Monday, 27 May 2019

And finally!

This week there are lots of pictures of clouds. Partly because
I forgot to look for my camera charger, I keep forgetting to
put my phone in my pocket or use it when I'm cleaning out
the alpaca houses if I do have it with me. These clouds
looked promising, but there was no rain from these on our
Well what a time! We've travelled a lot, been tired and exhausted, and looked after in heaps. Well that sums up three weeks. There is no way I am going to cover each week in the way I normally do. I still have so much to do, but just wanted to let you know a little about what has happened over the time I've been absent from the blog.
Geese heading north. A bit late, but
I guess better late than never.

Yes there are some alpacas in the distance. My morning
coffee break view
The last time I blogged properly was just after shearing our boys. Our girls still needed shearing and we were running around trying to get jobs done on the farm. It was a bit of a performance. We started off attempting to shear one group of girls and sheared one before deciding that there may be a problem with the shears - they are getting old. The problem was, did we carry on or not? After a phone call to a company an hour and a half away we hurriedly packed up and went to buy a new pair of shears. We were off to shear at a mini-zoo the next day, so couldn't risk the shears not working.
Now that looks promising for a rainy day ahead. Nope!
Wishful thinking, although there was rain, but not over us.

Looking in the direction of the other girls. 
After our first commercial shear of the season, Ian spent the day sorting out on the farm and preparing for the week ahead. I took the early bus into Riga for a conference. I had intended on getting some work done in the morning but instead spent the time looking for new shoes. I didn't think trainers - no matter how smart - looked particularly professional. I did find some rather comfy ones eventually. I drove back from Riga in a friend's car, as he was heading off from the airport. Worked well for us both, only I rolled into bed rather late.
Rain to the north!

Alright for some!
Another early morning and this time we headed up to Estonia, the new shears were working well. They had a bit more power than one set of shears Ian has, but none of the downsides that the relatively big, heavy professional ones have. The main problems are a switch that is not easy to switch off if the animal starts fussing and the vent that blows hair fibres up into my, and the animal's, face when working on the head and neck. We were hosted well as usual, something we really enjoy about visiting people again and again. A friend of ours dropped by to take pictures and take notes, so watch this space to see what happens with those.
I just wanted to go to the loo in
peace, but no! Eyre wanted to
accompany me, and loudly at that.

It's amazing that anything can grow with the lack of rain
we've had but the grass gets the moisture when its long
due to the cool nights. Mind you, these are supposed to be
grass pathways with raised beds. I haven't time to mow
them. Might be good enough for hay by the time Ian
gets back.
I was back to the conference on the Saturday on yet another early bus, but fortunately just a half day this time. I did get to practice a bit of my Danish again as there were quite a good proportion of the delegates from Denmark. I hope to go to the next conference in April next year as it will be Copenhagen. So maybe I can get to visit my friends there.
The dandelions are nearly
finished now.

Still no rain, believe it or not!
The rest of the weekend was sorting out and catching up kind of days before heading off early again to Estonia. We even managed to fit in finishing off the one group of girls we started the last time. The food in Estonia was excellent. We did tell them off though after a rather good lunch - and I mean a GOOD lunch, that it is not the best way to get shearing done in the afternoon. We were all stuffed and so bending over to do the shearing was not so easy. We joked that next time we were on bread and cheese. We were saddened to hear they are thinking of winding down as they are beginning to feel their age. We would love to take their alpacas, but we just simply haven't got the space. We are beginning to wonder if there is a real need for a sanctuary - not necessarily to rescue alpacas but to take in beloved alpacas from those who have no one to pass their farms onto. Let's hope by the time we get to that stage there is someone who has ambitions of raising our gorgeous creatures.
This caterpillar is a monster in

Rain to the south
On the way back from Estonia we had a new group to shear. They were inexperienced at handling alpacas and so it took a bit longer. They also had one of the most spitty, squealing, weeing alpacas that we have come across and that's saying something. They are not all like that, but a pain when they are. I think it put off the young sheep shearer who had come to watch and help with the translation. I think the family had intentions of getting him to do their alpacas next year.
Yes more rain clouds, but not over us

Rain to the east
We finally got to shear the last of our own girls but that was not without mishap. The new shears that had been working so well and Ian was so happy with, suddenly went pop. The motor blew!  We had sheared three of four alpacas in that group.  It was not a good moment! I sent Ian off to phone the company and explain what had happened. We managed with the old ones and just accepted that the combs and cutters had to be changed more than we liked. It was getting expensive. The following day after shearing at friends who live close by, relatively speaking, we went to take the shears back. The company were very apologetic, but these were brand new shears, only just released by the company a few months ago, so they weren't sure what they could do with them. It is now in the hands of the companies.
This rose was a present a couple of years ago. We were
worried that it hadn't survived the winter, but here it
is starting to grow again.

Shearing at Nemuno Alpakos. It looks drastic, but an
animal that is properly restrained is unlikely to get hurt. They
will also feel much better in the warmer days of summer,
without their thick and very warm fleece.
Another early morning and this time off to Lithuania to shear for a larger breeder and then doing a demonstration shear the following afternoon. We sort of missed lunch and so when they offered to feed us before going off to our final shear of the day, we accepted. It was one of those lovely moments, since everyone else was engaged in a meeting of the Lithuanian alpaca association, they set a table just for the two of us under the apple trees. It felt so civilised. We had elk sausages and mash potatoes.

The joy of pansies, self-seeded ones
at that.
It was substantial enough to set us off on our way anyway. It was a good job as the already difficult shearing conditions, i.e. lots of grit and sand in the fleeces, was about to get worse. After we finished the guy was very perceptive and said, "Do you want a shower, coffee or to eat first." Difficult choice, only tea was more in order at that time of night. Anyway we opted for a shower as we were pretty grubby due to the dusty fleeces. We slept well.

Rain at last
The next day we headed for our final Lithuanian destination. It took a bit of finding but we got there in the end. The problem is that they didn't want to go ahead with the shearing as another group that were meant to be bringing more alpacas didn't show up. They were very apologetic and offered to pay for fuel costs and asked if we needed feeding before going. We accepted and really we were quite relieved. We were tired. We then spent a pleasant time, under more apple trees having lunch and talking about alpacas before heading back.

We did manage to get the chickens out of the greenhouse
before Ian went away. It was helpful when it was hot, but
I guess now they might be feeling the chill more.
There was only a day and a half for Ian to get ready before he headed off to Hungary to shear alpacas there. Which is where he is at the moment. So I'm left in charge of the alpacas and the gardens on our farm and at the camp nearby. The weather has been incredibly dry. We have had bits of rain, enough to keep alpacas in to keep fleeces dry for shearing, but not really enough to water the ground and really get the grass growing. Our ponds were continuing to disappear and the rain we rely on to water the alpacas was not forthcoming. The forecasts promised rain, but they never made it to us.
It might look dreary, but when we need rain as much as
we do, it is a wonderful sight
With Ian away and the thought of having to go backwards and forwards for water, I asked the nearby camp if they would be willing to bring some. My knight in a dusty tractor turned up later on in the day with a container to half fill our 1m3 container. Now why had I not thought of it before? Of course after one more day of no rain, it started raining. We've had two days now with rain for a good part of the day. It's a bit dark and depressing, but it's rain and that is more important. I am so relieved as it is painful to watch the garden die and the fields dry up. I just hope I'm not praying for it to stop for haymaking. Such is the life of a farmer.

Monday, 20 May 2019

Nearly there

I hope all is well in blog land. Although I have finished helping Ian with the shearing now, we have a few things we have to do before he goes on his travels, so no blog again tonight.

Monday, 13 May 2019

Tis the season to be shearing

Oh yes! We have been here there and everywhere and so this blog will be late again. Catch you later

Monday, 6 May 2019

All things alpaca

Jakobs and Josefs in their new paddock
I mentioned last week that we had just moved Josefs and Jakobs to join the big boys. They have settled in quite nicely and paired up with George and Freddie. Josefs finally stopped moaning around mid-week. Bless him! Aggie wasn't very happy with me either. I had to go and encourage the girls back into their paddock one day before it started to rain and she pounced around the field, tutting away and let me know I was definitely not her favourite person. It was me who led Josefs away and anyway she is much more forgiving of Ian, being her favourite human.
At first they were a little bit separate but eventually they
integrated with the others

As you can see it has been pretty dusty
So yes we did finally got some decent rain this week, of course it arrived just before we planned to shear and so had to keep the alpacas in for a day and a half. It wasn't a deluge, which is probably good but it could have been more and it could have been a tad warmer. In fact at one point it snowed with big fat flakes. This wasn't great as we had a big group of 5 adults and 10 kids to visit the alpacas at the time, but at least the big children had fun trying to catch the flakes in their mouths. Oh the joys of childhood. I also had to lend my rather ancient warm coat to one of the adults as she had lent hers to one of the children. A week ago that wouldn't have been necessary, so I think we are all feeling the cold - I've even reverted to the thermals again.
The number of lorries going past do not help

This is what we expect in the middle of summer, not early
With having to keep the alpacas in to keep them dry they were in a moaning mood for our visitors. At least being alpacas it was more amusing than annoying. We had another group of three after that, so they got to moan to two lots of visitors but were well fed in the process. The last group wanted to take the alpacas for a walk, but despite the rain stopping for them, the grass was wet so we couldn't risk it. We did warn them first and they talked about coming back later on in the year. As it was rather chilly it was perhaps not so bad to have to show them the alpacas inside rather than standing outside getting even colder than we already did.
The boys in a fog of dust

Would there happen to be a wagtail nest in the wood pile
again? By the way, we saw the first swallow of the season
today. Ian tried to direct them to one of the three alpaca
houses but not sure that it listened. We do hope it does as
the flies this afternoon were atrocious. Amazing what a
bit of rain will do
The threat of rain had us running around doing some preparation. Ian sowed some grass seed where the pig damage is and harrowed it in and then we went over to the nearby camp to put mulch on the tilled beds so the soil didn't wash down the hill. Ian has tilled the soil across the contour of the hill to reduce such events but even so, if there is a possibility of a deluge, it would still take the soil with it and so we made sure the mulch was on to slow the effects of the rain and allow it to soak in better.
Yes I should think you are embarrassed for harassing poor
little birds

We were a little worried about Josefs as he did seem rather
agitated and wanted to get back to his mum of course. The
problem is that even fairly young alpacas have been known
to mate and we can't take the risk. He has stopped trying to
escape now anyway thank goodness.
Ian needs to sort out the this year's application for EU subsidies on our land but the times the lady is open in our village are a bit inconvenient this week as we are shearing at a mini Zoo near Riga. We decided to go to a nearby village instead, but when we got there there was quite a queue. The queue also did not move very fast either, this was partly because the lady didn't turn up until after we did and even after she arrived it did not move fast. I had an online Skype meeting that I needed to attend, so we had to give up. Hopefully we'll get it sorted next week. We have until the 22nd.
And now it is spot the difference time. Jakobs and Josefs.
Of course the first thing they usually do is have a roll
after being sheared. Sigh!

A close up of Josefs. We were surprised by how dark he was
This weekend was the annual Spring market. We've had a few heavy frosts just lately and because we have an unheated greenhouse it took quite a few of our little tomato and pepper plants, even though they were well covered, so I decided to get some from the market. I also got a few plants that were further on than ours such as cabbages to get a good start to the season. I have quite a few planted up, but they have been growing slower than I would like. I may also have spent some more money on plants - well actually a lot of money for me. We got more berry producing bushes that make good hedging plants and a few more herbs to add to my collection. I also got a plant that translated as mushroom grass and yes the leaves do taste of mushrooms. Interesting anyway.
We didn't realise how spotty Josefs was either. He looks even
darker from above. 

As usual Turbjørn was first to be sheared. I'm sure he laughs
at the others
Today was the first day of shearing for us and Ian is not happy. We seem to have caught the Estonian disease of needing lots of combs and cutters because they have been going blunt so quickly. It could be due to the dry weather we had last year and earlier on this year. I'm beginning to wonder if they would have been better outside having a shower, but then they would have been wet for shearing and that wouldn't have been good either. Mr. P was the worst or at least looked the worse, He was also the worst to shear.
A rather dusty Mr. P

Herkules looked rather fed up after his shearing
It was nice that we had help this year. It is a lady and her son who are thinking of buying two of our alpacas and they wanted to see the shearing process. They also had lessons in how to catch alpacas. They weren't meant to be having lessons in catching alpacas, but we had escapees today, not just once but twice. The first escapees were from the training pen where we had put just over half the boys ready for later. There isn't enough room to pen them all up inside now there are so many of them. It is only a training pen and the gate is not the best, well it was even worse than that as it turned out. We let the first sheared alpaca out of the alpaca house - Turbjørn as we always shear him first because he is so nervous - and the next thing we know, Josefs comes running across to see who this new strange alpaca is. Hmmmph! That wasn't meant to happen.
Tellus looks a lot smarter now, well if you don't look too closely
as he has so many fat lumps on him that he always looks a bit
of a mess after shearing. At least he isn't actually as fat as he
has been. That should be good for him.

Freddie and George are still pretty much the same, but you
can see how much darker Josefs is as he is the one with
his head down at the back. Brencis is his usual mucky
colour, having just found somewhere to roll no doubt.
We left the boys out to roam around until after lunch, we then herded all the boys into the training pen usng a rope and then took the unsheared ones across to the alpaca house. Only I managed to let go of Mr. P's lead and he ran off, but I managed to catch him okay. Just as we were finishing off the penultimate alpaca the guy who had come to help us said that there were some alpacas outside the fence. Sure enough, three of Vanessa's crew were stood on the outside of the fence, eyeing up the boys with their new haircuts. Not good news, they are perhaps the most difficult to catch as they are still a bit nervous of us.
So this was the photo from last week's blog of Jakobs

Compared with today's photo. He's still got the little heart
shaped brown lips and big eyes

Freddie close up
Anyway out came the rope again and the four of us panned out holding the rope. The girls headed straight back to where they had escaped from. That at least was encouraging. Ian moved the half demolished electric fence to prevent them going down the bank and we moved in towards the girls with the rope slowly. They decided that it was better to be inside the paddock area and they were then shut in. Phew! Our helpers were quite surprised it was so easy as they have had to recapture their own cows before now and taken a couple of hours to do that. We were just pleased it turned out to be so easy with the girls. The boys were still in the paddock area and unlikely to escape from that, so not too bad. The girls were more free to roam further.