Monday, 5 October 2009

Busy!

I don't do busy normally! I like to take my time, reflect and think, I am much more efficient when I don't do things on the run but this week is an exception as there was not much choice. So here is a run down of our week

Ian has bought a digger to go on the back of his tractor so we can dig out ditches - and judging by the wetness of the land and little ponds appearing everywhere due to the rain this week we are going to have to make use of that, and also for levelling the land for the polytunnels. The digger should have arrived Friday but it didn't, we had a phone call on Monday to say it would arrive Tuesday between 1-3 pm, right during our Latvian lesson, still didn't arrive. Just as the tea (evening meal) was cooked the phone went, our digger was arriving in 10 mins - arrghh! We went out to direct the truck to the land and wondered how he was going to get the digger out of it, Ian had explained very carefully that there is nothing apart from the tractor to be able get the digger off a truck (remember the tractor saga?). We pulled off the road onto the land and stopped so we could consult with the driver, consult is a very loose term for hand gestures equating to some form of primitive communication. We managed to convey that the digger needed to go up over the hill but we didn't think the truck would make it but the driver was willing to give it a go - we had a sinking feeling, in fact five minutes later so did the truck driver, he got stuck... well and truly stuck. We got out our tractor and linked up to the truck but there was no way our little tractor was going to pull that truck out, it fought a valiant battle but the truck was way too big and in the process our tractor was digging holes in the soft sandy dirt roads - not good! Well to cut a long story short I had to phone a friend with a big tractor to come and pull him out, which he did and then the truck driver decided to do a three point turn on a dirt road with ditches on either side - guess what? Yes you've guessed it he had to be pulled out again. Eventually we got the driver sorted out and he took the digger to our friends farm where it now sits because it doesn't fit our tractor. There is a part that is needed that we haven't got, so that is another saga in progress.

Our night did not finish with the truck though, while helping to free the hapless truck driver I got a call from a friend, but couldn't really deal with it at the time, so on our way home I decided to phone back and see what the call was about. Someone was stuck! Groan! They had been fishing after work and in between time it had rained and now their car was stuck could we come and pull it out? Off we traipsed once again, it was a close call but we did manage to free the guy, so at 10:30pm that night we actually sat down to eat after battling with rain and mud for most of the night.

The next day Ian was showing the poly tunnel construction guy the land and the problems we were now having with the mud, which is not going to be helpful in putting up the poly tunnels, when the four wheel drive selector gear jammed on our 18 month old truck. Ian wasn't sure if it was jammed with diff lock on or not and meant he was not really happy about driving it around in case he ruined it (for those who don't know driving with diff lock on ruins transmissions and means major work on the car, under warranty maybe but not what we could do with right now). We were kind of carless for a day or two while Ian sorted out whether it really did have the diff lock on and whether it was safe or not to drive the 2 hours into Riga to get it fixed and in consultation with our Swedish night in shining armour he decided it was safe.

So today we spent the time in Riga with me revising in the car on the way there and back as I have an exam in just over two weeks time - as I said this week has been on the run. We also managed to get a lovely looking wood stove, now that we have the relevant papers to allow us to install it our flat (that saga only a month in the making) and typical Latvian style we got to take it home that day, at least that is one thing we don't have to wait at home to be delivered. We also got a generator so we can run a cement mixer to put in some foundation blocks for the poly tunnel, now we just have to pray it stops raining enough to be able to prepare the ground.

Had a great find while in Riga, a dehydrator! I can sense the excitement from you all! I have been talking about one all week after someone on a blog I follow had bought one and was talking about all the things they had been dehydrating making storage of produce from the garden so much easier. One thing we learnt in Denmark, if you see something that you think maybe useful buy it, as you may never see it again so that is what we did. Now I don't advocate the whole materialism thing, or retail therapy rubbish this is sheer practicality. When you live in a country with only a few million population the range of goods is not as extensive as say in England or the US and so you may see something one week and never see it again. This does mean that you have to be really aware of what you could possibly use sometime in the future so anything that makes food storage easier is a definite must. Can't wait to get started on the tomatoes and the apples.

We started our Latvian lessons in earnest this week and our neighbour brought us round a lovely jar of cherry jam for our first lesson with her, the school teacher gave us Latvian chocolate for our first lesson and some Latvian bread later on in the week, so we are getting to know the tasty side of Latvian culture too. They are such sweet people and very patient, good job as Ian's head hurts. I have learnt different languages from time to time, not fluently but enough and taught our kids English when they were being home educated so I kind of know what to expect and can work things out pretty quickly. Poor Ian hated English at school, doesn't help that he grew up with a Geordie accent which is a very strong dialect and only ever had red crosses through his work as the teacher never explained the correct way to write things, so consequently trying to work out what the Latvian book is trying to teach him is not helpful. I am sure it will get easier with time though and this is just a rough time to be starting, the winter will be perfect when I haven't got as much work to study and Ian hasn't got so much work to do such as working on the land, pulling transport out of mud, and harvesting stuff from our garden.

Another sweet tale from this week is a lady we call the goat lady because she has goats (obvious really) but last year she managed to get us to understand that she would like the outside leaves of our cabbages to feed to her goats which we duly gave her, even bagged up some more later on in the month for her. This year she came down to me chattering away, while I was in the garden, saying something about apples and pointing at her trees. I didn't quite understand so she took me by the hand to the trees and pointed to all the wind falls on the ground, I pointed to my bucket that I happened to have in my hand and she says "Ja, Ja" (yes, yes) and she also explained (well indicated) there were more around the back, so I filled my bucket. This has been really helpful because I think we might have all of a dozen apples on our own tree this year, frost must have got the blossom in spring. Later on in the week I went back for more with two buckets this time and when she appeared out of the house she even helped me to pick some, making sure my buckets were really full.

Latvia has been in the news for all the wrong reasons again and the link gives the fairest assessment that I can see of the spat between Britain and Latvia over the parades by soldiers who were in the Latvian SS during the war. Latvian history is indeed a tangled web and none more so than during the war, judging who was the enemy and who was the ally can be difficult at the best of times and from across the channel and with hindsight the battle lines must look so easy and clear cut but not in the midst of the battle or with a country whose history is so convoluted. The choice that Latvians had, assuming of course they had a choice which many did not because of conscription, was do you join the Nazi side and fight the Russians who have dominated you for many years or join the Russian side to fight the Nazi ideology? Not much of a choice really and many intellectuals left but the men in the fields didn't often have that choice. Some joined the Nazi side and today feel proud that they had tried to stem the advances of Russia, this feeling was then fuelled by the following years under the communist regime; they also wished to acknowledge the sacrifice of their fellow countrymen in that endeavour. I am not excusing them, nor agreeing with them but I can see their point, 46 years under Soviet rule has coloured their appreciation of the past in a way that I don't think we who grew up on the other side of the iron curtain can fully appreciate and I feel that there should be more understanding that this young country is still trying to find its place in the world, that it is also still struggling with issues that are raw. Condemnation without understanding is not going to get anyone anywhere.

While the IMF were busy congratulating themselves and telling everyone what a super job they are doing there are people who do not quite agree and think they are still up to their old tricks by imposing the ideology of free markets on countries that is both painful and counter productive. The IMF think that the pain will be worth it, but it is the poor who suffer every time and the biggest question is "Why should the poor suffer because of debts incurred by the wealthy bankers? Why should they be the ones paying?" The route taken only reduces security by destabilising a country. The Latvian Government is wobbling but possibly won't fail - which party truly wants to take on running Latvia at the moment? Another of my least favourite people is the finance minister of Sweden, he is obviously very worried because if the Latvian economy fails the Swedish run banks are in serious trouble, so he thinks he should keep reminding the Latvian Government to stick to their promises no matter what the pain. If the Swedish poor were put through as much pain as the Latvian poor I think there would be riots, the Swedes would not stand for it surely, but who will stand up for the Latvian poor? Another point to consider is will much of the IMF money given to Latvia end up in the Swedish banks pockets as it is used to service debts? If anyone with a better knowledge of economics can answer that one I will be glad to know but it will be interesting to know where all the money actually ends up, I somehow don't think much will end up in the pockets of the pensioners and the sick.

Photos this week 1) pepper plants that had to be brought in due to the frost, 2) aubergines continuing to grow in the house now also due to the cold, 3) marrows, carrots, cucumbers, 7 pumpkins (plus one more not on the photo) from the mystery plants growing in our manure heap, well we don't know how they got there as we didn't plant them but quite a harvest nonetheless 4) four sacks of potatoes, not bad for an apparently bad potato year 5) all the beans that need de-podding and apples waiting to be sorted.

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