Tuesday, 29 November 2011

About time too!

We have a bridge across our stream now. Now no
attempting to jump across, rather tricky for a short person
like myself!
Sorry I'm a bit late this week, yet again but we talked and talked with our unexpected visitor last night and covered all kinds of subjects, mainly the economy and where is it going. We are of course no wiser than the next man, still the economy has so much influence on the decisions we make. It was strange to think than none of us were afraid of a complete collapse of the economy, after all we would work the land we have, but this bounding around up and down, not knowing from one day to the next how it will all turn out makes preparing for the future very difficult. I don't think we are any clearer on where it is going after our long chat, but we do know we will watch all the more closely for the finger of God to point the way.

Winter preparations. Our patent road finder markers for
when it snows!
So back to what I started to write. Over the years we have lived here in Latvia I have discovered that milk can taste different. I have also discovered that unpasteurised milk that has gone off is very different to pasteurised milk that has gone off, it doesn't smell as unpleasant for a start. I did wonder if I was making it up at times and if it was just all in my imagination, but no! I found out this week that it is perfectly correct according to an article in the Guardian. I'm not sure what kind of milk I get mine from, they may be Latvian brown cows or they maybe the standard Fresian, but it tastes good anyway and is probably due to the fact they are grass fed and only housed in the barn over the winter months - which in this harsh climate is perfectly understandable. I very very rarely throw away milk these days as milk which has gone sour is either used to make scones or is used to make a simple cheese with the whey being used in bread making. Butter was another recent revelation, in fact the first time I tasted it I wasn't sure I liked it. It had a very rich taste, which was quite over powering. The butter was made from a mix of sweet cream and sour cream, hence the taste. Once I got over the shock though, I found I quite liked it, unfortunately I have to be up early to make sure I get some and so we don't have get it that often. Makes you wonder what else supermarkets do to food to make it bland and last far longer than is natural.

Our ponds are distinctly full, even the middle one has water
in it, which it hasn't for most of the year.
We spent some more time this week shifting stuff around, such as some well rotted wood chippings to our garden, a yard full of mud cleared away, and a good proportion of a huge pile of sawdust to our land. At least that helps to clear our friends' workshop up a bit, in preparation for their move to new premises and gives us some more mulch for paths and gardens. It's quite an impressive pile of stuff we have now. It also proved what a handy sized tractor we have, as it was able to work in the workshop to collect the sawdust instead of spending the whole day shovelling it by hand. It didn't stop a group of men laughing at our titchy tractor though as we drove past them, little did they know! Besides shifting stuff, Ian has been fettling again, fettling drains to keep our new barn dry, fettling a radio to keep it going for a wee bit longer (it is getting on a bit now the radio, but until it breathes it's last, Ian will keep it going, even if it means pinching two wires together to 'switch' it on) and trying to fettle a leaking pipe. I went up early to the other apartment to warm it through for our traditional bath night and ended up stepping in a puddle that had collected next to the toilet, the small leak had obviously manifested itself into something a little more serious and overflowed the margarine tub used to catch the drips. I was just grateful it was not the toilet itself leaking as I first feared, but it did mean clearing out a lot of pots of paint etc,. that we store in that little room, while the floor dried.

Fettling the damp area outside our barn with yet another
ditch. The wooden planks stretch across the ditch so the
tractor still has access.
It has been a week of change really as the weather has finally deteriorated into normal late autumn weather, wet and windy. In fact we were on the edge of hurricane Berit the other night, and some parts of Latvia had 70mph winds. I don't think we had anything nearly as bad but were still relieved to find the barn and greenhouse intact, even if some parts of the flooring are getting wet through seepage from the sodden ground. Our power went off momentarily a couple of times, but we were surprised that it came back on again quite quickly, much better than in the past. Our internet though gave up later on and so we just tormented the kittens for the rest of the evening. Don't worry there is no need to call out the Latvian equivalent of the RSPCA as they love it, although I have a feeling that the word torment won't translate well.

Ian has been laying a lot of wood chipping paths so we
don't have to walk in mud
Talking of the kittens, besides using them to brush the floor (their game - and it is their game - is to try and catch the brush while we try and sweep the floor, if they catch it, they cling on while they slide across our laminate flooring, it must amuse them some what as they play this game everyday) they are also beginning to charge around the house like a couple of overgrown teenagers and it's getting to the stage where they are big enough to start causing damage. Trying to curb some of their youthful enthusiasm is wearing a bit thin at times, but like kids, it won't be long before they grow up and become more sedate and settle down - I hope! This week it is not just Bella who has been in places where she shouldn't be, but so has Sofie. One day Ian went to lock the outer door before we turned in for the night and the next stage in our nightly routine is to shut the kittens in the living room where they can do least damage and means we don't trip over them, if we get up in the middle of the night; well we could find one kitten but couldn't find the other, until we heard a plaintive meow, which sounded like it was coming from outside, instead it was coming from between our inner and outer door - a distance of about 10cm. Sofie had snook in there while Ian was locking the outer door and he hadn't noticed. Another day Ian went to shut a door and rather unexpectedly grabbed something furry, Sofie was half way up the door hanging onto the side of the door and the handle. Is she beginning to work out door handles? We are in trouble if she has.

But it looks so nice in the sun! Although if you enlarge
the photo you can see the field is flooded. Next year we
will have a raised bed with squash in it, but how to tackle
this for future years we have yet to decide
The changing weather is bringing with it more opportunity to visit folks, when it is wet there is not a lot to do out on the land and socialising is much better than staying indoors cooped up all the time. We have had two opportunities this week for afternoon tea, how civilised and how English! Our first trip was to see the ladies who I taught English, we have all been too busy to really start back on the lessons and we have wanted to see them for ages. We text them to see if we could arrange a time to see them, but I didn't get a reply, so as it has been getting dark early we decided to go and call in and see if they got my text and check out the best time to meet up. We waited and waited outside for ages, having rung the bell and eventually a very surprised young lass opened the door with an equally surprised director behind, but we were ushered in and asked if we wanted tea or coffee and a few minutes later the rest of my English group turned up with a translator and we all settled down for a good long natter  with tea and biscuits- well Ian did. I had to make a mad dash back home to help sort out a money issue, wrong money in the wrong account - my fault. Still we all had a great time and I was requested to start back on my teaching in the New Year, "can we go back to the beginning please" was the additional plea - I know the feeling. I think we are almost the same with our Latvian. Our next trip was a wee bit further, actually a lot further but it was good to reconnect with people we haven't seen in a long while and as one of them was English anyway, we were treated to scones with jam, to which we added some cakes from our local bakery, so a rather jolly time was had by all.

A small but deep hole dug by the wild
boar, but worryingly close to our
blueberry bushes
Our land is pretty soggy now due to the change in weather, but also looking a bit worse for wear due to the wild boar. They were back again this week and this time they had dug some much bigger holes and re-dug some that they dug earlier in the year. It is quite disheartening really and means that as soon as it is dry enough in spring, we will have to be out filling in lots of holes and re-seeding the patches. From my research on wild boar I have found there are only two effective methods for keeping them off the land, one is electrified pig fencing which would be horrendously expensive and the next would be hunting. It looks like we will have to chase up the contract with hunters to restrict the damage, otherwise we are wasting our time trying to grow vegetables.

A surprising carpet of green amongst the brown
Not sure how much the problems with Krajbanka is making the news elsewhere, but it is sure creating problems here in Latvia. After all what do you do when your wages are paid into a bank that has ceased trading? Many people have more than one bank account here in Latvia and I can see why. If one bank fails then maybe there is some money in another account. Another reason for the number of accounts is that it costs to transfer money between different banks, quite scandalous really as these costs add up over time and is probably why most of the banks are back in profit so quickly.

Update: I hope the changes of dates haven't confused anyone but for some reason blogger has stopped automatically setting the date for when the post is published and reverted back to the date when I start to write it. Very annoying as I often jot notes down to remind me through the week.


  1. Wow! What a busy week you've had. All very interesting as usual.

  2. Oh I don't know! Not quite so busy and hence time to relax and visit people.

    I must admit to always being cautious about appearing to be busy. I would hate people to feel we were too busy for others, and although that could be the case at certain times of the year, such as haymaking - when the sunshines there is no choice but to be busy - but the rest of the time our days are fairly flexible and that is the way we like it.

  3. talking of winds....we had a mini Tornado two miles down the road in Darwen yesterday!! Exciting for some but not for those who lost roofs!!!

  4. I noticed that on the BBC news feeds. Didn't hear anything from my Mum, so I guess their house is okay.

  5. Congratulations on winning the book from Pille's blog. Enjoy reading it!
    We had strong winds here in Tartu also, but not strong enough to blow down the Xmas tree like it did in Tallinn.

  6. Thank you Pene. I am looking forward to experimenting with a little Estonian cuisine.

    One of these days I am going to make it Tartu as we have a friend working at the University there. He said it is much nicer than Tallin, which I haven't visited either.

  7. I agree, Tartu is a quieter & more cultural city than Tallinn is. Let me know when you do get here for a visit.

  8. That's kind of you Pene, it would be nice to have a local tell us where the best places are to visit :o)

  9. I can't always successfully comment at Blogger for some reason, but I'll give it a try.

    I don't know if you've encountered "Ultra-pasturized" in your travels. It seems that some of our Organic milk gets that treatment. It's supposed to give the milk a longer 'shelf' life (in the fridge), but it is extremely horrid when it goes bad.

    Looks like it's going to be a go, but can't seem to get it to use my real first name instead of a nickname I've used in the past.

  10. It worked Gunta. I wonder if Ultra-pasteurised is the ultra-heat-treated or UHT milk that I know, probably is. Yes it is horrid when it goes bad, but at least it is not as horrid when it hasn't as it was when we used to buy it on holidays when I was a kid. One of the problems I think for organic is the market constraints. Getting something to market can be an issue and so long shelf life is required, but that kind of goes against the thrust of what organic was all about. Difficult dilemmas really.


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