Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Doing okay

The snow is rapidly disappearing from the land
This week has continued in pretty much the same vein as the last week. Firstly apologies for being a bit slow on getting the photos from my iphone to my computer. Something's not going right and I end up working on the computer too late in the day to really get my head around what I am doing wrong, but to compensate there are pictures of alpacas and bouncing children will have to wait until next week.
Plants are beginning to sprout

The geese are returning now
I have steadily adjusted to the routine of three small children and helping my daughter to get them to their various activities. We've done pretty well between us, as we have been up and ready in time and out with the minimum of fuss, -well as minimal as you can get with three under fours. There may have been a few occasions where a nearly two year old was stuffed rather reluctantly into his pushchair, in the manner that you have to with small children from time to time when you need to get somewhere. I will lead you to draw your own conclusions on how that was achieved. For the most part though he was fairly amenable and redeems himself with lots of cuddles.
Aggie still seems to be having problems with her skin, but
at least that lump has not got any bigger

The lambs are growing too. This is curly
I have been rediscovering my negotiating skills with the nearly four year old, some attempts more successful than others. It was amusing one day to hear her happily say she wanted to stop with Grandma while Mummy and Daddy did a quick bit of shopping with the noisy brother, however, as soon as they drove away there was a change of heart and a very sad little girl who was busily regretting her decision. I managed to distract her a bit and there were no real tears but it did lead to a chat later about how to think about something else when we feel sad in those kinds of situations. The solution we thought of first was thinking about stickers, particularly princess stickers with sparkly bits on. Sorry if you are not familiar with the workings of the mind of a small child and their delight with stickers, as that last statement may seem incomprehensible to you, but heh! It worked.
As the snow leaves the puddles appear

The ponds are slowly melting
The new baby has at least begun to get his body clock the right way around by being more alert during the day and asleep at night. Always a good thing. Unfortunately he didn't put as much weight on as he should last week and had to go back for a further visit to the midwife, but she's happy with his weight gain now. He is very alert and holds his head up well and so we have had a few conversations, as you do with a little one.

This contraption for the bin is to stop our two cats from
knocking it over and breaking it. It doesn't necessarily stop
them getting in, but it might stop them getting out again and
teach them a lesson
As expected with a new baby there has been the family visits. My parents came on the Friday. My daughter, her children and I went with my mother for tea and cakes, a very English moment for me. We also finished the day with the very British dish of fish and chips from the chip shop. I don't eat many chips these days, but the fish was good with the few chips I did have. It makes sharing with the children easier anyway.

One of the culprits in full winter coat
The other culprit
The following day my son and his family came, along with some sewing projects that needed doing. Whilst the little dynamo was in bed I altered my step-daughter's confirmation dress and my son's woolly jumper. After that we went out for a walk in the sun - the sun has been a little scarce and I have been drenched a few times taking the oldest one to pre-school, so it was nice to amble along at small children's pace.

A pregnant looking Mari or is it just all fleece? At least the
ultrasound suggests there is a baby in there
Ian has been busy on the farm again. He has been taking bookings for visits for trips from Russian speaking groups and visiting rural business advisors. We are now on the way to having subsidies for 5 ha of land and being Latvia this will not amount to much, but will at least pay for the diesel to run the tractor whilst cutting hay for winter feed, so that is progress. I am sure there are a few more things to mention but I can't remember now, but I know I did forget to mention here that last week Ian was visited by a lady who did ultrasound scans and we now know that three of our alpacas are definitely pregnant. So that is something to look forward to later on in the year.
Lady V unfortunately does not appear to be pregnant. We would
like one more baby from her as she produces good cria (baby
alpacas with good quality fleeces)

Monday, 20 March 2017

A bit short...

I know, I know, I am a bit short in height as all those who know me will attest to, but so will this post be. I was hoping that Ian would be able to upload some photos but he couldn't and my camera battery is out of juice. I also forgot to pack my charger. I have got a new to me iphone but it is not up and running yet either. So apologies for the lack of photos but there are one or two.

A happy smiley face. My sixth grandchild
I have had a rather hectic week. I got to my daughter's on the Monday evening of last week and had some quick lessons on Tuesday on what to expect with her two children before she went into hospital the following day to have her third baby. It is good that I got some practice last week on how to look after a nearly 2 and a 4 year old, as it has stood me in good stead this week. In both cases the younger of the two are little dynamos but the one I am looking after this week is also a whirlwind of activity. My flatter stomach has returned as I lose some of the winter flab chasing after the wee one.

At the hospital with his older
sister. His brother was not
interested in holding him.
At least now he is quite concerned
if he doesn't have a dummy
Fortunately for the most part the youngest one is quite amenable, although he seems to be having a few issues in the last day or two, but teething, new baby etc. does that too you. His older sister likes to be helpful or at least tries to, quite sweet really...... most of the time. It is good fun trying to remember what to do and how to handle the little ones, but I have also had lots and lots of cuddles with the newest arrival.

In chatty mode
He arrived at 11:14am on Wednesday and I went to see him that evening. The first grandchild I have been able to see within hours of his birth. I saw his eldest sister within days, but the others were all older. He is the same weight exactly as my middle baby was, at 4.02kg or 8lb 13oz, quite a size really. Unfortunately whoever programmed him got the programming wrong and he likes to keep his Mum occupied at night and sleeps well during the day. I have had several chats with him about the appropriateness of this behaviour but he only listened to me once.

My two able teachers from last week. Here they are with
some waistcoats I made. They are lined with alpaca fleece
for warmth
I am quite proud of myself, I have had the eldest one to pre-school on time and picked up on time twice and even remembered the packed lunch. We won't mention the fact I had to take the bag for the change of clothing on the first day after leaving it on the pushchair. I also got absolutely drenched today as it was teeming it down on the way, my coat is still drying. I don't think that has anything to do with me coming down with a chesty cough, I think that is something to do with nature's little petri-dishes, aka small children. We are just hoping and praying the youngest one has been getting plenty of immunity from Mum. Anyway I am wrapped up in bed for the evening and had an antibacterial herbal tea of thyme, sage, honey and lemon. Hopefully that will kick it into touch for tomorrow and I will be running around after the human whirlwind again. Also hopefully some photos to follow next week as I get some breathing space and the iphone working.

If you are wondering how Ian is getting on, he has been taking alpacas out for a walk and they have been enjoying seeing blades of grass now that the dumping last week disappeared. There was a dusting yesterday but nothing serious. He has been sorting out shearing in Estonia for the months ahead. Some are going to do it themselves this year, which is fair enough but a few of the smaller ones are still wanting help. At least we shouldn't have the bother of getting cutters sharpened this year, since we have a portable sharpener. It will make the job a lot easier.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Spring time

Spring sunshine on our walk. The daffodils are out and the
grass is green and the men busy strimming
Well it is for me. I set off in winter and arrived in spring. The weather hasn’t been great though with rain and mist sometimes but my grandchildren, daughter-in-law and I did manage a walk in the sunshine on one day. It felt a little odd though to see men out strimming the grass, I mean, green grass and not only visible but long enough to require trimming! Meanwhile back on the ranch, Ian got home okay after his unexpected overnight in the hotel but the roads were bad. It was a wise move to stay over and nice to get an extra few hours together. While we had rain in the South of England, he had snow and perhaps more than has been on the ground the whole winter - just as the winter seemed to be on its way out. Still the birds are starting to return, I saw swans before I left and Ian has seen the first cranes.

Cranes arriving in Latvia

Our little lamb who sadly passed away this week
Sadly our little lamb hasn’t made it. He progressively got weaker and then died in Ian’s arms. We had hopes he would pull through since he survived those first few hours and seemed to be thriving, but we always knew he would be vulnerable. We tried our best and learnt a few lessons along the way anyway.

Strimming the grass
Sickness has curtailed activities with my grandchildren. The first day was fine and we took the children to nursery in the afternoon. It was very amusing when we went to collect them as the oldest gave his Mum a hug, but was not so sure about doing the same for me, the littlest one though ran straight around Mum to me and wanted picking up. Don’t worry, it wasn’t always like that, there was the night that I gave her her toothbrush and went to get the toothpaste and picked up hers but that wasn’t right, I tried to pick her up to show me what she wanted, but that wasn’t right either and in typical toddler fashion, threw herself on the floor face first bum up in the air and cried. I rubbed her back and eventually she thrust her legs out from underneath herself and laid out flat on the floor and went to sleep on the bathroom floor. No teeth brushed but asleep anyway. I just put her to bed and that was that!

My little grandson is not so sure about
my tale of the spiders
The next day was rather eventful. My son was getting ready to go away, as he is a bike mechanic on charity bike rides as well as a mobile bike mechanic, so he was busy trying to get bikes back to their owners before setting off later. While he was out the oldest child was coming down the stairs when he threw up. There was nothing either mum or I could do until he had finished without risking being covered ourselves. Eventually we managed to rescue him off the stairs and I cleared up. Oh it’s a long time since I’ve had to do that. At least I didn’t catch that bug, but I did get a cough though. Bah!

Sitting in the Graffalo's house
Fortunately it was only a 24 hour bug my grandson had and we managed to get out for walks, in between the rain showers. We tried to find tadpoles in a pond one day, but it was a bit early for that. We attempted to count rings on a tree on another walk but there was far too many, we did find the Gruffalo’s house though, and discussed houses for woodlice and spiders. We looked for wild plants to forage and had drinks out at the garden centre. I also went to a children’s party with them and only stepped in once to calm a couple of boys down, especially as they had already been responsible for one smaller child getting hurt. Lol, just like the old days! I was a children’s worker for quite a few years and so it is rather ingrained to intervene at times. Fortunately parents also came and gave them a good telling off too. They were just boisterous, not vindictive anyway, bless ‘em.

Posing with a smile in her new body warmer.
Recycled denim waistcoat with alpaca
lining for warmth
My daughter-in-law and I managed a cup of coffee together on our own for an hour or so and the evenings were spent chatting and creating. She was making frames or crocheting and I was busy trying to finish alpaca lined waistcoats for her two. I got both finished but one was only completed on the last night. Still more to do this week though.

Our alpacas have been a bit fractious this week and spitting
at each other. Spring is near and they start getting into
arguments
As usual there is the reverse culture shock of being in the UK. How can there not be internet on a long distance coach? Not just any old company but the National Express. I get better coverage on the rural Latvian buses. The traffic as usual is horrendous and so I am glad I’m not driving and I guess it is not helped by the fact there is a rail strike. I see a lot of rubbish at the sides of the motorways as usual and a lot of agricultural land being bulldozed, so much for the UK’s food security then! As the country found out bad weather can happen to disrupt supply from other countries. It was tragic apparently, as people couldn’t get lettuces and courgettes from Spain, but it is winter and root crops are available. There are also a lot more windmills around than there used to be. Wonder how that will be affected by the attitudes of the current UK Government to greener energy?

Trying a spot of foraging
I also had a lovely meeting with a lady who was part of the Pioneer group of churches, which we used to belong to in the UK. We had a great chat about faith, poverty, community and the environment. It was great to connect with someone on similar wavelength on all those issues. She is currently changing jobs and is heading for an exciting job with Tearfund, where she will get a chance to integrate those initiatives in the work she does.

Monday, 6 March 2017

All booked up!

Having a snooze in the caravan
Well not quite booked up, but we are heading that way. Our Latvian Alpaca Adventure holiday is all booked up, we got the last booking this last week. We are both relieved and excited that this bit is sorted now. It was a bit scary organising such a trip and we are so pleased that Heather Potten is alongside us, as she has been on quite a few of these holidays and organised workshops in her own studio. We deliberately kept the number small so that there is plenty of time for more personal tuition.

Ian sanded the signs down and varnished them ready for the
new season
We are also getting quite booked up with our apartments too over the summer. We have our own apartment that we live in and then a spare one - long story! but very useful when people visit. During the summer though we mainly live in a caravan on our land and so it gives us the opportunity to be able to let more people stay. At this stage we have one or both apartments booked up from mid-May until near the end of August. This will help a little with our finances too. Don't let that stop you if you still fancy paying us a visit, there is still room, just!
Posing!

Ian should have taken pictures yesterday when the grass was
appearing, because now it looks like the artic tundra again
Our days are also getting booked up as we have now finalised our next felting workshops with our dear friend Galina Blazejewska returning to see us again. We have only just started tentatively advertising this and already we have some interest. We had such great fun last year with Galina and she tutors with such passion and energy. She also enjoyed the relaxed time spent on our farm with the alpacas, as did her friend who accompanied her. She is looking forward to doing some experimenting too, so that should be a lot of fun as we find out more and more about how alpaca works.
Aggie always blinks for the flash, but you can see she is
standing very upright and that is because I'm about and
she is wondering what medicines/injections I have in store.
I always wanted to be a vet when I was a kid, but I didn't
plan on just being unpopular with animals because of
administering medication.

The start of quite a bit of drifting
I started on doing some experimental pieces from three alpaca fleeces this last week. Two were from a friend of ours up in Estonia and one was our old lady (Veronica). I had a theory that the crimp (waviness) of the fleece plays an important part on whether the fleece felts well or not. It maybe back to the drawing board on that theory, as Veronica's fleece wasn't too bad at felting but doesn't have a lot of crimp, a black fleece was okay and definitely better than our black alpaca and a brown one with crimp was terrible to felt - it fell apart. It seems like some alpaca fleeces are just much slippier than others and somehow we have to find out how to tell them apart visually or at least by feel. At the end of the day though it might have to be that each animal has to have a test sample done on their fleece each year and that might be the only way we find out.
At least Chanel forgives me for the toe nail cutting fairly
recently. She just spits when we are doing something like
that, obviously gets it out of her system.

Inside the shed on his own
Our little lamb is giving us a bit of cause for concern again, he seems to be breathing rather fast. He has been on antibiotics again. For someone who does not agree with administering them until it is an absolute necessity, we have been dosing up some of our animals on rather too frequent a basis just lately. Still when they are necessary that is different and he definitely seemed to be struggling to breathe and not running around like the other two lambs.

An interesting ice sculpture? Or just the water bucket
turned out with last years leaves on the bottom
We also got our lambs registered online and we had to give them names. We got a bit silly on that, as we really could not understand why we would have to do that and wondered what on earth people do when they have many animals, apparently it is along the lines of P1, P2 or whatever letter they have in use on that year. Anyway our ram got nicknamed Lamb chop, to remind him of the fate he has avoided (unless he misbehaves), one female as Black Nose because she has..... as you may have guessed a black nose and the other Curly, because her fleece is slightly curlier than the other ones. I do wonder if the folks at the database centre will ever read these and if they do what they will make of the names.

One of the culprits we think
We nearly had spring this last week as the snow began to disappear, only for the grass to then get covered again. It is a bit blustery as well today and the wind is vicious. I think I prefer the -15C on a cold, crisp, sunny day. Egg production is up in response to the longer days, but our hens have decided that eating them is fun. Not good and a bad habit to break. Still we get more than we need and will have to contact our neighbour before long to see if she wants to buy our excess from us again. We will work on getting new broods for this next year and weed out the egg eating culprits over the year. Chicken casserole anyone?

These ones have improved though and seemed to have
stopped eating the eggs, thank goodness as they are pretty
good layers at the moment

Ian communing with Brencis
Ian has been taking the alpacas for a walk again. One day the bus was going past and Ian saw the driver wildly pointing at Ian walking the alpacas to an old lady in the bus, Ian wasn't sure if there was anyone else in the bus or not. He has also waved at Ian before. We shouldn't have any problems then if people want to take a bus ride to us. Ian also ventured to take Aggie and Chanel for a walk. He was worried about Aggie's lump but it doesn't seem to be bothering her and she was more than happy to go. Ian took her out for a long walk as she was stopping to eat the dandelion leaves and pine tree and he thought it would do her good. He also took Chanel, who is a little more jumpy than the others. He got spat at a few times but on the whole she did okay, but he only took her out into the paddock and let her lead the way. Hopefully she will get used to it and continue to settle down.

I planted early seeds of beans and peas the other week, but
nothing has germinated yet
There was also the great toe nail cutting adventure - or at least it feels like that every time we think about it. This has to be done every few months. The animals are getting easier to work with, although I still ache a bit the following day. Some are more compliant than others, but even Turbjørn who is normally very difficult wasn't too bad. He got away a couple of times but was easier to catch than he used to be. Our cats also got their worming tablets. Their diet of wild meat, aka mice, shrews and voles means they often end up with worms. Last time we tried we wrapped Sofie up in a towel like a little mummy and it worked for the first time ever. Unfortunately we weren't quite so successful this time around, but at least she got the majority of the tablet - eventually anyway. Eyre must be taking lessons as she is getting more difficult too. Akk! It was never this difficult with cats we had previously. Why don't they make tablets the cats like? At least cheaply enough.

Mr. P. looking rather shocked that I'm about or taking
pictures. 
I finally got the article I was writing ready and sent off to be reviewed by the organisers of the particular issue that I hope it will get published in. This will be a special issue, which means that it is a collection of similar themed papers. I got it to the organisers on the day of the deadline with my supervisor making last minute suggestions in the airport on his way home from a meeting. I am not a fan of working to a deadline like that. I would have preferred to have finished it back in January. Oh well! That's the life of an academic I understand.

Brencis peering in through the door
I took a few days off after that to try and get some sewing done. I am trying to make some presents for my grandchildren and have really enjoyed working on the pieces. I can''t tell you what they are just yet, as they are not finished and I am going to have to take them with me to finish them off. I hope that the pieces will help me work out a pattern that will work for using up the older or waste fleeces and using recycled material. I decided I could do with some tailor dummies for different sizes from small children to adults - not much of an ask there then! I think I will have to sell a few items first though.

Looking down into the sheep paddock from the boys
alpaca paddock
And to finish off with, a slight change of plan. Plan A was to go into Riga on the bus to a hotel to catch my early flight to the UK in the morning. Plan B was for Ian to take me to the hotel and I get a taxi in the morning to save me having to catch a bus with a large suitcase across Riga at rush hour. We are now on Plan C. Ian has brought me to the hotel but the snow was so bad on the unlit roads it was hard to see the edge so he's staying the night with me and taking me to the airport in the morning.  He won't be up much earlier than normal anyway, since he's an early riser sometimes. The hotel is cheap but it's okay and I am pleased though that I didn't have to try and find it in the snow in the dark. It's a bit of a trek off the main road along a very, very rutted track. And we thought our road out in the sticks was bad!

Monday, 27 February 2017

Now where shall I begin?

Herkules
For anyone expecting some outstanding news with a title like that, sorry! A fairly mundane week this week really. I have been mainly writing an academic paper, but the end is in sight, partly because the deadline happens to be the middle of this week. No sweat! Well maybe a bit. I just need to cull about a hundred words and then we are set. It has taken up much of the week and into the evenings on a few occasions as it has also had to go to a proofreader and my supervisor for revisions. I did manage to fit in a little bit of cutting out for some sewing projects and learning to macrame with the alpaca wool while waiting for replies though.
Herkules in a moody shot

Rather early signs of spring - well early for here
It has been a week of snow showers and so Ian took the drum carder out to the land to card Veronica's fleece. Normally he is out and about and does the carding at home, but since he was stuck in the caravan he decided to make use of his time instead. Carding the fleece, basically means combing it ready for spinning and the drum carder is basically a big comb on a roller that is operated by turning a handle (you can see it here)

Nearly a year to the day since Ian first
started taking Brencis out for a walk.
He has grown a lot in the meantime.
You can see him in the first year here
Ian has at least managed to take the alpacas out for walks in between the snow showers. He even started taking Mari and she has been doing very well. Last year he took her out once and then she refused, but this year she has been much better. This will be helpful as it is one of our advertised activities and the more animals we have available the better. It is also useful that they are trained as it makes it easier for Ian if there is something he needs to do to them while I'm away.

Here is our little fella who we nursed for the first few days
of his life. He needs no extra bottles now, although he is
the smallest of them all
The lambs got a taste of freedom this week as the weather was better than expected at the beginning of the week. There has been one day they were kept locked up all day, as were the alpacas but the rest of the time they have been allowed out. Ian has been locking them up at night because we know there has been a lynx prowling about and a lamb will make a tasty little morsel for them. It also means that they get used to Ian and being moved, unlike the lambs last year, who would go every direction except the one we wanted them to go in. We have also decided to castrate the youngest lamb. He is quite friendly and we think we will keep him after all, as long as he behaves when he gets bigger. I'm sure there are a few of you who are sighing with relief now.
He has a very cute face

While I skied in the snow, the alpaca girls love to roll in it
I did get the chance to ski a bit this week. Although it snowed quite heavily yesterday it is unlikely I will get skiing again as it is turning quite slushy. We'll see. I only went for a couple of rounds on our land, as the snow was quite icy and the cross-country skis are very narrow and not very responsive on the packed snow. In fact in places I barely left a mark it was that icy. I'm not a confident skier at the best of times but still I made it round without falling over. Probably helped that I decided to side-step down the steeper parts. After all the type of skis I have are more designed for a sort of Nordic Walk type action, not swishing down the hilly bits - although the more accomplished ones do without any bother of course. The frozen ground on that particular day did mean that we could get the tractor out and shift hay out of the barn. Most days it has been slushy. At least we know we have at least a month's worth of hay close to the boys and the sheep. The girls are closer to the barn, so that is easier.
The two females having a good chase about

Aggie is not in pain really! She is actually also enjoying a
good roll around
Aggie got her last injection of antibiotic this week and now we have to just wait and see how it turns out. She seems well enough in herself and the lump has certainly not got any bigger, so we are hoping she has recovered If it turns out she hasn't fully recovered, it will probably mean Ian taking her up to Tartu to get her seen by the vets at the university hospital up there. We are hoping it doesn't come to that as I am going to the UK to see grandchildren soon.
The little male looks quite scrawny and not as robust as the
females though

At least someone behaves themselves, sticking close to
Mum
Sometimes at this time of the year the animals start getting into fights, like Brencis and Mr. P. a couple of weeks ago. The cats have also been scrapping and they have had some right ding-dong battles. Mainly it is Eyre trying to boss Sofie the older cat around. Up to this week she has been getting the upper hand, but finally Sofie had had enough and put her in her place in no uncertain terms and so they have now quietened down a bit. Sofie is quite a gentle soul really and will tolerate quite a bit, but once her boundaries are crossed you don't mess with her.
Growing up fast on mother's milk

Tellus along with Herkules and Turbjørn were our first
alpacas. Tellus and Herkules are gentle souls and easy to
look after. Tubjørn not so laid back and too intelligent for
his own good. 
Ian had a surprise phone call today from the gentleman in Sweden who sold us our first alpacas. He is still in the process of selling up, so if you want some alpacas we know a guy who has some and that is not as dodgy as it sounds, he does have some good quality as well as pet quality ones. Anyway, Ian and he chatted away for three-quarters of an hour, catching up on the goings on on the farm about the highs and the lows. He told him about all the things we have been planning to do with the alpacas and how far we have got, which is sort of far and sort of not. 

Brencis is a gentle soul like his father, Tellus. He is also
very sociable and likes a good neck rub.
It is sort of far because we now at least have more concrete plans but sort of not because we are having a bit of a frustrating time trying to sort out applications for EU subsidies and applying for grants. We thought we had some help, but either she has been too busy, or she has been dealing with a sick child or maybe we are too much hard work. Not sure really. I'm sure we will sort it out one way or another. Every little helps as the saying goes.

They are all getting quite fluffy now and so we are hoping
for some good long fleece on them all
We are not sure if our apartments might be quite busy with folks coming and going over the summer this year or not. We've had a few enquiries about staying but nothing concrete yet. If everyone comes who wants to then we are going to have to make a booking chart to keep up-to-date. I would hate to double-book someone. So if you want to pay a visit over the summer, get your booking in quick. We will be out in the caravan at least.