Monday, 28 December 2009

Last post of the decade

We have had a very strange Christmas this year, firstly because we didn't have any children to stay with us and we didn't pick up any strays along the way either. So Christmas day itself was just the two of us for the first time in 23 years. I did make some croissants for breakfast and we ate breakfast together which we rarely do, partly because Ian prefers breakfast as soon as he gets up and I don't, and I am up later than he is. I do have to add though it was Ian's second breakfast of the morning, he couldn't last until I woke up. We followed the breakfast with bacon butties for lunch and just didn't get around to going out, or doing anything really during the day- it was great. We didn't even have presents to unwrap because we have bought so many other things just lately and none of them can be wrapped and put under a Christmas tree. We couldn't even be really bothered to make a proper Christmas meal and had only been able to get pork anyway but it just didn't seem to matter. Eventually we got organised and made our way out to the local hotel where they had a string quartet - very civilised, they even played some traditional carols that we recognised. We then went to a "do" which started at 9pm. We had been invited by the orphanage but had no idea what we had been invited too and watched with amazement as people trundled in with bags of food and bottles of drink, and saw the band warming up. We couldn't work out if all these people were connected with the orphanage or not but gradually it dawned on us that they weren't but we still were clueless as to what was going on. Fortunately a young lass we recognised who spoke English turned up and we asked her what it was that we had been invited too. It turned out that we had been invited to  a dance with a country and western band, not quite our style but it was fun to watch Latvians out for the evening. I have to say some of the young men were surprisingly good dancers, whirling their partners around with practised ease, we were sure that Latvians are born dancing as well as singing which they are famous for.

Before you feel sorry for us that our children have abandoned us at Christmas our daughter has now come out to see us along with her boyfriend, just a few days late that is all. As I said earlier on this year we have always said that we would never insist on our kids coming to see us at Christmas, if they do come then that is great but we will never insist on it as it creates too many issues for young folks trying to balance family commitments. We also said that we would cross the bridge of a childless Christmas when we came to it and that bridge has now been crossed and to tell you the truth, it wasn't too painful, just different. Besides crossing the bridge of a childless Christmas this year we also crossed the bridge of leaving behind being the parents of teenagers as our youngest of three turned 20 years old. Scary how time passes.

Boxing day night we narrowly averted disaster, or at least hope so. We have a beautiful Christmas tree that we chose from the land and I watered it diligently but I forgot one minor detail about our ingenious Christmas tree base and that was not to fill the base up higher than the screw holes........ well water seeped out through the holes- not too bad as there is even a drip tray, the fatal mistake though was to lay some rather nice Christmas stockings over the base which sucked up the water and leaked it over the side onto our laminate flooring, not a good idea. A rather nice free Christmas tree nearly ended up an expensive one if it had lead to ruined flooring but hopefully the dehumidifier saved the day.

Just lately we have been looking into getting a chipper/shredder so that we can deal with the huge piles of clippings from the woodland that Ian has amassed over the last couple of months, hopefully making use of it for composting purposes and creating non-muddy paths in our polytunnel. As we hadn't seen any we thought we might have to import one from England but the other day we spotted one in Depot (a DIY store) while shopping for other bits and pieces, we hummed and harrhhhed and hummed and harrhhed some more before then deciding we had better buy it as it was less than the ones we were looking at in the UK and we wouldn't have to pay postage on it, it was also neat enough to wheel through the forest and shred on the spot as well. Perfect! At least we hope so. They only had the one so we didn't dare come back after taking some time thinking about it, this was one of our biggest "if we don't purchase it now, we may never see another one" purchases but it has got to be done when things are rapidly disappearing from the shops, even the shops are rapidly disappearing. You should have seen us dismantling the thing to get it into the boot of the truck to get it home in Depot car park on a freezing day though.

Last week I said I said that our apartment building has a fuse for the whole house of 35A but I stand corrected, there is 35A available for each block of 6 apartments not 18 as I thought. It still leaves us the with a problem; we can afford to run several appliances and so we can run pretty close to our maximum power output that we can draw through our 20A fuse, but the issue is what about our neighbours? If we pull enough power to run 2x2kW radiators during the cold autumn months before the heating is put on then that means there is only the same amount of electric available for our other 5 neighbours ie they have to share the rest of the 4KW between them. Does that mean that we are actually using more than our fair share of power and denying it to our neighbours? Well not at the moment but it could be if our neighbours buy more appliances. Being able to afford something or the right to do it does not mean that we should, we need to show consideration to others in the process.

On the subject of heating, our bills this year have thankfully been much lower. Many of our neighbours are suffering the effects of reduction in salaries and so heating bills in the order of last year (88-112 LVLS or £111-£141) would have been devastating, and we had such cold weather that our bills should have been higher but thanks to a re-circulation pump that was fitted a couple of months ago this last bill was only 21LVLs, an amazing reduction. This means that teachers who were earning around 500 LVLs last year and only around 250 LVLs this year will be breathing a sigh of relief, some good news in what has been a disastrous year for Latvians economy wise.

Not sure what happened or the reason for it but we found out that the waste removal will no longer be organised by the local Parish, so what now? Who will empty our bins (trash cans)? Our house manager has to phone a company and organise a personal contract for the whole house, but we do wonder how many others in the village will have their waste removed in the New Year. The local tip (landfill) has also been closed as it is not up to EU regulations and the nearest tip is 45 km away. It is going to take some creative solutions to deal with the waste produced even if the average Latvian produces much less waste than most European nations. It just seems very strange that something that I have taken for granted as a state responsibility will not be carried out simply because the contract was not renewed. Even stranger to me was the fact that our last delivery of the year was carried out on Christmas day. The thought of bin men turning out on Christmas day in the snow in England would be laughable, just not possible, but it did here.

Earlier on this year the director of the Latvian institute, Ojars Kalnins, commented that if the Latvian crisis was a book it was in the opening chapters and that there would be many twists and turns in the plot, well the twists and turns have certainly continued as the courts tell the government it is unconstitutional to cut pensions and they must return the money to pensioners. That totally messes with the budget that the government had set with the agreement of the EU and the IMF. If the lending institutions insist that the pension cuts must stay then they are effectively telling the Latvian people that the rule of law means nothing, that the rule of money trumps democratic processes. So what for the New Year, something has to give either the IMF or the Latvian people, somehow I believe the Latvian people will be like David in David and Goliath, how or why I am not sure but I do know the constitutional courts have made the right decision, illegal decisions cannot be inflicted on the country by a lending institution, the Prime Minister accepts he can't legally force the country to do it and the IMF can spit with fury but if they have really learnt that the country has to be responsible then it cannot and must not over rule the rule of law of any nation if it is to retain any credibility. It has to work with the system that is in place.

Photo 1 Cold misty day in the village
Photo 2 Train in Sigulda
Photo 3 Christmas Tree
Photo 4 & 5 The hotel in Licupe, after and before the fire
Photo 6 Ice roads
Photo 7 & 8 Wintry scenes in Latvia

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Happy Christmas

I haven't posted one single card this year, I just didn't have time to get organised. Well that is my excuse and I am sticking to it. What I do want to do though is to wish everyone a peaceful and safe Christmas wherever you are. May all of you who follow this blog know the deep peace of God in your lives, the excitement of a creative and exuberant God and know the loving hands of a Father holding you tight and loving you like no earthly Father can do. So here is my Christmas card to all of you.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Food glorious food

I got into the habit of stockpiling for winter in the early years of married life, we lived in Sheffield, England and the first few winters the snow was over 12 inches deep (30cms), which is a lot for England. This habit meant that there was always enough flour, milk powder, tins of food etc in the house and there were a few winters when it was a good job I had a stockpile. When we moved to a small village in Derbyshire we only had one car and Ian needed it for work in the winter, so if I didn't get the shopping done at the weekend, it didn't get done and snow occasionally stopped me getting out and about on a shopping day. Although we now live in a village here in Latvia there are two small supermarkets and so shopping shouldn't be too much of a problem, but if the weather was to get really bad or a there was a flu epidemic that could mean shortages and that would make things difficult. So as we had already had an early snowfall this winter, I began to stock up, but found I had another problem I hadn't thought about. The crisis has hit Latvia hard this year and now it is beginning to show in the shops, the occasional empty shelf, the regulars that we usually get not in stock, they even ran out of orange juice for two weeks - they had other juices and orange nektars but not orange juice, there was even one day when there was hardly any bread on the shelves. This has meant that some of the items that we had stockpiled are now running low, we are now down to one bag of raisins, which is a pain as we throw a handful of raisins on our breakfast every morning. We shall have to do what we try and avoid doing and that is to do a big shop in a big supermarket in one of the bigger towns.

Since we are on the topic of food, I will mention a classic cook book I came across while looking for my next load of books for my studies, it is a free e-book or you can buy the real book if you feel it will be of use.   It was written by the head chef to Queen Victoria, for the working classes to help them to improve their nutrition, it has such helpful hints like "buy a stove", now isn't that a good idea, would never have thought of that. To make your own bread you need a tub or trough to take a bushel or two of flour apparently; now a bushel is 8 gallons which is about a bucket and a half of flour - rather a lot of flour don't you think but I guess they did have large families in those days. I thought it was hilarious how beef was considered a common source of meat but an old chicken was a rarity, shows how things have changed.

Must also mention that I love the French's way of tackling obesity and that is to teach people how to cook properly, such a classically French approach and perhaps they are right. Apparently the five a day isn't working and sitting down to eat a proper meal may just cut the weight problem and stop people reaching for the fast food- pity it's not working for me though, I make just about everything from scratch and fishfingers and beans are about as processed as you get in our house. Hopefully though now my studying is finished for a month I can get out and about more.

As I said there was one day the bread shelves were virtually empty and since Ian lives off the stuff we thought it would be a good idea to get a new breadmaker for Christmas, funny thing is my American neighbour also went out and got one on exactly the same day, must be great minds think alike. Anyway Ian is a little worried about ours though as it is has the words "Hell" "Mittel" and "Dunkel" written on it he thinks it might be demonic, and it has a symbol on it that looks like fire. I did try to reassure him that it really meant light, medium and dark in German and this was perfectly normal on a breadmaker, and the fire symbol was really just an ear of corn, not sure he is convinced though but I don't think it will stop him enjoying the bread made in it.

Last week was rather chiily as it got down below -20C and at that temperature cars won't start (our car was fine but others had problems), chainsaws start freezing and did you know that the inside of double glazing freezes? Just some of the random facts I have found from experience. People from the UK often cannot understand how it can be quite bearable below freezing but the reason is because the air is a lot drier when it is persistently below 0C, when it hovers around freezing it is damp and miserable. If the wind is blowing it is not so nice and you can feel your cheeks begin to freeze but when it is still, then just making sure your wrapped up correctly is all that is necessary. The only real problem when it gets to 20C is that nose hairs freeze, if anyone knows what to do about the tickly feeling in your nose as they freeze when you breathe in then please do let me know. We did have a bit of a panic the other days though as our electric went out, my first thought was not to get some candles lit but what about the heat. We are still waiting for the plinth for our fire to be finished so we haven't got any independent heat yet and so it was a little worrying but fortunately the problem was only temporary and the lights came back on; apparently the whole house was taking too much electric and a fuse blew. There is only 35A for the whole 18 apartments, it is common for a UK house to have about 80A, so you can imagine the problem, especially when certain individuals go buying things like breadmakers!!!!

It was my name day on Tuesday so I was informed! Latvians like to celebrate, you can tell this because they don't only have a birthday they also have a name day too. If you click on the link you can see a list of all the names celebrated in the month of December or Decembris in Latvian (other helpful words to know are Svetdiena = Sunday, Pirmdiena = Monday, Otrdiena = Tuesday, Tresdiena = Wednesday, Ceturtdiena = Thursday, Piektdiena = Friday and Sestdiena = Saturday). While on the subject of celebrations we have two events planned for Christmas day itself, the first will be at the hotel as there is a concert and the other is a party for those who have been involved in the local orphanage in someway, which starts at 9pm. Seems so strange to have events actually on Christmas day itself as that is the last day I would expect anything but obviously not the case here.

One thing that has been resonating with me whilst studying is the idea of traineeships for farmers, where a trainee is shared between three or four farmers so they get plenty of practice and the farmers get extra help but not committed to one trainee each which can be a drain on finances for the farmers. It was interesting therefore to read on one blog of the importance of apprenticeships and learning from parents and relatives skills for life, skills that are important to pass onto the next generation. We live in an instant generation and passing on lifes skills is not considered of such high importance, plus kids have other distractions that means they don't want to hang around dad or mum or anyone older than them so they can learn. We are all missing out on so much more than say learning to cook or farm or mend, we are missing out the opportunity to pass on wisdom learnt over years of life.

Well the debt collectors are at the gate and they want more - not content with expecting the Latvian Government to cut 500m LVLs (£629m or $1012m) they now want 700m or 800m LVLs of cuts which amounts to around 347 LVLs per man, woman and child or put another way 42 days of working for a teacher.  If the IMF continue to expect the cuts to be made that they are asking then there will be nothing left in Latvia, nothing left for recovery. The Swedish owned banks are taking properties under their control and hanging onto them for five years or so and then hoping to sell at a profit because to sell now will not do them any good, apparently they learnt their lesson from a previous problem with the Swedish banking system. Really!!!! I am not sure they learnt anything from the Swedish crisis of the early 90s, otherwise they wouldn't be in the mess they are in now. Around 5 or 6 years ago many Latvians didn't even have a mortgage and now many of them are deep in debt, now that suggests aggressive selling techniques to me. I also find it incredible that Abu Dhabi can give Dubai their reckless brother state enough money to get them through but the 'prudent' EU states will not help just 2.3 million people - that is the sum total of the Latvian population, now how much would it take to at least make sure the poorest are cared for?

I am proud though to have joined a nation that can stare into the face of a crisis and say that some things are more important than having money. Some Latvians are reacting in a very positive way to the crisis now that they are getting over the shock of the collapse and this BBC podcast was very uplifting to listen to.

1 Sunrise around 8:30am on a bitterly cold day -20C
2 & 3 The forest that Ian has cleared out
4 One of the springs now nearly frozen over
5. The water must have been oozing out of the bank and freezing as it travelled down to the now frozen stream

Monday, 14 December 2009

Sun and the big freeze

We saw the sun today, it was gorgeous. There was enough snow to cover everything with a fluffy white blanket and the sun softly glinting off everything was enough to lift the spirits after the long dark autumn we have had (sorry no photos yet though as I wasn't at home and didn't have the camera with me but maybe tomorrow I shall take some). Be rest assured that the snow is not going to disappear in the meantime, that has something to do with the fact it was down to -16C (3F) at sunset, and what a sunset it was, just a few clouds in the sky and the sky darkening down into that wonderful winter golden orange. One of the things we have learnt since moving away from the UK is that below freezing is okay, it is often dry, not that damp just above freezing weather that chills you to the bone that you get in the UK. There are no heroics though, when it comes to what you wear. Layers have to be chosen with care, enough to keep warm but not enough to sweat as you don't want the sweat freezing. I hate hats but I wear one all the same, I wouldn't go out without one at those sorts of temperatures, a big difference to the UK where it was rare that I ever wore a hat. I was actually working at a flat we own nearby, trying to get some extra heat into the place since the temperatures have dipped so drastically and we don't want burst pipes and it was nice to have a change of scenery while I studied, but the walk back home for lunch was chilly as there was a breeze, but bundled up in my layers I was fine. 

I got my exam results back from the OU course this week from an exam that I took in October and I was very pleased with myself as I did a lot better than I expected. I knew I had passed but wasn't sure how well I had actually done, so was very relieved to get a very good result. It does now mean that I should get a Postgraduate Certificate in Development Management as I have passed the two units required which means I can put PG Cert Dev Mgmt after my name - that is if I ever remember and if I ever really need to. Having said that I do now have to wait for all the usual verification which means waiting a few more months before it is all confirmed.

I was also pleased to get some very good results back from my two assignments on my new course and so I set off to start my next assignment with confidence; unfortunately my confidence did not last and I got bogged down in it - it just would not flow. I got quite a way into the assignment and decided that as a good student I should have a look at the question and make sure that I am actually answering the question and the answer to that was "No! I wasn't" I really felt I had been wasting my time and could see time slipping away as I have another assignment still to do before December 18th. I was so tired that night as I was explaining to Ian but then I had a flash of inspiration, I could include what I had written but I did need to lead into it differently, justifying my approach - Phew! Saved! Amazing what a bit of waffle will do but why is it that flashes of inspiration strike you at rather inconvenient times? I had another inspiring moment just as I was dropping off to sleep and it was no good hoping I would remember in the morning, I had to get up and write it down there and then.

One of my assignment topics is foodsheds - so what is a foodshed? And no it is not where you put the potatoes for the winter, it actually describes the places our food comes from. It is a term kind of pinched from geography "a watershed" which is the area that water drains from into a river. When our grandparents or even great-grandparents were little their food came from fairly local sources and so they would have had a small foodshed but as our world modernised our food came from further and further afield. Have you ever looked in your cupboard and found out what is produced locally and what is produced further afield? Have you ever thought which foods you are eating, that came all the way from Chile or Kenya, could actually be produced nearby? Okay you may have thought about that as it has a lot to do with foodmiles, but how big is your foodshed? On average in America food travels 1300 miles from source to plate (and that is not to knock Americans, those are the statistics I could find, I don't think Europe will be much better) that is a lot of travelling and we suffer for it as the choice of what we have to eat is decided not by taste but how well it handles and how well it stores. I love the comment made in one of the papers

"We live in a world in which we are ever more distant from each other and from the land, and so we are increasingly less responsible to each other and to the land. Where do we go from here? How can we come home again? "

So how do we come home again? Foodwise that is? What choices do we have to make in order to reduce our foodshed? What changes in our diet would we have to make? That doesn't mean that all our food has to come from nearby, but it should make us more thoughtful in what we do eat.

Some more momentous news this week - our little tractor finally made it back to us and complete with a front loader, only nearly two months to the day after we should have got it but who's counting? Doesn't it look sweet? Ian enjoyed playing about with it on Friday using it to pull some of the wood out of the forest instead of doing it all by hand. Only he didn't have long to enjoy having his tractor back, as now that the front loader is fitted it now needs to go to a little old man who is an apparent whizz with engineering and he is going to make a frame for the back hoe to be fitted to. Heh ho! Maybe soon it will have all its fittings ready for the Spring so that he can dig ditches with it - no chance of digging ditches now, we would need one of those machines that break up tarmac to get through the frozen ground.

Having Latvian lessons gives us the opportunity to find out a bit more about the place we live in and we found that the state of the economy in our village is not so good as you would expect at this time. There are around four or five factories making wood products and the workers are down to working around 10-15 days per month, the local hotel also has workers who work around 10 days a month and the staffing level in the restaurant is down to one waitress and the cook operating the whole hotel and restaurant with no one on reception. There is also rumour of the local orphanage possibly closing down, I wouldn't normally mention rumours but even if this isn't true it is unsettling for youngsters who have an unsettled way of life anyway and this is something they could well do with out. The orphanage is not a plush place, it is basic but the kids are well enough looked after and their life is less chaotic for being there and I worry about what the outcome for them will be, they are smashing kids who look out for each other and now the future looks uncertain.

Obviously part of the reason for these problems is the fact that Latvia has a colossal debt to repay to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which was taken out to stop the economy collapsing. There are those who believe that the IMF are solely acting as debt collectors, making sure the banks who leant far too much money don't lose it all (just search on IMF and you will see what has happened over the last year if you haven't been keeping up to date), which hardly seems fair on those who have most to lose - the poor. In return for the loan the Latvian Government have had strict conditions to accompany the credit packages, including slashing public sector expenditures, hence the closure of orphanages, some of which have already closed. At the same time the World Bank (which like the IMF is also part of the UN) has warned governments not to cut social welfare programmes as they try to limit expenditure. "They should not now make dramatic cuts across the board or stop paying pensions. Many countries have good welfare programmes in place and these should be protected," the World Bank’s Barbone said. - all I can say is will someone please make up their minds!!!!! 

Out of the blue this week we were told that the hotel where we had been meeting with other Christians was no longer available, not quite sure why but it does leave the dilemma of where to meet. The default option is to meet out at a camp which is a few miles outside of the village but this is not really the best to build a church embedded in the community in which it lives and working out Kingdom life in that community (oh and when I say build a church, I don't mean a church building). It will be interesting though to start looking at the possibilities. Houses? Community buildings? There are pros and cons to all of them but I know that personally I would hate to see a purpose built building that looked like the sort of thing that everyone thinks of when you mention the word church. I long to see more of church life expressing the life and vitality of a risen Christ, and how appropriate then that at this time of year our own church community is homeless - turned away from the Inn, I wonder what will be birthed from this?

Photos this week
Photo 1 - a desolate looking landscape just as the big freeze began to set in
Photos 2 & 3 -More ice creations - I am beginning to think that it is the ice that forms as it gradually opens up rotten wood as it freezes the contents. 
Photo 5 -Ian in his tractor
Photos 4, 6, 7 & 8 Tractor WITH front loader.

Monday, 7 December 2009

What is it all for?

So another week gone by, and now I am getting into more assignments for my course. I love the topics, producing reports on "Stemming the tide of migration of rural young people" and "Foodsheds and their relevance to sustainable communities" (well those are the abbreviated titles) but the deadline I set myself of one assignment finished this week and then the next one the following week makes me feel tired before I start. Hunting for information, putting it together and hoping I am answering the question I find exhausting but I will get there and then I actually have some time off to look forward too. Yippeee! Not like my poor unfortunate youngest who was given work for over the Christmas holidays from his Uni course. The beauty of my course is that it consists of distinct units, so I complete the first two units on December 18th and don't start the next two until sometime in January. Mind you I have a book list a mile high and a stack of interesting papers to read over Christmas which may or may not be useful in the future, plus planning for next years tasks on the land to do but I guess that is what comes of learning for my own purpose and not just for a course.

I really felt like I was doing what God asked me to in taking up the studies for my course but I have sometimes wondered "what it is all for?", "what is the point?" and "where am I going with it all?" but this week I feel a little clearer on why I am doing it. A quote on a blog from Jeremiah 6:16 “Stand at the Crossroads and look.....and find the Ancient ways....and walk in the good ways”" started me thinking. The point of the quote was that we should stop to consider the way ahead at the crossroads, instead of charging off in one direction. I feel what I am doing is almost like sitting down at the crossroads and studying in detail the destination of each direction and the places along the route. Not just reading the signs but getting the map out and studying the terrain thoroughly. Hopefully by doing this we will be able to plot our route more thoroughly and not take too many detours along the way.

While I am studying Ian, as I mentioned before, is busy clearing the woods, I even went and helped him over the weekend, just to get out of the house. As we stood drinking a cup of tea and looking around I commented that it now feels like a friendly wood, and Ian agreed as it was now one you could have a gentle stroll around, instead of hacking through the undergrowth being attacked by stray branches with a whip like intensity. There is one big problem though with all the clearing that Ian does, for some reason he comes back smelling like a fishmonger, it is quite revolting. Not quite sure why he smells like a fishmonger really because on analysis it is the smell that you get off wet logs but as he comes through the door there is definitely a smell that wafts in ahead of him like day old fish, not nice.

Despite the early snow and cold we had, the rest of November has been dark and grey, it is so bad that this year nearly all the plants that we brought in to protect them from a harsh winter, gave up the ghost and died. It is incredible how quickly they seem to give up too, one minute they look okay and then over a couple of days they start to droop as if they haven't been watered even though they have (no not too much either) and then they completely shrivel. I think our chance of some early peppers are gone now, unless we get some snow to brighten up the days as we only have about two plants left and I think they are on the verge of abandoning all hope.

We have finally had some progress with the front loader for the tractor. Ian was all geared up for a showdown, 'we get the front loader soon or we want our money back' type little discussion when they got in first and rang to say the parts had finally arrived and could they come and collect the tractor? So Friday Ian waved goodbye to our little tractor once again, as it set off back to the workshop for the third time. Hopefully this time we get it back this week complete with front loader!!!!!!!!!!!!! (For the full saga link 1, link 2, link 3). It should have been fitted by the 12th October so it is rather on the late side and we have no idea of who fouled up in ordering the front loader parts for a tractor with a cab; the one they tried to fit originally was for one without a cab and had we used it would have smashed into the cab - not recommended really.

Climate change is obviously back on the agenda, think it is due to a little conference in one of the places we used to live in errr now let me see, oh yes Copenhagen. That oh so green country!!!!! Not really! Having lived in Copenhagen we appreciated the fact we didn't need a car to get around, the bike facilities and public transport meant we were well catered for and they do recycle a lot  but that is because they need to, you should see the amount of junk mail that comes through every week, no wonder there was a paper bank for recycling paper on every corner. As I mentioned last week many don't believe that the climate is changing and think it is just a chance for Governments to tax us heavily and companies to make a lot of money. Perhaps they do not realise how much money a lot of big companies, particularly oil companies, are ploughing into trying to dismiss the claims because if we take climate change seriously and reduce what we consume then they will lose their big fat profits big time. I also said last week that to be honest I don't really know if the climate will change catastrophically, I do know there is a God in Heaven who cares for us and I am sure he will take care of his creation but I also believe we have our part to play which was put very eloquently by a lady called Pat Meadows. Basically Pat will continue living simply and frugally, reconnecting with her food and community for no other reason than it is the right thing to do anyway, the "anyway principle". She does this because she believes we have a mandate from God to repair and heal this world we live in and we can't do that by our hectic, consumerist lifestyle. 

Photos this week
Photos 1, 2 & 5 are actually hair-like structures made from ice. How the ice forms these shapes we have absolutely no idea but they are fascinating to see. How do they curl like that?

Photos 3 & 4 are of the silver birch that Ian tapped early on in the year for the birch juice. It is the same tree on the left hand side in both pictures that you can see but maybe what isn't so clear is that all the criss-crossed branches have been removed just leaving the nice straight trees with hopefully room to grow.

Photo 6 - the woodland floor with just a dusting of snow.