Monday, 2 August 2010

Good times

Our attempt at a Latvian style hay rick. Not too bad for our
first time
It has been a busy week this week, still hot and humid with lots of thunderstorms too which has added to the mix making planning work on the garden interesting. My young helper left on Tuesday and we had great fun chatting about faith and gardens, squishing caterpillars and building our first hay rick on Latvian style wood supports. There is so much that can be learnt from the garden which relates to faith, such as the necessity to remove those things which maybe good in themselves and yet inhibit the growth of other things which could be developed, a useful lesson to learn in a busy life. Anyway she did not leave empty handed and took with her bags of carrots, lettuces, beetroot and beans and pots of marjoram, sage, mint, lemon balm and chives to start her own indoor garden. My young helper is very concerned about the way tea plantation workers are treated in many places and since fair trade tea is not readily available here in Latvia she decided that growing her own herbs to make teas in the winter would be a better option. I love it when the younger generation get passionate about justice and she is hoping to get a website up and running soon to voice her passion, so as soon as it is set up I shall pass on the website address.

GanĨauskas 2002. This building was originally a KGB
place, can't remember if it was for training or for holidays
This week was an important milestone for us as it is 10 years since we first visited Latvia. This was the start of our journey that took us to Denmark, America and finally to live in Latvia. Our Latvian experience started at GanĨauskas camp where we travelled to this last Thursday to meet some friends of ours from our old church in the UK. They had come to help out at an English camp for young Latvians wanting to improve their English, just as we had done all those years ago. Normally when we visit our friends in camp we only manage to snatch some conversations as they travel between activities and so it was great to be able to sit around in the staff kitchen drinking tea and chatting away during some free time. It was also an important milestone for some of our friends who have lead the teams to Gancauskas for many years as it was their last year, time for them to move on too!

Our indoor mini forest of sweetcorn. It
is now around 3m high, only another
metre to hit the roof!
We had a visit from Simon Bell who I first contacted after finding papers he had written for a PhD on how Latvians feel about their countryside. Very few academic papers are written on Latvia in English, I found out whilst doing my studies, and to find a paper written by someone with an English sounding name was very exciting and I wondered what connection he had to Latvia. An internet search lead to his website and I contacted him. I was surprised to get a response and we met up last year at his holiday home in Latvia and chatted about forestry which is his main area of expertise, PhD's and life in Latvia. This week he and his wife paid us a visit and we went for a walk in the forest, or rather Ian and Simon went for a brisk hike through and his wife and I wandered through at a more sedate pace. What we did glean from the walk though was an outline management plan and it confirmed to us the trees we need to keep and those that need to go, we also found out the most common tree in our forest, alder a pioneer species, does not live very long before getting diseased and dying and so it wasn't a problem to get rid of it and let in some light to other more valuable species like spruces, oaks, maples and birches. At least we feel much more confident with our approach to managing the forest. By the way getting rid of many of the alders is not a major problem as there are still lots of the other trees too.

A ginormous mushroom, possibly a cep and edible but we
didn't try it.
I still managed to keep up with some of the internet feeds that I keep an eye on for the sake of my studies and it was great to read that in Brazil they managed to pass a major anti-corruption bill that bans anyone convicted of a serious crime from standing for office for 8 years. I have been to Brazil three times and I have sat in one of the states government buildings and I know from those times the way corruption weaves itself into the life of Brazil and so this is a major major breakthrough. Even more amazing is that 1.5 million people signed a petition to get the bill through the governmental processes despite the fact that 147 out of 513 members of the lower house and 21 of the 81 senators will be affected by this law and not able to stand at the next election. This is a huge victory for democracy and for people power and I really pray that Brazil can go from strength to strength as they clean up not just their governance but also their society at large.

Meet Fred! I found him (or her) in the cabbage patch and
thought I would keep him as he is huge, rather than squish
him like his numerous cousins. I was wondering though
if he is edible!
Another article was the way that Haiti's peasant farmers have said no to Monsanto "aid" and yes to local native seeds. Monsanto have seemingly generously offered 400 tonnes of seeds of which 60 tonnes have already been delivered. The Haitian farmers though have realised that this will then lock them into future purchases of seed as the local native seed will be ousted and not grown. Reduction in native varieties of seeds puts farmers in greater danger of pests and diseases. Greater variability of seeds developed for the various environments is the ideal situation for a healthy vibrant seed bank, and not reliance on expensive herbicide dependant seeds from a major international conglomerate.

The oddest cucumber we have ever grown, looks rather like
a duck we think
The Latvian fireservice have had a major boost this last week too with news that the US army corps of engineers are to fund developments in many fire stations. Amazingly they will actually pay for local companies to be employed to do the work so that they are not only improving the safety of communities but boosting the local economy too. Wish many missionary organisations would take note too, instead of well meaning goods being shipped from long distances which are not always useful if the goods need repairs which cannot be accessed locally and sending folks to work on projects when people here need jobs to boost much deflated wages. The funds are being made available to fit roll top doors to fit the new larger fire engines which have been funded by the EU, so many of the fire engines in service at the moment are ancient looking beasts that look like they came out of the ark, rugged four wheeled drive but ancient looking nonetheless (must get a picture of our local fire engine). Our own local village fire station was offered a newer engine by a German twin town and it makes me wonder if it will be too big for the little place, I guess I will have to wait and see.

Our neighbours are rather generous, these are the second
gift of zucchini we have had this week. The first lot there
were three of them. Good job we have a freezer and a
food drier
These strange contraptions are the internal structures of
the Latvian hay ricks that Ian made ready for the grass he
cut the other day.
Ian is on a roll with the two-wheeled tractor and spent a
whole day cutting this steep, pig roughened, bank 

And while Ian was making hay ricks I was carting stones to
build up this bank. Our second pond is still emptying fast
which gave me a chance to get lower down to add more rock.
Good job as that night it absolutely lashed it down and now
the pond is full again and staying full for the time being.


Mavis said...

You write

the US army corps of engineers are to fund developments in many fire stations.

It's good to know that someone at last is helping a country to use it's own resources and people to improve things instead of just giving what they want, whether or not it's of any real use to them. So often 'aid' means putting in foreign overseers/directors who get paid massive salaries and the money and help somehow never seems to filter down to those in real need or in a way that is most beneficial.

The Monsanto offer in Haiti highlights my point that often the aid that is offered does not in the long term benefit the needy country but those who are giving.

You've had a very busy week but productive it seems. Love your interesting photos, especially the hay stacks and the cucumber.

Joanna said...

I was impressed with the motivation for the funding too. They seemed to understand that renovating orphanages etc was nice but not always terribly useful but this aid was for the benefit of the whole community.

It has been a busy week indeed and this week is looking equally busy