Monday, 20 June 2011

Sweet blessed rain!

Rain clouds gathering, and most welcome they were
Well our drought is over finally and our ponds are filling up nicely. It was worrying to see them slowly disappear along with the forecasted rain that never arrived. The bottom pond dried up so much that Ian could get the tractor in and so he put the back hoe back on and started digging it a bit deeper, to see if there was water further down. After digging through a peaty layer he found two drains - Bingo! The water was still slowly pouring out of the drains and so he had found another source of water that hadn't dried up with the lack of rain and we also have a lot of peat for compost for next year. Our drought ended firstly with a couple of good soaking rains, for which we are grateful, as we had planted seeds in anticipation of the rain and didn't want them all washed away. A deluge after a drought just means the water will run off and not really wet the soil which is not what we wanted. The deluge did arrive later though and in fifteen minutes of rain our first pond rose about 20cm to the overflow pipe, our second pond had a puddle that didn't last long and our bottom pond rose up past the deep hole that Ian had dug and into the basin of our original pond. Much better.

I think this must be a butterfly that has just emerged from
its chrysalis, waiting for its winds to unfurl
I mentioned last week that we were having trouble finding buckwheat to plant in our ploughed field and I had our scouts out trying to find some, well one came back with a successful report, a farming friend had just sold a load of seed, but he did manage to scrape together enough from his barn for us to seed our field with. The grand total of 19 kg of seed was 5 LVLs ($10, £6) but an hour and half drive to get it. Our friend has a hunting ground for people to practice and so we got to look around, as well as venture across a rope bridge. I managed it, but wasn't too good at scrambling across and Ian couldn't help me across as having more than one on the bridge at once only made it worse. At least I managed to avoid a plunge into the river below. We were also presented with some beaver sausage and just in case anyone is wondering what a beaver sausage is, it is a sausage made with beaver meat. Don't want anyone getting confused now!

The grass has grown so tall this year, about this time last
year it was only just above knee height, this year
it is taller than me and nearly as tall as Ian.
Ian managed to get the buckwheat sown in the field using the old-fashioned broadcasting method and then turned it in slightly with a chain harrow (a bit like a giant rake) and, with perfect timing, the rain arrived later in the day to water it in. It was a bit disheartening though a few days later to arrive out on our land to see a flock of pigeons busily grazing the field, feeding their fat little bodies with our buckwheat that we had tried so hard to get. Ian shouted at them which startled them and as they were about to land I waved at them madly, as I was wearing a bright red sweatshirt it seemed enough to see them off. The following day though they were back as expected, but I discovered that whacking a pair of trainers together makes an excellent pigeon scaring noise. Kept me busy in between the rain showers, weeding vegetable plots, planting seedlings and cleaning the caravan.

More unwelcome visitors, the pigs are back, not so helpfully
digging up a grond elder patch that Ian had cut.
This month so far our outgoings have been really low but we have still managed to eat well despite that. Our garden is just starting to produce some leafy salad type things and our strawberries are beginning to turn too and they are delicious. We were also given 3 litres of goats milk the other day and I managed to make goats cheese using nettle juice and some kefirs to form the curds. It turned out very well, just like a traditional goats cheese and all the whey that was produced is being slowly used up to make loaves of bread as the whey makes a lovely moist soft loaf. So you can see that we are certainly eating fine foods on a limited budget, which reminds me of what I felt God say not so long ago "Wait and see what the Lord will do!" He is certainly providing for us in some amazing ways.

A present Ian made for me, isn't he kind? 
We received an invite to a name day celebration this week for one of the youngsters in our apartment block. Name days in Latvia are big occasions and they are listed on calendars that you can buy, so that you can know when all your friends will be celebrating their name day. It is traditional to take a small gift to friends celebrating their name days, but doesn't always involve a party The idea for this one though was that a few of us would get together to build a tree house for the children, which would be a bit safer than them trying to build one for themselves. Well that is the theory anyway as one poor youngster managed to step on a nail and he ended up going back to his mum who happened to be a doctor on call that night. Apart from that incident the rest of the night went quite well, I even gained a new best buddy. One of our neighbours has a young son who is often shy of us due the fact we don't speak Latvian, but for some reason on this particular night he decided we were friends and we played badminton, or rather as much as you can with a three year old, and shared crisps. The next morning though we were back to normal and he seemed to be shy again. Oh well! It was nice while it lasted.

Look carefully and you can see bees. These bees have
made a home for themselves in our straw pile
I have definitely finished my post graduate diploma in Managing Sustainable Rural Development now, as I got my mark for the last module this week. I am not sure of the final mark exactly as it all has to be verified but it is looking good and I am very pleased. It means I can move onto the next bit now and get started on the Masters thesis. This should take me 8 months and so hopefully I might actually be finished early and get into the sowing season a bit earlier next year. Well that is the theory, and this is Latvia so it may take me a little longer, especially if it takes me a long time to organise interviews with farmers.

A gorgeous looking beetle
One of the questions we get asked a lot here in Latvia is, what are we doing here? Good question really and we sometimes wonder ourselves. We definitely can't be said to be farming properly, as we are still in the learning process and we are not sure if we ever could make a real go of it at times. We do try and move forward without damaging the lovely piece of land we are privileged to be working on though. We often get caught up in the beauty of what is around us and we have no wish to disturb some of the equilibrium. We are also trying to work some things into the natural lay of the land, for instance planting woodland bushes such as blackberries, tay berries and blueberries close to groups of trees or only digging up areas that have become covered in invasive weeds such as ground elder. We certainly wouldn't want to dig up the whole meadow as to do that we would lose some of the gorgeous orchids and other wild flowers that are abundant. The problem is though that although it puts food on our table, it doesn't put cash in our hands to pay internet and electric bills. We still have plenty of savings but it won't last a lifetime and so we still have some way to go to answer that question but I do feel that God gave me some of our purpose for being here as I read Acts this week in the Message.

Acts 3:22 For the time being he [Jesus] must remain out of sight in heaven until everything is restored to order again just the way God, through the preaching of his holy prophets of old, said it would be.

Another pretty little butterfly. There were so many pictures
I could have put up this week of the insect life on our land
I feel part of that restoration is restoring a garden to what it should be, namely a productive pleasant place to be. I also feel we are helping to restore some trust as we help where we can, and I feel we are also restoring hope to some people too. How does that provide us with an income in the future? No idea! But I do know God provides in some creative ways and so I am not too worried about that. In some ways I feel that what we are doing is similar to what a prison warden in Hawaii is doing in providing a healing environment for prisoners. Latvians often feel imprisoned in a hopeless place, they love their country and want to make a go of a business or farm but the circumstances of their life or the economic environment traps them into a feeling of hopelessness. I do hope that our garden/land will become a healing place and what we do provides healing. The prison warden in Hawaii is certainly providing proof that there is a way out of hopelessness and despair and it needn't trap people forever, now that sounds like restoring God's order to me!
This is the marjoram I harvested this week for drying

These incredible eggs were on a marjoram leaf. They are solid
little balls arranged so perfectly

The re-re modelled pond. The pool in the middle is from the
digging that Ian did this week where he managed to dig down
to the drains

A marsh orchid (I think), there was a whole glade
of these pretty orchids

6 comments:

Mavis said...

What good news about the pond and finding more water. I am amazed reading your blogs at how resourceful you are. You are really identifying yourselves with the land and responding to the natural world in a way that most of us have forgotten. Well done you!

And what an encouraging story of the Hawaiian prison warder. Thanks for sharing that.

Joanna said...

Thank you for the encouragement Mavis and we look forward to showing you around later this year.

Glad you liked the story from Hawaii, I was encouraged by it too.

karen said...

what are the petrol prices like over there? That drive over here would have pushed the seed price up to around £50.

Joanna said...

It takes a long time to drive anywhere here due to many dirt roads so it is only about 100km (60 miles) and our diesel consumption is about 9 litres per 100km (handy little gadget tells us that). Our prices are high too, but not as high as the UK so 87 santims per litre about £1.09. Total cost of journey then approximately 7.80 LVLs or about a tenner.

karen said...

not as bad as I feared then....

Joanna said...

It could have been worse for sure. Prices had been about 7 santims (10p), higher and although we have got a 4x4 truck at least it is a diesel. If you saw the roads around here you would perhaps understand why we have the 4x4