Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Yahey Tractor arrived

Well the big news of the week! Our tractor finally arrived, on the last delivery date possible . Unfortunately the day did not go smoothly as the tractor arrived on the back of a truck but with no means to get it down, Ian was not exactly chuffed (translation: he was not best pleased). Eventually with the help of a friend we found a ramp in our village in a works yard and with quite a bit of manoeuvring and some borrowed timber from someone's wood stack(don't worry we put it back when we finished) our friend backed it off the truck then he drove it out to the land which is about 5 km away, or would have been 5km if it wasn't for a diversion due to the ongoing water system renovations in our village. Ian couldn't drive it out as he had never driven a tractor before and was hoping to practice on the land. At least since then we have both had a go on the little baby, oh it is so cute (never thought I would say that about a tractor).

Our garden is still producing well and we are now eating fresh sweetcorn nearly every night along with the dreaded courgettes (zucchini). We are heading into the time of the year though where we start to battle the elements waiting for the frosts to finish off many of our plants. Last year we had our first frost on the 1st September but this year the frosts have held off but the chill is definitely setting in. One other battle this week was with caterpillars, honestly our attention is diverted for a couple of days and the monsters descended on our crops of brassicas, their favourite being broccoli. Well we responded to the onslaught with a vengeance (skip the rest of this paragraph if you are squeamish), Ian clapped his hands over groups of leaves and caterpillars and I squashed them between thumb and forefinger - not a pretty sight and pretty messy, it was a proper caterpillar massacre. A few days later I went back up and discovered yet more of the little darlings but this time I went armed with a bucket and dropped them into the bucket and drowned them in a pond - hope the fish appreciated them.

This week has been gorgeous for the most part here and so one day I decided to take the morning off from studying and went mushroom and cranberry picking. I will only pick chanterelle mushrooms as they are the only ones I can identify, and Ian and I are still here to tell the tale so I guess they were okay and not poisonous. It was much nicer this year picking the cranberries as the sun shone into the little patch where they grow in a damp mossy bit of ground; last year it was cold and my feet were freezing. It takes ages to pick cranberries and I got perhaps a jar full after picking for half an hour, good job they have such an intense flavour and a little goes a long way. There is a lovely aroma in that part of the forest too, I really can't identify it but it just smells magical, and reminds me of all those tales of magical forests with mythical creatures. So if you can imagine a sunny clearing in the forest with mossy mounds and glistening red berries of cranberries growing on slender wiry stems amongst the moss, and a sweet scent wafting around then you have a picture of my favourite place in the forest.

Ian and I also took the time sit with cups of tea and chat and wander about the land trying to decide what is going where, sometimes the place seems so small and manageable and then sometimes it seems huge and we wonder what we are going to do with it all. One area has been designated for polytunnels and we will dig out the well some more and make a pond, so we have water on hand for the polytunnels. Next to where the polytunnels will go is also a natural basin that isn't really suitable for continually driving the tractor up and down as it is so steep, so we are thinking of putting fruit bushes in there and maybe some grape vines on the sunny side of the basin, but maybe it will be a frost pocket too and that will only become clear as we work the land and spend time observing the seasons. Already we are becoming acquainted with the changing flora around the land indicating the areas which are rich in nutrients (hence the deep coloured nettles of which there are plenty) and the areas which appear rather sandy and poor. We are going to have to try trial plots all over the place working out bit by bit what will work where and what works in this climate and what doesn't, trying to glean from the locals the crops and varieties that work well. Besides enjoying being out on the land we also had a site inspection for the polytunnels and were rather shocked to hear that they may come on Wednesday this week to start putting one of them up - well that is what they said on Saturday, I will be convinced when they turn up, I have been here long enough not to rely on dates given but to go with the flow but we need one up before winter otherwise it won't be useful to us until Spring 2011.

In the last blog I mentioned that trying to get permission to put a wood stove into our apartment building is a bit like a treasure hunt. Last week we were sent from one place to another and ended up back in our home village only to find the office shut as it only opens two days a week. Well this week we got to the office to speak with the building inspector, but he said we needed to speak the architect so had to come back later in the week... are you getting the picture?...... we went back on the Friday with someone to translate but the architect did not turn up, the building inspector however decided to come out to our apartment, then and there, to have a look. After his inspection he gave us the number for the architect and our friend rang her and she said she would come on Saturday before 12pm. We waited and waited and cleaned our apartment while waiting but she didn't turn up but informed our friend when he phoned that she would come after 2pm, well we were fed up with waiting and it was a beautiful day so we went out to the land and had a cup of tea and a walk around and eventually at 4pm she phoned to say she was waiting. Being Latvian she wasn't upset at having to wait for us. She was positive about the project and told us what papers we needed from our house manager and said she will be in on Friday.....so hopefully we have everything now and the treasure hunt ends... well possibly...errr you never know.

We also had tractor implements delivered today and this is the first time we suspect someone has tried to pull a fast one. We wanted them delivered to the land as we have no storage at our apartment for ploughs and grass cutters and the driver of the van tried to tell us that because we had said the implements were to be delivered to our village (around 45km from the shop) and the land is about 5km (3 miles) away from our village they wanted an extra 10 LVLs (£14, $21). We had had enough difficulty organising everything as there was only one guy who could speak some English and he didn't always understand us, but we paid the bill for the implements at the bank and then the van, with the implements in, followed us to the land (how about that for service, you don't get that in England, delivery within the hour). After a few phone calls they dropped their request for some extra cash for the extra few miles but we did suspect that the driver wanted the extra cash for his own pocket and not the shop owners. Sometimes if you read the news about Latvia you would think they were a nation of con artists but this is the first time someone has tried hard to get some extra cash out of us, normally we find that the Latvians go out of their way to make sure we don't spend too much by showing us the cheaper articles in the shop, or splitting packets if we don't need whole packets of tiles or laminate flooring or whatever else you can think of. We have been shown much kindness and consideration even if we half frighten them to death because we can't speak their language properly. This week we have even found a rapport developing with people in our community, the lady in the post office even smiles and jokes with us (I know what she means even if I don't understand her words) whereas before she often seemed sullen. One of our neighbours was also quite helpful trying to think of someone who might be able to help us with the language, unfortunately she is a teacher of maths and didn't feel able to help herself but promised to ask us what we have learnt and help us that way and she also told us to help ourselves to the plums which hang over our garden plot.


  1. Do you never learn? you always grow to many courgettes! Try planting fewer seeds next year and then they may not become the dreaded courgettes.

  2. I did I did! Honest! I only grew three green courgette plants this year and I experimented with some yellow ones. The yellow ones took a long time to get going but then they took off and that is when we ran into the courgette glut. Now if we could find a market for courgette plants!!!!!!!!!!!!


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