Monday, 31 January 2011

Confession time

Yes this is Robbie the halogen cooker, cooking pie, chips
and sweetcorn. Still need to fiddle about with the timings
but at least it didn't burn the bottom of the pie like my
ordinary oven - mind you it didn't cook the bottom very well
at all. The top was cooked. I am sure I will get used
to it though.
Okay I have a confession to make, we bought another kitchen gadget. Have we got room for yet another kitchen gadget? No! Do we need another kitchen gadget? Errrr! Welllllll! Yes! Honestly we have a very good reason or two for buying our recent addition to the paraphernalia we have in our kitchen and in our dump room (I said we don't have room). You see, it's like this, all this week our heating has not been sufficient to heat our apartment to sensible temperatures ie it has been between 13C to 15C, as the heating company hasn't been sending warm enough water around our communal heating system. We have resorted to our wood stove rather earlier in the year than we would like, our wood stove is really for when the communal heating is turned off, which is usually before we would turn it off; anyway I think that maybe our neighbour downstairs has probably had to turn his heating up to compensate for all the cold apartments around him as he runs his heating off gas and not the communal heating like most of us, and I wonder if all of us have been turning on the ovens more than usual to provide hot nourishing meals and warm our apartments up in the process, in short our apartment block ran out of gas. Not sure who is responsible for making sure there is enough gas in the apartment gas tanks or if there is a set delivery date but yesterday we went to fry up some fish fingers for fish finger sandwiches (cor more confessions) or should I say gently saute (is that healthier?) and lo and behold there was no gas, in fact there was no gas all day. We had been humming and hahhing over getting a halogen oven, partly so we wouldn't have to buy a cooker for the other apartment and yet folks still be able to cook and also to use ourselves the rest of the time, we had seen one in our local Aladdin's cave shop but decided against it, but when the gas went off and having to rely on a kettle, slow cooker and an ancient microwave we decided that maybe it would be a good investment after all. So please welcome Robbie our new gadget, I don't normally name our gadgets but this one looks so like a robot from the 60s it has to have a name.

The cleared roadway
As is usual for this time of the year our week has been dominated by the snow and clearing it away. Since the fiasco with our tractor window last week our tractor went up to our neighbours so that Ian could do a temporary fix to it before using it to clear an access road to get onto the land to start work on the other fiasco, our collapsed polytunnel. With the piece of plastic from the polytunnel and good old duck tape the hole was sealed and the tractor serviceable again. As a thank you to our neighbours and while he was up there anyway, Ian cleared away the snow from their yard to make it easier for them, something they didn't feel should go unrewarded either and so Ian was treated to a meat feast of a dinner (lunch), three slices of karbonade (for all you who have not visited Latvia it is battered pork in an egg and flour batter and fried -sorry sauteed), and a couple of thick slices of smoked bacon, and I was at home wondering what he had taken to eat!

Not as much as last year but still a lot of snow.
The next job was to try and find the road. Ian had tracked our road and various things on our land, like the polytunnel, barn, orchard and bushes, last year with a hand held GPS (yes I know another gadget) and this meant he was able to roughly retrace his route and mark out a path with his snowshoes which he could then follow with the tractor. Next year I think we mark out the track before it snows with sticks to make things easier as a GPS is only accurate down to about 3-5m which could land us in a hole unless we fill it in, or we could end up running over stones that are on the edge of the road. There is not as much snow as last year but it is much heavier with a distinct layer of ice from an ice storm. Once the road way was cleared it meant we could then get on with the job of clearing snow from the polytunnel. The first clear day was rather chilly at -21C in the morning but it was a beautiful day and a joy to be outside working, well it was for most of the day. Ian used the tractor to clear around the polytunnel and I freed up various parts of the structure with a good old fashioned shovel. The problem is at that temperature it is really important not to stop moving or you freeze. I had on leggings, ski pants and waterproof trousers, a t-shirt, a base layer, thin fleece, outer fleece and my coat but had to take that off when working as I was getting too warm; it is also really important not to sweat or you get into a lot of trouble when that freezes. So I worked steadily and slowly all day, apart from huddling around the fire to have some fried egg sandwiches for lunch, and that worked well, but towards the end of the day I was getting very tired but I didn't dare stop as the temperatures were dipping low again. I was so glad when we decided to call it a day. Fortunately the following day was not as cold so less danger of freezing to death, literally, but it took two days to dig away the snow. Snow and wind stopped any further work until today when we started to dismantle the collapsed pieces to try and salvage what we can. It would appear that the OSB (composite board) joints failed in most places but there were also some solid pieces of timber that had cracked. There won't be any OSB joints when we rebuild that is for sure!

After one windy day this end piece
needed stabilising. 
If you follow this blog you will know that we have been away over Christmas in Australia and our daughter cooked us a lovely Christmas dinner but it didn't feel like Christmas at all as it was 40C outside and not cold like Christmas should be, well at least for a Northern Hemisphere lass. Fortunately our friends saved us a turkey they had reared and they brought it around this week and we decided to have another Christmas dinner complete with fairy lights and a few other decorations. We couldn't have Christmas dinner alone of course and so we invited our friends around too for a traditional English roast and I even bought them some little presents just for the fun of it. It was a great time, even if it still didn't really feel like Christmas - after all they had finished with all the Christmas songs on the radio.

Somewhere under there are current bushes
It has been a topsy turvey time for many of us thanks to the banking crisis of a couple of years ago. We have had a house on the market for over a year and this last week we arranged for another estate agent to have a go at selling it. So if anyone wants a house in Sheffield, England here is the link, the original estate agent is completely flummoxed as to why it has not sold, it is not as if there is anything wrong with it, it is actually quite a nice house. It is incredible to think though that it would seem that the bankers have learnt nothing from the debacle they helped to create. It seems that the bankers just sighed with relief that the worse is over and now carry on as before, they seem to think that's it, nothing else to worry about, but I am afraid they didn't heed the call. The foundations are rotten and I believe there will be more revelations of where their money comes from and the harm it does. I really wished they had changed their greedy ways, they had the perfect opportunity but decided that greed was the better option. How wrong they are!

There was a track there once down to our workshop
It is not just high street banks that are the problem though, it is the whole financial set up from the IMF, who the Latvian Prime Minister describes as the unpredictable partner, to those who lend microloans to the poor. I had my doubts about microloans, and I wrote about them in October 2008, as the interest rates are so high. It would seem that the Institute of Development Studies have reservations too pointing out that loans have a habit of encouraging more debt and loans do nothing to address the imbalance of power that keeps the poor poor. What is even more incredible is they point out that the World Bank endorse microloans as a means of helping the poor out of poverty and yet have not done any follow up research to see if this is really the case. Is this more evidence of the rotten core of the financial powers? The core that puts ideology before the real needs of the poor?

More snow! 
The rotten core of the financial markets have now also turned their eyes to the food markets leading to volatile prices of food, even when there is no cause for it. Speculation hinders proper pricing of foods. So who else thought that the hike in price of wheat was due to Russian wheat shortages? The fact is there is enough wheat in store to ride out a year or even two years of shortages but big grain companies and derivative speculators made a killing from the fear of shortage. There was no shortage of wheat in the grand scheme of things. So what is the answer? One answer is to enable small farmers to move beyond subsistence farming into the marketplace and ending the power of large agro-companies. It is not the large agro-companies that feed the world, small farmers are much better at it than we are lead to believe. And if you believe speculators should be regulated in the food markets then check this link out and maybe sign the e-petition. 
I love the contrast of our neighbours truck with the
white snowy world. A bit of snow doesn't stop him
from getting on with his job.


  1. All I can say is you never have a dull moment!

  2. Not at the moment we don't Ju

  3. After all that I think you deserve another gadget! Actually I think it's wise to have more than one way of cooking as you never know when you may have problems. At least you always have an alternative to fall back on.

  4. Thank you Mavis, I feel assured now :o)

    We do have two more fall backs and that is a woodburning stove/oven at our other apartment and a woodburning stove out on the land which we usually use to fry eggs or bacon on for lunchtime when we are out there, which reminds me I must get some more pork to make some more bacon

  5. your snow looks wonderful to me. I would prefer it so much more when it snows here if I wasn't expected to negotiate our masssively busy roads in it. As for the financial woes of the world, I'm sick of hearing that we are all in it together by people who don't know what being short of money is...

  6. The snow is lovely, what is horrible is when it begins to melt like today. Like a friend said this morning, we shouldn't be having these kinds of temperatures now, the end of March would be much better then we won't have many sticky soggy days of snow slowly melting.

    I know exactly what you mean about the problem of those who have no idea what it is to do without. Like the guy from the World bank who was talking to the workers on the streets who receive 100LVLs (£120) and thought that was good money for a weeks work (or was it a day?), anyway it would be good money here for a week but not for a month which is how often that gets paid.


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