Monday, 12 April 2010

A new look

A butterfly on Ian's tractor
So what do you think of the new look blog? I tried out some of the new templates Blogger has released and I thought the background of the map was very appropriate for the title of my blog "The Journey". I also managed to alter the width of the text, which makes for a shorter column length which I think is easier to read but let me know what you think anyway. I did fancy the purple background as purple is my favourite colour but somehow it just didn't look right, oh well!

My pile of stones
The pile of hay collected by hand
We have had a long cold winter this year but the Spring has been lovely, the wind has been a bit cold at times but at least it is drying everything out and the land doesn't squelch everywhere you go. Looking around it is hard to think that less than three weeks ago everywhere was still inches deep in snow. Since this was my Easter holiday break from studying I joined Ian out on the land and pottered about rather than doing anything too strenuous to the brain. I raked the hay that had been cut last year but hadn't had the chance to rake up before the snows came (it will be composted anyway so no loss really) and I also collected stones from the fields so that they won't clip the plough when Ian re-ploughs it soon. It was good to be doing some physical work for a change and have the sun on my back.
"Remind me again why people go to work?"
As we sat down for a cup of tea to soak up some more rays I turned to Ian and joked "Remind me again why people go to work!" Okay I know not everyone can do what we are doing but the joy of getting out and about and doing some physical work in the countryside or garden in the sun is wonderful and doesn't cost the earth. So much is spent on trying to earn enough for the latest gadgets, the newest car, a big house etc that people miss out on the simple joys. Our work now will save us in food bills this year and so we won't need to earn as much money and so is worth the effort. While we were sitting eating our lunch we saw an eagle, a hare and a fox, it was just so amazing sitting there watching all this wildlife go past. It was also very funny watching Ian creeping up to the car to get the camera but worth it in the end to capture some photos of the fox, he was such a handsome beast too not the scrawny individuals we have sometimes seen, just wished Ian had kept the camera with him to take photos of the hare and the eagle too.
Ian was spotted but to be honest Mr.Fox didn't really seem to care
Mr.Fox out for a stroll on our land

With the snow gone we expected to find our wheelbarrow that we had left on the land over winter. We couldn't remember if we had left it in the woods or if it had got buried under the 10ft high (3m) mounds from clearing the snow. Bit by bit the snow disappeared and we traipsed all over the place looking for it, but to no avail, it seems it has either melted away with the snow or it has gone walkabouts (euphemism for stolen). It is a little worrying really as we have other stuff out there undercover and also a little puzzling that it could disappear while there was 3ft (1m) of snow about which we had difficulty walking through in our snow shoes and also we didn't see any tracks. Anyway out of sheer necessity we have now bought another one and as promised on the Cottage Smallholder's blog here is a picture of ours . It is a little different to most English ones as it has two wheels but that does make it much more stable for pulling about and the single pram style handle means you can drag it behind you with one hand leaving you free to carry something else with the other. I do like Veronica's comment on the blog though that to discourage theft paint a wheelbarrow pink, probably wouldn't work if everyone did it but maybe I could paint mine with some fancy design. Hmmm! Now there's a creative project for the summer.

Coltsfoot - Spring is here!
On April 24th Latvia will hold a clean up Latvia day. Latvia is quite a tidy place to live really and not usually that much rubbish (trash) lying about but the winter weather seems to have changed that and bottles must have accumulated in the snow and now being revealed. Having said that it is not as bad as England or Cyprus, maybe they could take a lead from Latvia and hold a national clean up day? Our house manager has got some plans to tidy up the area around us, especially the places where old folk have their allotments as according to her they are beginning to look untidy. Gulp! We had better keep on top of our allotment and make sure everything is ship-shape. Our allotment has suffered a lot over the winter and things I thought would survive well don't appear to have done, I think the cold got to them before they got covered in enough snow to blanket them. I think my sage and some of the thyme are just about hanging on in there but I think the lavender has gone. There are no traces of things like kale and cabbages and they either rotted in the snow or been eaten by the deer, and since there are so many deer droppings around the place the suspicion falls on them.

Progress of sorts on the polytunnel, it now has ends
The death of Polish President troubled me some what as the consequences of the Polish President dying on Russian soil whilst heading for a memorial of the Katyn massacre, which commemorated the murder of many Polish elite by the Soviet secret police, could have had repercussions here in Latvia. Fear of the Russians and their motives still lingers here and in many Eastern European countries and the wrong move by the Russians could have exacerbated tense relationships, it could also stoke tensions between the Latvian majority and the disenfranchised Russian minority. I was relieved to read on Martin Scott's blog "I saw Europe – stretching into Russia, covering also the southern states down to the Black Sea, and from the north to the south –  under a blanket of ice. To state the obvious, frozen in time, little movement. However this was beginning to melt. I am full of hope for these lands." and I believe that maybe, just maybe this crash could have the opposite effect to the one I feared and so far the Russians have been exemplary in their handling of this crisis, not something they are usually noted for. I pray it continues and bring much new growth in these areas as they are freed from their frozen state. The Latvians have been expressing their condolences in their usual way, Latvian flags were flying at half-mast on most buildings or flown with black ribbons in sympathy for the Polish people.

A newly dug pond, extended from our small well of last year
A long time ago on this blog I prayed that the Latvian banks would apologise for their part in the mess that Latvia is in, not that I expected them to listen to me but if enough people speak out on such topics then maybe they will get the message that their actions have been both reckless and stupid, causing much unnecessary suffering. I guess this is as near as we get to an apology, the CEO of Swedbank, Latvia believes the Latvian banks are to blame for the problems between banks and borrowers, he admits the Latvian banks have made mistakes (you bet they have!) and they need to educate borrowers about the risks - maybe they could start by advertising the interest rates they charge and how much extra that means to borrowers over the sum they borrowed, something I mentioned not so long ago. Well at least it is a start and I suppose in the field of high finance a big start, it is a shame it has taken so long to get there as Latvia has now been in crisis for well over a year.

A common sight here, a stork in flight
Something else I mentioned in the same blog as the interest rates were some of the dubious practices of large seed companies, they seem to rule the world and sell it lies. A 20 page report just out basically states that the increased yields expected from hybrid seeds is not from evidence in many fields and where there is an increase in yield it is offset by the increased costs required from the mechanisation and the fertilisers required. The seed companies often promote themselves as aiming to feed the world but this is utter nonsense, their only aim is to feed their profits. Also they are not breeding the rice for its eating qualities but for their ability to grow something that means that the farmers have to come back each year to buy seed or requires added inputs that their companies produces like specific herbicides. One way to feed the world is actually to develop seed that farmers can collect and grow themselves the next year, a little like the Real Seed Catalogue company but on a grander scale. These seeds are grown for the benefits of the grower, for taste and for ease of growing, not for ease of the seed company. We will find out if they live up to their claims as I have just planted up quite a few of their seeds and already the calabrese and melons are coming through.


  1. Joanna, I do like the now look blog and the map at the top really captivates the title 'The Journey'. It's also good that you are able to put the comments directly below each photo as before you had to read the comments at the bottom and keep going up and down to see what each photo was about. Also good to see the polytunnel progressing.

    I like the idea of a work of art on the wheelbarrow.

    It is good to see spring appearing all over, the birds are chirping and buds unfolding. I planted some fruit trees earlier in the year and the nectarine is full of blossom. I'm really pleased about having a garden as I have lived in an upstairs flat without a garden for the past 9 years. But we moved into our present house last year Bit by bit the garden is being transformed.

    Here on the news, Putin of Russia has been highly praised for his reaction to the death of the Polish President. One Polish government official was saying that at first it was thought that there might be a bad reaction to the situation but it seems that the opposite has ocurred and that relations between the two countries will actually improve because of the way the Russians have reacted in sympathy towards the Polish nation.

    You talk about praying for the Latvian banks. I do believe that our hearts deep concerns that we take to God in intercession do make a difference. Don't know how it works, just from experience that it does. So we keep on praying for the things that concern us and trust God to work His miracles.

  2. Glad you like the new look. Not sure if the captions were an option before or not for the photos or if I only noticed when playing about with the site.

    Wow nectarines, that sounds nice. I have a sneaking suspicion that it will be far too cold for them here but you never know, maybe in the polytunnel. It is nice to have a garden and that what makes living in this apartment bearable - that and quiet neighbours.

    I am glad there does indeed seem to be something favourable come out of such a terrible tragedy. I pray that the investigations are conducted in such a way that there is no question of what happened. Good job we both believe prayer works then! :o) So here is trusting for more of God's working through the situation in Poland and here in Latvia. God has big plans for Latvia. I am sure he is going to show something remarkable from this little country.

  3. Thank you for your tips on gardening! I hope you are doing well!

  4. Hope the tips help Sheri.

    We are well indeed. We have been enjoying the good weather here and getting out in our garden at last.


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