Monday, 25 February 2019

How Romantic!

This will be two weeks rolled into one. Not because there wasn't much happening, but I shall condense it for you.

The week before last I was busy trying to get as much work academic work done as possible, as we were heading over to the UK for 10 days. Ian had a lot to do too. There was still snow to clear so paths were visible, there was hay to put in the alpaca houses, poo to clear and so on. All regular chores or work for us now. We also went around to one of the neighbouring farms to talk about their garden, as Ian is going to work for them part time for six months. That will help with our income in preparation for Brexit.
A beautiful winter's day

The snow piled up before we left to make way for
somewhere to park a car
Finally we were as ready as we could be and after letting the alpacas out on a beautiful sunny Valentine's day we set off on our travels. It would have been a glorious journey but I was still working on a paper so I didn't see much of the scenery. We got to the airport in plenty of time for our flight and in true Valentine style we got to sit at opposite ends of the plane due to Ryanair's ridiculous random seat allocation policy that they now have. There is no way we are going to put an extra 4€ into their pocket just to ensure we can sit together when it is not beyond them to alter their algorithms to allow groups to sit together. I had reconciled myself to flying with Ryanair again after they changed their policies to treat customers better, but they are proving that leopards do not change their spots so easily and are slipping again in my already low estimation of them. The problem is that from Riga to the north of England there isn't much choice.
Spring coming early. These buds are likely to get frosted, they
usually do if they start too early.

Almost two!
Anyway we arrived to see our daughter with two of our grandsons. One went all shy and hid behind his Mum and the other was having a paddy on the floor. Little ones are such fun. We were given two cards that were made that morning and the youngest recovered from his paddy enough for us to head for the car. The older one decided that Granda was the best and held his hand and insisted on sitting next to him in the car. We were only staying at my daughter's overnight as we headed off to Scotland the next day for a week's holiday with the family.
Snack time on a walk

And our other greeter

Off on a Zog hunt

Not a bad little abode! No we weren't staying here, this is
Kielder castle
The place we were staying in was an old farm cottage with plenty of room. We stayed in the maid's room at the back of the house and the family had the two big bedrooms in the main section of the house. It was really well equipped and even though the weather was not great we didn't get cabin fever because there were enough rooms and corridors to keep the children active. (Link to the place where we stayed)
Following the Zog trail

Sneaky shot by Ian
There were enough dry days or dry enough days to go on a forest walk nearby and a Zog and Gruffalo trail a little further away. There were also two wet walks. One wet walk was for the youngest to splash in puddles while the older two went swimming; he needed a good long sleep to recover his good humour - well as much good humour that a nearly two can muster. He could go from laughing to an all out paddy in seconds but he could also chatter away quite well, despite is young years. He's still lovely though and can give great hugs. The other wet walk was to a nearby cafe for some fresh air. The older two played together nicely and much time was spent reading books, colouring pictures, making paper airplanes (or adults making the elaborate planes and the kids flying them) and occasionally tearing around the house chasing each other. I wouldn't say it was a relaxing time exactly, but it was time well spent with the kids.
And we're off!

Well sometimes! Carrying hay bales builds up the muscles for
such a job as this.

We found a Gruffalo
 We finished the holiday off with a trip to one of Ian's brothers. It was quite a family reunion as both brothers were there with their wives, some of their grandchildren and one of our nieces. Later one of our son's and his family turned up to add to the mayhem. They had been on holiday at my daughter's since it is a very scenic part of the country and they were just about close enough for a day visit. Much reminiscing and catching up went on before we headed back to my daughter's with my son's family. We were relegated to the lounge since all the bedrooms were taken, but that was fine with us.
And a fox in the deep, dark wood
Learning to ride a bike
The next day the whole of our once little family assembled with the arrival of my youngest son, his family and my parents. That was a total of 10 adults and 8 children. Quite a group. Once again there was more chatting, more eating and more playing with children or rather holding various conversations with them as they milled around and on the whole getting along. Amidst the family gathering a rather wide hedge was removed from the garden. Not quite sure how many were working and how many supervising though. My daughter-in-law, my mother and I took the kids to the park at one point so they could play out, away from the chainsaws. That wasn't without incident though as my little grandson managed to fall between a gap in a climbing frame hitting his head on a pole on the way down, so he was returned to Mum with a rather nice purple egg on his head. Fortunately he wasn't too traumatised as he was up and scrambling around on the climbing frame within minutes after a cuddle.
Well someone's nailed it!

You are supposed to be asleep little man!
The following morning with a slightly reduced number milling around, a fence was put up in place of the hedge. This brightened up the dining room considerably, as the hedge absorbed so much light and the fence reflected the light much better. After a fish and chip lunch it was time for us to head off home and with the final goodbyes, our daughter and her youngest took us back to the airport. We still weren't sat next to each other on this flight, but at least we weren't at opposite ends of the plane. Ian ended up sat next to a lady who had a cuddly alpaca toy with her and so within about five minutes he was showing her videos of our little alpacas play fighting. I also had an interesting chat with the lady next to me, who was married to a Brit and had just been for an early visit to her son and grandchildren before Brexit happens. She usually visits at Easter time but didn't want to risk not seeing them if the planes weren't operating. We rolled back into our home just before 2am the following morning Latvian time and my throat was beginning to tell me that once again the grandkids had passed some bugs onto me. Bless 'em!
Will you lot sit still!

Okay are all in the picture? Check! All smiling? Near enough!
Our eight grandchildren
Such style!
It was nice to come back to a home that wasn't absolutely freezing. Our neighbour had heated the apartment for us so it took the chill off. At least it meant that I didn't have to light the fire straight away in the morning. It's good to have good neighbours.

Ian digging out roots. 

A little leverage was needed for some

Where have you been?

Cat alert!

George looking cute and cuddly

Where've you been?


Amanda looking cute

The snow has dropped somewhat

Who are you?

Well Aggie knows who it is! She came running up to Ian
when he let them out in the morning

Gosh we actually have a pond

Make that two ponds

And a hint of more grass here too. So will spring arrive early
or not?

Monday, 18 February 2019

Heaven and Hell

I'm a little busy this week so no normal post. Instead here is a poem I wrote, inspired (in the loose sense of the word) by yet more news of an environmental catastrophe in the making, as insect numbers collapse.

Heaven and Hell
so close together.
Easy to step
between the two
in the twinkling of an eye.
The cherished land
cared for
a Heaven on Earth.
The scarred and
a Hell on Earth.
Carelessness and cruelty
the earth
to a purgatory
not of its own making
squeezing out life.
In response the land
spits out the sons of men,
creating its own Sabbath
exhausted as it waits
in pain
for the rise
of those
who will care
and cherish
and heal.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Do you smell gas?

Vanessa does look like her mother. 
I forgot to mention last week that there was a serious gas smell in the apartment and before you ask, no it was not me. It kept getting stronger and I even got up one night to check that I had turned the gas cylinder off. I was going to make Ian take the cylinder back to the garage where we had bought it from when he announced he had found the source of the aroma - a dead mouse under the kitchen sink. Phew! In more ways than one. At least the smell has now gone.
Vanessa's mother is Veronica on the left.

Not much in the way of blue skies this week
Something else I forgot to mention was that Ian had some visitors to the land, who arrived in the middle of a blizzard. Ian thought he could hear voices and went to investigate. There was a group of folks, well dressed for the weather, who were heading into our village on foot and had stopped to see our alpacas. It turned out it was our friend from the little village nearby who regularly brings his friends to see us. It was nice of him to pop in again and apparently they all stood outside for an hour and chatted.
And Ian has still had a lot of work clearing snow again

But it has also been melting and so the
drain cleaning work begins too
The first half of the week was back to reading reports and papers, at least I feel I have actually made progress this week and got into production mode. It is always hard to know when to stop. Just one more report! Just one more paper! Before you know where you are, that's another day gone and nothing written. That is certainly how it felt in the first half of the week, but over the last two days I actually got a whole section finished for my paper. Step 2 tomorrow.
See that! That's actually water in the top pond. Okay maybe
seeing water is not a huge deal to most folks but after the
drought this year and the snow, it is still always a shock to
actually see the liquid stuff.

I think someone is going to need their teeth cutting at
shearing time.
I could have perhaps progressed a little more if we hadn't had other stuff to do though. On Friday a specialist vet from Lithuania came. Our friends who live nearby were worried about their animals and a local vet was not sure what to do about an eye problem. We agreed to split the cost of the visit as we felt it was good to get an opinion from a specialist about our alpacas' health and ask about Chanel's skin problem. She suggested that perhaps one or two of them could do with extra zinc and confirmed that Veronica probably has osteo-arthritis and that is why her front legs are beginning to collapse but normal due to her age. She said as long as she wasn't in pain though she was fine but maybe at some point she will need anti-inflammatories. She has taken hair samples and a blood sample from Chanel and we are just waiting to see what they show. She said it probably started with one thing and then progressed to something else.
A cool pose by Silla

Look! Look! That's grass down there. 
She looked at Freddie too as Ian noticed that he had started twisting his foot again on the ice like last year. She said he had weak ligaments on one side of his knee cap. She thinks it is probably due to being damaged at some stage. We did suspect that. Aggie would charge him from time to time when she was in one of her foul moods (Oh! she does not do pregnancy) and had wondered if that had been the cause. It was either that and slipping on the ice but never noticed that happening. We do have to watch him though in case it causes him trouble in later life. Apart from that, all was good. Our own vet came along to chat and hear her opinions so she could learn. I am always so grateful for her desire to learn more about our animals and how to treat them. We couldn't ask for more.
This too will pass!

Jakobs looking cute as always and beginning to look very
fluffy around the face. At least it is not as close to his eyes
as his older brother, George's was when he was little.
In the evening we had a lovely visit from our neighbour from the upstairs apartment to practice her English. It was wonderful to hear about her love of music and how she enjoys playing in the church. She especially enjoys choosing music that she feels will lift the spirits of others. I love to hear her practice and so I can imagine how much others would enjoy it too. She learnt a new word, well kind of new, dissonance. Being a musician she knew what it meant and was happy to know she could use it in other ways too to explain those times when things do not fit well together. I certainly feel a lot of dissonance when listening to the Brexit debate.
George is growing up too. His face is taking on the look of
a more adult looking alpaca and losing his baby looks

Another candidate for teeth cutting.
The following day we were up early and off to Lithuania with our alpaca owner friends to meet up with another alpaca breeder and to pick up some alpaca feed that we are trying. Camelibra is great, but it is expensive. It is also small, which presents us with a couple of issues. Ian cannot use it for training, as it is too small, as well as expensive and it also means some of our alpacas wolf it down and then move onto the trays of the other alpacas. Larger granules slows them down a bit. We are noticing that our alpacas are doing well on Camelibra and so it was nice to see that the alpacas are also doing well on Alpamin. We couldn't see any obvious skin issues, which we would expect to see on at least a couple of them. The lady also said since using it that hers had been fine on it and the fleeces were good too.
The plastic on the greenhouse is starting to struggle with age.
Ian had to patch the great big tear in the middle of this section

We bought some alfalfa pellets to help the girls who are
feeding cria (babies) as they were getting thin, the problem
is that it was turning to powder. This is what it should look
We spent a long time talking, with Russian, Latvian and English all being spoken. It was good for our friend who does not speak much English to be able to find out answers to her questions in Russian. Her daughter then translated from Latvian to English for us. We also spent some time looking at the alpacas of course and eventually we set off. We were in a rush to make it back before dark, which in the end, we didn't manage. Unfortunately Ian didn't slow down quick enough at the sign for the urban speed limit and was spotted by a police car on the opposite side of the road and clocked. Ian figured that we were about to be stopped as soon as they put their blue lights on and sure enough we were. Of course they were not in a rush and we figured that they wouldn't be terribly sympathetic that we had to get back to put our alpacas away. So the alpacas were put away by torchlight. Fortunately they were well behaved and went in reasonably well, even Turbjørn who often won't go in when it's dark.
A third of the bag looked like this though. Ian sent the bags
back but we are still waiting for replacements from the company
Dobele. Not good!