Monday, 15 August 2011

Interesting times

There were a couple of moments this week when I didn't recognise someone, very embarrassing! The first person I didn't recognise as they were waving at me, was due to a radical haircut. It made a huge difference, and that is my excuse and I am sticking to it. The next occasion was when we walked into our local hotel. I saw some people sitting at a table but didn't initially take much notice, and then suddenly I realised I knew two of them and was frantically racking my brain to remember who they were and where did I know them from. Eventually I did work out who there were and they weren't from the village and so it was quite a surprise to see them in our locale, especially as they were from Riga, they are also friends of people we know are away at the moment and so they hadn't come to visit them either. It is odd how we do not recognise people out of context, I guess that tells us something about how our brains are wired. It did mean though that instead of a quiet meal for two as usual, we had lovely evening where we were introduced to someone else who lives in Riga but comes from Lancashire like me. We traded jokes and were able to talk "Northern" and be completely understood, it was great. Just hope I recognise our son when he gets to the airport tomorrow (I am writing this ahead of time so I can spend time with him catching up instead of sat on the computer)

Talking of brains being wired differently, it is funny how our perception of old changes with age. One young lass who translates for us on a frequent basis has found a dictionary that is really old and contains some of the terms that we were struggling with the other week. This very old dictionary was printed in ........ 1968! Old!!!!! That makes us old! That makes us very old!!! We were expecting her to tell us it was from the 1930s, now that's old! Well it is to us, being early 60s children.

Since coming to Latvia we have been eating very well, of course there are the fresh vegetables from the garden and this year we are starting to get gifts from friends, such as lampreys earlier on this year, beavers sausages, goat's cheese, chicken the other week and this week we have got half a goat. The lampreys we have to work our way up to eating, they are good but smell very fishy which we find off-putting, but paired up with some strong tasting vegetables and herbs it works well (still got a packet in the freezer). The beaver sausage we are still working our way through too, as it makes good salami for pizzas or a tasty casserole and it hasn't been casserole weather. The chicken was a free range hen that was past its productive years and so had to be cooked for a long time, but it made a lot of tasty juice for stock and still had a taste itself at the end. It made a lovely chicken and mushroom pie and yes the mushrooms were picked by Ian fresh that day. As for the goat? Well that is in the freezer as we haven't had chance to eat any of it yet, I will let you know what it tastes like when we have eaten some. It does show though that you can live very well, quite cheaply when you live as a community. We have also learnt to make many foods that we took for granted in England, such as cheese, bacon, hams, sausages and found that really they are not hard, just not so instant as opening a packet from the supermarket. I planned on giving our son some home-made bacon sarnies one day while he is here but that meant buying the meat Saturday, adding salt and honey to it in a plastic bag and turning it every day for four/five days so it will be ready Wednesday.  

I mentioned last week that Ian keeps saying "winter's coming" well this week it did rather feel like it too as we have had some rather cool, rainy weather, fortunately it seems to have warmed up a lot in time for our son's arrival. Even the trees and vines have started changing colour. The rainy weather has meant that it has been difficult to get into the garden apart from the smash and grab type raids to get some veg from the garden before the next shower and so the weeds which were bad before have increased. Finally on Saturday I got in there and did battle with the weeds, which succumbed reluctantly. There are now three rather large piles of weeds complete with pulled up peas. I managed to rescue enough peas that hadn't been munched by grubs to add to our pie and they were good, just a pity there hadn't been many more of them. I did do some research and found that one of the best deterrents is fleece or fine netting to protect from the moths that lay the eggs, so I think I am going to do an experiment to thwart the beasts, one will be to cover them and another to grow something amongst the peas to confuse the moths, maybe nasturtiums and/or dill. If anyone has any other ideas please feel free to add a comment. I decided against the pheromone traps as they are just too expensive whereas the dill is free as I keep the seed - there's some drying in our bedroom as I write and so are the nasturtiums - if I manage to get some going to seed and the frost doesn't get there first.

One of the good things about winter though is the respite from the garden. There is not much to do in it when it is a metre deep in snow and all there is to do is to plan for the following year. I can really relate to one comment I read on a blog about farming this week
 "One thing that has surprised me year after year is that in spite of all the challenges we New Hampshire farmers face every season we all return for the next summer. The winter seems to refresh and completely renew our motivation for growing and doing what we love."
I can really relate to that. I was looking at a plot of land today and planning for next year as I would love to increase the number of blueberries bushes we have and there is a triangle of land that is between paths and is a jungle of ground elder and wild raspberries. By laying a thick layer of cardboard mulch and then straw and pine needles on top by spring there could be a good soil layer for the plants and hopefully no weeds. Winter will do its work too. 

Our land is our investment for our future. Often we are making decisions that will not be realised for many years, maybe even after we have gone. We are keeping many of the trees that have seeded themselves, some we remove when they are just plain in the wrong place, but if it can be kept and Ian can still manoeuvre around them with a tractor then they are kept, they will provide shelter for animals and fuel for us in the future. Oaks are something we are particularly keen to encourage and yet we may never see the fruit of those, although I would like to try coppicing them as they can be used for straight oak beams - they only take about 25 years I think! Just in time for our "retirement"? Actually past our official retirement age as that is just less than 20 years away (scary!). We are hopefully going to tread slowly into alpaca keeping next year with just a few to see how they cope with our land and our winters before embarking on rearing. They will still provide us with a few woolly jumpers anyway. 

I see these sorts of investments, along with learning how to keep seeds as the best way into our future. Banks used to be thought of as nice safe places to store money and trustworthy places to invest our pensions, now I am not so sure. There are so many question marks over the way the economy is run and how sustainable it is that even the experts really do not know what they are doing, they are guessing too and often just praying that everything will return to normal and it will all go on as before (Delamitri yet again? here and here). The riots in England this last week should be yet more warnings that things cannot go on as before and reverting to authoritarian rhetoric isn't going to help either. I am not going to say much about this as so much has been said already and most excellently on this blog, which talks about the result of investing in the rich and in consumerism that has, like Roger's blog says, meant a lot of unexploded land mines waiting to be triggered. This blog also gives a good account and I especially like Cheryl's comments if you scroll down, where she argues for a return to living together as a society.

As Christians we are told not to store up our treasures on earth but store it up in heaven

 Matthew 6 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Thought you might like a cheery picture to
finish with! A photo of our sunflowers. Sorry
haven't got around to taking any more but
maybe tomorrow I shall post some
But what does that mean in our lives today, we often spiritualise it to oblivion and still don't really tackle what it means. The Lords prayer says "Let your kingdom come, let your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven." To me that means we are praying for heaven on earth, so invest in that. Again what does that mean in practice? Well I can't give you an definitive answers because it will be different for each one of us, but instead of looking to make an eternal difference, look to make a difference now, here on earth using kingdom principles of equality and fairness, and don't store up the money for the future. It is okay to give it out with the expectation that it could come back to you (and I did say "could", it won't always) and then recirculate it again, using it to build up, encourage and restore.There are plenty of folks that need a hand to get started on a project, so invest time, and money into those places. Get a group together to see about investing in some small projects - that's called spreading the risk. Just do something, don't get sunk in despair or believe it is all going to hell anyway and not do something about it. There is a God in heaven who is in the business of sowing encouragement and love into a hurting world and he is into transformation, so sow into it. Get behind what he is doing. 


  1. I have been told that Goat tastes like Lamb?? You will have to let me know if that's true. I hope you are having a wonderful time with your son...

  2. Arrhh right, that could be a problem as I don't think our son likes lamb but then again I don't think he is quite as fussy as he used to be :o).

    It is good to have him around and he is having a bit lof lads time with Ian today and will probably get to play on the tractor and drive our lada around the land a bit. He has requested that he gets a chocolate pudding at the local hotel, they were always the highlights of visits many years ago, so we will be doing that tonight.

  3. well did it taste like lamb????

  4. Whoops left you hanging there didn't I. It did taste a bit like lamb but not enough for it to be rejected by my son - he was not impressed with the small falling about bits as it had been in the slow cooker all day. It was like a mix of lamb and stewing steak but without the fatty taste that lamb has.


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