Monday, 27 February 2012

Is it or isn't it?

You wouldn't think to look at this that Spring is on the way,
but this is Ian clearing through the slush.
Spring is coming, no it's not, yes it is. Well that kind of sums up the weather for this week. It has been a horrible, horrible time for weather, as warmer weather came in and it started to rain slightly resulting in one very slushy mesh. We had a call from the house manager at one point asking if Ian could clear the house (apartment block) yard because, although the snow was melting, it was due to freeze over the weekend and we had at least 10-20cm of wet slush outside, with cars struggling to get out and onto the road. The grip of winter didn't slip for long though and it did freeze again and the snow returned but it has been wet stuff, not the powdery crunchy stuff. Oh yes, the signs of spring! Wet slushy snow! We don't mind winter really, or the cold, but that period of time when it all starts to go is not so nice. It wouldn't be so bad if it was March and then you could be more certain that Spring really was on the way, but February is too early. There are other signs of spring though, such as the reddening branches of the trees as they start to flow with life, which is nice to see. 

Sorry it's not a good photo, but all this lot promises new
life. We just need eggs for the incubator and compost for
the seeds or some ground to put them in - when we find it
that is.
It has been a bit like Christmas again this week as another couple of parcels arrived. Our egg incubator and brooder came, surprisingly prompt I must say. The delivery guy was a little annoyed as he rang with just 15 minutes to spare, to tell us he was on the way, usually they phone the day before and I said I was in. Well I was but we were just nipping out to take our translator to the bus station and would be back in 15 minutes but that was far too complicated to explain. He arrived in less than 15 minutes and rang again and we had to make a hurried goodbye to our lovely translator and get back home. I understood all that he was telling us, but I just cannot formulate replies to what he says. Just "Ja" - "yes" and "viens minūte" - "one minute" to let him know that we wouldn't be long. Fortunately we didn't have the problem with the next parcel as that was in the post box, no delivery man to understand and try to talk to. The second parcel was the first of four deliveries of seeds I have ordered. I don't normally order from as many companies in one year but there were some seeds I specifically wanted to try and we just couldn't get them all from the same company. So our tally for this week is one pack of naked pumpkin seeds, three lots of maincrop carrots, some English garden peas, and some amateur tomatoes. We used to grow amateur tomatoes in Derbyshire outside and they worked pretty well, so we thought we would give them a go here and see how they do. We will probably have at least one plant inside so that we can gather the seed and be certain of having some more next year. 

This rather abstract picture is actually the base of one of the
supports for the greenhouse. That space you see is not
supposed to be there, it is the space created by the whole
frame rising due to the outside supports being raised by the
frozen ground.
We are quite chuffed that we actually made our first sale from our land this week, we didn't make any profit, but at least we covered some costs, we sold ten bales of hay to our neighbour. There is no way we would have charged more, as they help us out such a lot, but they needed more hay because they didn't factor in their new greedy horse when they calculated how much hay they needed. Hopefully that greedy horse will get its own bales off the land using the sleigh as the snow is quite high in places. Apparently the hay should be fine despite being left outside because it is wrapped so tight the water does not easily penetrate, and if it does it will only be down a few inches. That is why a farmer can leave them on the field all winter. This year we won't have the same problem as they will be small enough to carry off the field, as we will hopefully be using our new baler.

I think he just likes clearing snow and getting a chance
to play in his tractor really! He assures me it is to make
sure that the main part of the land where we park the car
and trailers clears as fast as possible and does not
 become a quagmire in the process.
I definitely move into the next phase of my project for my course this week and a comment on a blog by Frank Viola (Reimagining Church author) made me smile because I think I will know exactly what he means by this quote from Winston Churchill

“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.” 
Parking area and road onto the land cleared
The interviewing stage has finished, a thoroughly enjoyable part of the project, as I have already mentioned and now begins the serious analysing and writing up. I still have questionnaires to get but I'm on the case with that and have my networks out working on that for me. It is far easier for people to fill in the questionnaires when someone they know is asking them to do it and it seems to be quite a successful approach for a village. I suspect I won't get many of the older folks filling them in, but it is not the main part of my project. The questionnaire is only really to assess how much backing there is for the way farmers or the hunters operate. If the farmers want wild boar culled and the local population want them protected then there would be a problem, if the local population are as fed up with wild boar as some farmers then there won't be a problem for the farmers if they can take action. (Just for those who don't know I am studying for a Masters in Managing Sustainable Rural Development and I am in my last year. My thesis is Wild Boar: Friend or Foe? Examining the conflict of wild boar management in my area of Latvia). 

A tided greenhouse, well sort of. the paths are all raked and
the beds redefined. The celery is there to see if it will come
back to life and form plants to produce seed for next year.
Probably not but I'm not too worried as I am going to grow
lovage, a celery tasting herb which is a lot less faff to grow
As I don't work full time I try to make sure I take the weekends off, otherwise the writing will consume the whole of my life. One day was spent pottering around the greenhouse, trying to tidy it up in preparation for when we get started on seed planting, even if that is possibly not for another month yet - well not in the greenhouse anyway. We will probably start things off in the house soon, well maybe. It is tempting to rush into these things but if the Spring is late then we would be left with box upon box of seedlings all needing to be potted on but not enough room on windowsills to do that. Moving things around in the greenhouse meant our cats could play in a new adventure playground and they were chasing each other around like idiots - hope we can keep them off the seedlings when we do start on those.

Bella enjoying the redesigned playground
Another day was spent visiting folks. First of all I returned a dish to a neighbour and well we kind of got chatting, a cup of tea, some preserved pumpkin and a paprika stuffed with cream cheese later and I returned back home. The local wit, aka Ian, said as I appeared "I guess she wasn't in then?"  I think I was only away an hour. The next visit was to our neighbours to our land, and when we arrived it was to an unexpected, but very welcome lunch. It was so good to be able to chat about life the universe and everything with them and all over some rather good traditional Latvian food. They are enthusiastic about my wild boar project too and interested in the outcome of my interviews. Of course I can't go into details of who said what or anything, but I can outline all I have discovered along the way, and it is good to get their feedback as those who know what it is like to have damage. And if you want to know what Latvian food consists of, it is pork escallops (pieces of meat battered into submission, we can always tell when our neighbours are also having karbonāde as it is called) covered in a thin batter, some chicken pieces, grated carrots in oil, grated beetroot with garlic in oil, boiled butterbeans (or something similar), warm pickled cabbage, potatoes and sour cream. We even rounded off a lovely day with a visitor to our home, one who had ventured out from the snowy wastelands of his own home. He told us not to visit their place until the road was better as he only just got out and his truck has a little more ground clearance than ours.

See I said Spring was on it's way, well sort of
One concern that has often surfaced in my interviews is the problem of outsiders buying up land. Land grabs have been in the news quite a bit over the last few years, but often only refers to Africa. It is not just an African problem though, it is also a problem in ex-Soviet countries too (scroll down to see how the Swedes are impacting Latvia). Strictly speaking foreigners cannot buy up land in Latvia, but in one way or another it happens and is really frustrating as we would like to buy the land we work, and we would try and reinvest  as much of the money we make in the area as possible. Large outside investors are generally only interested in the profit they could make if the land went up in price, or the low costs of land to buy for agriculture and the low wages they can pay to produce the food. Granted they can invest a lot in machinery but that means less people invested and none of that machinery is made in Latvia and so not much is actually invested in Latvia itself. Mind you, I am not sure if some are worried that these new owners might change the status quo too, and some in Latvia wouldn't like that, they are quite comfortable in their own little empires and that might not be such a bad thing.

Skating anyone? Unfortunately it is now covered with snow
One thing I have noticed on the blogosphere just lately is the rise of a particular form of word verification. It is horrible to read and there have been several blogs where I have had to make three attempts to get the words right. I will apologise now if my blog turns to using nasty word verification of the unreadable sort, but the problem is that I can't turn mine off as I have the new type of blogger. I have however written to google to tell them what I think and entered my displeasure on a google help site. If I could turn it off I would, really. If you would like to leave a comment and are defeated by the ridiculous word verification then please email me, just click on the envelope sign on the right and I shall add it for you, and leave you a nice comment in return. I like to answer all my comments, I think that is the friendly thing to do after all.


  1. Glad to see the greenhouse is still standing though after the other one collapsed last year. I must say that all that snow doesn't look much like Spring to me. Brrr.

    I can still read the verification words but now the layout is a little different and this time I had to write 2 words not just one.

  2. We are glad the greenhouse is still standing too. It means that for the first time we should be able to get our planting off to an early start. Something we had planned to do, two years ago.

    I am glad you can still read the verification words. I guess my problem is that normally I can read well enough without my glasses and I find it irritating that I have to get my glasses just to read the word verifications.

  3. I changed the verification but maybe because I'm not using new blogger. I went to settings>comments>show word verification. And I hadn't realised I was using word verification on my blog!

  4. I was given a link with those steps in but it didn't relate to the new blogger. :o( I am glad you removed your's as that was one I had problems with last week.

  5. Yes! Success. I hadn't realised that I could switch back to the old blogger from the draft version. I had a box ticked that meant I couldn't switch back, unticked the box to make it my default option and I could get back to switching off the word verification. Not sure that makes a whole lot of sense but it helped.

  6. land purchasing is an issue here too - tho the fact that brits, belgians etc have bought up half the village in places. does mean that the place has survived and they want shops and services. hard pill to swallow for locals tho.

  7. Never a clear issue Lizzy, I agree. I do think though that those coming into a place should help the locals to keep their traditions alive, otherwise we will all be the poorer for losing yet more cultural diversity. Respect for each other goes a long way to keeping conflicts down, I have seen that a lot during my project.

    Which country are you referring to?

  8. loved your images today....I don't have anything profound to say...sorry!!

  9. Well i'm glad you liked the images anyway. :)


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