Monday, 22 February 2021

Kas jauns? What's new?

Vanessa is such a sweet looking alpaca. This is
not the face a male alpaca sees, she is not so sweet
then in the slightest.

After asking me how I am, "kas jauns?" is the next question my Latvian teacher asks each week. So what is new this week? I did get skiing again, but I hobbled around. I got a bit of a blister on the first day and my socks made it far worse on the second day, despite the plaster I put on. So I think that might be it for the winter, but still better than last winter. There was hardly any snow last winter and when there was I didn't have the time to ski. I'm pleased I got over my embarrassment of skiing in front of others though and so maybe next winter I might get out sooner - if there's enough snow that is. 

Don't worry Rocket Ron, the nasty cold stuff will
soon be gone and warmer days are here.

We are getting a coat for Silla's cria. You can almost
guarantee that she will be outside most of the time in
rain or shine. We're going to have keep an eye on the
little one when it comes to make sure it doesn't suffer
from adverse weather, whether that is cold or heat. I
don't think Silla cares what the weather is, she will be
outside. Note that icicle, it got within 10cms of the floor
before it broke off in the warmer weather.

The icicle hanging off the roof in
close up.
Brencis looking all nice and calm.
He wasn't very bad having his
toe nails cut but it did take 
someone big enough to drape over
his back to keep him calm. I'm
just not tall enough to do that.

I needed to be out on the land on Saturday as we had someone who had was bringing alpaca food and agreed to help to get Brencis' toe nails cut and his vitamin injections given. I decided to stay out there and to do some snow shoeing. It was a good day to be out on the land though, as it wasn't as cold as it has been but still cold enough for crisp snow. It's the first time in a long time since I've been snow shoeing We had a lovely walk around our forest and at least the boots I used were nice and comfortable so no hobbling around by the end of it. Sadly that might be the last time this winter, as the snow is now rapidly melting. I was hoping I might get the chance to walk around the ski track here as I haven't really found out where it goes to yet. I wouldn't like to just walk on it as I think there would have been a few icy patches and skating is definitely not something I'm good at. 

My snow shoes

Not my tracks, but animal tracks.
It makes you realise that we are not
the only ones here. It is much easier
to see the presence of multiple animals
through the winter.
Soaking up those rays of sunshine. Still not 
strong enough for vitamin D yet and so they'll
be getting another dose this next week.

This meant I only had one day to get on with my granddaughter's patchwork dresses. I've been steadily getting on with them but time is ticking on and it is difficult to know how long it will be before we move out to the caravan. The skirt section is finished for one of the dresses and another one needs two more rows stitching on. At least my sewing machine is more or less working properly this week. I still need to dye some more fabric for the largest one. I am at least getting quicker as I now have got more of a system for tacking the rows together. It is a lot of fabric when each row is 11/2 times bigger each time. 

Valeria's toothy face
Josef's toothy grin
Ilvija has been playing in the snow while I work

Today I had one of those work days when I really wished I hadn't started but it had to be done. I use spreadsheets a lot and I find them useful enough to sort out my ideas, but making lists of articles is not my idea of fun. I had to also merge about three or four spreadsheets into one and sort through them. It took me until way past normal clocking off time to get done because it is needed for tomorrow. And of course I also found an issue that hadn't been picked up earlier. I lost count of the number of times I tried to get the numbers to agree before I found out what the problem was. Anyway, hopefully it is all sorted now and it's fingers crossed that a colleague can make the minor adjustments needed to a figure to complete the article that needs submitting tomorrow by someone else.

The snow still looks so fresh, but soon it will be 

It did get reasonably deep, although
we've known more

Brencis in close up

Amanda has been looking weary. Her first time

A gorgeous day but it was cold

Freddie behind and Jakobs in front having a bit
of a disagreement

Turbjørn finding the warm spot again

He got a new coat this week. Hand-made in Latvia

The snow has been that high that a deer just walked
over the double fence we had around the orchard

My vegetable garden. There maybe carrots and 
turnips under there. They've certainly been
protected by the bales of hay, fleece and a thick 
layer of snow

Finally they are all getting the hang of this warm 

The little greenhouse has been getting quite warm
in the sun

Ian had to open the windows for the chickens. The
problem is that we will have to ensure that no
wild birds can get in due to the Avian flu. Something
to work out before the migrant birds return soon.

Rocket Ron

Monday, 15 February 2021


The scenery is stunning in winter when the sun
comes out and sparkles like so many diamonds
strewn carelessly across the landscape.

I've been looking at all this lovely snow and wishing I could go skiing. The problem is that out on the land it has been too cold to spend long in the caravan. Neither do we like running the car backwards and forwards as it is using fuel for little reason, as well as being more wear and tear on the car. The caravan is alright for short breaks like Ian does during the day, but not for sitting and working on a computer all day, so I stay at the apartment. The other issue is that out on the land there are very few flat areas to ski on and I'm a little wobbly on the hilly bits. I usually fall over at some point. I have only hurt myself badly once before but not something I would want to repeat and risk needing a trip to the hospital and tying up precious hospital resources in these times. Well it all got a bit too much and I decided to swallow my pride of looking an idiot out on the ski tracks that are right outside our apartment and I asked Ian to bring my skis and boots back. 

We've had a few frosty mornings
this week as the weather has warmed
up a bit to all of -10C during the day
I can only tell this is Chanel these days because 
of her curly mop. Ilvija is so like her mother it is
easy to confuse them. If Ilvija was to go curly too
on top then we would be in trouble, the only way
we would know the difference is Chanel is the 
spitty one. 

This afternoon about lunchtime the sun came out and glinted on the snow. I got my skis, gave them a quick wax, put on ski pants and a winter ski jacket and headed out. I didn't head for the nearest bit of the ski track as it is a bit hilly for me, but walked down the road to the flat section. There were only two other people skiing - another lady who was doing Nordic skiing the same as I do and a chap who was doing skate-skiing, which is faster and harder to do. I managed about three rounds of the track in half an hour, so not too bad - it was bigger than I thought. The chap who was skate-skiing passed me about four or five times, but I just kept plodding on. At least I didn't embarrass myself by falling over and I got a reasonably good work out. Hopefully I can do the same tomorrow.

There are plenty of icicles hanging
off the roofs
Ginger Tom out for a walk in the sunshine

This week we haven't had any major disasters either. We did lose one of the chicks, but to be honest they have done remarkably well as we haven't had any losses up till now. It's sad but a factor we live with when raising chicks. At least all the rest seem to have coped with the cold night time temperatures and will be reasonably warm when they all huddle together in their box at night and snuggled in the hay. Daytime temperatures in the little greenhouse have been very good and even the kittens go and spend the day in there. They have a bit of a warm up in the caravan in the morning and then follow Ian to the greenhouse when he goes to check on the chickens to see if the hens have laid any eggs and give them some extra feed. The kittens then stay there until it's time for them to be fed at night. 

Rocket Ron sunning himself in the

Well the snow is cold! So a perch on 
a large wellie is a good place to be

Hard to believe it is so cold with the light
from the sun glowing on the snow

My phone went off tonight but I couldn't work out why it was ringing, Eventually I worked out it was my son ringing on WhatsApp. You can tell I don't often get phone calls on that then. In fact there was a brief bit of concern as to why he was ringing anyway, was there a problem? Did he need something? Nope! He'd just rung to chat. Awwww! It's a long time since someone just rang to have a chat. So we had a bit of a chat about this and that and finished off with a general video chat with the whole family. I love that one of my granddaughters wants to be either a doctor, a palaeontologist or an astronaut. Brilliant! I look forward to seeing her adventures on the road to where she wants to go. My grandson wants to design lego so I guess he'll have fun doing that. The little one is not so sure yet. 

It's been cold enough for Ian to be wearing his
mega-mittens - two sets at the same time.
Frosted oak leaves

Latvia was a poster child for handling the Corona virus in spring of 2020 but unfortunately it has really struggled to get it under control this time around. Gradually, gradually though the numbers are coming down and in our area we are the only region with no current recorded cases whatsoever. I'm glad they got the blip that occurred a few weeks ago here under control, just a shame that hasn't happened across the country. 

I'm not coming out until spring!
George likes to be out though at times

So apart from work, not much as been happening and that's the way I like it at the moment. I said I would take a few weeks of boring. I have been preparing for a course that starts this week and did have a minor panic this afternoon when students finally told me they couldn't access the course notes. They found out last week but didn't tell me. At least that is sorted, thank goodness. I've also been continuing with my Latvian lessons and in preparation for eventually taking the naturalisation exam I've been learning the Latvian anthem that I have to know perfectly. It's not long or hard, so every morning I've been singing it. It makes me giggle to think of doing this, I would never dream of singing the British national anthem every morning. 

So when is the warmer weather coming?
And the tastiest piece of hay is where?

One lesson last week I taught my Latvian teacher a new Latvian word. I told her the Latvian word for parsnip that we have grown in our garden. It's not a regular vegetable to grow in Latvia due to being a long season vegetable and so not one she had grown up with. In return, a Latvian friend of mine taught me a new English word, squinch! I thought it was a spelling mistake but it turns out it is really a word. In fact it has several meanings, as a noun it means "a straight or arched structure across an interior angle of a square tower to carry a superstructure such as a dome." I thought she had meant squint which has a similar meaning to the verb squinch, which means "to tense up the muscles of (one's eyes or face)". Funny what you learn about in your own language from those for who it is a second language. 


Ice encrusted spruce

The bottom part of the fence has disappeared

A snowy roof for our sign

It's a good job we have a 4x4

Larry the Lada is not going anywhere these days

A frosted orchard

A sample of Ilvija's fleece to test how well it felts.
It is not as silky as her father's fortunately but not
sure if it will felt completely, it still has a bit of
movement in it. I even put it in Ian's trouser pocket
and stuck it in the wash and it didn't shrink in the 

I think Mr. P has been having a snow
wash. Well it is supposed to be good
for cleaning blankets I guess.

Monday, 8 February 2021

Boring? Never!

Filigree trees that sparkle 

As I said to my kids this week, I will settle for a few boring weeks when nothing happens. Not sure what I would have to write about, but it would be nice and peaceful. So what has this week looked like? Firstly we have had snow gently falling for most of last week so we now have a reasonable cover of snow on the ground. It brings with it all sorts of challenges, but it does look so very, very pretty. My favourite are the filigree trees with their frosted silhouettes that glisten like diamond encrusted lace. Can you have too many superlatives in one sentence to describe them?

I don't think you can have too many superlatives
to describe the frosted trees really. So delicate
and beautiful. Breathtakingly awesome!
Ian started to clear the snow that had slid off the
roof of the greenhouse

I mentioned before that I now -more often than not - stand while working on my computer. It is warmer in the kitchen in the morning, and the living room in the afternoon, when the sun shines through the windows that is. Standing by the living room window though is the most interesting to view life, so that is my favourite place to stand. One morning I was having a Latvian lesson when I saw a tractor heading down the road. It was dragging an enormous electric pole behind it. It was a good job the road was icy so that it could drag it, otherwise I'm not sure how well it would have managed. It was also a good job that no one else was travelling along the road at the same time. My Latvian teacher taught me a new phrase, that essentially means, anything can happen in rural Latvia and it does.

All cleared

Men preparing to take down the
electric pole

The following day I looked out of the kitchen window at the back of the apartment to see many men working on the electric lines, in the snow. I thought they were taking the lines down, but apparently they were just replacing the poles. Today felt much colder and so I worked in the little room at my desk with an electric heater on, but I still have a view of life. Today I saw the proper grader ploughing the road, not just the farm tractor like they normally do along this municipal owned road. I'm not sure if that is because of the electric work and the increased traffic associated with it, or that someone has been complaining. Normally the traffic is very low, mainly the milk wagon going to the nearby dairy farm or the odd tractor. Just before the really cold weather there was a gritter who spread so much grit that Ian thought the snow had melted down to the road, until I told him about the gritting lorry going up and down the hill numerous times. 

Not the best job in the snow that
was falling at the time. Up a pole
trying to work with mittens on. Pity
the fellow on the ground though with
nothing to do but stand and watch
in case of accidents. A colder job by far

The grader going past our apartment.

Poor Turbjørn with his twisted
neck. However, he's not stupid.
He's the only alpaca that's
worked out that sunny spot
is really warm. 

On another day I saw our old neighbour slowly walking around to the front of the apartment. In the one hand she held a bucket and in the other a spade. Strange I thought! I then realised she was taking her milk bottles out to be collected by the milk lady and she dug away at the snow to put them in a clearing by the side of the road. Putting your milk bottles out is a bit different around here normally, never mind on snowy days. 

Now if it was me, I would be joining Turbjørn 
round the corner in the sun, not sitting in the shade.
Ian has cleared the paddocks so they can get out or to
encourage them to come out.

Chanel back to near normal

This week though has not been without its challenges. Ian rang me one day. My heart always sinks these days when he rings. I don't think he's rung lately without letting me know some bad news. This time it was tell me that Chanel had aborted and she didn't look well, was I able to come out. Well I had put in enough hours at work to leave it and even if I hadn't I could make it up later. This was important. Ian tried to get hold of the vet but she wasn't in. When I got out there, Chanel was shivering. It didn't look like the cold but shock. We managed to get hold of our neighbour, who came down with her son who translated. 

So no little sister for Ilvija. We did wonder if she
might be clingy with Chanel or jealous of the baby
Spruce trees with a dusting of snow

She gave Chanel some medicine and a pessary that she keeps for her cows who have aborted. Chanel let her stroke her and didn't even aim at her to spit. That wasn't like Chanel. Our spitty Chanel. Fortunately despite the sadness of losing what looked like a healthy baby, Chanel herself improved. She did stand up at feed time, and although she was slow, she ate okay. The following day she looked almost back to normal. The reason the vet was not available was because her phone had died and she was away trying to get a new one. She rang Ian the next day and they decided that they would send the foetus away to be tested for bacterial and viral infections. Ian's hand has now defrosted from taking the phone call on the way to collect our milk from our helpful neighbour.

The landscape loses all its familiar features in the
thick blanket of snow
Looking the other way from the greenhouse to the
girls alpaca houses

A rather frosty Ian. He would have
been warmer in the freezer. 
Fortunately he has the clothing 
suited for the weather.

This day was followed by one of those days that did not get off to a great start. Ian got ready to go out to the land, as he does everyday throughout the winter. Until we get a cabin out on the land, this is the pattern of our lives in this season. He was only out of the apartment for about five minutes before coming in in a foul mood. The car would not open. There was nothing we could do because any attempt to get in without immobilising the alarm would alert all of our neighbours to the problem. We've had that happen before. Ian put on his rucksack and walked out to the land. It took him just over an hour. Fortunately for him it was a glorious morning that despite the problems and the -28C weather it lifted his spirits. He was a little frosty looking when he got there though.

Generally the kittens are coping well with the 
weather, but Rocket Ron was not happy with
his little walk in the snow. He couldn't understand
it was freezing his paws. Ian encouraged him to 
go back into the greenhouse. 

That's better! A sunny spot in the greenhouse

Or warming up in the caravan

The car that wouldn't open, gently warming in the

Meanwhile back at the apartment I watched as the sun climbed in the sky. I waited. I pottered about. I had a coffee and then went out to the car. I tried the automatic locking. It shut or did it open? Not sure but the lights only worked one way. I tried the door. Nothing. I clicked on the key fob again. I tried the door. Nothing! I then had a brainwave, I went around to the passenger door on the sunny side of the car. Success! I was in! I started the car, it was sluggish but it worked. Phew! I left the car to run while I gathered my driver's licence and a few other things and got back in the car, and waited. At those temperatures it takes a long time for the car to defrost - on the inside. I drove out to Ian and he drove me back to the apartment. The day was too cold to be just hanging around and there wasn't enough for me to do to keep me active, plus I had little dresses still to make. 

Veronica in sunny mood
We've had several visits from the local wild boar
population and they've been making rather a
mess of our fields where the girls will be eating
or trying to in spring. So Ian called out the local
hunters and they've put up a hunting tower.

Silla does like to sit outside, no matter what the
weather, snow, rain, shine!

Today was fairly routine, apart from resorting to using an electric heater, as the lack of sun made the apartment feel too cold to be standing or sitting huddled under covers to work on my computer. I would have managed if I was doing something like cleaning or going out for a walk and then coming back where you feel the benefit of being outside. I had too much work to do, to do that. The wood-fired central heating went on just before 4pm as the sun slips down behind the horizon and plunges the world further into an icy grip. At least we were both warmed by the care and concern of friends and family who have comforted us with love and concern for us. So thanks so much folks!

The little greenhouse has proved surprisingly 
warm this winter. It still gets pretty cold at night
but the chickens in there are tucked up in the arks
where they can keep each other warm. As long
as they go in though. Their choice!

Toasty! Just under 8.9C when outside it was about
-15C. As you can see the black thermometer 
was reading 23.5C in the sun.

Sometimes the cockerel goes in at night and 
sometimes he doesn't! 

The chicks are growing up. Hopefully they'll not
be long before some of them start laying eggs.

The moon behind the filigree trees


I'm glad someone's amused

Sunrise at the apartment