Monday, 5 July 2010

New Gardening fashion

The mosquitos have been bad here in Latvia this year and I am still waiting for my insect repellent from the UK, the sort that does not kill you at the same time as repelling the bugs (heard today it is on its way. Yayyyy!). I hate DEET! In the meantime I thought I would design the perfect gardening wear to defeat the little blighters, unfortunately with the high temperatures we have at the moment I think I would cook in it.

At your nearest medieval stockist - out now!

Wild parsnip - this one is just a baby but they do not
grow to the same height as the giant hogweed.

Giant hogweed - very nasty stuff but an impressive,
statuesque plant
We have also found another invasive pest out on the land, the wild parsnip. This, like the ground elder that we constantly battle with, is another member of the carrot family some of which are downright dangerous like the giant hogweed and hemlock. Giant hogweed is a real nuisance in Latvia after it was introduced for animal fodder by the Soviets and animals fed on it have a slight aniseed flavour. Unfortunately giant hogweed sap reacts to sunlight causing nasty burns on skin where it comes into contact, as well as completely taking over areas with its massive leaves. It is an impressive looking plant though when it does flower and you can understand why the Victorians introduced it into their gardens. Wild parsnip is not in the same league as giant hogweed but it can still cause burns and so we are having to make sure we cut it down before it seeds itself. The other invasive pest has been back, the wild boar but this time they actually did us a favour, they very neatly took the ground elder out without digging their characteristic big holes. Pity they can't be trained to do that all the time.

Our three ponds in series. Still need some landscaping
as you can see but progress nonetheless.

We managed not to get the tractor stuck this week, thank goodness! But what we do have is the beginnings of two new ponds. It is easy to understand how we got so stuck last week as the bottom pond has filled up quite a bit considering we haven't really had any rain, a passing very light shower maybe, but no rain. The lack of rain is a problem as I have had to plant some leek seedlings out and the sun was guaranteed to cook them so I have had to put fleece down, not to protect from frost but to protect them from the sun and hopefully keep the moisture in!

Butterfly! I don't know the name of this one either. One day!
You will be relieved to know this one did escape our
We are finding a  problem with our polytunnel is it is a magnet for butterflies, there are so many of them that it sounds like it is raining on the plastic and many of them don't survive. I try and rescue some that I can reach but not sure how much good that does them, failing that if anyone knows what we can do about our butterfly emporium or a use for lots of dead butterflies then do let me know. We have also had progress with the barn, we now have boxes ready for concreting for the foundations which is encouraging. Poor guys though it is so hot and not ideal working conditions as the area is a little suntrap and at lunchtime they decided to go home and not come back until the evening. Can't say as I blame them either.

Another mystery plant but I love it. I
rescued it from an area where it was
going to be destroyed to make way for
the barn road. Hopefully it will seed itself
We had some good news from the tax authorities, they have decided we don't have to pay taxes on our house that we sold last year as we had lived in it for so long. The laws in Latvia are often confusing which is why it has taken sometime to find out what the situation is, but that is partly because it is such a young country and there are not enough cases to test the laws made. It is easy to complain when laws are not clear but understanding the process of law making and how there are always unforeseen circumstances which test the limit of the law and highlight gaps in the law helps when dealing with the authorities. Making good laws that can stand the test of time takes time to work their way through the system. I know corrupt politicians do not help the process but not all of them are corrupt and even if they weren't the process would still take time.

Male broad bodied chaser dragonfly! Success! I managed
to find out what this one is called.
Talking of taxes, earlier on this year someone accessed the tax records of many of the politicians and business leaders of Latvia and published them online. He called himself Neo and was hailed as a modern day Robin Hood by some. It certainly threw up some anomalies such as how the head of the heating company for Riga got a bonus whilst cutting wages of the ordinary workers. "Neo" has given an interview to Baltic Reports where he explained that he hadn't "hacked" into the system as the system was not protected anyway - a little worrying but at least some good came out of it all by highlighting the problem and the arrogance of the elite. Caused quite a storm really.

Fortunately the owners of these feet
weren't in them at the time despite
what the picture looks like. Gave me
quite a shock when I looked out.
A friend of ours posted a link on Youtube of a video put together with the  sound track "Beyond These Shores" by Iona. It took me back to the early years when I got the album "Beyond These Shores" as a present and I used to listen to it a lot. When I first heard the song I was a young mum with three young children and the song spoke to me of how God wanted me to launch out beyond the shores of my comfort zone. At the time the most adventurous thing I did was to co-lead a 3-5s children's group at a big event, there were a 100 of the little treasures. At first I wouldn't use the microphone as I was afraid of it but by the end of the week I even managed a double act with a puppet monkey (I didn't operate the monkey just talked to it) complete with microphone. Little did I realise that the song would take on a deeper meaning through the years as I really did leave the shores of country where I grew up. If you had told me all those years ago that I would be writing a blog about the life I lead in Latvia, having already lived in Denmark and the US and visited Brazil, I wouldn't have believed you. If you had also told me that I would preach in each of these countries and used a microphone, I think I would have been scared witless but God is good, he only gives us enough for the step we are on and prepares us gradually for what is ahead.

Chopping wood
Finished strimming
Mowing the orchard
These last three pictures are of Ian at work, somethings never change as these are the same things he used to get up to when he was in England, only he used to do these every now and again, not most of the time. Nowadays he works at what we jokingly call his real job, ie one where he earns some money one day a month and chops wood, strims, mows grass and plays in his tractor the rest of the time. Hopefully one day these activities too will provide us with an income. At least they do provide us with the means to eat and stay warm which means we don't need a huge income to live off. Nice!

Just a final comment to say thanks for all the sympathy regarding the toothache from last week, it has definitely improved and I only occasionally need some painkillers now, still grumbles a bit but at least it is so much better than last week. I wasn't a happy bunny!


Emma said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Emma said...

Nice suit, shame about the stance! Do I have to keep reminding you that you really need to protect your back!!! tut tut! :)

Denise Thornton said...

Yes, my garden attire is based on pests not fashion too. I've been battling wild parsnip on my land for 6 years, and after the first nasty scuffle have always suited up in long sleeves and long pants no matter what the temperature.
You can learn a bit about this dangerous beast on a recent post I wrote

Who knew gardening could be so risky?

Joanna said...

Typical Emma, I go to publish your comment to see if it will go through after last nights blip and it is there twice. How may I ask though do you squat with your weight on your heels in that suit? :) Actually it is really hard to do whilst planting leeks too, I didn't bend over though you will be glad to know but the weight was not on my heels.

Denise thanks for that information. Glad to know that we can keep on top of it, I think we have caught it early unlike the ground elder. Just a good job that ground elder only swamps other vegetation but isn't dangerous, in fact it is edible and is one of the first leaves to appear in Spring - the perfect time to eat it!
I was interested to see that you have been too busy with ground conservation to put up a barn, our barn is only just going up and I am trying to catalogue some of the flora and fauna on our land.

Emma said...

Then you should get on your knees instead ;)

Joanna said...

All very well but would I be able to get up again? My jeans are nearly all ruined anyway, all of them have gone on the knees and that's without kneeling in them

Emma said...

then they are perfect work jeans :)

Try these...

and as to getting up again, well rolling should be good enough, but that would be well worth watching :)

Joanna said...

Christmas present? :o)

And if you think I am going to let you watch me trying to get up, you have another thing coming :P