Monday, 22 August 2011


I won these gorgeous buttons from a lady who does some
beautiful embroidery calle Karen and you can find her
blog here. She does some amazing work and mainly in
white - if I used white it would be multicoloured by the
time I finished.
It has felt a busy week once again. Trips into Riga were timed with visits to the tractor shop - I'm beginning to wonder if that is all part of the experience of visiting us that we have to at least try and go to the tractor shop. We went to pick up a new cutter bar on the way home, which we had reserved on the first trip after collecting our son from the airport. They had a special offer on one that is good for rough ground, with pointy things on the front to stop the cutter bar coming into contact with stones. It was really funny as the sales guy was trying to explain why there was a difference between the cutter bar they had in stock and the one we have and none of us could come up with anything more technical than pointy things. We don't need a new cutter bar, well not yet, but we have come to rely on this piece of equipment for keeping our land in check and to tackle the ground elder through regular cutting - much faster than using a strimmer - which means that if it was to ever break we would be stuck, hence the decision to buy the new one, especially since it cost less than our original one.

Our son driving the big little tractor
Our trips into Riga are a bit of a nightmare at the moment as they are constructing new tarmac roads on just about every route into Riga from our place. It is lovely when they are done and we have some nice level tarmac roads to travel on instead of the dirt roads, but for some reason they do not do a stretch and then move to the next point. Oh no! They have to work on it at several points at once and leave gaps in between where nothing is done - it is very bizarre and means you have no idea at which point you will come into contact with the road works.

Our missing bale of hay. This bale
rolled down the hill onto our neighbours
land and wedged itself in some branches
which saved it a trip into a ditch. Not quite
sure how we are going to get it out yet. We
can't roll it out as it is much too heavy and
there is a steep bank to roll it up to the field.
I still had some studying to do and so it meant that father and son could spend a bit of time together. Our son was very willing to help out when it came to operating machines and so the orchard got mowed with a lawnmower, the area around our currant bushes was mowed with the two-wheel tractor and he even got to do a bit of grass cutting with the big-little tractor. Our cellar is also now virtually clear of wood, not sure if our cellar just got damp through the damp wood being put down there or because there is some water coming in, so we need to give it a bit of time to assess the situation.  When the cellar hopefully dries out a bit, we will stack it up with some more dry wood ready for winter. We did take our son out for meals as promised, one to our local hotel for some of their famous chocolate pudding - cake on the outside and it should be runny on the inside but this time it wasn't, still nice though. We also went to Ķirsona Muiža which we have nicknamed the Disney palace and was built by the same company that built the Lido in Riga, which all Brits that I know have to visit when they go to Riga, just to sample a range of Latvian food.

Our monster tomatoes
We also took time to visit our friends and show our son around the farm, looking at lots and errr lots and errr lots of cute baby bunnies. It is hard to look at them and think food but that is what they are being grown for, as the meat is healthy due to being low in fat and of course they breed like rabbits and so that means a lot of meat in a short space of time. We had quite a laugh as our friend's daughter has a knack of getting animals to follow her, usually it is the goats but this time it was chicks and it was hilarious watching the chickens chasing after her with their little legs going nineteen to the dozen. We came home from there with a pot of honey, the last honey of the year as all the bees make from now on is for over the winter and so it is not good to take any later. It is this time of the year the beekeeper also starts to treat the bees for various illnesses and to start feeding them to make sure the reserves are built up. Our son decided honey from the farm was far superior to the stuff from the shops - not bad for a city boy really.

On our misty trip into Riga. This shows one of the many
disused fields turning slowly into forest
Saturday was forecast to be wet and so we decided that we should sweep the chimney at our other apartment. It was a job we were dreading as we have one bad experience of sweeping chimneys. Most of the time back in England, our middle son and Ian would tackle the sweeping together, as we had an awkward fireplace made up of rough hewn stone - not ideal for a good seal. Most times they had a good system going but once it failed with rather catastrophic effects. Soot ended up everywhere and it took me a week to clean that room, including some rather large curtains. This chimney that we were cleaning this week doesn't have a cleaning chamber and has to be virtually dismantled to clean it, which proved a little tricky at first but eventually we got it separated without covering everywhere with soot - an amazing feat in itself. In fact it all ran rather smoothly and we got it all put back together and tested it with a small fire - no problems at all.

It's amazing to watch the guys who stack these hayricks
they are so fast. They do the field in about a day. These
ricks allow the hay to dry out and now they are slowly
being collected in.
I was hoping for a bit of a slow day on Sunday, taking things easy, but I got chatting with a neighbour at our other apartment and she was asking when we were going to dig up our potatoes. I said sometime this week, but couldn't tell her that it was because the weather forecast was looking good for the whole week. She showed me some of the potatoes she was digging up and some looked like they were going rotten, probably from blight and her garden is higher than ours, therefore should be a bit drier. This news got me bit worried and so we had a change of plan and decided to dig up our potatoes that afternoon. Ian went to get the two-wheel tractor as he was planning on cutting someones grass the next day and he had a go with the potato lifter. It was hardwork and we realised that he needed a guide to work towards to keep a fix on where the rows were, but it worked and we know how to use it better next year. Our potatoes were actually quite good from that plot, and no more than half a dozen bad ones, so we were really pleased. Maybe our neighbours put them in the same plot each year, or maybe their potatoes are more susceptible than ours, I don't know, but I will make a point of looking to see where they plant potatoes next year.

This little chap was determined to help out and at times we
had to stop digging because he was in the way. He seemed
to be completely fearless.
By Monday our nice dry week seemed to be evaporating with an increase in forecasts for rain, so after I had picked two buckets of beans plus removed all the weeds from the potato plot and Ian had repaired the clutch on the two-wheeled tractor that seemed to be slipping, we then got cracking with digging up the second plot of potatoes (the shorter rows running across the hill meant it was quicker to resort to the old-fashioned method of digging with a fork and not using the two-wheeled tractor). We have found out that straw definitely helps to suppress the weeds but also benefitted the size and number of potatoes produced, well that and our neighbours sprinkler must have been having an effect too, as our first two rows of potatoes were ginormous, with many big baking potatoes. We just got most of the potatoes in and was gathering up the last ones when the rain started. Phew! Just in time! We will give the plot a week for weed seeds to germinate, dig those in and then scatter some clover seeds over it to hold the ground together over the winter to stop the nutrients leaching out and to give a green manure to dig in in the spring. Well that's the plan anyway and very much depends on the weather. The ground has gone quite soft and so it is going to set our cutting of the last of the hay back. Fortunately we don't want it for feed or anything and will only compost it but if we don't cut it the dominant weeds take over and as we are still trying to improve the grassland it needs to be done.

We took the time for a stop and a cup of tea on the way
home from Riga. The mist had gone and from this point
you can see for miles and miles.
One of the effects of living in an ex-Soviet country is that many of the older people still speak Russian, but we found out this week, it is not just the people, sometimes it extends to the animals too. Our friends have a new horse rescued from an abattoir, well when I say new I mean new to them and they were relating to us the other day how they have been riding it and proving it is not just a horse for pulling carts and agricultural equipment, which is what they have it for. The horse, however, only seems to understand Russian and not necessarily the sort of Russian you learn in school. I get the impression it is not the gentile kind of Russian you use talk to your grandmother either.

There is lots of forest in Latvia
Not had has as much time on the internet as usual (probably a good thing) but one news item that did strike me is that Sweden apologised for a turning a blind eye to post-war Soviet occupation of the Baltic States. I think this is a very good thing as it acknowledges the mistakes of history. The Swedish Prime Minister stated that Sweden had a "debt of honour" to the Baltic States for the way they behaved. I think they still do have a debt of honour for turning a blind eye to the way the Swedish banks have dealt with the Baltic States, using practices not used in their own country, hiding the details of how much interest is paid on loans. Oh yes! I know the poor always end up paying higher rates because they are considered a poor risk, but how many could pay back if they weren't being charged extortionate rates? I know that the Swedish banks are not the only ones to operate dual standards and legal but immoral practices but I still think these things should be acknowledged and promises made to reform dealings. Instead we have the situation where the banks are returning to profit while the nation is weighed down by debt incurred through immoral lending practices.

I shall leave you with a link to a Youtube clip of a young girl aged 10, Ta'Kaiya Blaney from the tribe Silammon, singing about the effects of oil extraction from tar sands, called Shallow Waters. The lines "If we do nothing it will all be gone" really echoes through my mind and makes me more determined to keep going and trying to do what is right.

Oh yes before I forget. Last week Karen asked what did goat taste like? The first meal we had tasted a bit like a cross between a low fat lamb and stewing steak, but that could be how I cooked it. The rib we had today was much more like lamb but without the fat.


Mavis said...

I've just been looking at Karen's blog. What an amazing talent - beautiful embroidery!

You mention the Swedish banks. It would seem that the banking culture is the same worldwide - they are back to doing the same as before and gaining profits while the rest of us are still paying for their mistakes of the past and will be for a number of years to come.

Yes, goat tastes a bit like lamb but less fatty. We used to have it occasionally in the north of Argentina, usually roasted in one of the old type of earthen ovens. Mmm!

Joanna said...

Yes her embroidery is beautiful indeed.

I know the banks are the same the world over and it is a big shame. At least I think they are weaker than before because they think they can carry on doing the same, but people will not continue to tolerate it, especially as economies groan under the weight of debt - owed to who exactly?

Glad you like goat as we were thinking of making sure we save some for when you come. Can't say it will be roasted in an old earthen oven though, most likely a slow cooker.

ju-north said...

You seem to cover a huge amount of ground with all your interests/work! Good job you have energy to match! x

Joanna said...

Right now I don't feel like I have much energy and looking forward to the quiet times over winter now. I ache today! :o)

Mavis said...

I didn't expect you to have an earthen oven but goat is nice however you do it.

Joanna said...

Lol, but I was seriously thinking of making a clay oven. I keep looking at the descriptions to make one

karen said...

I am so sorry I haven't been by for is total madness here but in a good way. So happy, happy, happy you like the buttons!!

Joanna said...

You sure have been busy and I hope your new class goes really well.

The buttons are gorgeous