Monday, 30 July 2018

Waiting over

Josefs and Aggie
The waiting game was over and done with very suddenly in one day and within two hours. Aggie, poor girl, was looking very tired and fed up one evening and the next day Ian noticed she was distinctly uncomfortable. She went into labour but struggled a bit and Ian helped her to give birth, by making sure the baby did not go back in and easing the head out so it could continue to breathe. At least this was a better scenario than last year when he was on his own and she lost the baby. The vet gave us an injection to give her to relax her muscles if she needed it and we decided that it was prudent to use it as it looked like she was having another big baby. Indeed when we weighed Josefs , he was massive at 8.3kg. Aggie bonded quickly with Josefs, licking him and fussing over him. We then left them alone to carry on and went for lunch.
Still a bit groggy

Mum and baby doing well as we went for lunch
As we were sat having lunch, I noticed Mari went into the alpaca house and I jokingly said to Ian that perhaps she was just waiting for us to get out of the way and so she could have her baby in peace. There were several times this last week we thought that Mari was going to go into labour and didn't. When we got back to the alpaca house though, there she was half way through labour. Ian just helped a bit as the baby was half in and half out and she was laid down. It seemed to take it's time to breathe and Ian held it upside down a bit to help it drain out any fluid. Mari bonded quickly with Jakobs and she had obviously learnt what to do from last year and was quickly in the swing of feeding, at least once the placenta was passed.
Jakobs arrives on the scene
Josefs doing well

Mari and Jakobs bonding
Meanwhile Aggie seemed to have unbonded with her baby. We are not sure what happened, although we have read of another case of two mothers giving birth at about the same time resulting in confusion for one of the mothers and I wonder if that happened here too. Who knows. We were concerned though as the baby needed feeding and Aggie was not impressed. All through the first night we would go in every two hours, pin Aggie up against the wall and let the baby feed. This was not doing Aggie's mood much good and she started to even get aggressive with Josefs. The next day we commenced bottle feeding. It was heartbreaking as the poor little fella seemed to be all on his own as if nobody loved him.
Josefs was up and about quite quickly

Feeling lonely and tired
We couldn't give hm a cuddle as we knew that if we did that, we were setting ourselves up for even greater heartbreak later on as it would probably result in an aggressive alpaca. We often wonder about the cute alpaca videos that show one alpaca becoming part of the family and even going upstairs to sleep. After two years these little alpacas are moody teenagers and can reach around 50kg and it is at this point they could quite likely start trying to throw their weight around and try to dominate. It is called Berserk Male Syndrome or Novice Handler Syndrome. It is not funny and not curable. It often results in the animal having to be put down. Not nice when you have spent so much time with the animal.
Jakobs is getting plenty of sustenance as he is putting on
plenty of weight

We carried on feeding Josefs the next day, being careful to make sure we left him alone after feeding. Eventually though he started bonding with Veronica. It seems she is being super tolerant of the little ones again. It could also be because she isn't too bothered about anything at the moment as it is just far too hot for her. She is sitting around peacefully in the shade, just what a poor lonely little fella needed. She looked a bit stiff this evening as if she needed to move about more though. We were so pleased that Josefs started to be accepted in the herd and he started to play with Jakobs. Mind you, it seemed to freak Mari out and the two young ones would run after Mari as if it was a game.
Jakobs is doing well and running around. He has spent a lot
of time with his mother and she seems more concerned about
him than she was with George

Aggie running away from Josefs
Eventually a miracle occurred. Josefs was running around looking for someone to feed him when Aggie stood up and Josefs went up to her and started feeding. She just stood there. She had been spitting him off for two days and wouldn't let him anywhere near. As soon as he had finished though, she made it clear that he was to go away. This carried on for a bit, but gradually he is spending more and more time with her and not being sent packing. She is still not the most motherly of mothers, but at least he isn't on his own and he is getting alpaca milk. We will monitor his weight carefully to make sure he is getting enough food, but even if we have to supplement, he is still part of the alpaca herd now and not so dependent on us. The timing of the births was a bit inconvenient though, it was the weekend of the local festival and so we managed to miss all of that. Oh well! There is always another year.
A buzzard

Getting stronger
It wasn't the only excitement. A little bit earlier in the week Ian was flail mowing with the two wheel tractor  and managed to get it stuck in the mud at the edge of the pond. If it hadn't been such a dry year, it would have been in the pond itself. I wished I'd taken a photograph, but I was too busy doing what I could to help or just observe. I was also thinking that I was pleased it was him and not me. I think he would have been a touch upset with me if I'd done it. The grass had got a bit long and he was trying to avoid some stones that he knew were there and got too close to the pond edge. The flail mower is very heavy and once it started to slide away, there was no stopping it. In the end he used the big tractor to lift it out after failing to be able to winch it out.
Playing games

Night time trips to the greenhouse kitchen
With baby feeding every two hours day and night the first night, four hours on the second, a couple of times on the third, we are both rather tired. The heat isn't helping. It is a good job I haven't too much academic work to do, especially as the waiting game is kind of coming to the end with one paper. In a rather peculiar way I have heard that it has been accepted, although it still says under review on the system. That will have to do for now, but then I have to get something more official I think for the thesis. At least it is a step nearer. I also have had word back from my supervisor to say that another paper is good enough to be submitted, so it will just need proofreading now. Two more papers need finishing off soon too, but first I need to get the felting course and English workshops out of the way. Then it is sit down in earnest to write, write, write.
Lady V our hero for her acceptance of the little ones

Jakobs gets fluffier by the day
We did have another surprise as a friend of ours alerted us to an article about ten places to see animals in Latvia and we were there as number 10. There was a picture of an alpaca, but it wasn't one of ours. I think we shall send them a few of the new ones, just to make it more relevant.
Mari looking good

Jakobs resting in the shade, although I did find him out on his own
in the sun earlier on today and had to reunite him with his mum,
who had sensibly gone in the alpaca house

Although it is still hot in the alpaca house too. It is strange to
think that we have seen -32C one winter and here it is +32C

Monday, 23 July 2018

Just a little snooze

My purple rose has turned pink! Maybe it is from the rootstock
or maybe other climatic changes. No idea!

Having a little snooze was my plan for this afternoon, but a pesky fly disturbed me and it's sticky hot. I wouldn't normally be having an afternoon snooze but I picked up a tummy bug and virtually slept yesterday away. I'm feeling much better today, albeit lacking in a bit of energy and about 1.5 kg lighter into the bargain, so it's not all bad news. Weight had been creeping back on, so it will be nice to readjust my diet back to what it should be to maintain my lower weight.
You've heard of "Where's Wally?" Well here is "Where's the bee?"

Just in case you didn't find the bee, here is a close up of the
bee enjoying the marjoram

Hay cut and turned
Ian bless him, has been cutting for hay again, even though he got a slight dose of what I have. At least he wasn't floored by it. The weather forecast was a bit iffy, but we were determined to get the haymaking out of the way and we have had quite a few forecasts promising rain that hasn't materialised. Only today it did materialise and we had a short torrential downpour, right over us. The radar didn't show much else in either direction for miles or kilometres depending on what you work in. At least now it is not as critical as we have got the majority in that we need for a year and plenty of good hay for eating, which is all under cover as we managed to get the other half of the ski hill baled.

Rain bouncing off the cars and caravan. Not what we
wanted and while I write there is more.

A peacock butterfly also enjoying the marjoram. It sure is a
good insect plant
The apples are growing well on this tree this year. Finally! Not
sure how long we have had to wait for a decent crop

George is getting more curious now and braver
Hopefully the addiction to watching the weather forecasts and radar will be soon over, at least quite as avidly as we do when it comes to getting the hay in. We were watching the weather forecasts with trepidation earlier on this week and had hoped to get the bales in at a more leisurely pace than we did in the end. Ian had just finished baling and sat down to eat when I told him that there was a threat of rain for the following day and was likely to be earlier than we hoped, so straight after eating we were both back out in the field gathering up the bales. There were still 20 left out in a separate area but we were too tired to get them, we were just hoping for the best for good weather the next day. As it turned out, I woke early and saw the radar was not looking good and we were out before breakfast collecting the remaining 20. Of course the rain didn't really come to much at all but at least there was some and it didn't rain on our bales of hay.
Freddie is such a sweetie

Blackcurrant bushes are bending under the weight of berries
We have also been collecting the berries. I haven't had to do this job for a few years as a friend often did that. Our friends are coming later on in the summer though and the berries are ready earlier anyway. At least I got some jars of blackcurrant and gooseberry cordial done in preparation for our workshops. I have also been drying herbs, turnip leaves and hollyhock flowers. The herbs are for flavouring and teas, the turnip leaves for adding to soups in winter and the hollyhocks either for adding to soups, for teas (a nice soothing one for sore throats) or for dye. The dark purple, almost black hollyhock flowers that I have give either a lovely purple or silver grey colour depending on the preparation and the fabric used.
My slightly messy garden but you can see mallow, marshmallow
lupins, poppies, Jerusalem artichokes, some fronds of asparagus
Rosebay Willowherb for future tea making and lots of weeds
Lady V feeling warm
I also got some cleaning done at our flat in preparation for our run of visitors over the next few weeks. I even managed to clean the windows - well sort of. They are still a bit smeared but at least you can see out of them when the sun shines. It is really looking like a home now, as long as you do not open the door of the storage room, where there is hardly room to walk. That will need sorting again later on in the year when we move back to living in the village, rather than out on our land.
Mari looking large and yes, still no babies have appeared this
week and so the waiting continues
Aggie has been feeling the heat too and hogging the water
bucket. We had to give her shower earlier yesterday to
cool her down
While I was cleaning Ian stayed out on the land with our young helper for the day. He's a bit shy, so conversations can be hard, but he is a good worker. Ian and he moved a stack of old wood for another hugelkultur, cut off dock heads to stop them spreading even more seed and mowed the grass. There hasn't been much grass mowed just lately, as it has been so dry the grass has been growing slowly. There are some benefits to the drier weather anyway.

We had hoped that Chanel was pregnant but after her visit from
Mr. P this morning, it would appear not. 

It looks like Mr. P will be paying a few more visits to his
favourite hangout

The swallows have fledged their nest

The acorns are growing

That pesky fly

That's better

Snoozing and watching the rain

Monday, 16 July 2018

Round Two

Ribwort flowers, also known as English plantain
The second phase of hay cutting has begun today. The weather forecast just lately kept promising rain and mainly it still passed us by, until last night that is. We had a very powerful storm, resembling one of those tropical cyclones, that bent over trees and even snapped a willow. It also dumped a fair bit of water on us in a very short space of time, which was good. Fortunately it didn't cause too much damage in the process but it made sure everything got a good soaking. At least by early afternoon it had dried up due to a gentler breeze than yesterday and apart from the fact we are melting in the humidity, it seemed good to go for haymaking. There was a point when we had a short, sharp shower of rain, right in the middle of Ian doing the cutting but hopefully that was it and the bit of rain forecast for Wednesday, either will not materialise or we get the hay in beforehand. Whichever doesn't matter to me.
The boys have been play fighting a lot just lately
Who us? Fighting? 
We had a few visitors over the weekend. The first group was by someone who had been before and she brought two friends with her. They hadn't decided what to do but in the end they decided that coming to us was better than going to the beach. This is the second time the lady has taken the alpacas for a walk too. They took Brencis and Mr. P. for a walk and Ian went with them with Freddie. They all did very well walking the track that Ian keeps regularly mowed. I had to make a quick keyring with Aggie's fleece, as that was the one the lady wanted and I hadn't made any with her fleece yet.
Unfortunately for Mr. P. the play fighting with Brencis got a
little more serious. Put it this way, Brencis will be having
his fighting teeth removed very soon.
The large horseflies have been bothering Mr. P and so has
the humid hot weather we have been having. We are not
sure if he is starting the fights or not due to this.
Brencis is such a placid, easy going sort normally. Here he is
investigating the chickens who are close to the paddock at
the moment. They have been moved further away tonight, so
they are on fresh grass in the morning. One of our nightly
Our other visitor was also a return visitor and was a bit more of a social call, so we sat and chatted. We also drank Rosebay Willowherb tea, which she made herself and ate cakes from the local bakery, which all sounds like a scene from Wind in the Willows on a lovely summer's day. She also brought tins of moose (or just for my supervisor, more correctly Eurasian Elk) and a contract for a local hunting organisation. We did have a contract with an organisation but apparently it is now invalid due to the rules in Latvia.
The three young swallows are close to flying now. There isn't
much room in that nest
Lady V is still plodding along
Each hunting organisation has to own land or have a contract with landowners in order to hunt. There is also a minimum amount of land in order to get the relevant licenses and the amount depends on the animals hunted, so around 1000 ha for wild boar (unless it has changed lately) and the areas must all be joined together (otherwise it is difficult to have a hunting strategy). To hunt on your own land or to invite hunters on, you must be part of the hunting organisation too. From time to time landowners change the organisations that they sign up with and for some reason some neighbouring landowners who border our land and belonged to the original hunting organisation must have signed up with someone else. That left us with the choice of either no hunting organisation allowed on our land or sign with another one. Whilst we haven't had to call on the hunters this last year as so many of the wild boar have been culled or died due to African Swine Fever, it may only be a short time before they reappear in sufficient numbers to tear up our land again. We try to live with wildlife damage but we have to draw a line somewhere.
I love the curls on Chanel's face

The view from the old ski hill. If you look
carefully around the middle electric pole you
can see a fairy ring of dark grass. Our visitor's
land is over the hill in the distance on the right.
Our visitor has a property nearby and around 17 wild horses, well when I say wild they are allowed to roam a wide area and are not used for anything else except maintaining the land. They are descended from the Polish Konik horses. She took us to see them and the horses seemed friendly enough. They came galloping over the hill when she called and then ate slices of bread from our hands, they took them very gently too. It was funny seeing the other side of the hill. It is not an area we go to very often and it has a much more open vista than our side of the hill. Our little piece of land is quite enclosed, although there is more of a view from what used to be the ski hill of course, but we don't go up there often.

No lump there now. All stitched up and covered with blue
spray to deter the flies as well as being an antiseptic.
The vet came out to look at Herk and we decided on surgery to remove the lump. Even if it was nothing to worry about exactly, the flies were bothering him so much as it was oozing a little, that it was decided it was best to remove it. The whole thing was done in the alpaca house with Herk pinned down as we do for shearing time. He was just given an local anaesthetic and the lump was removed without a problem. We allowed the trainee vet to stitch it up, after all she has got to practice sometime and we are quite keen for vets to become used to working on alpacas. If our girls need help to deliver their babies when our regular vet goes on holiday, she will be the one we call on anyway. Of course we hope it doesn't come to that this year. We are still waiting though and Mari at least seems to be showing signs of possibly going into labour sooner rather than later - how soon, no idea!
He's doing fine and doesn't seem that bothered about it. He
was a bit stiff straight afterwards but not even a limp now.
The rather distressed little squirrel. It's a good
job Ian was wearing the gloves to handle it,
he or she did try to bite a few times when it
was examined, whist trying to work out what
was wrong with it.
Our cat, Eyre, turned up with something large in her mouth this week. When we went to investigate we found it was a squirrel. We don't see many squirrels around here, probably too many predators, not just our cats but also lynx and foxes at least. We found out it was still alive and so managed to get the poor traumatised thing in a box to rest. When we tried to release it and encourage it to go up a tree out of harms way a few hours later, we realised that something wasn't quite right. We decided to put it in the hamster cage that we normally use for our chicks. Eventually we worked out that there was something wrong with its neck, not surprising as the cat was carrying it by its neck. We gave it food and water, since it still seemed quite active and decided to let it rest and check on it every now and again. Unfortunately it didn't survive. It was such a sweet little thing and died curled up as if it was asleep.
A rather large mushroom we found in our greenhouse. They
have been popping up in the straw. They are tasty.

Aggie has still been slumped about, but she doesn't like the
heat or pregnancy
I am still in a bit of a fug with my faith. It still seems rather distant. I struggle at times with wanting a house, somewhere to call home on our land, but we aren't any nearer to working out how to do that. I've travelled about a bit and lived in three countries now and until recently, my faith was always my home wherever I went. So this struggle with home is unsettling. Really it's a first world problem. I have a home, two in fact, a caravan for summer and a flat for winter. That is more than many people have. It is also so ironic to be unsettled with the concept of home while studying a sense of place in Estonia and Latvia. So why the fug? "So Lord! How do I make progress and move on from where I am?" was my cry and the phrase that keeps coming back to me, "Is start with what you have!" It reminds me of the story of the widow who asked Elijah for help and he replied "What do you have?" and she told him only a little oil. He told her to start with that and the oil kept pouring from the jar until the bottles she had got from her neighbours were full. We shall see where that leads us then!