Monday, 28 June 2021

Summer time!

Windows open and curtain on the outside of the
half door for ventilation and to stop the cats 
jumping in. Curtain on the inside of the half 
door and the cats jump in.

We finally got the caravan moved out of the greenhouse, just before the heatwave with the hottest nighttime temperatures on record in Latvia. There were red warnings for extreme heat throughout the country with temperatures well over 30C during the day and not dropping much below mid-20s at night. It was also a humid heat and I ended wandering a round with a sweat rag (I know you all wanted to know that!). Even my glasses steamed up outside from time to time. 

Those ears! She almost looks like a llama. The
tips are probably covered by a membrane that has 
bent them at the ends as her ears now look much
more like an alpaca's ears.
Amazing what a bit of warmth and rain does to the
grass. It was not that long ago when it seemed so

Getting the caravan out of the greenhouse was more difficult than previously because we were a month later than usual. We did have to cut back the grapevine a bit and Ian had to mow the grass first - a novelty as normally the grass is only just growing when we move the caravan out. The problem is that the caravan now sits in the sun all day and in the greenhouse the shade would come round to it by evening. To cope with the heat we've had two fans going during the day and we've been going to sleep later with one fan still going through the night. Not ideal but at least we could sleep. We did have one day where we ended up catching up on some sleep when neither of us could make it to lunchtime before the desire to snooze got too strong. 

GT is such a photogenic cat. He's also turning out
to be quite affectionate, which is a bit of a surprise.

Ian cutting grass for hay.

We took advantage of the hot weather to start cutting the first hay of the year. Despite the heat and the fact most of it dried out very well, some of the bales seemed really heavy. Some of the grass was still obviously very moist. Hopefully they will be okay and they are in airy places to continue to dry out. It did mean that it was exhausting work though getting them stacked. We needed the space to get the girls out on to the grass and they would have been in the way of haymaking if we didn't cut the grass first. We don't want them too close to the forest with a little one, especially where we cannot see them so easily. Too many foxes mainly but there are also lynx, wolves and even sightings of bear tracks not very far away recently. 

Some much appreciated shade.
Silla and bump sunbathing

We are still waiting for the June babies to be born. They seem tantalisingly close to giving birth on some days and then the next day all is well and the time drifts on. In the meantime we've started on mating some of the others. We've had to use Tellus though, as he is our most reliable stud male. Mr. P. has too many asthma/hayfever type issues that we want to get to the bottom of before passing on any more of his genetics and the younger boys are generally too immature apparently.  

Aggie getting her nap time in too, but still no baby.
It's a hard life being a cria

Brencis was the father to the first this year's cria but he has such a big fat belly on him he's struggled to mate with another female, Antonia, so we brought in Tellus who managed to mate with her, but she's a crafty one. She seemed to throw Tellus off at strategic moments, so no idea if Tellus was successful or not. Antonia also intimidated the younger males and they obviously have not inherited the sex drive of their fathers and still need at least another year to mature - or at least that is what we hope is the issue. We tried George with a very compliant and flirty female, Ilvija, and he ended up kicking her off, it should be the other way around. At least Valeria was much more compliant with Tellus than she was with Mr. P last year and we just have to wait for 7 days now to see if he was potentially successful - yes the spit-off tests begin. 

It's a hard life being a cria's mum too.

Ilvija at the back with her Mum, Chanel, 
investigating the new arrival.

Ilvija has managed to escape a few times this week from the girls' fenced off area. She started to get a bit adventurous or she was just panicking and looking for her mum. She's a bit unpredictable and so not so easy to catch. Sometimes her mum starts getting stressed looking for her and then gets spitty when trying to usher Ilvija through the gate. At one point, Ilvija alarmingly headed down towards the road with a bit of a gallop. You should have seen me run, or maybe not! I lolloped in her direction and headed her back towards a safer spot, only she was rather interested in the boys and the boys were rather interested in her. Not a great place to be with 8 un-castrated males and one flirty girl and only a fence between them. I managed to get hold of her and Ian and I wrestled her down to the ground. I held her down while Ian got a harness and rope. Not a good time to introduce her to harness training but the first opportunity we've had due to her spitty mother. With a bit of patience and pushing at times we got her into the gate of the paddock without her mother realising and so avoided the spit fest.

Rocket Ron is not so easy to photograph. He is 
turning out to be more of a wanderer that is also
a surprise. Anyway he's keep the mouse population 
down, so earning his keep. He's still reasonably
affectionate though and both are happy to be 
combed with the flea comb. I'm not so happy
they've got fleas though.
Or course haymaking means the storks congregate

We had a minor hiccup with the car this last week. I set off to the bakery to get our weekly order of bread, then to collect a parcel from the pick up point before heading to the apartment to get some water and a few supplies. All good, except when I came to set off from the apartment back to our land, the key would not turn in the ignition. Nothing I tried worked. It was also very hot as I hadn't parked the car in the shade because I only intended to be a few minutes. Ian was busy, so I pottered around the apartment for a bit and kept going back to try the car again. Nothing! In the end I contacted a neighbour and asked for a lift out to our land and to pick up Ian and take him to see if he could get the car going. With some WD40, the spare key and some fiddling around with a screwdriver he managed to sort it. A new ignition might be needed though as it must be pretty worn. At least the car passed its technical today and Ian was able to help out another neighbour when their milking machine broke and they needed to take it in for repair. 

Not sure if one is doing a display for the other or
they are having a disagreement.
A Marsh Orchid

Surprisingly this year I've mainly been able to keep on top of the weeding. Occasionally it seems like it will get away from me but I think the cold start to the year and the dry spell has kept them in check. So it is looking like we should have plenty of beans, onions and garlic, so that's good. The late planted tomatoes are also doing well with their very regular watering. I've also taken some cuttings from the side shoots to increase the numbers of plants, as that is the fastest way of increasing the number of tomatoes we have. We've started eating fresh mangetout style peas, strawberries and garlic scapes. I've noticed that the courgettes have also started, so let the courgette glut begin. 

Yellow Rattle. Apparently not
so good for the grass as it is
parasitic and can become invasive.
One of the reasons we do not have free-range
hens any more, a Western Marsh Harrier.

Ian finally managed to find time to repair one of the chicken arks, one of the first he made and still in reasonable shape after 10 years. He's replaced the roof with a tin one that makes it much lighter to move and repaired some of the base bits that are in contact with the ground. With new handles and door fastenings it is back in use for the hens. We left the cockerel in the old one for dispatching. The hens need a rest from him. I'm hoping that one hen will now get a chance to heal her foot, as she was his favourite. In between pacing backwards and forwards on midwife duty waiting for babies, Ian has also spent lots of time cutting the grass and not just for hay but also for my vegetable garden. It looks much neater now. 

One of the reasons for making sure our arks are 
more secure these days. Ian rang me and told me
to come quickly. I found Ian in the forest and 
pointing into the trees. He had startled a pine
marten and we watched amazed as it jumped
from tree to tree. Agile beasts for sure but also
quite vicious. Ian has seen one eat a hornet's 
nest and probably responsible for breaking into
an ark and dispatching 8 hens.

Early days and still unsteady on her legs.

You cannot have too many cute cria pictures

Karla is finding her feet now and running about.
Last minute avoidance manoeuvres to avoid 
grumpy Auntie Aggie.

All legs

Amanda is a good mum. The right balance between
care and letting her baby be cared for by others.

Karla has put on plenty of weight over the last
week and so we do not need to carry on weighing
her every evening now.

Karla is also starting to eat the hay already. She
looks a bit wet around the face because I've been
putting on fly repellent.

This thrush is a frequent visitor


More newbies on the farm, baby swallows.

No not steam coming out of the caravan but a
well placed yoghurt pot and stone over a pipe to
stop the rain getting in. It was placed there by 
Ian climbing a metal ladder as a thunderstorm approached

Early morning dew on the grass turns it a pink hue.

Wednesday, 16 June 2021


Meet Karla, named after our friend Kalle, who 
sadly died last month. His real name was Karl, 
hence Karla.

After 16 days over her due date, Amanda delivered a little female cria, Karla. I've been there, done that and got the t-shirt. Only my 15 day late baby is now 35 years old - sheesh how did that happen! My 17 day overdue baby will be 34 years old soon. I can still sympathise though. Dear Amanda has been looking tired for over a week now but still the baby was content to kick around inside until today. Silla is also due about now, but her udders are swelling and so another birth is imminent..... well maybe!

Father and Grandfather to Karla.
Amanda was looking rather large
the day before. We kind of realised
that she would be giving birth
Ooh! What's this? Is it mine?

Although Amanda is 7 years old, the same age as Aggie, Mari and Chanel, this was her first cria. She looked a bit shocked after the birth and was staring out of the alpaca house. Ian diverted her attention and she suddenly discovered the baby. It was almost like, wow, how did that happen and where did that come from? Fortunately she bonded very quickly and seems to be making an excellent mum. She even stayed with her baby when all the others moved off to the alpaca house. It is due to be another chilly night and Karla was shivering a little, so we put a coat on her.

Will George become a father next year? Hopefully
we will find out soon. We are going to try and see if 
he will mate with the older girls. They are a bit of 
a challenge though. Will he be up to the challenge?
Will little Jakobs be ready for the mating game?
We shall see!
Freddie has such a sweet character, it would be
lovely to breed from him, but we know that is
not wise. He has a dodgy back leg and skin
problems and so not the right kind of genetics
to pass on.

I spend most of last week trying to finish off an academic paper. It was close but the paper that seems to have gone on and on and on has been finally re-submitted, just before the second deadline. I had to ask for an extension as there was no way to get it completed and ensure my work with the Masters students was also complete. Now we, i.e. I and the rest of the team, all just hang around for weeks while they review it again. I'm sure there will be some changes that are still necessary. That's just the way it is, but for now I can relax a bit and finish off some other work before my holidays begin - whatever that is!

Enjoying the sunshine amongst the trees

Amanda was in labour and decided to lie down for
a bit to rest, so they all joined in. Looks like an

Sometimes both groups of girls just have to be
in the same place. It looks a bit of a tight squeeze.

We've now passed the point where our immunity to Covid19 should be sufficient to be able to travel across borders. We should be travelling up to Estonia, but that will still have to wait until the three babies that are due before the end of June have been born. There are some rather warm alpacas that need shearing, so it is a good job that they all have cool indoor places to shelter as we are expecting a heatwave this weekend.

Ian found this nest on the floor with three of the
five eggs broken. He managed to work out a way
to fix it and put the eggs back. The parents seemed
to accept his handiwork, so all is good.
Fortunately the swallow's nest in the boys alpaca 
house seems a bit more secure.

I did manage to attend a conference, online of
course. This was my view. Well some of the time.
This week I've been spending my time trying to
find the warmest spot out of the sun.

Despite the weather forecast for this weekend, the weather is still relatively cool at the moment. Even when the sun is out, there has been a cool wind. It's made working a bit problematic. It has been too warm in the caravan that is still in the greenhouse, but too cool to sit in the shade outside. Yesterday I spent chasing semi-shade all day. My cardigan was on and off all the time. Each time Ian saw me, I was sat in a different place. Down by the barn, I got chilled. Up by the greenhouse the sun moved around, I would start off okay and then the sun would move and I had to try and find another flat spot to put my chair. Then the wind picked up and it started to get cool. I finished working in the shade of the caravan in the greenhouse. 

Little Karla
Eventually I realised that Ginger Tom had the 
best idea, of taking advantage of the shade of
the caravan in the greenhouse. It worked.

At least the shade from the grapevines helped too.

It is so strange to still have the caravan in the greenhouse at this time of the year. Normally, by now we would generally be sweltering at night even outside the greenhouse. We will get the caravan out before the heatwave this weekend but the main problem is that now the grapevine is taking on its monstrous proportions and we will have to be careful it doesn't ensnare anything on the roof of the caravan as we take it out. 

Not me!
Poor Turbjørn. He's still having his ups and downs.
This week looked to be a bad week and so he got
a dose of a long-lasting painkiller. That helped. Also 
I've been putting a herbal fly spray on his nose to
keep the flies off. He can't do that himself very well
due to the lack of mobility in his neck, and maybe
that is why he was having a bad day. 
Going down or alpaca yoga?

I finally got our tomatoes planted up this last weekend, another way overdue job. Some of them were a reasonable size but some are still rather small. I plan to do far more watering than normal to see if they will catch up. Normally we only water once or maximum twice a week so they put down deep roots. This time they will need all the help they can get. I also got more beans planted out and some squashes repotted. Again the squashes would normally be planted up outside but the cool temperatures have slowed down their growth and they are not big enough to plant out yet. I shall just have to leave them in the pots and let them grow. At least in the pots they are easier to water. 

So pleased with the way that Amanda has bonded
with Karla.
Obligatory ET cria picture
Two tired alpacas.

We had two sets of visitors over the weekend. Larger groups than we've been having but still not as large as some years when we've had coach loads. However, it did turn out to be a fairly profitable weekend. Normally we do not sell much in the way of alpaca products. We just have not been set up for selling this year and so things have stayed in a box. Not the ideal selling point. However, one group bought a pair of Turbjørn socks and the hat and scarf knitted from Chanel's wool. Neither were cheap. 

Silla coming to check out the new arrival

An amazingly large caterpillar of the 
Drinker moth apparently.

Platystomos albinus, a fungus weevil

Clouded magpie moth

These comical caterpillar like creatures
are actually the larvae of a sawfly. Possibly
a Rose Sawfly. Not happy to see these
little fellas though on our apple tree.

Brindled Beauty moth according to