned the tighter the rolls became. We left the hay all afternoon and so I started writing this blog while waiting for them to dry. It did dry out quite a bit over the day but we are not convinced it is enough. I have put the driest ones under cover and maybe that will be enough because those places also have a good air flow and they are not stacked tightly together - that would be a fire risk. I think I will be sore tomorrow.
The broken chain

Fortunately Ian found somewhere that
sold a pin that would repair the chain.
Unfortunately they do not seem to have
robust chains if this one goes. At least
not in this place. Still it is fixed with a
bit of persuasion with an angle grinder
and lots of new oil.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Challenging week

Slightly soggy alpaca crias. I do wish their mums would
take them in
Our week started off rather well as the young lass who was coming to practice her English turned up and worked well at her chores. She is still a bit shy but she loves the alpacas and wants to make friends with them, so that is a good start. She helped Ian for most of the morning before helping me in the afternoon. Ian took her to see the sheep and found that a rather large expanse of their electric fence was down. It was a good job the sheep spent most of their time at the top of the field, otherwise they would have been able to escape easily. Between the two of them they fixed the fence back up with the young lass taking some initiative when Ian didn't have his hammer with him, she found a large piece of wood to bash the wooden poles back in. Obviously used to thinking for herself, which is good.

Long necks are good to catch that itch
The young lass was happy enough that she asked if her cousin could come along later on in the week too. Her cousin's English is more fluent and she helped our young helper to understand more of what we were saying. The cousin is also a bit brasher but pleasant enough with it, so we had fun with some banter too. I introduced them to scones and English style cakes, but they were quite used to licking out the bowls or learnt quickly, not sure which.

At least here he is cushed, but we found him many times
flat out and lethargic
I collected some Selenium injections for our young cria as sometimes they do not get enough and with our youngest cria, George, being a bit lethargic it was wise to make sure his Selenium levels were okay. Later on in the evening though after our young helper's first visit, he was so lethargic he wasn't really responding. We were really worried and asked the sheep camp for some antibiotics. I also gave him some water with sugar and salt in to ensure he got some energy inside of him, but it wasn't really having any effect. We took him into the caravan with us and I kind of kipped out on the floor while Ian went to sleep on the side, we didn't even bother getting changed.

George sporting the latest alpaca style shave. Actually it
was shaved for the cannula
He seemed to settle with me stroking his tummy and if I dropped off and stopped stroking him, he would become agitated. I managed to keep that up until about 4am with the occasional wetting of his mouth with some more sugared solution. At about 4am, he suddenly cushed, which means he put his legs underneath him and sat like an alpaca should, instead of on his side. Whatever was bothering him, was ebbing. I managed then to doze for a few hours.

Although here George is resting in the sun, he spent too
many hours like this, but he is definitely picking up now.
Frederiks at least looks upright and alert here
The next morning we took him into the vets and we have to confess that there were times we didn't think he would see the morning. Ian and our vet tried to get a cannula into George's vein or at least try and work out where it would go, as I pinned him down on the table. Ian had managed before on a previous alpaca. Although worrying, it was also kind of amusing when our vet pulled in one of her customers to help us. Normally the customer worked with ambulance - sort of paramedic type but apparently she was able to get to get a cannula into dog's sometimes when our own vet struggled. It was partly, if I understood correctly, because she also worked on children, who can also present difficulties in finding veins.
Although life can get a bit too much for babies at times, even
the strongest ones get tired

Chilling out together in the sun 
Eventually though it was decided to put a drip in subcutaneously (under the skin) after a couple of failed attempts. It did strike me though that it could only be a rural practice where a paramedic nurse, a vet and an ex-heamatologist try to put a cannula into an alpaca. She sent us back with the drip with instructions to give him another drip subcutaneously early afternoon and then we took him back before she closed for the evening for her to check him over and give him another antibiotic. Although still weak, he was beginning to improve.

Herkules chewing on a straw
We took him back the next morning and this time our vet managed to get a cannula into his vein and he was given another drip. By now he was beginning to look much stronger. He was being picked on a bit by the older cria, Frederiks, though, which concerned us, as did the on and off showers we were having. We couldn't leave George in the rain, but neither would his mum take him in. She enjoyed a good shower and so we would have to coax her in and she was not happy. All the female alpacas were most unhappy about being kept in over 36 hours when we had heavy drenching drizzle and cria health was more important than their playing in the puddles.

Stopping the boys from going into their alpaca house for a
pee. They are not happy about this though
We have been really struggling with the rain this last week. It has meant that many of the outdoor jobs are not getting done, especially haymaking. Our hay stock is just about exhausted now and we have just about enough to keep us going for another week or so for feed (alpacas still need hay, even in summer, as they need the dry feed) but the bedding is a real problem. Because they are inside so much the bedding is getting wet. The boys alpaca house is even worse because the roof is leaking and although we have the roofing to deal with it, we need the dry weather over two days to get it sorted. They all really need their houses cleared out or lots and lots of hay put on top to keep them dry and we just do not have it. We are just hoping and praying the weather improves this next week to get some cut and baled.

Mr. P 
During the week the forestry guy turned up at our farm and tried to tell us something about the forestry certificate we needed that allows us to cut trees above 12cm. Ian had been wondering what had happened to it. The last one was emailed to us and he had been into renew it sometime over the winter. We resorted to the mobile to call our friend to clarify what the problem was. Apparently he had been several times but nobody had been around, which is odd as we are more often there than not. For some reason Ian had to go and collect the certificate before July 1st because there were some changes going on - well that's about as much as we knew. We managed to get our translator friend to help Ian as he had to go to the office in the big town to get it sorted. It turns out the lady who helpfully filled in the forms for Ian, ticked the box that said he would collect it instead of getting it emailed. At least we don't have to worry about that now for another three years.

A still shaggy Chanel
Despite the rain and delaying projects that need doing, we still managed to do jobs like plough ditches to see if they will divert some of the rain off the roadway. It isn't good to have such a soggy roadway with all this rain. I also managed to plant out a load of caulis that needed transplanting and our young chap who has started coming helped me to put a good thick mulch of old hay around the potatoes. The place now looks a little tidier too as we managed to use up some really manky bales of hay in the process.

And a soggy Mari, looking decidedly grubby
The rain does mean that it is not such a problem for getting admin done, the problem though is I managed to get the end of my charger covered in bread dough and it would appear to have corroded the contacts. I am now back on the Nokia phone, but since it is not a smartphone it means I cannot use my internet at the moment, I have to use Ian's on his phone. Not terribly convenient for downloading bank statements and such for the accountant. So annoying!

Our chicks are getting bigger and the next load hatched.
Just to finish up this week and the reason the blog is late I went to pick up friends from bus station, as my young crazy friend is back to visit and she brought a friend with her. We have really enjoyed a good catch up and she and Ian are back to the banter that only good friends can get away with. It is a shame she could only manage a couple of days but with the bad weather we could at least sit around chatting and not feel guilty.