Monday, 28 May 2012

Tyre-ing week

A bull frog 
Not been a good week for tyres this week (tires for my American friends). One of the mud guards on our tractor keeps getting stuck and jamming against the wheel, this time  it ripped a hole in the side wall of the tyre while Ian was trying to fil in pig holes. Not helpful at this time of the year. Fortunately here in Latvia there is a make-do-and-mend type attitude and the tyre will be fixed, just takes a few phone calls to the right guys and a few days. Saves a very expensive replacement anyway.

Pretty field flowers
The next time we had tyre problems was rather inconvenient too as we were on the way to the airport to pick up two guys who have come to see what we get up to here in Latvia. Fortunately we had left plenty of time to get to the airport and we got there on time, just! It was still a little worrying as we had forgotten to organise swapping mobile numbers in the process - not very organised of me. Fortunately Ian had swapped the tyres around earlier on in the week and so it was a back tyre that went, we only knew about it when the road noise seemed to get incredibly loud and a van went passed us and the folks in the van were gesticulating madly to us and pointing downwards to tell us we had a flat. We pulled off the road and Ian backed up to a spot where there was some tarmac to give a firm surface for jacking up the car. There was a slight issue with the area as it was an area where giant hogweed was growing and if you don't know about this particular rampant noxious plant it is dangerous because the sap from it can lead to serious burns when the sun gets on it - not good on a sunny day. The large leaves were not an issue as they were easy to see and set back from the road, it was the small plants that were gradually getting a hold that were problematic, as it was just the area that Ian was working in to get the spare wheel off the car and clean up the very mud encrusted wheel. Ian had some plastic in the car for such occasions - experience is a wonderful teacher, so it saved him from the chance of actually lying on the plants. At least we managed to get sorted.

Pond beetle sunning itself in the sun
Our guests are new friends we have made via the internet - well kind of! One of the guys, Paul, is a guest blogger on another friend's site and he became interested in what we were doing when I made comments on his blog, his travelling companion, Geoff, is a recent friend to him and since Paul enjoyed Geoff's company on a recent trip to Sweden he invited him to join him on this trip to Latvia. Well we waited at the arrivals gate, wondering if our friend Paul, looked anything like his pictures on facebook and wondering who this other guy was. The glass rolled back and two guys who were obviously looking for someone walked through, sure enough Paul looked like his pictures and the guy next to him! "I know you!" he says and sure enough his face was very familiar to us. We have to back up quite a few years though, but Geoff was from a church we had visited many years ago, as it was in a town not so far away from Ian's parents, so when they used to meet together at the leisure centre in the town and we were in the area we would join in their meetings. Paul talks about our life's journeys and joining the dots up and this seemed to be one of those occasions, reconnecting of connections made many years ago in some very different and unexpected ways. I love the way God works.

Our paddy field with the river running through it
Well that was yesterday, as for the rest of the week! I mentioned last week that we had a very peculiar thunderstorm that just seemed to roll on and on, we also had a shorter one on the following day, but with plenty of rain and one of our fields ended up looking like a paddy field - maybe a good job we decided not to plant seed last week. We literally had a river running from a land drain that drains water from the road right across our field and unhelpfully pooling in the middle of it. Ian spent quite a bit of that morning making ditches to drain the water away. We found out later that a wild boar had got stuck and drowned in the drain, not many tears were spilt over the animal I'm afraid. Still got to find out what we are supposed to do about it though.

Ditch digging to drain the field
Had one of those really sweet moments this week which really brightens the week. My neighbours little son, he is lovely. He was the one I babysat for last week, he is such a helpful little guy. He helped me take some dahlias, that his mum was giving me, in his little wheelbarrow to our basement to await being planted up. I think he would have carried on carrying them in his little wheelbarrow, backwards and forwards as long as it took if I hadn't got my much bigger wheelbarrow out and helped. He's one of those little chaps who is older than his years and he makes me laugh in many ways and gives cheery waves that really give a lift to any day. Mind you that is such a change from a year ago, he really struggled with the fact we don't really speak Latvian and was incredibly shy, now he just chatters away and has even got another little girl chatting away to us too. I still have no idea what they are saying but I continue to nod in all the right places, so we get on well.

Our pond was turned a very strange chocolate colour after
the heavy rains
People think we are very busy, but I have to confess to cleaning taking a back seat at every opportunity and so sometimes I am really pleased that people come to visit as it means that it has to move up the priority list and get done. So floors washed, windowsills cleaned after they had got grubby from growing plants ready for the allotments and a general spruce up and we were set for our two guests. I like housework when there seems to be a purpose to it, but not the normal run of the mill stuff. All we want to do at the end of the day is generally flop and so we try to ignore the housework for as long as possible, bar making meals and washing up.

Peacock butterfly
Continuing on from last week's concerns highlighted by the UN about the problem that Latvia faces as the economically active population moves away, France24 ran an article too highlighting the demographic challenges. The bottom line, however, is that there are few jobs for the young and the authorities are not very good at enabling businesses to start up and mentor them to keep them going, hence they move away. To stem this tide takes a different kind of investment from encouraging big businesses to invest in the country, that is the lazy option and not a very helpful kind of investment. It looks good because many jobs can be provided on paper, but the truth is they are often poor quality jobs as the top jobs go to outsiders. Investing in an entrepreneurial types at local level with local connections requires investments in schools to foster the right ways of thinking - not state dependent thinking and it requires bold initiatives and infrastructure changes and is not popular in an age of austerity. The other problem is that an entrepreneurial labour force is not an acquiescent work force but active and so they are not as easy to deal with. Much easier to deal with a docile people, who accept the way things are run now.

Out on the land
The European Commission has issued warnings on a slightly different note regarding the trading atmosphere in Latvia and the warning runs like this :-
 As is often the case with the Latvians, when presented with a straight-forward competitive bidding process to upgrade and modernize its rolling stock, they have turned the procedure into a thriller, and a potentially costly and wasteful one to the taxpayer, due to narrow and well-connected special interests. 
This sounds like fun but it is not in the best interests of the nation. Hopefully there will still be thrillers written about this nation, but it will be one where they show how they can over come the problems of the systems they have with an ability to cooperate and see through changes. I would dearly love for the Latvians to commit to holding hands across the nation again and sing in changes to the old order of things. They did it before in the Baltic Chain and they can do it again.


Mavis said...

Another active and varied week, I see.

Glad your visitors arrived safe and sound. Amazing about knowing Geoff! God's ways are indeed amazing. I'm sure you and they will have a great week. Looking forward to Paul's account on his blog when they get back.

Joanna said...

Our life is not boring that's for sure anyway, Mavis.

I'm looking forward to Paul's account too, it will be interesting to see what they both take away from their time here.

ju-north said...

Joining the dots indeed! Know you are going to have a great time together with those two!

Liz Eph said...

and lovely pics. is it speedwell ? they are so shy but so pretty.enjoy your visitors.

Joanna said...

We are having a great time indeed Ju, lovely to have Paul and Geoff with us.

I think you could be right Liz, it might be a speedwell and lovely dainty flowers they are too

Pene said...

Lovely photos, Joanna. I think that I'd like to see your farm some day & meet you & Ian in person.
Hugs from Tartu.

Joanna said...

You would be very welcome Penne, we have an apartment where people can stay. Wait until we get the alpacas and there will be more to see :o)