Monday, 25 July 2011

Glutton for punishment

Our buckwheat field is flowering. That is going to be a lot
of buckwheat seed. Help!
We are definitely heading into the season of gluts. One day I am dealing with the blueberries which we were kindly given, next it was half a bucket of blackcurrants - which might not seem much of a glut until you realise that you cannot eat a half bucket of blackcurrants before they go off and so they have to be dealt with. At least they could just be washed and frozen so that wasn't too much hassle. Our next glut was gooseberries. As the currant bushes haven't been so prolific this year we didn't expect much from our gooseberry bushes ...... until we went to start picking them that is. We picked a full bucket of gooseberries from two gooseberry bushes and thought we had finished, but on standing up we spotted another bush of gooseberries also loaded with the little hairy fruits (they had to wait as we only had one bucket with us). You can tell we are not sure what we have yet can't you! We have three separate plots that we manage and we kind of forget from time to time what is where. We also had the lurking courgette, the one that kind of blends into the background until is of monster proportions. Happens every year but fortunately so far they haven't been that prolific and so wasn't too much of a hassle... give them another week or two and it will be courgette this and courgette that even with just three plants.

Theatre at the outdoor stage at our annual celebrations
I am beginning to get the hang of what to do with fruits though, especially of the berry kind. De-stalking or topping and tailing is as you can imagine, if you haven't done it before, is really boring and very tedious and so any form of mechanical processing is a major time saver (for the uninitiated who haven't a clue what I am going on about, de-stalking means taking all the stalks off the berries as they get stuck in your teeth otherwise and topping and tailing is taking the flower remains off one end of a gooseberry and the stalk off the other - which is the top and which is the tail is for you to decide). For half the berries I have used a gadget that goes on my Kitchen Aid mixer and separates the pulp from leaves, stalks, skins and seeds and saves a lot of time sorting it all out, I froze that in ice-cube trays for ease of use later. The other half complete with stray leaves and stalks I have steamed using a natty device that allows you to collect the steamed juice, and from that bottled two 1 litre jars of juice and three jars of jam from the remains which were then put through the strainer. Have to say that the juice is a little sharp so not quite sure what we will do with it - may have to mix it with something else later or let Ian drink it all as he can take sharp tastes including rhubarb without sugar (Bleh!). I also found a recipe for gooseberry vinegar so giving that a go - might just end up with a mouldy mess though.

A dyeing workshop
Time seems to fly by and I am left wondering at times what exactly have I done. I seem to spend a lot of time processing food, so that we have plenty for over the winter. I also spend some time in the garden weeding, but perhaps not as much as I should judging by the amount of taming I had to do today. I gave quite a few plants a hair cut to tidy them up but decided to leave the marjoram that is lying about all over the place as there are rather too many bees on them to start wading in there. If I am not processing food I am processing plants for their seeds, as we are trying to learn the art of saving seeds for growing the following year, sometimes it is easy and sometimes it is not. Trying to stop seeds going mouldy can be quite hard. I did manage to finish reading all my academic papers about wild boar or conflicts between wildlife and people, so at least I can start the process of writing up a proposal for my thesis. I even came up with a title which I am going to run past my tutor, "Wild boar: Friend or Foe?" I have also spent a lot of time chatting with our youngest on Skype, in fact once I had to given him a big hint that even if he is finished for the summer hols and is getting bored, I haven't and I was struggling with interruptions, (so son, if you are reading this, I have finished reading the papers now) just typical that he hasn't been on for days, obviously found something else to do. I have also finally managed to finish some knitting for my nephew and niece, what's the bet that by the time they get it my little nephew will have grown to big for his cardi? (No pictures yet until they have seen them first though)

Wild boar numbers in Latvia. As you can see they have
increased rather rapidly in the last 15 years
Going back to the wild boar, the numbers have finally been released by the Latvian Statistics Office and it is estimated that the numbers decreased this last winter, which is only to be expected really, as there was a lot of snow - not that they decreased much mind as you can see from the graph. After the severe winter the numbers fell by 300 ie from about 67,200 to 66,900. How accurate these numbers are is difficult to say as the statistics have to rely on information from hunters, as the forestry personnel cannot collate all the information necessary. The smaller numbers will not be of particular encouragement to farmers though when their land is dug up. We are pleased that so far the damage has not been in any new areas and in out of the way places on the whole. We do not want to spend lots of time filling in pig holes or ploughing up areas to level them.

The referendum took place this Saturday to decide whether to dissolve the Saeima (Latvian Parliament) and the result was overwhelming, 95% of those who voted decided to oust the current government. If that doesn't give a hearty signal that the Latvian people are fed up with corrupt politicians I don't know what will. A friend of mine though did voice the quandary that it was all well and good to vote this time to say "enough is enough" but in the election to elect a new government will anything change? Will there be enough untainted politicians to vote for? Will the parliamentarians act with integrity once they are elected? Time will tell, but the Latvian people have spoken very loudly and very clearly - they don't like corruption. 

All natural dyes and the labels are all written on pieces of
The referendum was not the only event in our village this weekend, there was also the annual celebrations. As is normal in Latvia, most things happen around an outdoor stage and involves lots of singing, dancing and acting. It was quite amazing to see a guy from the local garage acting, one of our neighbours, a man in his early 20s, dancing, and the local owner of a joinery company singing in the choir. In the UK it is not often you come across young men who do folk dancing and to be honest they would often be laughed at by their mates, but here in Latvia it is not unusual and nothing to be ashamed of and rightly so too. Good for the Latvians I say. There was a troop of older ladies dancing too, the only complaint was not the fact they were dancing and at least keeping fit and enjoying themselves, but the youngsters who followed them were getting rather cold waiting for their turn. I would show you a video but of course I turned the phone on its side and was too far away to get a good picture, another time perhaps! This year the event highlighted the local businesses in the area, a local tv personality interviewed the business owners to find out what they do and so one of our friends explained about the company she had set up exporting firewood and another of our friends talked about making goats cheese and the rabbits she raises, she even sold out of all the cheese she had made. So many folks were surprised to hear of the local businesses and took business cards away, let's hope that is the start of a robust local economy. 

Can you spot the blueberry dyed wool?
There was also a workshop on natural dyeing at the celebrations and it showed what wonderful colours can be generated from local weeds. Fat hen gives a gorgeous clear green and is a frequent weed in our garden, the blueberries give a stunning purple and dyer's chamomile can give an intense yellow or orange. The amount of skills in the area in terms of dyeing, weaving and spinning is astounding and certainly bodes well when we get the alpacas. I am looking forward to seeing what products we can make between us. Latvians can be so creative and have not lost many of what we could consider old skills, the knowledge is actively used and so people really know what they are doing, which also means there is great scope for holidays learning about these old skills in some lovely Latvian countryside. 

Translation: Wood colours
Unfortunately while we were enjoying the celebrations others were not having a good time; this weekend has had its fair share of shocking news. The young talented Amy Whitehouse succumbs to her addictions, such a waste of a life, such a lack of hope. The news from Norway was shocking not just from the sheer scale of the atrocity but the unexpectedness of it. It kind of feels like there is nowhere safe today, even when things are bad elsewhere there is a hope that there are places that are not accustomed to such horrors, but this illusion was shattered over the weekend. I have to admire the response though from the Norwegians where the voice of reason arose strong and clear, that they will not give in to fear, that they will refuse to be a hostage to it, but will continue to live their lives with openness and transparency. I do pray that they can indeed live up to that call. And then there is Somalia, people dying once again due to famine. This is not just about a lack of water causing a drought, this has to do with how the powers who control the areas deal with the issue. Famines need not happen these days, bad weather, yes, food shortages, yes, but famines no! It is the lack of political will and power mongering that causes famines. I at least learnt that on my development management course.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Shocking time

Sweet williams that I planted by our pond last year
This week we have made progress with regards to the alpacas. I emailed someone in the British Alpaca Association which resulted in a rather nice chat with someone who has experience of exporting alpacas to Europe. It was very encouraging, as I found out that alpacas like the rough sort of pasture that the main part of our land has become, which means we should have plenty for them to eat in the summer. I also found out that they like to be outside and don't take well to being cooped up inside and that is down to -15C with no shelter. Quite amazing really and means we won't need to house them for long over the winter, just through the worst patches as we don't want them getting frost bitten ears. I suppose I could always knit them some cute little hats to protect their ears though. We will probably go and see the farm just before Christmas as we have booked flights to the UK, (haven't booked them for the trip back yet as they were expensive with the same company) and the alpaca farm is quite close to one of our sons who has invited us to stay for the festive period.

Ian isn't the only one that is cutting hay. I love this tractor,
it has a corrugated tin roof.
Ian has been working very hard this last week, cutting hay in the difficult areas, with the two wheeled tractor. It is a fiddly job, as we wish to keep some of the saplings that have grown up like the oak, spruce and pine saplings, although we may relocate them later on in the year if we find time to do it. Although it is hard work cutting hay, I think it is a better job than being the official tester of the electric fence which he managed to do last week, and not just once but twice - far better sticking to cutting hay I think. At least he knows the electric fence works now, although personally I would prefer to believe the tester. Mind you a while ago I did manage to give myself a small jolt because I wasn't sure if the fence was on or off, it does concentrate the mind somewhat in making sure.

I haven't spent a lot of time out on the land so far as I am still ploughing through academic papers in preparation for my Masters thesis as I need to get all the information I can to start the project on monitoring pig damage at the end of August. I do go out to the land sometimes though to keep an eye on the veg plot and tame the tomatoes by hacking back the side shoots which seem to grow into monster proportions if you happen to miss them. I mostly spend time on the veg plots nearer to home though and processing herbs for winter use.

This was the box of blueberries were were given as a
thank you for helping the young man out with a
blown tyre
On the way home from the land the other day we saw a van on the wrong side of the road and Ian noticed that the young lad seemed to be struggling to get the spare wheel out, so he pulled up to see if he could help. It just so happened that Ian had still got the trolley jack in the back of the car, in fact it has been there for a while and he keeps meaning to put it back down in our cellar, fortunately for this young chap he hadn't got around to it. Eventually between them they managed to get the spare wheel out and the van jacked up enough to loosen wheel nuts, but the wheel itself was well stuck on. First Ian went to get a hammer, that didn't work, so next he went to get some freeing oil, at which point the young chap who spoke good English commented "Do you have everything in your car?" He wasn't far wrong, it is Ian's mobile workshop after all. Unfortunately the wheel still wouldn't budge and so we went back to the land and Ian got a sledge hammer, well that did the trick. The spare wheel went on very easily, but as they let the van down it was apparent the wheel had no air in it, and would you believe it? Ian had an electric pump that connects to the cigarette lighter in the car. It did take a while to pump it up as the pump got rather hot and a lot of air was needed but finally the van was ready to go. The young chap was very, very happy as sitting in his van was two tonnes of wild blueberries that he was going to sell, it was also one of the reasons the van was so heavy and possibly why the valve blew on his tyre - well that and combined with the bumpy dirt roads we have around here. He very generously offered us some blueberries and we were happy to accept, but didn't quite anticipate being given a full tray of them but we were well pleased with that. He even offered to pay as well, but we thought the blueberries were payment enough. It wasn't until we got home that we realised what a massive job we had on our hands as there were quite a few kilos of blueberries to deal with, still complete with bits of leaves and little spiders in them. Does explain why I have purple finger nails though, along with four 1 litre jars of juice, three jars of jam, one tray freezing, six trays drying, 36 blueberry muffins and a bowlful just for eating. Think I need a lie down now.

Its rather hard to see but the thrush is tucked in by this
tomato planter taking a nap
I also did some rescuing this week. A young thrush flew into our window and managed to land all askew in a box of tomato plants. I wasn't really sure how it was going to get itself out of the tangle and so I thought the best thing I could do was to gently lift it out. I was quite surprised that I was able to place it on its feet as I half expected it to keel over with fright. It sat for quite a while with its beak agape, panting away. Gradually it calmed down though and even tucked itself behind another tomato planter to get out of the wind and have a bit of a kip. Finally it recovered enough to fly off, which was a great relief as the only other thrush I have seen in Latvia was a dead one that had also flown into the window. Do wonder if my sister has a point that I should put stickers on the window before I decimate the whole of the thrush population of Latvia.

Recovered and about to fly off
Politics here in Latvia is continuing to prove interesting. As I mentioned the other week, the previous President was not re-elected after upsetting the Saeima (Latvian Parliament) by having the audacity to call for a referendum of the people, to see if they wanted the Saeima dissolved after politicians voted for protecting one of their own from corruption investigations. That referendum happens this next week but even before the results are out one political party has voted to dissolve, maybe to avoid having to pay back large sums of money to the state, but also because they recognise that, whether they like it or not, they have become linked to corruption. The leader, Skele, is one of the oligarchs who are coming under increasing criticism for influencing politics for their own benefit, is also to step down from politics. Other developments are the merger of two right wing parties and the recently retired President to set up a new party in order to give Latvian politics a new start, hopefully one built on a better regard for ethics.

There are lots and lots and lots of these tiny little frogs
everywhere. It is a hard job not to stand on then while
gardening. If you watch the ground it looks as if
 the ground is alive as lots of little frogs go leaping off.
Unfortunately banking experts in Latvia still do not seem to have regard for the people of Latvia and still have their eyes firmly fixed on the economy, whatever that is. They stated that indexing pensions will hurt the economy, and I must say that if it will hurt the economy, then damn the economy! I find it a sick joke that those in their ivory towers can state that indexing pensions is a bad thing. Indexing the pension will bring the basic pension up to 165 LVLs ($328, £204) a month, which is not a lot, especially as the previous day to the banking experts statements, the figures were released for the minimum required per person to live on and came to 174 LVLs. I can't quite get my head around what they expect pensioners to live off. Fresh air? At least there is plenty of that. So while banks can head back into profit, the poorest of the society have to continue to pay for the mistakes of those very banks who offer such advice. Can we trust banks to tell us what is good for the economy when they caused such mayhem only a short while ago? Why aren't they actually exhorting the rich to help those less fortunate by paying their taxes? As you can tell, I was spitting feathers I was so mad with them.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011


Presents! A bunch of flowers from one of my neighbours
from her garden, with the promise to give me some bulbs
for next year. A box of chocolate from one of our visitors
Sorry once again the blog is late, but visitors come first, especially visitors who will be away for a long time and who we may not get to see again until next year. Our friends Steve and Natalija, who organise Camp in a box, came with their two boys. The boys were super excited as they got to ride in our big red truck and got to see our tractor. In fact they got to ride in the tractor too and their little faces were an absolute picture, one of them beaming away, and the other so serious and taking everything in, but both thrilled to bits. It was good to show our friends around to see what we are doing on the land, as they know it well and they loved the changes we have made along the way.

The stockade built by Ian to hold our wood chippings,
compost, manure and straw into neat and tidy piles
It has been a bit of a people week this week. Some weeks we don't get to see many people, apart from in passing, as we get on with the things we need to do and so it has been good to spend time with folks just chatting. Our friends who own a farm needed to get out for a couple of hours and so they visited one evening and I have to confess to frantically rushing around tidying up before they arrived. In summer our stuff tends to get dumped at the door and so not much putting away gets done at all, as we slump in the evenings. How many other folks need the incentive of guests coming to get going on putting things away that maybe should have been put away earlier? Hope it's not just us. It was great to relax though and pass time laughing at the stories of the antics of their goats and their evil ways with the flower garden. It is a fact that goats and flowers do not mix well and goats being intelligent animals can run rings around owners, or even rings around the house to avoid the owners so they can eat some more flowers.

I think these are damselflies, rather than dragonflies. They
make me laugh though how one of them seems to be
standing on the head of the other.
On Friday I needed to see the district architect to sort out some plans and one of my neighbours came with me with her two children. Unfortunately there was someone already in and so we had to sit down for a lengthy wait, which the oldest, who is only around three years old, found rather tiresome and wanted to run around. To help I decided to introduce him to some English nursery rhymes and songs which he thought were highly amusing, especially "Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream" complete with actions. I think he enjoyed the songs rather than just finding my singing highly amusing. I spent quite a few years as a childminder, playgroup organiser and freelance children's worker specialising in younger children and craft and so those years were obviously well spent learning how to entertain a bored, fidgety, little one. I still find it amazing to think it was only just over a month ago when this particular youngster wouldn't even talk to me because I couldn't speak Latvian, but now he is quite happy to tell me what something is called in Latvian - might have myself a little teacher there!

Okay you have to look hard at this one but in the middle
is a baby newt. There are lots of them in our top pond
Our other people day was in response to an impromptu invitation whilst on the way to the bakery, when our friend stopped her car and invited us to visit her property in the countryside. We din't actually make it to the bakery (which reminds me we really need to pay a visit soon as it has been so long since we last went, I mean all of a perhaps a week ago) instead we went back home to change into clothing appropriate for visiting a property in the middle of a forest - i.e. insect proof! The road to her property was lined with hunting towers and you could almost imagine that they were sentry posts guarding the entrance to some grand house. Well at the end of the road was not a grand house, but a rather nice summer house, just right for a growing family to have the freedom to run around and the parents to grow lots of veg. It might seem that we move in exalted circles, when I say we went to visit someone at their summer house, but here in Latvia it is quite normal. When communism fell many people inherited homes in the countryside that belonged to them or their ancestors as property was returned to previous owners. Some were sold at cheap prices to those who hadn't got an ancestral home and some were kept for summer holidays. Often they have no electric and they can be rather run down affairs but many of our neighbours have some kind of property somewhere further out in the countryside. I love meeting folks though and hearing their dreams and plans, as they show us around, it is wonderful to hear hope living in people's hearts.

Reality check! This is damage done by pigs rooting. To
give you an idea of perspective the grass here is around
my head height of 5ft (1.52m)
We have to dream some dreams soon, as we think about where we go on our land, but sometimes those dreams take a bit of a reality check when we see the damage done by the wild boar. They are back, and boy are they back, with a vengeance in some areas. There are areas that have been recently turned over that measure around 3m2 (32sqft) and not just one area, several areas. This wasn't the gentle rooting for dandelion roots like we sometimes get which leaves small holes about 10x10cm (4x4in) , these are humungous holes that mean we have land that is uneven and difficult to cut or work with once damaged. Wouldn't be so bad if they would stick to the same areas, but they don't and we have no idea what damage they may have done in the forests yet. I really hope they haven't damaged the chanterelle mushroom area again, as that only just recovered enough for us to pick some last year. We are also battling other pests this month, as the wild parsnip puts up their rather pretty heads again, in fact one grew to well over head height. Wild parsnip is not nice though, despite its pretty looks, as it is similar to giant hogweed in the fact it can cause burns when skin, which has been in contact with the juice, is exposed to the sun. I think I have seen a possible source of where the plants are blowing in from but not sure if the owner will deal with it or not, hopefully we can persuade them it isn't good. At least this week I did get to see the evidence myself that corncrakes do exist, not on our land though, but on the road and the stupid thing nearly committed suicide under the wheels of our car - maybe that is why they are rare!

More damage, and these are just a couple of examples
there were many more of similar sizes. 
I mentioned last week that we had been to a meeting to pray for the outgoing President of Latvia, President Zatlers. This week was the final week of his term and the new President was sworn in. Zatlers announced this week that he is seeking to set up a new party with new faces, not tainted with the alleged corruption of the oligarchs. One party led by one of the oligarchs has actually disbanded because its reputation has become so tainted. It will be interesting to see what happens to the politicians from that party, will they leave politics entirely? Will they seek to join another and will they be accepted? First we have to see what Latvians say about the current Saeima or Parliament and whether it should be dissolved after the Saeima voted to protect one of their members from investigations by the corruption bureau. Do the Latvians think that politicians should be protected from anti-corruption investigations? I would sincerely hope there is a very decisive vote in the referendum on July 23rd. Just in case you missed it, the referendum was called by President Zatlers the week after the vote by the Saeima and it cost him a chance of re-election for a second term.

This little chap, a chaffinch, and his mates have been
frequenting the greenhouse. Not sure if this is a blessing
in getting rid of the numerous insects that we have in
there of the biting kind, or whether it will actually be a
problem in the case of the grapes when they ripen! Might
have to get some nets for over windows and doors
One issue that was raised this week, that I found particularly interesting on the internet, was the issue of fair pay, "Should employers pay enough for their workers to live off?" Employers often say that if they paid higher wages they would be uncompetitive, but I don't see many of them trying to live off what they pay their workers. I have thought for a long time that it is not fair for the state to end up subsidising employers so they can pay abysmal wages. How long are we prepared to put up with employers saying that they can't afford to pay more and then leaving it to tax payers to fund the difference? Mind you it doesn't help when people keep looking for a "bargain", is it really a bargain if people are not paid enough?

Monday, 11 July 2011

Well what do you know!

We had visitors again tonight and so no blog, see you tomorrow

Monday, 4 July 2011

Odd week

Really excited to see our grapes growing.
I hope they taste all right after all this as
we have waited three years for this
and they have miraculously survived
two bad winters
Been an odd week this week. We are still doing the job the banks should be doing and helping where we can, but, as I told one person, it is a privilege to be able to share what God has blessed us with and if it makes life easier here, then that is good, and if it gets some businesses going, then even better. There was one point that I was just a little worried if we doing the right thing because money can always be a difficult subject between friends and I asked God for some specific encouragement about the matter. I got the most amazing reply back in the form of an e-card, from someone with no connections to Latvia thanking me for the way I invest in the lives of others. It wasn't just sent to me, it was sent to other folks as well who had also invested in this young person's life, but for me it was as if God had sent me a personal reply to my prayer that just answered any of my worries about whether I was doing the right thing or not. No matter what the possible issues should be, it would seem that God's answers to any worries I might have, is that I should keep investing.

Our plot on the land with sunflowers
growing well
One of the advantages of keeping this blog and a photographic record of what we are doing. is that we can look back over the years to see what we were doing a year ago or two ago and compare it to where we are now. For instance we have tomatoes coming now in the greenhouse, but how does that compare with last year? We feel like we are far behind because the greenhouse took so long to build, but when we look back we could even be ahead of last year, which is quite a relief. The hot weather in June of this year in the greenhouse must have brought everything on quicker than the cold wet June we had last year. Outside, however, everything is behind due to a lack of rain - it's swings and roundabouts I guess. It does show though why mixed farming is so necessary in the chaotic times with the vagaries of the weather. Mixed farming means that if one crop doesn't do so well then maybe another crop will, instead of relying on one massive monoculture crop to supply the income. I used to find in Derbyshire where we used to live that if I grew two sorts of beans, french and runner beans then I would do well with one sort if the other one didn't do too well - could never remember which did better in which kind of year though, as we didn't keep that kind of data then. Here we tend to also grow crops in three different places as the micro-climate in the three different locations is slightly different and by growing some crops in the three different places we stand a chance of doing reasonably well somewhere, that is as long as we don't get pestilences visiting all plots. This year we have been battling Colorado beetle on our potatoes. As insects go they are very sedentary and very easy to catch, but they are voracious eaters and will sit there happily chomping through many leaves if you don't catch them and so constant vigilance is required. On the subject of growing, our field of buckwheat is coming along nicely, we obviously timed it well by getting it in just before the rain finally came and now it is growing faster than all the other weeds that have germinated in the damper conditions, which is very reassuring and exactly what we wanted it to do.

Germination looks good until you realise that it is not all
buckwheat but lots of weeds too
I was hoping to say that this last week we had been to see an alpaca farm, but I am having difficulty getting hold of the guy. I rang the other week and we chatted briefly after which we arranged for me to ring on Tuesday, but when I rang he couldn't hear me. I sent a text instead and he texted me back saying he will ring me, but he didn't - well not that I know of. I have tried several times since, but all to no avail. It is really hard to know what the problem is. Is he avoiding me for some reason? Possible here in Latvia, as people can be wary of dealing with foreigners. Has his phone broken? Also possible too. I am disappointed, I was really hoping we were getting somewhere by finding someone who raised them in this country. I still believe it is the way we should go but not really sure how to proceed now. I will give it one more go tomorrow and if that doesn't work I will then get a Latvian to ring and see where we go from there.

This shows the good news though, as the buckwheat is the
larger leaved plants that are taller than the rest of the weeds.
One other thing that buckwheat is good for is that bees
produce a glorious dark honey from the pollen of buckwheat
we shall have to see about borrowing some bees I guess.
The oddness of this week was added to by an invitation from a friend to join a meeting to pray for the outgoing President of Latvia. The prayer meeting was located, in a Lutheran church, across the river from the place where the President was holding a party to say goodbye and it was an ad hoc meeting as it was only arranged the day or two before. We started off with a selection of songs by a brass band which seemed a bit odd at times, as I have never been to a meeting with a brass band before. I have heard meetings led with organ music, piano, guitar and drums and even saxophones, clarinets, flutes and violins but never a brass band complete with euphonium. As they played the more regal music, I could imagine a procession fit for a King, with the trumpets ringing out declaring his presence and it was quite awe inspiring at times. Unfortunately though there was a mis-communication and after an hour of the brass band, the lady in charge of locking up wanted to go home, she wasn't prepared to stay until 10pm as we thought had been arranged as she had already had a long day. Still it was good that we got some time where we could come together to pray for the President and his new career, wherever that takes him. I do indeed wish him well on his journey as he has really showed himself as a man of integrity by standing up to the dishonesty displayed amongst many of the Latvian Parliamentarians.

Butterflies love Ian's Lada too
To complete this rather odd week I have had a rather mixed day today too. Part of it was spent taming the monster tomatoes from sending out sideshoots, as they are the sort of tomatoes that send out sideshoots as soon as your back is turned (for those not into gardening, sideshoots means the tomato plants are concentrating on growing more leaves and not on tomatoes and so taking out the sideshoots helps to concentrate their minds a little on the job of growing tomatoes). Part of it was spent being the not so glamorous assistant to Ian by pumping the brakes of his Lada, as he bled the brakes - we now have a Lada where the brakes all work, which is kind of useful. The rest of my time was spent reading academic papers and making notes, whilst sat in the caravan sipping cups of tea. Odd it maybe, but enjoyable it was! Although it is a little frustrating for Ian's Lada to be sat around because it is not in good working order, it has meant that Ian has had a chance to brush up on his car mechanic skills from all those years spent maintaining crumbling cars when we lived in the UK. While in Denmark he had only bikes to maintain, whereas in the US and here, so far we have had relatively new or new cars, so not much maintenance for him to do. He therefore has relished the challenge and endured the frustrations of getting a car working again.