Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Now let me tell you a story...

A really weird cloud formation over our land this week
"Are you sitting comfortably? Now I'll begin". Well that is how "Listen With Mother" used to begin, a radio programme for children under five that ran for many years in the UK. I'm not sure if I ever used to listen to it, but the words are a familiar way to start a story. So if you are sitting comfortably I shall begin this week's story. Once upon a time and not so far away, I met a lady at the Latvian Rural Parliament. We got chatting and swapped contacts with the result that - as usually happens these days - we became Facebook friends. During the week she sent me a message to tell me that a well-known former journalist and author was doing a talk at a bookshop in Riga that sells English books. She was rather sad she couldn't go. Neither could I go either. Too much to do at this time of the year.
Chanel looking rather too chilled out considering she is due
any day now

Still very much pregnant and so the wait continues

Baby swallows. They flew the nest
I still read through the details for the event and then did an internet search to find out more. He sounded an interesting chap. I then saw that the gentleman was actually going to be visiting the Struve Geodetic Point that happens to be two minutes down the road from us. This point is part of a chain of points used to estimate the radius of the earth in the 1800s. Interestingly enough the first point established was in Tartu, a place I visit often of course. This point is on the UNESCO Heritage List, but would you believe, we haven't even visited it, although we keep meaning too. Anyway, this was too much of an opportunity to pass up, so I sent a cheeky email to the bookshop to say that if the author wished to join us at our farm, we would love to meet him.
Ian found a wagtails nest in the alpaca house this week. It was
not in the safest place and in danger of being stood on. At least
they were safe from the cats. Later Ian found them in a safer
place on one of the pieces of wood and then later on under the
feeders. The great thing is that the wagtail parents s were
hanging around Chanel and seemed to be catching flies that
were bothering her. Hopefully these little chaps will be joining
the parents and making life easier for the alpacas. We do wonder
if they normally nest in the alpaca house and we've just never
found them before. There is usually one hanging around and it
is certainly safer than the wood piles where the cats usually
find them.
Under the feeder

Close up of a baby wagtail

They haven't read the books! Alpacas do not like long grass
The first surprise was when the bookshop owners replied to say they would pass on the message and do we have a contact number. I duly passed on my phone number and thought no more about it. The next day I had a phone call. Yes the author would like to call in, will it be okay in two hours time? What!!!!! Oh yes! Of course it is. After I rang off I suddenly remembered I was meant to be having a Skype meeting, or at least I thought I did. After a frantic phone call to my boss I found out the meeting was the following week and so it wasn't a problem. Annoyingly the invitations to the meetings seem to disappear from my inbox if I click on accept and do not reply with a comment. I then get a reminder only 30 minutes before the event - not terribly useful. I also remember this happens every time about 30 seconds after clicking on accept and before writing it down.
Neither are they supposed to eat oak leaves

Having a good scratch though is acceptable

Digging up molehills for peaty soil for potting on plants
After the panic I trundled on down to the barn where Ian was working and explained we were about to have a visitor and since it was a particularly naff day with showers it would be a good idea to tidy up the greenhouse. So the next couple of hours we spent sorting the place out, washing up and making scones. As you do! It needed doing anyway. The author was a true gentleman who was happy with whatever we offered and was utterly polite in a quintessentially English way. It seemed so utterly bizarre to be eating strawberries and scones and drinking cups of tea in the middle of rural Latvia with a famous author and his driver, but that is what makes our own journey so fascinating.
My walnut tree is starting to get going now, finally!

And my waterlilly is thriving too. 

Chanel was definitely uncomfortable this day, so Ian was up
having a chat. Unfortunately all settled down and so we
still wait
We had quite a long chat about this and that. We found out he was fairly familiar with places we knew as a reporter in his early days. He even knew what a flow cytometer was - which is the type of specialist machine Ian used to work on in his time as a lab technician. He was also interested in my research as some aspects fitted in with something he was doing, so it seemed particularly serendipitous for all of us. After a lovely time and of course a visit to see the alpacas before the rain curtailed that, he had to go. He nearly didn't leave us, not because we were having such a great time, but because the tyre was flat on his car and Ian ended up changing it in the rain. It was a good job Ian spotted it, as that wouldn't have ended well. At least the gentleman and his driver managed to get to the meeting in Riga that evening and I understand it went very well.
Still waiting but not for the rain

It all looks like quite a dramatic backdrop, but still most of
it is heading around us and not over us. We have had one good
downpour today though

Having a jaw!

Cut and baled and greening up now after the rain.
Besides sitting around talking to well-known folks we have got two lots of hay baled up and under cover before any rain, so more Crown Green Bale-ing. We are now a third of the way through the amount we need for the following year, which is good. What is not so good is the forecast this week is for showers all week with cold temperatures. So while a large portion of Europe swelters our weather deteriorates. Hopefully it will warm up again and we can get the rest of the haymaking done.
Little helpers! Ladybird larvae are also voracious eaters of

I'm hoping these are pupating ladybirds, otherwise I have an
infestation of something else.

It is not so obvious in this light, but
I love the contrasts of purples and
yellow plants with the different
greens. I'll try again on a sunny day
There have been plenty of visitors this week too and one coach load were from Austria. We went to collect a friend of ours to translate from English to Latvian so the guide could translate into German as requested. In the event, most of them spoke perfectly good English, especially as many were quite young. Many of them were also from farms and so were quite interested in the care of the alpacas. Although there are many alpacas in Austria, there are not many where this group come from. Fortunately our friend enjoyed chatting along to the young folks anyway and so was a break from the usual routine.
Now if anyone knows what this is, I would
be grateful. It is a strong smelling herb of
some description. I bought some herb
seeds and planted them up last year. Two
sorts I cannot remember the name of.

Just like his father, Brencis takes a good photo in the
dark alpaca house. We couldn't do that with Mr. P
We also had a visit from my crazy young friend. Only she is not quite so crazy these days, nor so young. We both work remotely and so there was one point where we both needed to get on with some work and so we shared a co-working space, with our computers set up on a picnic table just outside the greenhouse where we could see the alpacas and using my phone as a hotspot to connect to the internet. It worked rather well. There was one point though we were startled to see a young alpaca running free.
Not often we can get a good photo of Mr. P but I do like this one

Yes we had rain and rainbows today
At the time we had another set of visitors, a mum and young son. They wanted to take an alpaca for a walk and so Ian sorted out two Freddie and Josefs, so they can go together. The idea was the young guy would hold the rope with his mother taking the end of it and Ian walk with the other one. Unfortunately she didn't hang onto her end and Freddie got away towards the end of the walk. I stopped what I was doing and walked up to Freddie slowly. He had a long lead and so I was able to grab the end and reel him in slowly. I held onto him until Ian turned up. It wasn't too big a deal really because Freddie knew where to go and just wanted to get back to his other mates.
There have been some great cloudscapes this week

Some of the new girls do enjoy sitting
in this hollow next to the alpaca house
to keep cool on sunny days
He wasn't the only escapee this week. Vanessa's lot have got out twice this week. It seems they need a reminder of what the electric fence is for. We think the grass had got so long they didn't see it and walked through it the first time. The second time they decided the fence wasn't worth bothering with and headed straight out anyway. They were confined to barracks on both occasions. They will need confining a little longer too as Ian needs to make some more wooden posts and the ground is still too hard, despite the bit of rain we've had to hammer them in properly.
Confined to barracks

More interesting bugs
My friend and I weren't on the computer all the time though. She also picked strawberries. We always think of her when picking strawberries, as that was one of the first things she did when she visited us many years ago as a young teenager. In fact she picked so many that by the end of her time with us, she had gone off them - at least for a short while. Unfortunately she wasn't around long enough to eat too many of them and I took her to the bus station yesterday to send her on her way. She maybe back soon and if not, then we will no doubt catch up on her journey another year.

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