Monday, 29 October 2018

Busy times

I was babysitting three of our grandchildren with my friend over the last two days, so will do a catch up later on in the week.

Monday, 22 October 2018

Still in the UK

On our way to school
I'm gradually moving up country and this week I'm in the Midlands with my youngest son and his family. I seem to have picked up another cold this week too, obviously different bugs around here. My immune system must be racing now.

Highlights this week

Autumn is here and what is better than playing in the leaves?
My son's partner had a teacher training course opportunity and so I got to look after my young grandson for the morning. Of course nothing went to routine. He had a big breakfast, which was not normal and so didn't want his normal bottle. He also seemed sleepy earlier than I was told, so off we went for a walk and he was asleep in his pushchair within 15 minutes and slept for two hours. Oh well! At least he wasn't fussing for mummy with this strange lady.
It's autumn out on our land too and Ian has taken some great
pictures this week

So much to do when you are little. Even
a stony path is exciting to play with
We have taken a trip into town and I had fun watching my little grandson have his photo taken. He is about the same age as his older sister was when she had a portrait photo taken so they wanted something similar of him. It was funny watching his parents and big sister all trying to get him to smile. They got some sweet pictures anyway. Now both pictures are up on the wall and you can definitely see the similarities.

Meanwhile my granddaughter is scaling
the heights
More of autumn out on the land
It's been nice just pootling about, although I have also been doing some work, trying to prepare for my presentation, which is tomorrow. I got most done while the family were out at an evening wedding party.
Little Jakobs is getting fluffier. Soon he will be just a little ball
of fluff

Coombe Abbey
We had a lovely late afternoon out yesterday to Coombe Abbey and went back again today. It is still quite warm for this time of the year but beginning to look very autumnal.

A Griffin in the garden
Jakobs contrasts well with the blue autumnal sky
I forgot to mention last week that I heard one of my papers has been rejected again and I'm still waiting for the others. It is such a frustrating game to play. I almost cannot move forward until these things are done. Quite depressing really as I just want to get this PhD finished and then I can move on.
Misty mornings out on the land

Brencis eating the twigs
As many of you know, I live in Latvia, although originally from Britain. A friend of mine posted a blog (link here) recently which looks back at the history of Latvia and the trauma caused by the State. I feel is helpful for understanding some of the realities of lapsing into totalitarianism of any kind. Many might wonder how it is relevant today since the Soviet State is long gone, but it isn't totally. It still lives on in the memories of people still alive today. Also some of the tactics of the time, such as telling the truth, mixed with lies to confuse people so that no one knows what truth is should send shivers down our spine and alert us to the need to take action. We mustn't become immune to this and slide inadvertently into a hellish world worse than we have now.
George glowing in the sunshine

Monday, 15 October 2018


No not an alpaca. My youngest grandchild giving me a
This will be rather a short post this week, especially as I haven't got any pictures from Ian. I left him at the village bus station, as I headed into Riga for an early morning flight on the Wednesday. I have to confess I'm in disgrace for my farewell, or rather lack of it. We had been busy all morning and I literally had about half an hour to pack for a three week trip and shower at the apartment before setting off for the bus. I was a tad flustered because I had left some stuff in the caravan I intended to take with me. To add insult to injury there were some young guys sat in the seats I would normally sit in and I hadn't realised he was waiting to wave me off. Whoops! I only realised when I saw him wending his way over to the other side of the road. In my defence he normally sits in the car and rarely gets out when I head off, although it is usually for a shorter trip.

The older of the two granddaughters with her lovely curly
hair. This was taken by my grandson
My trip is to see family and a two day seminar later on in the month. At the moment I'm having fun visiting my son and his family in the South of England. As usual I have picked up a cold from nature's little petri dishes, aka the grandchildren, but fortunately nothing serious this time around.

So here are some of the highlights.

I was shown how to jump on the trampoline by my five year old grandson and I accomplished a bounce down onto my behind to a stand up position without killing myself in the process. He was very proud of me.

No not a selfie, but again taken by my grandson
I have accompanied my daughter-in-law to school drop offs and pick ups (not all of them as I had a slow start to the morning this morning due to my cold - lots of sympathy please! Sniffle! Sniffle! Okay not too much just a bit will do) and been to toddlers with her and the youngest two

Our meal that we made along with the story cook book we
I looked after the oldest two grandchildren while Mum and Dad had a night away to celebrate their anniversary. The children were very good, especially as I don't get to see them very often. We decided what to cook for our evening meal from a story cook book and then went shopping for the ingredients we needed. I did foul up a bit by buying frozen pastry and forgetting how long it takes to defrost, so we ate cakes we made first. I haven't bought that stuff in years. I was told after the event that there should be some non-frozen pastry too. Well you learn something new everyday. I was surprised at what you can buy in the supermarkets these days. It is hard to believe that people actually buy ready-made bread and butter pudding. Why, when it is so easy?

I had my first G&T tonight. My kids are leading me astray.

Asleep again
My youngest granddaughter keeps falling asleep on me. Not sure why but kind of cute.

I have read books to the grandchildren and been read to by the oldest.

I've also been learning some Makaton (sign language), as my granddaughter is struggling to speak clearly due to a problem with her hearing. We still chat along though and I can sympathise. I have never really had good hearing myself and with a cold I'm even worse. I usually need to see someone's face to be sure what they are saying at the best of times.

Still blowing bubbles
We Skyped Ian today too so our young grandson can see the alpaca he adopted. He calls Brencis, his alpaca. Freddie was much more inquisitive though. Our grandson wanted to see the chickens too and was amazed to see how many we have. He couldn't quite understand why we don't have chicks at this time of the year though.

A cheeky grin
While on Skype I found out that Ian has got on with quite a few jobs. There is a new door on our root cellar that fits better. There is a new training pen ready to halter train the cria in the winter. He's also sorted out a fence for the boys to give them new grass to eat as they have eaten the field right down now. In other words I think he gets on far better without me being around and getting chatting.

Monday, 8 October 2018

New arrivals

Meet Valeria, Vanessa, Silla, Antonia and Amanda
The first part of the week was spent preparing for our new arrivals. Our five new alpaca girls arrived from Sweden on Thursday. They took a little persuasion to get out of the van and into our paddock, but at least we have a better idea how to handle the animals these days. Fortunately the rain that we had the day before wasn't bad enough to stop the small horse truck from driving on and getting close enough to the paddock to be able to herd them straight in. Not quite sure how we would have managed if they had to be led from the roadside up. I don't think they would have been very cooperative.
Our usual view of them, in other words running off

Vanessa, in the front is Veronica's daughter and half sister to
Brencis. She also seems to have good fleece like her mum. 
I say our girls, two of them are ours, Valeria and Amanda, the other three are either to be sold or we start to pay for them in six months time. We will let them settle in first though before we make any final decisions. We like to know what the animals are like before we would consider selling. The girls are still quite timid of us and so we have to use a rope going from the fence to the alpaca house door to stop us having to just chase them round and round the alpaca house. At least Ian has devised a way of being able to do this on his own, but ideally he would like them to follow him in for food, like the others do, but so far they don't seem interested in the pellet food. It is quite important they go in as the sheep camp lost one of their sheep this week and people think it could be a wolf. DNA checks are being made to see if that was the case.
Valeria is Vanessa's daughter and so we have three generations
of alpacas here on our farm now.

Silla is the little one and is Snowdrop's granddaughter. That
makes Aggie her Aunty, even though she is older by one year.
It was nice to have the new girls arrive on the 4th October, as it was 36 years to the day that Ian and I met. So a bit of an anniversary present. We met on the first day of the first term of the first year at Sheffield University. We also celebrated our 34th Wedding Anniversary on the 6th October. We did intend on going out to the hotel to have a meal to celebrate. Instead we ended up at the bakery for a cup of tea and a piece of cake as the hotel was shut on the day we went and we haven't had much time since.
This picture was taken shortly after they had arrived. They
will now wander around the paddock on their own and not always in a pack now, so they are starting to relax.

An unwelcome visitor, probably some pig damage. We have
a few more around the land, but mainly close to the forest
edge or like this, in the forest itself, so not too bad and
we can live with that. We have also had visits from deer.
There has often been a fawn browsing and sometimes I see
another one or their mother too.
Last week I said at least the geese haven't migrated yet! Well I spoke too soon, they are definitely heading south now. Over the last few days there have been several flocks fly over. So that's it so they say - two weeks till winter. The forecast for the next ten days though is for more nice weather. I guess it means that Ian can get on with more jobs while I'm away before the winter weather sets in. We have had some rain at least, but our top pond gets a puddle and then it all drains away again, so everywhere is still dry under a moist top layer. I left beds of soil exposed, just so the rain will actually soak in before adding a mulch layer. Not that the mulch layer got added, it was just that was the plan. The annoying thing is that the day it decided to rain properly was the day that the sheep were destined for a rendezvous with the freezer. That will now have to wait until I get back from the UK in November.
Sunrise one morning when I was going to feed the chickens

Some rather large carrots, but still tasty. The ones on the
right are rather odd. One looks like a family of carrots and
the last one reminds me of a ballerina, well the legs anyway.
I have named it dancing queen and it went in the pot for our
evening meal tonight.
It has been another busy week trying to get jobs done before I go. The chickens are now all in the greenhouse. We got the last lot in today. The caravan is in too. We had hoped to get a new building to house the caravan in over the winter, but the new alpaca house took precedence over that, so back again it goes into the greenhouse. I had hoped to get two beds of carrots dug up, but I had to help Ian with getting the last lot of chickens in as well, so only one got finished. Mind you, I am surprised we got any carrots at all due to the drought. Not all the seeds germinated, but those that did have mainly grown into enormous carrots. Some have split badly and won't keep, but many of the carrots are fine and I think we have as many as last year after all.
Ian made this bogey to transport the chicken arks and this
year he added a hitch so that he could use the tractor to help
us. We had further to move them this year and up hill. It did
make the job easier to some extent but I had to walk behind
the arks as they still needed to be kept up off the floor. In the end
we used the other smaller bogey too, but that was a bit of a
challenge with one ark as a base board snapped in the process
of moving it. Sill we managed in the end.

This ark involved a complete remodel of part of the greenhouse to
fit it in. It will be easier to get in and out of the area this year to
feed the chickens compared to last year. It also holds more
chickens in this than the arks.

The arks have worked well for us and lasted. The oldest
one on the right is probably about 6 years old now.

The caravan is in. Of course the greenhouse looks a bit of a
tip again.
I found this little leaf chap in the forest whilst looking for
We managed to get some squashes taken back to the apartment. It's a bit of squash in more ways than one. That's the problem with the large squashes. They used to make a nice autumnal display in our spare apartment, but since we sold the other one there is less space for my autumnal display. The extra marrows will have to wait until I get back. When we are living in the other apartment, rather than in the caravan, we will have a wood burning stove to dehydrate food on, or I can reduce the squashes down to pulp for the freezer. Another job I tried to do was to have a go at making some felt but haven't really had time to finish if off. I did get some more botanical printing done ready for a felted project but again it will be another job that will have to wait until I get back.
I love podding beans. Such a variety of colours. Apparently
these are the beefiest beans, so we will see later on what
they actually taste like.
The trees around us are starting to turn qiote fast now. This
year the autumn colours are stunning. I wished we had taken the camera with us on our trip out.
One of the problems we have had is that our car is still in for repairs. The guy tried to send us some pictures of the work but he hadn't got the right email address, so Ian went to the garage to see for himself. He was very impressed with the work they were doing as they have taken it apart and re-doing the bodywork bit by bit. Each part has to dry in between though and that is why it is taking so long. One day I decided I would just have to drive this old van they had lent us but when I got in I found out I was too short to drive it. I have driven a box van before and that was fine, but there was no way I was going to be able to drive this vehicle without some serious modifications. This has meant I couldn't just hop into the village to get jobs done, I've had to wait for Ian to be able to take me.
More beans, mainly stripey ones this time. These aren't
grown for their taste but just because I love the
different beans. At least with beans there isn't the disappointmen
of opening them up and seeing many eaten by something

Our friend's farm has a lovely view of the lake. It is as hilly
as our ski hill.
On Sunday we went for a visit to the other alpaca farm nearby. They are rather disappointed as it looks like the alpacas they had bought are not pregnant, or at least the ones they thought were due soon. They still have some lovely animals though, with sweet natures, so that is something. They wanted to chat about things they were worried about and so it was easier to chat when looking at the animals. We were fed well and I managed to pick up some presents for the grandchildren at the same time. Now I just have to see how many of them I can pack in my bags, the presents that is, not the alpacas.
Another sunrise but this time through the fog. Excuse the mess
in front but the other pictures didn't look as atmospheric

Monday, 1 October 2018

Countdown to winter

A winking Aggie and Josefs
I know, I know. Summer has only just finished about a week ago and now I'm talking about winter. The trouble is once the chill sets in there is a limited amount of time and a lot to do. I wish I could say all the potatoes are in, especially since the middle of my upper back is protesting slightly, but they are not. The ache in my back is nothing too bad, just stiff and I can't quite get comfy. Still only another row left to do and the weather was glorious today - if a tad cool at times. The squashes were all picked this week too, as were the tall beans and some of the short beans. Slowly, step by step the garden is being wrapped up for winter. I even got some more herbs in to dry. Normally that would have been finished ages ago but it has been a funny year, weather wise. My lavender is flowering now, when usually I would expect it to have gone over long ago.
I tried some new corn this year. They are glass gem
corn and there is a bit of a story behind it. You can see
it here - link. Quite different.

My beans were new too and I was a little surprised to find out
they were blue spotted beans. I was expecting them to be purple

Not many carrots germinated this
year due to the drought, but the
ones that did are huge. Some have
suffered with splitting though but
I'm surprised to get this much.

On a mission. That's me in the background. The beds in front
had squashes in
I have done other winter preparation jobs too this week. I sorted out the greenhouse, so that it is nearly ready for the chickens to go in. They have to go in this next week before I go away to the UK, otherwise they would be out there until November in the cold and damp and Ian wouldn't be able to move them on his own. At least in the greenhouse they will be on a deep bed of hay or something like that. We are gradually moving them nearer to the greenhouse so we don't have as far to cart them when the time comes for them to go in. Not long ago I shifted a wood pile into the horse box that Ian had chopped and stacked for drying earlier in the year. This week we re-stacked it in the basement at the apartment and the rest of it in the outside wood store we have there, ready for the winter heating season.
That's a lot of squash plants.
Still on a mission. I am clearing out the old cardboard and
laying it down on the beds that will have alpaca manure piled
on it over winter to make our new potato beds for next year.
Despite the drought the manured beds worked a treat. The
potatoes grew well in it, but not as well under the straw. On
one bed we didn't have time to put manure down and so I
used straw. That bed was weedier and I got one bucket out
of the first 2/3rds of the bed and one bucket from the remaining
third where there was manure.

The wood stack is now empty and waiting for the next load to
be chopped and stacked over winter
So the new shelves are on the top with the sacks of fleece.
Now Ian can get to the shelves underneath
Ian meanwhile has spent much of the time in the barn, constructing shelves to store wood and generally tidying up. The problem has been that we have had that much stored in there that we can't get to, that it didn't get used. Now it is much more organised. Along with solving the storage issue he has been finishing of the newest alpaca house by making and hanging some doors ready for the new girls coming from Sweden later on this week.
More shelves on this side too

We had some rough weather over this last week, so we
covered the horse box as best we could. It is amazing what
can be achieved with tarpaulins, baler twine and towing straps.
Mind you, the place looks a bit like a junk yard. 
I even had time to do some writing. Well actually it was a case of I had to do some writing to finish off the paper that I had to unexpectedly re-submit. I mentioned it last week in the blog. The good news is that it is now re-submitted so I hope I don't have to wait absolutely ages to find out the result of that re-submission. While I was on a roll I also started on an abstract for a conference. I have to do two before the end of the month but would like to get them out of the way this week. The problem is that potato picking got in the way, so it is not finished. I was quite pleased with the title "The dirt under my fingernails and a cup of tea: A story of relationship and embeddedness." Well my supervisor loved the story, but didn't think it was entirely suitable and had some comments on the content. I shall get back to that soon as I think with a bit of tweaking I can allay his worries about it. Maybe!
It doens't help with this around. This is our replacement
vehicle. Our car is in the garage for bodywork repairs. 
Major excitement! We had a puddle in our pond. It didn't last

These ones lasted though. It's a good job we relocated the
fish though.

These are our enormous cranberries. The small one at the
bottom is actually a reasonable size cranberry under normal
conditions. The other ones are like little crab apple size.
Gradually I have also been getting my thesis sorted, at least the notes, to start the actual writing process. Once I have all the notes written, then I will do my usual trick of printing it all out, cutting it up into short paragraphs and then rearranging it on the floor. Not the most eco-friendly way of doing it, but it is the only way I can visualise it and get it to make sense. It means I can group bits together better as it is only by seeing the whole of it that the structure comes together.
I'm sure Aggie is having a laugh

Josefs has such long eyebrow hairs
So little by little we are getting ready. There was a bit of a scare earlier on in the week when we thought we might have heard geese flying overhead, but if it was, it was only a small group and not the huge numbers we see when we know that winter is definitely on the way. We keep seeing some swans and still the occasional flock of cranes, but geese - no!. Phew! So winter is not arriving very soon.
Mari in contemplative mood

A curious Jakobs

The boys on their well eaten paddock. Probably do them some
good, some of them got quite portly.

So pleased to see that Herkules is finally well again. His skin
has all healed up.



Freddie - he always looks like he needs a good hug

Glorious colours

The raspberries are still hanging on in there after the frosts
but haven't got around to picking any just lately

The mallow is still flowering away

First time we actually have hops

Michaelmas daisies


Reminds me of the colours in Botswana Agate

Quite an amazing skyscape.