Tuesday, 7 June 2011

It ain't 'alf 'ot Mum

A purple marsh orchid I think. The orchids in the fields
are getting a bit swamped this year as the grass is a lot
taller than last year at this time. The heat must have made it
grow rather tall, very quickly.
Boy has it been hot this week, we have had temperatures up to 30C most days and so all my planting that I had scheduled went out of the window, as there was no point when it was so hot and dry too. In fact we haven't had rain for weeks until Sunday and then it was a half an hour of good soaking rain but only in our village and not out on our land. The soil is that dry though that even the good soaking it got still means the soil is pretty dry and needed a good soak to plant some more seeds of broad beans, lettuces and beetroot. At least the temperatures have now dropped making it easier to do some work outside and worth trying to plant out some of the unfortunately stunted plants we have got that have been sitting on our windowsills waiting for the right time to plant them. I am actually a bit weary of the garden at the moment as it all seems a bit pointless when half the stuff I have planted withered and died with the heat, and it isn't as if I didn't water it. I guess I could have braved the mosquitoes and watered everything at night, that might have made a difference but I couldn't really face the mossies and I have felt quite drained. Probably end of term feeling combined with the heat and being disappointed at not getting stuff done, so I guess the cooler temperatures this week will mean I will get a chance to perk up. At least the caravan has served us well during the day when we needed a quick nap or just a sit down in the shade.

Our seriously depleted pond, re-landscaped
The mysterious still flowing spring with
One of the worrying parts of this drought is we are almost down to just one pond now, as even the bottom pond is drying out rapidly. This was the pond we were hoping would be useful for topping up the pond nearest the greenhouse in a dry season, fortunately that one is still quite full, although dropping slowly. The bottom pond drying out does mean that Ian got a chance to do some more tidying up and digging out, so that when the rain does come we will have a deeper pond and it meant removing the grass that was growing on the high clumps in the middle. So with the drought, water has been quite an issue for us and we were therefore delighted to find that a spring we knew about is actually still flowing quite well and with a long hose we can pump water out of it to an old bath we have put in our vegetable patch. Ian has dug out the spring a bit more and also put sandbags around it to raise the water level higher and it still continues to fill, which is such a relief. We decided on sand bags for ease of banking it up and also it means that if it rains too much we can remove the bags and let the water level drop. It does kind of feel like a constant adjustment to the circumstances, instead of doing the same thing in the same way every year, each year has brought with it new challenges. I guess it means we don't get bored anyway. Looking back through our photos and blogs shows that last June was quite wet and relatively cold.

The piece of land awaiting the Griķi seeds
As Ian has finally finished ploughing the piece of land that was a huge nettle and ground elder patch we wanted to plant it up with some buckwheat or griķi in Latvian. We thought it would be easy to find in an agricultural suppliers but we were obviously wrong. We chose buckwheat because it is a crop that is grown in Latvia and it is also a short season crop which means we can plant it now and still harvest it this year. It also makes a good mulch crop that combats the weeds easily and so should help to prevent the regrowth of the ground elder, but first we have to find it. If the worse comes to the worse we can plant it with clover for a green manure crop or oats and peas for a hay crop but we wanted to try the buckwheat first. We have now got our scouts out seeking to find the elusive seeds.

Bath anyone? Our newly installed bath for water for the
new vegetable plot. Needs a cover before it becomes
Trying to find something like buckwheat seeds illustrates one of the big problems here in Latvia and that is the lack of information. In the UK I can google buckwheat as a green manure or as an agricultural product, but here in Latvia there seems to be some uncertainty as to where to look, even by those we think may possibly know like local farmers. This lack of information is a big problem in development as it makes a task so much more difficult and so people are more likely to give up. I am a pretty determined individual and so willing to keep trying but I can see why others wouldn't be bothered. So our search continues but at least I have now found someone who knows someone who has actually planted the stuff - at least thats a start.

Red and black striped stink bug - what a glorious name heh?
otherwise known as Graphosoma lineatum. It is definitely
not a Colorado beetle though
Some wildlife is making an appearance again this year that we don't often see, or hear as the case maybe, some of it not always what we would want to see, such as the Colorado beetle. It is endemic here and not a notifiable pest as it is in the UK, but we have only seen some in the first year we planted up potatoes and none more since, until this year that is. We will have to keep an eye on the plants and see what happens as they can decimate potato plots. Other wildlife includes a crane that flew over our land and we don't often see those, storks yes and lots of them, but not cranes. In fact Ian was telling me that a couple of storks flew down to see what he was doing by the pond and were very disappointed that he wasn't cutting grass or ploughing and did not like the fact he kept getting out of the tractor to use the back hoe. The corncrakes are definitely back on our land, but unfortunately trying to take up residence in a whole load of ground elder that Ian was just about to cut. It is always a dilemma as to whether we cut the ground elder as we need to get that weed under control or let the corncrakes nest there, but we have decided that they are only just beginning to nest and they have plenty of other places nearby to take up residence and so we are going to go ahead with the cutting. At least Ian is just going to use the slow two-wheeled tractor which means they have plenty of time to get out of the way.

Greater butterfly orchid. Glad to see these
back again but I think we will have to
cut back the young woodland where
these flowers are growing or they will
get swamped and we wouldn't want
I have been using Blogger for these posts for over three years now, in fact I have just passed my 200th post without noticing, but the other day without warning I signed on and the whole thing had changed. It all looks okay, but it did take a bit of finding my way around and I could do without sudden unannounced changes. I do like to be told first before big changes are made - grumble grumble. The 200th post was not the only milestone that has happened recently, we have finally sold our house in England (if I had had more energy this week I would have done a little dance). It took 18 months to get it sold but at least it is finally gone, which is a great relief as now we can start to make some plans as to the directions we want to be heading in.

I got a smoking and curing book recently from my Mum for my birthday and got around to trying it out. I managed to make a rather good pork and egg pie, real summer comfort food and even tastier because it is not filled with nitrites which makes my mouth sore anyway. I was also in Ian's very good books for making the pie as he enjoys a good pie. So in the picture you can see some of my other efforts. In the back picture is a bacon with a dry cure of just salt and honey, front left is old fashioned corned beef which is nothing like the tinned stuff and takes two weeks to make, the last picture is a ham in a wiltshire type cure, that will be ready to cook Wednesday.


  1. I also wilt in the heat, sunshine yes, heat no. It makes it almost impossible to do anything substantial so I am with you on that one and of course...the land needs rain. We have drought areas here too at the moment, not in Lancashire of course, we have enough rain for everyone, even Latvia!!...over in the East of the country.

  2. I used to wilt much more but living in Colorado for two years and a couple of trips down to Brazil meant I tolerate it much more, not bad for a Lancashire lass. I see nothing much changes as far as the weather is concerned there, it was rarely short of a drop of two of rain

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