Monday, 17 May 2010

Finishing off

No that isn't a mark on the camera, it is an insect on the
window that decided to take a peek at me working. This is
a view out of our other apartment where I have spent much
of the past few weeks working.
I have just one week of my course left, I managed to get another assignment finished and handed in today but it took me three re-writes before it was something I felt I could hand in and I am still not really happy with it, but it will have to do. I also had one of those oh no! moments in the middle of the night as I had actually posted my assignment already and then suddenly remembered that I hadn't completed all the references, fortunately my tutor was very understanding and I got the offending references sorted long before the noon deadline.I also have a re-submission to hand in and that is taking some doing too, it will have to be done by the end of the week though but it is slow going. The worse part is that I can't even remember reading through some of the articles from earlier on in the course and it makes me realise just how much the noises from our apartment has been affecting my concentration. Working in the other apartment has been a real blessing as it is quieter - well apart from one when there is a little chatterbox chattering away in the corridor like today. A strong urge to learn the Latvian for please will you be quiet welled up but he was too little for that to be of any use. Mind you our upstairs neighbour was very impressed with my Latvian today as I paid the management fees and she thinks I am very clever, which is very funny as my Latvian only really stretches to a few words and most of the time the words like "es nesaprotu:, "grÅ«ti" and "lenak" are used, in other words "I don't understand", "difficult" and "slowly". I think the fact I try at all seems to impress.

The newly completed workshop
The view while I worked along with this winter's wood pile
I also spent a bit of time on our land finishing off the assignment, sat in our newly completed workshop with its wonderful view. It looks really good, although the wood for the doors were purchased from a local sawmill in the end rather than sourced from our forest like the majority of it. It was taking too long to select the wood for it and we were just anxious to get it done in the end. At least any similar constructions will be planned a bit better but you live and learn. At least we now know what type of wood works well and the saw table will make other projects easier too, such as a wood store and a toilet (It's alright for guys but I need a toilet).  We will have to work out the best way to construct a composting toilet as we have plenty of sawdust from all the construction work and then we can use the compost for the apple trees, and before you get squeamish if it is properly composted then there is no danger to human health and if it is used on something like trees then it is even better as the fruit won't come into contact with the compost, just derive plenty of nutrients. Still not sure? Then check out this link for all you wanted to know about composting toilets. 

Getting there, at least the doors are on now
Our polytunnel is nearly there, the windows for ventilation still won't open but the doors are on - only just though as they had been put up and a wind blew them open and bust the hinge of one door. The guys were out there this morning fixing it but it was before Ian went out, so we still don't know if it is supposed to be finished or not yet. Still until we are sure, there is no payment, so I am not in a hurry. At least now it is usable and we even got some soil packed around the foundations and Ian has rotavated the inside so that we can plant vegetables in it. It looks less like a building site now and more like a decent growing space, only months late but heh! Another steep learning curve. 

The scar left by the electric company that hopefully will
not become infested with ground elder and instead become
a walkable path, that we can keep clear.
The electric guys have not taken long to get the cable laid, we only signed about two weeks ago and already they have cleared a path, dug a trench, laid the cable and filled it back in again. It is a bit of an ugly scar that runs the whole length of our land but it is actually quite useful for us. In Latvia the road company are responsible for land up to 11m (36ft) away from the centre of the road, but where that point was we didn't really know and as most of our land runs along the road it is handy to know. The electric company have laid the electric cable 12m away from the centre of the road (I guess so there is no danger of those responsible for road maintenance digging up the cable) with a 2m scar, so we now have a clear boundary between that part of the land which is the road companies responsibility and that which is ours. Very good! Also very handy is the new heavy duty cable which we will be able to get a supply off at a later date, supplied by green biogas electricity sited just a few miles down the road. 

Teletubby land?
The Latvian countryside looks gorgeous at this time of the year with swathes of yellow from dandelions and cowslips amongst the spring green grass. Just about all the trees are in leaf now, the oak is not quite there yet but you can see it won't be long and the aspen is now shimmering in the breeze as only aspen does. This time of the year reminds me of teletubby land, not that I was ever a fan of teletubbies but the gently rolling, very green, hill where they used to live looks a lot like the area where we live, everywhere looks like a scene straight out of a fairy tale book, very pretty. The weather has been good for gardens, warm and showers and our neighbours are still very busy out in the gardens, lots of potatoes have been planted and it is interesting to see the various techniques used. Some employ tractors to ridge the ground and then they plant the potatoes into the furrows, they then use the hand ploughs (photo here from last year) to plough the ridge over the potato. Some of them work their way along a ridge and open up a gap, pop the potato in and then cover it up again. No one as far as we can see uses the English method of hoeing up the potatoes gradually over the summer, they are all ridged up ready. Summer definitely feels like it is on its way now the house martins are back and the cuckoos are doing their nut, they could send you cuckoo as well with their incessant calling - fun at first but annoying after a while. Talking of noisy birds, storks don't have voices but they do have clattering beaks and they make a right racket, not so sure I would want to encourage them near anywhere I live, the view of the stork's nest I have from the other apartment is fine but it is far enough away not to hear it. Can't understand why Latvians would want to encourage them to nest next to the house.

A bird cherry, I think! We have also found some in the
forest and so it looks like the forest is a lot more diverse
that we thought at first.
All sounds very idyllic doesn't it? It certainly does feel like a dream come true. Okay it is a bit frustrating when things don't get done but with views like these and no commuter traffic to get to work it still feels rather dream like, as if one day we will wake up and we will go back to ordinary life. It is amazing to read how lots of people are beginning to find out the simpler lifestyle and make do and mend is actually quite liberating in many ways. Fiona from the Cottage Smallholder website was talking about the joy of finding out how to live simply and all the discoveries it has brought along the way despite the hardship of having been quite ill with glandular fever. Even the Times online has been waxing lyrical about the benefits of simpler living. It makes me laugh a little to think that this is the way we have lived for a long time, bringing up three kids on a tight budget meant that all the skills I learnt from my parents and grandparents like cooking, vegetable gardening and sewing have all proved to be useful. At a time when many people were giving up on doing that sort of thing because it didn't seem worth it, we were making do and mending. Must admit that can go a bit to far like when our toaster was repaired so often that it only eventually toasted half a slice of bread, I was so relieved when Ian's mum bought us a new one but it has all paid off though. We only had a mortgage and the odd car loan along the way, we learnt very early on that credit cards were just not worth the hassle, and making meals from scratch with cheap, nutritious and tasty ingredients became second nature (okay my daughter still hasn't forgiven me for the lettuce soup, she is still scarred from it) but it has meant that where others cannot afford the leap we have made because they have huge loans to pay, we have been free to grasp the opportunity presented and are now reaping the benefits. We are still going to have to find ways of making a living from all of this but things are building, even down to the cuttings I took of the newly purchased blackcurrant plants a couple of weeks ago which seem to have taken and means around another 30 bushes. Hope they taste nice and produce plenty of fruit and juice for us.
Blackcurrant cuttings doing well

Update on Ian's back! He is much better than last week and manages to do most things but it is very strange how the old back twinges during the shopping and that basket was heavy I will have you know!


Diane said...

Oh I remember lettuce soup. A boyfriend and I were looking after his parent's house whilst they were on holiday. They use to go for about 3 months, when all the veg would then be ready and we got rent free lodging by looking after the garden and freezing or eating the veg.
Well we went away for a weekend and I am sure every single lettuce bolted whilst we were away. I made loads of lettuce soup and we ate it for weeks. Even serving it up when friends came round.
oh memories!!!!

Joanna said...

Sounds like your lettuces may have been rather milder than mine. I didn't realise that lettuce could actually be quite strong. Lol

Well glad to have brought back some memories