Monday, 25 January 2021

One of those weeks

You look so sympathetic Josefs. Thanks!
First of all we had the modern life, first world problems.

Example 1.
Decide to send seeds to my friend from our joint order that I finally received last week, since we cannot see each other easily at the moment.
Have to sign up on the delivery company's website. Organise post. Pay for postage 
Need to print off address label
Get printer and connect
Go to print. Printer not seen. 
Since this is the first time printing from this new computer I spend half an hour researching the problem
Download driver. Install driver
Still printer not seen
Spend half an hour researching the problem
Restart computer. Restart printer
Ian comes home for lunch because there is no electric out on the land due to electrical work on the lines.
Spend ages with three computers trying to find work arounds. 
Download drivers onto the other two computers. Downloads are slow as the internet is pitiful during the day, now that people are online so much. It seems like it kind of runs out by the time it gets to us.
In the end we find out the cable wasn't connected properly. Sigh! 
Also find out that the address label did not need printing off, the parcel station prints them for you. Double sigh!
I posted about a card my daughter made for me 
when she was younger that showed me ironing.
It was pretty ironic (no pun intended) as I hardly
ever did any ironing. This week I've been doing lots as
I've been dying then ironing patches for the
patchwork dresses that I am making as I don't have
enough purple ones. Hopefully I do now and I did
enjoy dyeing fabric again. Not done that in ages.
I also have a piece of fabric tie-dyed on blue
fabric that will make some trousers for me.

The pictures are mainly from last week or even
earlier as it hasn't been good weather for photos
and today was a naff day as you will find out.
Example 2.
Mendeley which I use for adding references to my academic papers automatically - won't work. 
Spend half an hour researching problem
Find out that it won't work with the newest operating system, I have to use the web based version, assemble references, export as a file, access Microsoft reference manager, upload to that work from that.....
Or get a colleague to do it who is the librarian on the team. 
Wishing that was just a cable connection problem but it is not! Sigh!
Download another reference software for future use. 
Not enough time though to transfer all data yet. Another sigh!

I haven't been out to the land just lately, since I've
had plenty to keep me occupied at the apartment.
I can imagine that this tree would have reappeared
this week, but by tomorrow might be covered again.

Eyre was often a grumpy looking cat and had
been known to terrorise small children, but she
wasn't all that bad really. RIP Eyre keep LadyV
As I mentioned last week Ian has been struggling with his own computer issues. First of all he spent ages trying to ensure that all his photos that he has tagged over the years are properly transferred to my old computer that is now his. They are his memory and he refers to them often. That is kind of sorted now. Then he's been trying to upgrade Microsoft Office and that is a whole other issue. Just when it doesn't feel like things can get worse he ran over the cat. Eyre would come down every morning to greet him. Every morning he would hope she would get out of the way but this morning the car got stuck on the slush and mud and he had to reverse back down. She obviously did not get out of the way in time and he found her in the car tracks. Eyre bless her wasn't gifted with a lot of brains and she was a tetchy cat, but she adored Ian. Well he was the one who fed her. She had taken to following him around the farm, even when the snow meant she had to jump from footstep to footstep to do so. He's buried her next to Lady V who we only buried last week. 

Hello! After the miserable news, we need an
alpaca or two or three to cheer us up
I would love to be able to give him a big hug, but he's been seeing to the animals all day and I'm in the village in our apartment. He hasn't come home tonight because we are expecting heavy snow overnight and into tomorrow morning. It would be at its heaviest when he would be likely to travel out to the land and so he decided that the best option is to stay out there. A cabin out on the land would be fabulous right now. I could go out there and stay with him in the caravan, but then that would mean getting everything ready for me to join him and he would have to travel to pick me up on treacherously slippy roads. He said they were bad last night. So we are both staying put. He made sure before the last snow fall that there was food out there and he has petrol for the generator, in case the power lines come down in the wet snow we are expecting. He also has snowshoes and heating. So both of us should be fine, well as fine as we can be. Akk! I really don't want to adult today.

You do look like your mother Vanessa

A nice range of colours there

I don't blame you Turbjørn. I wouldn't venture out

A cheery face to end with.

Monday, 18 January 2021

RIP Lady V.

Lady V outside late last year. You can see her
bent front legs.

I was going to title this blog, "Pootling About," but circumstances changed that. Rather sadly our elderly alpaca, the matriarch of her herd, died this morning. We had been kind of expecting problems going into winter as her legs got more and more bent. We had been giving her higher doses of Vitamin D, but if it was doing anything it wasn't enough. She started losing weight and that could have been down to problems with her teeth - a common problem in older alpacas and maybe also related to a lack of Vitamin D or just getting old. We can't be 100% sure. She was nearly 18 years old, so not very old for an alpaca but certainly on the older side. The do live for around 20 years and some can get to 24 or more, but this winter turned out to be a bit tough for our old lady. 

Even though she wouldn't get up, she looked
perky and alert until close to the end
Turbjørn eating his food in peace with his 
neck warmer on. It came in useful for also
providing Veronica with a bit of extra heat

Veronica is her proper name but she always had a rather regal bearing and so was called Lady V. When she came she was a feisty animal. She was always one of those I dreaded trying to hang on to, as she was so long and quite powerful. Fortunately, she wasn't ever so tall. She calmed down a lot after Brencis but this could be due to the fact she wasn't pregnant again. She was definitely the boss. No one, but no one stole food from Lady V, right up till the end. When Ian gives extra feeds to Turbjørn, our alpaca with the slightly dislocated neck, he separates him from the rest of the boys to give him peace to eat, he never needed to do that with Lady V.

The boys looking on while Turbjørn eats.
Josefs today (note the skulking cat that he
just chased away)

One thing Lady V was really good at, was looking after the little ones. There is often an aunty in the herd and she let the little ones sit next to her. This was a godsend for Josefs as Aggie rejected him at first, Mari wouldn't tolerate him and Chanel wasn't really happy with him either. Lady V though would sit with him, giving the company he needed when he was little and learning to be an alpaca. Even when Aggie eventually accepted Josefs she wasn't a nurturing mother and so Lady V continued in her role as Aunty. 

A frosty Josefs. Don't worry he's
warm underneath.
The snow is deep enough to cover now to at
least 20-30cm. A good job as it meant that we
didn't have the same performance digging the
grave to put Veronica in that we did with her 
friend Snowdrop who also died in January
and I wrote about that exactly three years ago
to the day.

In her last few days she refused to stand. She ate well and Ian would use a hoist to get her up and massage her legs. At first she would remain standing once he got her up, but as the days wore on she refused to stay up or couldn't. At the very end she wouldn't even put her feet down on the floor when she was hoisted up. Gradually over the last three days she started to take less interest in food and water. Ian decided to be guided by her and didn't try anything invasive apart from some injections to keep her comfortable. We knew that even if she recovered this time around, she was going to struggle in the rest of the winter. Maybe the very cold nights hastened her end, but she was warm under the old sleeping bags and blankets Ian put on her. When Ian went to her this morning she had passed away. Still warm, but obviously gone. Mourning for Lady V is mixed with a lot of relief. She almost seemed to have decided that it was time to go and just accepted it. This made it a lot easier for Ian than when Herkules died and Herkules went through several rallies before Ian had to call the vet in. 

The snow got quite deep around the girls' alpaca

From L-R: Vanessa, Veronica's daughter, Valeria
Vanessa's daughter and Silla (not related to

We still have a few of her progeny. There is Brencis who was bred on our farm. He takes after her in a few respects, he's a gentle giant with a sly kick. He's long in the body from his Mum and long in the leg from his Dad (Tellus). We also have Vanessa, her daughter and Valeria, daughter of Vanessa and therefore granddaughter to Lady V. We bought Vanessa and Valeria from the same breeder in Sweden that we got Lady V from. We would have loved to have got a baby from Valeria this year and then we could have had four generations on one farm, but it wasn't meant to be. Valeria is not pregnant again and Lady V passed on anyway. We should welcome another grandchild though from Lady V, as we bred Brencis to Amanda.

Brencis, Veronica's son is the white alpaca
eating the snow nearest the gate.
A peaceful sunrise out on the land. The days
are definitely getting longer at quite a pace now.
Ian used to be back by 4pm as it was dark by
then, now it is still light at 5pm. What a change
in less than a month.

As I mentioned, I was going to call the blog Pootling About. To pootle: Move or travel in a leisurely manner. Well there's not much point in rushing about these days as there aren't many places to go to at the moment. Instead I've been home like most folks and Ian has braved the rather brutal sudden drop in temperatures. We've seen temperatures that we haven't seen in about three years with the thermometer in the car reading -23C one morning. It was a beautiful day but so very cold as there was a gentle breeze. Ordinarily a gentle breeze wouldn't be much of an issue but at that kind of temperature it feels much colder. I went out to take the recycling, which is a couple of blocks down the road and it wasn't bad going one way but when I came back the draught was going down the back of my glasses making my eyes hurt.

There are skiers on the ski track and discgolfers
trying to play discgolf at the same time. Not 
heard of any clashes yet.
There is a dirt road and then a
tarmac road but I think you
will just have to trust me on that!

I had a lot of meetings this week. I find that sitting at the table I get cold as we don't put the heating on until around 4pm-ish, otherwise we are sweltering in the evening and it uses too much fuel. I can wrap blankets around my knees while sitting in an easy chair and that works well, but it's harder at the table. If I'm just listening to a webinair I can pootle about the kitchen to keep warm, but if I'm an active participant it is harder. Standing is warmer than sitting and better for us really, but my back begins to ache if I'm standing for too long. I finally found a solution and that is to put a plank of wood on the floor and prop my heels up on that, or stand on it and point my toes downwards. 

Down by the lake. I love the blues in
this photo. There is also one ice
fisherman in the very centre of the picture. 
Yes! Right in the middle of the lake. 
There are also ski tracks across the lake.
The hill where one of my son's proposed
to his girlfriend - quite a few years ago and
three children later.

The rest of the time has been filled with learning Latvian and sewing. The language lessons have been a healthy mix of frustration at not knowing so much stuff and knowing quite a bit. I discovered some bad habits that haven't helped. They are good habits in the right place but not for learning a language. I speed read. Great for reading large volumes of academic literature when sifting through them for relevant articles to read, not so great for learning a language. I don't notice the details, such as the Latvian letters used, just the keywords needed to understand a sentence. The teacher I'm learning with uses Flash cards on a site called Quizlet. I've found that very helpful for checking the words I do know and making me learn the spellings. What I did discover though is it isn't so helpful for me to learn verbs. I need to see those in a table so I can see the pattern. Anyway, I'm making progress.

The pond by the ski track
Bundled up for the cold weather.

I've been continuing with the sewing projects. I didn't have any sewing machine problems this week as I worked a bit more with the over large t-shirts and fixing underwear. Probably too much information but I was tired of the fabric disintegrating before the elastic. Some I've used the old but perfectly usable elastic and some fabric from old t-shirts and some I've fixed the fabric before they disintegrate more. I used to be a great M&S fan, not any more. The other more enjoyable project has been to cut out squares from old pieces of fabric to make patchwork dresses for my younger granddaughters. I'm not sure how much of an impact it is going to make on my stash of fabrics but it has been fun, since I got myself a new smaller cutting board and a rotary cutter. I have even ironed fabric - now me with an iron is a very, very rare sight and I think I only iron for crafting projects these days.

Believe it or not, these are my errant
seeds that have been sunning themselves
in Portugal. Every now and again I 
would check to see if they had moved
from Portugal and suddenly discovered
they were supposed to have been delivered
only they hadn't as I was in all the time.
My friend rang the post office and they
said the parcel was there. They have been
struggling with Covid19 there and so
maybe they had tried the wrong door. 
Sometimes happens with new folks.

After so much gloom, it's been nice to see the sun
Ian had the usual car problems for this time of the year. He was heading out to the land on the coldest day when it died. Not sure if ice had got stuck somewhere or wax had come out of the diesel - the more likely problem as they haven't put the additive in for low temperatures. They are never prompt enough and there is an additive but we have to find it. Ian has seen it once somewhere. Fortunately a friend of ours drove out to him and towed him to their farm. He had some of the additive needed and put it in the tank. Meanwhile Ian had managed to keep the engine running and that seemed to do the trick. Maybe it was just a very small amount of wax, enough to cause issues but not to clog up the whole thing. Seems to have sorted itself out anyway, thank goodness.

Apparently she has been following Ian everywhere.
Not so easy for a little cat jumping from one
boot print to another.
Just saying hello to Silla.

Initially Aggie chased Eyre like she always does
and Ian was worried that Aggie was going to stomp
on her like alpacas do sometimes if they feel threatened
but Eyre just stopped and Aggie just sniffed her.

Ian cleared the snow from the paddock of Aph2 as
we call it.

This is Aph1 at the bottom and Aph1b. Here the 
snow is quite deep.

Aggie enjoying the sunshine.

I think George has been eating the snow.

Ian hasn't had chance to clear the boys' paddock 

A pathway has been cut up to the girl's paddocks

Such a wonderful sight. I love winter but it is hard
on Ian and the animals.

Chanel has been enjoying the snow and the sunshine
too, can you tell with that smile?

Freddie thinks the snow is delicious

Ian draws the water from the well that is fortunately
still flowing this year.

Brain freeze, despite the water being above freezing

Looks like someone has been drawing pictures
in the snow. Not sure which artistic alpaca this is 
but I think it is a good likeness of an alpaca in a 
shed - well for the artistic abilities of an alpaca
it's a good likeness.

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Weirdness continues

It snowed

Well we follow a weird year with a.... another weird year. It has only just begun and we all watched with astonishment as people invaded the capitol building in Washington DC. I'm not quite sure what was the more shocking, that people actually desecrated what is considered a sacred space for American democracy or the fact that they didn't seem prepared for that to happen. For me it was the latter. I'm even more shocked when I hear of people who still believe Trump is actually good at heart and this was not his fault. I don't get the impression he cares one bit. All he seems to care about is that people think he's wonderful no matter how much he disregards their well-being. It was a relief to read an article by Ed Stetzer (dean and professor at Wheaton College and a leader at the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center) that suggests the leaders of the evangelical church need to take a long, hard look at the whole episode and consider what sort of repentance is needed to have followed Trump so gullibly. Character does matter!

Ginger Tom is obviously into ice-lollies. 

Snow outside the apartment. 

The weird year also continues with lockdowns and rising Covid numbers in much of Europe. We have had our weekend curfew nights extended here in Latvia until the end of the month and the hospitals are struggling to cope. My heart was torn by one medic friend of mine who posted a notice to show that staff were being called into a hospital in Northern Ireland to deal with an emergency situation and bluntly said, forget your conspiracy theories, wash your hands and stay home, your actions are killing people. What drives a kind and caring young medic to say such things so bluntly? Another friend of mine is a nurse in an ICU and she told me how sad it is to see so many just gasping for air. These friends of mine are not heroes they are just ordinary people but doing extraordinary things.

Brencis does like to sit in the doorway, rain or shine
or in this case snow.

After a day of fine snow with more to come
over the next few days.

Heroes are expected to do super-human things but these folks are not super-human. They would be the first to admit to being flawed human beings like the rest of us. Someone to look up to but not idolise. So I won't call them heroes because that does them a massive disservice. It puts them on a pedestal that is easy to fall off because they do get angry or irritable with people from time to time, like we all do. They don't need us to clap them, they just need us to do the extraordinary thing of staying home until this situation can be got under control, so that they can continue to do the extraordinary things of caring for whoever comes through the door, whether they believe that Covid19 is a real threat or not, whether they wore a mask or not, whether they agree to take the vaccine or not. 

We hear of many alpacas that would choose to 
stay outside no matter what the weather. Our lazy
lot choose to stay inside. Sensible, I agree, but
there isn't much to do except eat hay inside and 
put weight on.
Frosted patterns on the greenhouse plastic. 
Nature is quite an artist!

I've not been out to the land recently. I've been home still sorting through stuff. I finally got around to actually doing some sewing and that was chugging along nicely until my sewing machine snagged and then it kept on snagging. I was beginning to wish I had never bought the super-duper all singing, all dancing quilting machine - okay it's not that grand but it is still a bit grander than your cheap and cheerful machine. I've had issues of it snagging so easily, which has driven me mad. It doesn't like old thread because it's too fluffy apparently - but that would be such a waste and besides this is a quilting machine, it's supposed to be used for making quilts from old fabrics isn't it? So old thread shouldn't be an issue? I walked away from it and pottered around the house. I sorted out half a bag of potatoes for a friend since we have so many and then looked up the issue on the internet. 

We have a few options for clearing
A good job really
There's been quite a bit of drifting and so the 
snow is building up in places

I found a video that described the steps to sorting out a jammed machine. Half of it seemed a bit over the top, but I followed the steps and the last part involved changing the sewing machine needle. It was at this point that I remembered that changing the needle should be the first thing you try. Doh! So now I've ordered a lot of needles so that I can make those lovely patchwork dresses for my grandkids that I mentioned last week and not jam my machine. After sorting out the machine, I finally managed to finish the seams on some t-shirts that were too big for me. I need some new t-shirts ready for next year and many of mine have now got holes in them. 

Pathways get difficult to see 
It's a good job that the ground was still soft so
that Ian can put the electric posts in. The wire
is not electrified but works on the principle
that deer have poor depth vision. They are
happy to jump high but not cross two wires. This
is to stop them chewing the bark on the fruit

This week has been a week of breaking things and it makes me so nervous with my new computer. Every time I close it I check and double check that nothing, absolutely nothing is in the way. At least the sewing machine wasn't really broken but I had a few hours of thinking it was. Unfortunately for Ian the camera that is supposed to work with his microscope really is broken. This was another of those bits of kit we wonder if we made a mistake in buying. He already had to have the camera replaced shortly after he got the microscope and he hasn't had much use out of it. He has a windows computer from our son-in-law specifically to work with the camera. Normally he doesn't need it because he can see that there are only a few parasite eggs in our alpaca poo samples, but just occasionally there is something on the slide that he can't identify. The idea is that he takes a photo of it and sends it to the lady who taught him the techniques for doing parasite testing on alpacas, only now he can't and we really need to know what it is that he has seen. This episode did at least lead to a solution and Ian found he could use the camera on his phone to take a photo down the eyepiece. Phew!

There is a roadway there somewhere, down to the

This was taken in mid-December but you can see
the problem with her legs to some extent. They
also bend inwards making it difficult to walk.
You can also see on our Facebook page in this
video (link here)

The test he was doing was on a sample from Veronica or Lady V. Just recently her health has been suffering. She is pretty hungry, losing weight and her legs are getting more and more bent. It could be parasites, it could be her teeth that are often a problem in old alpacas or it could be rickets despite the Vitamin D injections. Ian has set up a hoist to help him get her up every morning, because I'm not out there in winter time. Once she's up, she's fine and stays up for quite a long time. Unfortunately, this is not a good time of the year for an alpaca to be down. It snowed most of today and will continue on and off , but mainly on for another day, before the temperature takes quite a dip to around -18C. We were nervous of the repercussions for her over winter with her bad legs already before she started losing weight. Oh the joys of owning geriatric alpacas, she is 17 1/2 now, not the oldest alpaca we've had but still getting on a bit.

George is such a handsome chap

A little snow on George's ear
Eyre is such a grumpy looking cat. She's actually
quite grumpy by nature too. She's taken to 
following Ian around the farm and now even
she is not as afraid of the alpacas. 

To add to the frustrations, Ian has been struggling with adding his photos to my old computer. I just copied them across when I upgraded to that machine, but Ian has lots of additional information he wants to copy across too and it won't do it automatically. As you know his photos are precious and it is generally his photos that I use in this blog. He spends ages labelling them all so that he can easily find photos in the future. He finally found some software that would do the conversion from one version of Apple's photo storage software to another, which involved having to leave the computer plugged in for three days. It was tense. His frustrations were added to when he managed to drop a 2 litre glass jar of milk outside the door of the apartment. Not good on a freezing cold and snowy day. It's a bit hard to see shards of broken glass in the light of a head torch against the snow in a pool of milk. Sigh! I guess that's partly the problem of being ecological and reusing glass jars to buy milk from one of our neighbours instead of buying plastic bottles from the supermarket.

The boys' paddock is there somewhere
At least the snow will anchor the plastic down 
over the bales. 

Still, there is no crying over spilt milk as they say. There are more important issues in this world and our troubles are small compared to others'. It is weird though how it is the small and insignificant things that can take on massive proportions in a time of chaos and uncertainty. It is too easy to get angry and annoyed over the slightest thing when there are more important things to get angry about. At least I think we are beginning to find a bit of balance, may be it's the vitamin D, or the fish oil tablets making a difference. Funny how Ian usually begins to start whistling after taking fish oil tablets when he has had a period without them. Not quite sure what the effect is, but they seem to affect his mood in a good way.

We are starting to get eggs again. We have really
appreciated the eggs this year, much better than 
the eggs you can normally buy.

The chicks have adjusted well to their new ark

They are growing well

Who are you looking at?

We were worried about the cold for the chicks
and we still have the cold temperatures to come, 
but I think there is quite a bit of insulation now.
When we bought this greenhouse we bought
the one that would take the biggest snowloads. 
Looks like that might have been a wise choice.

Snow has been building around the shed