Monday, 15 January 2018


We have been hearing tales that Sofie makes regular trips
to  our neighbour for a drink of fresh milk
Finally! Finally I got an article finished for submission to an academic journal this week. It only required minor changes from its first submission, so it should be fine. It still took nearly six weeks to get it done, but that was partly due to end of term hassles for my co-author, then Christmas and then health issues at both ends. Still we got there in the end and my head has finally cleared from the bug I picked up, so I felt I could actually put more than two coherent sentences together. Only another three or four more papers to go and a thesis.
Finally some sunshine, but poor Freddie has been feeling
the cold
Aggie looks like she needs a good strong coffee on
this rather bright day. Ian has been testing poo samples
all week and Aggie's is clear of anything. After last year's
performance with her health that is a relief
Finally Ian is also improving. He not only drives himself out to the land, but he has started getting some work done like cutting down trees. Winter time, when we don't have a lot of snow that is, is the ideal time to get some forest clearing done and at the moment we only have a dusting. He did manage to whack himself on the chin though with a branch that hit a hazel tree and bounced. Hazel is renowned for its bending properties and why it is used in basket making. Not that we have the right kind of branches for basket-making yet, but Ian is working on having coppice hazel in the future and then maybe we can.
Unfortunately we can't say the same for Chanel. There seems
to be parasites of some description but he is still trying to
work out what. She looks like she may be a candidate for
treatment. Apparently it is better to just treat the ones with
the parasites and not all animals routinely. This helps to
reduce resistance and one of the reasons for doing our own
testing. Unfortunately the camera that Ian bought to take
photos of what he sees down the microscope also seems to have
stopped working. 
George looking very fluffy
Although Ian is much better than he was, he still gets tired, but as I said, he isn't superman with superhuman recovery powers. He was shocked! Well in an understated way. It is hard when you spend your life outdoors to be confined. I haven't been out that much this week due to the writing project and the fact it has been so cold. It has felt rather mild for this time of the year until this week when most of the time it has been below freezing. In fact Ian recorded it at -9.5C when he was working in the forest. I noticed the forecast is for more this week - just in time for it to be our snow clearing duties for our apartment. Typical! I would like to go out to the land more but due to the time it takes to warm up the caravan to a temperature where I could type, it isn't really worth it. There is just not that much for me to do out there and plenty for me to do at the apartment. With Ian's appetite returning there will probably be more baking required to keep him fed in these temperatures for a start.
Mr. Tellus looking very elegant in the winter sunshine
Not looking quite so elegant here
It is lovely to see Herkules covered in fleece again. It is
definitely growing back better this year
After I had finished my article and was just waiting for the final proofread I decided I had better head up to the other apartment and get some heating on. We didn't want any frozen pipes. It was also a chance to get some sorting out and tidying done. Nothing had been done on it since I sorted out the shelving before Christmas and there were still boxes everywhere and bits and pieces to pick up off the floor. It was nice just to work on making the place look presentable again, in case either we or guests were to end up stopping there. It is also one more step closer to getting it ready for when we move there permanently.
Mr. P nibbling on the alpaca house

Mr. B, however, can reach much higher up the alpaca
house than Mr.P. This really shows how big he has grown
A little pair of Santa's boots. When I went for my haircut
before Christmas there was a little pair of red and white
boots that the hairdresser had felted. The white was
from our very own Mr. B. I couldn't resist adding a few
embellishments. The original is below
I forgot to mention last week that we had a late visit from Santa. A friend of ours quite often visits on Christmas Eve but of course we were in the UK this year. We don't hear from him for ages because he works away and then he turns up bearing gifts. Well he persevered and eventually he saw lights on and assumed we were back. He bought bottle of wine and a box of Lindt chocolates in a fuzzy box - you know the stuff if you ever played with fuzzy felt (now doesn't that date me or do they still have that in schools?), which seems rather posh for chocolates. They are rather nice though. The bottle of wine will have to wait to be tested.
A sweet little pair, even without the embellishments

Mr. B himself playing peekaboo

Mr. P in one of his rare good pictures. It's really hard to take
a photo of alpacas this colour

A picture I took on my way up to heat the
other apartment. A frozen wasteland

Not much snow, but rather chilly

An over the top patch for my holey jeans.
Part embroidered and part needlefelted

Monday, 8 January 2018

Something's in the air

Got any food mate? The volume is creeping up from these
guys and yes they do have hay and yes they do have water
and yes they do get a helping of oats every day. Sheep are
just noisy. Makes you think when God compares people to
Something's in the air? Unfortunately this week that is not all good news. Ian is still sick, although he is better than he has been and now drives himself out to the land. He comes home as it is getting dark feeling pretty grotty though. Into the bargain, I now have a cold. Fortunately I didn't get all the aches and shivers, just a sore throat initially and now a bunged up nose. This has meant we have spent the last week sleeping in separate rooms so we don't wake each other up.
Handsome dude!

Contemplation on a murky day
To add to our woes (but dear reader do not be too despondent, it could be whole lot worse) the road out to our land is closed. About half way along, the road has collapsed down a steep embankment into the river. Initially we thought they had closed it to work on it, but no! They have closed it and stabilised the area, but that will be it presumably, until spring. There is some confusion as to whether it can be used or not by the locals requiring access so that we do not have to take the long detour, which means an 18km trip instead of 6km one. At first we took the long route round because the roads have been so bad with the continued rainy weather we have been having and because we thought they were working on it. Now the rain has stopped, the sun come out and the temperatures dropped then we feel happier about taking that route as the road won't be so unstable or resembling liquid soup.

The caravan in its winter quarters

What a difference a day makes. A sprinkle of snow and some
sunshine and the world is a different place
At the beginning of the week I was fine and drove Ian out to the land. Of course he wouldn't stay away from his animals, he wanted to go and see them, even if it meant spending the rest of the time in the caravan snivelling - although to be fair he often felt worse in the dry, warm atmosphere at home. I helped him with the heavier jobs like poo cleaning after our holiday break, since it was a step too much to ask someone to do over that time. There was about three wheelbarrow loads from each alpaca house to clear and then I put a good layer of hay for bedding on the top. After that Ian was able to manage most routine jobs and I just helped out when he needed an extra hand, like topping up the hay, which requires shifting more bales of hay.
Lady V is much more sprightly with her Vitamin D and
mineral injection. Those old bones need some sunshine
vitamins. I know the feeling
Taking lunch with her
We took one of our calendars with photos of our alpacas to the local vet who has been so helpful to us, as a thank you for all the work she's done. She didn't think she had done so much, but she has. Even if she didn't know how to help, she did her research and we discussed together the best way forward. I think we work together as a good team and that is the best we can hope for in a rural location with no previous experience of alpacas. She was thrilled with the calendar and looked through every page while we were there. It was nice to give something that someone appreciated so much.
Freddie glowing in the sun
Meditation in the sunlight
We have already started getting people ringing about visiting the alpacas this year, but nothing has come of that so far. Part of the problem of course has been the weather, but with more settled weather forecast then it is more likely they will come. We've also had an email reply from another alpaca owner who is interested in keeping in touch and learning about the alpacas. This is good news and something we hope will develop over time.
George is still getting milk from his mum, but he is also
quite keen on the squash he gets from time to time
George and his mum maybe different in colour but they do
have a similar shaped face, especially the nose and ears
Chanel glowing in the sunshine
So that's about it from the house of plague! There has been a lot of bone broth in this week. A lot of time just moping about, coughing and spluttering, but life goes on and we are recovering. Good job as I am also in the middle of finishing off the amendments to my latest academic paper and then it can be resubmitted. It's a good job it was only minor revisions that are needed
And because there is not much to write about during a week
of illness then here are lots of alpaca pictures. Here they are
the girls, setting off down the field 

Spreading out, having a good look around

Right that's enough of that, back to the paddock everyone

Freddie is nearly as big as his mum. Wonder if he is going
to be a big chap like Brencis.

What else do you do with a Christmas tree?

Eat it of course

Having a good scratch

Brencis is such a handsome chap. He has got a new harness
now because he outgrew the old one and his fleece will make
it impossible to fasten soon

Hello! Our rather deaf alpaca. I know the feeling, especially
at the moment.

Monday, 1 January 2018

So here we are

Icy rain today and just a dusting of snow. Not exactly a
pleasant start to the year
Another new year and nearly ten years since I began blogging. It has been an interesting time and I would never have thought we would be doing what we are doing now all those years ago. So much has happened and I have met so many people over that time. What a ride.

Our youngest grandson
This year we had our first family Christmas in a few years, where all our family got together. What used to be just five of us is now 12, since our three children now have children of their own. We set off to the UK on the 21st and were picked up from the airport by our youngest son. It is nice not to have to worry about transport these days. We were launched straight into a round of feasting with party number one at my son's partner's father's place. We met the sisters on that side of the family for the first time. It is a long time since we have been amidst so much present unwrapping, as we have never been big present givers at Christmas, so it was almost a bit overwhelming to see so much wrapping paper heading for the bin. Ian laughed later when he reminded our son how everyone used to carefully take off wrapping paper as it would be used in craft projects later in our house.
You can see why he gets so many comments on his hair.
Quite a head of hair for a seven week old

Needle felted pictures by Debbie Colby. I also bought a
tree brooch and some flowery ones for my daughter
and daughter-in-laws
During the year I had made contact with a lovely felting artist, Debbie Colby. I realised she lived close to my son and so we organised to meet up. I was always amazed at her work, I kind of felt she made the pictures that were in my head but I never really got a working image that I was happy with when I was doing my embroidery course though. Then again I had not heard of needle felting at that point and maybe I would have got a more satisfactory result if I had. I shall be getting my designs out again and having another go using some of the techniques that Debbie demonstrated for me. What I love is the thought of being able to use up some of the fabrics I have lying around that I sorted out into various colours the other week.

Our alpacas had visitors too and were well looked after while
we were away. Here the boys have been tempted outside in
the snow with some food.
I spent the afternoon showing our adopted granddaughter how to use her new toy sewing machine, that actually worked quite well. We made sacks for two of the Christmas presents, rather than using wrapping paper. I had already made some Japanese knot bags during the one free day I had during the week (must remember to wash the fabric first next time though, storing them had an adverse effect). We also had a go at making gluten free Latvian style Christmas biscuits or at least the dough. It was good fun to have a helper in the kitchen.
Not an alpaca insight

After our shopping expedition my leg was a bit stiff and so
my son lent me his roller to massage the back of my leg.
They laughed but at least it was a bit easier and now it is
almost back to normal
We ventured into Coventry where my son lives on the Saturday. It was not as busy as we were expecting, which was probably a good thing, considering we are not so used to crowds these days. My son's partner was hoping to take her daughter to see Santa but as we queued up we were told that unfortunately the grotto was closing as Santa had thrown up. Too many mince pies already I guess. Very sensibly the young lass decided it wasn't a proper Santa as Santa is never sick and so we toddled off to IKEA where apparently Santa was definitely residing. Ian and I didn't go up to see Santa as my leg was starting to ache by then, so we had a drink and I put my feet up, while we waited. We were also treated to a lovely meal in town.
Yes I was stood at the door of the greenhouse to take these.

Our son's cat. Surprised she is still friends with us as Ian
helped to de-flea her :D
Our son put in a special request for a Christmas breakfast of home-made croissants. It was a tradition in our house to eat those for Christmas and Easter breakfasts and it is nice that he remembers that. I taught our adopted granddaughter how to make them and got her to do all the hard work of rolling them out. Nothing like a little willing slave labour. It also kept her occupied whilst my son and partner went to prepare Christmas meal number two at one of her sister's homes on her mother's side this time. Gammon featured a lot in our meals over the last week! There were some hilarious games to watch in the evening, although I forgot to take photos during The Pooping the Potato Race. A classy game! Not!
Our messy greenhouse in winter

Our Granddaughter opening her
Before rolling into bed, or rather onto the couch, that night I finished off rolling out the croissants one more time and put them in the fridge to rise overnight. We were usually up early enough to put them in the oven in the morning, as we were still on Latvian time at that point. So Christmas morning we began with the unwrapping of presents before our croissants and had a more relaxed day with Christmas dinner in the evening. Yes more gammon!

Brother and sister
Boxing Day we went for lunch in small, quaint village of Knowle, but the restaurant that we planned to go to was not open. We wandered around a bit before I spotted a little Italian that seemed to be open. It looked shut at first but I realised it was actually the estate agents next door that was shut and the unobtrusive doorway to the Italian was on the other side. It turned out to be a delightful discovery with one of the nicest waiters I have known in a while. A family of older people also turned up and they were friendly too. They complimented our adopted granddaughter on her manners, all credit to her super mum. Our little grandson has also been the star wherever we went. His hair always gets comments. We finished off the day with more time spent in the kitchen (just to clarify, that is my son's kitchen not the Italian) cooking more biscuits to take to another family party the next day.

Me and all my grandchildren. I only got into the picture
as the grandson on my knee would not sit for the photo.
So onto the next Christmas meal at our daughter's house, or rather post-Christmas meal since it consisted of cold meat (yes you've guessed it, there was gammon again too) and various salads with a rather nice selection of desserts. It was also our youngest son's 28th birthday. Hard to think our youngest is creeping rather close to his 30s and our older two are already there. It doesn't seem that long ago since they were the same age as our grandchildren and yet in other ways it also seems eons ago. It was quite a gathering of the clan, as my other son and his family came up from the South and my parents joined us as well.

Our sheep, unlike the alpacas seem to have spent most of the
time outdoors in the rain today
It had been planned that our other son would collect one of us from our youngest's as there was not room in the car for both Ian and I and my youngest's son's family. I went in one car and Ian in the other and we set off in convoy. Only that part didn't go according to plan. We were separated early on at a junction and we got behind another car that looked the same as my youngest son's car. We followed for a little while before realising it was not the same car. Thank goodness for SatNavs on phones these days though as it meant we were quickly back on track and just phoned through to say, sorry we weren't following and we would meet at our daughter's. It turned out our route was the fastest as there was an accident along the route my youngest son took and we were there a good half hour before him. There was some teasing!

Our cats disgraced themselves. They got into the cabinet
where the food is, although I suspect it was the other one,
as that was her trick. The food was relocated to a drawer they
cannot get into
My youngest son went home with his family that evening and Ian and I stayed on at our daughter's along with our older son. In the morning Ian and I met up with Ian's old boss from his time of working in the hospital labs. As I mentioned back in mid-November I received an odd email telling us that his old boss was retiring and they were planning a party. It was odd in the fact the email came to me and not to Ian. Ian got in touch with his old boss and had a bit of an email exchange where he arranged the meeting at Chatsworth Farm Shop for breakfast. It was an amazing conversation of catching up on folks who Ian has worked with. Some sadly have died, many have retired and some still working at the hospital.

He wasn't going to let me get a picture of him, he kept
running to the back. 
Most of the time we didn't go out or do anything special but the children played together quite nicely, which is great. It was a good job they did too as the weather wasn't altogether pleasant and one of them in particular did not like the wet snow. There was one point when all the guys went out to get a tyre fixed as it kept going down on my son's car. It turned out there was a nail in it. When they got back, my daughter, my daughter-in-law and I went out for a coffee and we left the guys with the little ones. I was very proud of my husband, he instantly realised what I meant when I said we were going for a coffee and had no qualms about being left with the little ones. It seemed only fair!

The cockerels in this ark are still not
crowing. Looks like it could be anytime
soon though
It was a bit like Christmas before we set off to the UK, as Ian got a microscope. We were panicking as it arrived the afternoon before we left. He had ordered other parts for his parasitology testing kit to arrive in the UK as it was cheaper, but the microscope would have been more difficult to bring back. There wasn't much time to have a look and play, but it was enough to find out that the eye piece camera was not working on our Macs, even with a Windows adaptation. Ian popped the camera into his luggage and we took it along for our son-in-law to have a look at. Eventually it was decided that we could take another laptop back with us that would work with the camera. I think it is the first laptop we have owned that is not a Mac. We had been falling out of love with Apple just lately and so not too traumatised, except for trying to get it in and out of my rucksack at the airport - small and lightweight it is not, but it works and that is all that matters.

This chap maybe the smallest cockerel but he is definitely
crowing and harassing the females
The next day our daughter and son-in-law left their oldest two with our son and daughter-in-law while they drove us back to our youngest's home. I still had another sewing project to do with our adopted granddaughter on the present I had given her. The present was simple enough, a Japanese knot bag pattern that I had printed out with a piece of dyed woollen blanket and some felt and buttons for flowers. Rather than expect her Mum to help her though, I said I would help her make it before I left. So in the time between visiting her Dad and going to the pantomime we made the bag on my Granddaughter's new sewing machine. It was a nice way to finish off a family Christmas.

Well it was dark and miserable, so lots of chicken photos
So on the last day of the year we headed home. Unfortunately Ian was not so well and we had to dose him up before the plane travel. I had got a sore throat from the kids over a 24 hour period but had recovered by the time we set off,  Ian though seems to have come down with something more. At least the staff at Manchester airport were incredibly friendly, even in security. I have never had a pat down done by such a pleasant member of staff. One of the staff also carried my tray to a table rather than leave me to it. Their approach, I felt, really kept things moving along and left us feeling well cared for rather than traumatised going through security. Not that we have ever been thoroughly traumatised, but it often feels like an ordeal rather than something that just has to be gone through. We also got chatting to a guy on a sandwich counter - mind you I think he was perhaps a little bored, but it filled in time.
Our Grandson is not the only one with a quirky hair do

Hoping to have eggs from these soon
So after a busy Christmas we headed for bed. I did get up in the night when the fireworks started, as I knew they would be loud. I also made the porridge for the morning as we hadn't done it earlier. When all was quiet it was time to head back to bed. We woke up late but it was so dark and miserable, it didn't really matter that much we were late for letting the animals out. They hardly went out anyway during the day. They seem to have developed an aversion to the white stuff that we had on the ground again.

The herb bed and vegetable garden. Needless to say I didn't
bother trying to dig carrots or leeks today
So that just leaves me to say, I hope you all had a Happy Christmas, whether it was as busy as ours this year or more like some of our previous ones where we took things easy. I also wish you all the best for the New Year. May your year ahead be filled with precious moments.