Monday, 30 July 2012

Done and dusted

One, two, three, four, five .....zzzzzzzzzzzzz
Well the good hay has all been done and dusted! Cut, turned and baled. Over 200 bales at that! We lost count after a while so we are not completely sure of the number. So if anyone wants to try counting the number of bales you can start with the picture of them on our ski hill. I have lost around 2 kilos of weight in the process and walked miles and miles and miles. We slept in the caravan all week, as it meant we could get the jobs done we needed to do and didn't have to go home to eat. They were late nights too as we often didn't finish until around 9pm, but then again we couldn't really get going until the afternoon as we waited for the grass to dry. There is not much point in baling wet hay it will only go mouldy.

Garden Tiger Moth
It was a nice start to each day as I set off to get my milk for breakfast from the neighbours farm, although at times it seemed quite a trek and one day I had to have some of the milk on the way back as I was so hungry. It was lovely to be able to chat to my friend each day though and when I got back I would pick a handful of raspberries and blackcurrants to add to my cornflakes. The rest of the mornings were spent either just pottering about or taking trips into the village to replenish supplies. We sure got through the water this last week but then again temperatures were up in the low 30s and did I mention, I walked a lot.

Took a little time to clear this problem, but Mr.Fixit
sorted it!
Cutting was hard work again as I cut the top part of the ski hill with the two wheel tractor and so walked some miles just getting to the hill and back - or rather it felt like it, especially going back. I wasn't too impressed with my cutting this year at all. The lug wheels we have for the tractor are great at keeping the tractor on course and meant it didn't get stuck in pig holes, but they made the tractor heavier and I had difficulty not letting it ride up at times and so it is definitely not a clean cut but rather tufty. Still better than nothing. Ian did the larger section of the ski hill with the two-wheeled tractor and then finished off the rest of the field with the ordinary tractor. We also got to try out the hay rake this year. There were one or two issues and it wasn't set up perfectly, but I'm sure it will be better next year, just as Ian found it easier to cut the hay this year to last year. The baler is slow though and so took two days to do altogether, so it was good that we have had a good long dry spell. I had to follow the tractor to set the bales at a different angle so they didn't roll down the hill and so guess what! Yes I walked a lot, and it was 33C on one day. There were a few times that the baler got clogged and we, or should I say mainly Ian, had to get out and clear it. I sat on a bale and watched, they are perfect sizes for seating.

Ian's little helper
We had some help this week, one of our friends gave us a chicken pot pie to eat and it was lovely even if we had to have it cold. It was lovely not to have to cook and it was lovely that it was ready when we needed it, as well as filling. Ian also had some help with the baling. One of our neighbour's little boy is absolutely tractor mad, so one day he came to see us and got to sit in the tractor and pull the cord that opens the baler to release the bale. He took his job very seriously, it was funny watching his little face. He did release one or two bales a little early before the cutter got into action but it didn't seem to matter too much, apart from the fact I had to be pretty quick to make sure I was on hand on the steeper sections to catch the bales and turn them. There was one point when I could see that he was watching something and seemed to be going "oooooh!" I turned around to see one of the bales had suddenly started moving and had to run to catch it. Good job they are only small ones and not those huge monstrosities they usually bale around here.

Turbjörn as usual outside with Herkules hiding in the stable
(can't call it the workshop any more). Tellus is taking a
little sustenance outside for a change. At least they like the
hay we have.
The alpacas are definitely getting more used to us, but we are surprised that they seem to be spending quite a bit of time actually in their stable, rather than out in the paddock like alpacas are supposed to prefer. It might be that the poor things are actually bothered by the horse flies and some of them are huge - the flies that is! Or it might have been the heat. Mind you I say that they spend time in the stable, two of them do and the other one seems to be made to stay outside. Definitely a hierarchy and not too sure if it is the same heirarchy while they were in Sweden. Herkules is the greedy one and the more dominant one, but Tellus the stallion will stand up to him and occasionally they have had a bit of a fight, nothing serious but a lot of spitting and some rearing up going on. They are obviously deciding who gets priority in which part of the stable. Turbjörn though just lets them get on with it and stays out of the way, quite clever really as while they are arguing over one feed tray, he goes over to one of the others and starts eating in peace. They all very quickly got the hang of shutting up time and now we have no issues getting them locked up for the night and even just one of us can manage. Better than the visions we had initially had of chasing them round the paddock for hours trying to get them in.

Who us?

This is my best side I think! (Herkules)

Getting big now!
The only problem with having spent the week in the caravan and getting the hay in is that the other gardens got sadly neglected. I was a little bit worried about the state of them, but it hasn't taken me as long as I thought it would to do the weeding, thankfully much of what we have planted has started to take off now with the heat and out competed with the weeds, especially the squash plants. I had made a nice isolation enclosure for one type of squash plants so that we can collect the seed from them but that is making a bid for freedom and taken up the whole of the space and was happily making its way through the bean plants that were surrounding it. The beans have finally got enough heat to get going but unfortunately the potatoes have been hammered with blight and one of my experimental plants, Aztec broccoli succumbed to black fly. At least now there is more than peas and lettuce coming out of the garden for us to eat. We have even got our first decent sized cabbage and tomato sandwiches are gorgeous.

Okay I hitched a lift a couple of times.
Health and safety? Definitely!
Heat exhaustion vs hitching a lift!
No competition
Well that's about our week really. We cut, I walked, we turned hay, I walked (taking the hay off the steepest part of the slope), we baled, I walked, I walked to get my milk, and I have walked up and down the gardens weeding and that was it. Or at least that feels like all we did. I did catch up with a bit of the internet when we got back to civilisation and it was funny to read one blog that I usually follow called "Taking time in a rushed world!" Time was not something we had in abundance this week, we had to get the baling done while the weather was holding. It was not something we could put off till next week and just shows how our time is governed by the seasons and by the weather now. For instance if you want to guarantee time to see us and time to talk then the winter is the best time, the rest of the time it depends. If it's wet and we can't get on with much then sitting around a table chatting is great, but if it is dry then somethings might have to be done. The article, however, was something that is quite close to our heart and that is waiting until the time is right to do things.  We waited 6 years before we knew the time was right to move to Latvia, but the article talks about people waiting 20 years before embarking on what they knew God was leading them into -something that we find difficult to comprehend these days in our instant society.
Unfortunately we weren't the only ones busy
this week. Oh yes! The pigs are back!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Happy discoveries

Updated so the text is now visible! Goodness only knows what happened there, I almost lost the post in the first place and then it messed the settings! Such is life! Sorry I didn't fix this sooner but we have not been on the internet much this last week as I warned in the blog - if you had been able to read it that is.

So meet Tellus, Herkules and Turbjörn, our three alpacas
We finally did it! We got the alpacas this week. We had a long epic journey to Ventspils, a round trip of around 650km, but it is getting bigger in the telling, like a fisherman's tale, I think we are up to 3500km now. The roads were atrocious due to the rain we had last week and so the going was rather slow in places, until we got to tarmac roads. Going back was even worse as we didn't want to damage the alpacas in the process of course. From what we saw of Ventspils it looked a nice clean and tidy place with some interesting features like ladybirds in flowers, a cow made out of flowers and one cow sculpture looking at itself in the mirror next to the ferry office building, unfortunately we hadn't had the time to look around much as we hadn't long to wait before the alpacas arrived on the ferry  They were there waving on the deck as they came in - no not really! We waited for the horse delivery company to come off the ferry and Ian flagged it down so he could direct it to the car park where we had plenty of room to exchange the animals. It was at this point that we found out one of the pins to hold up the back door had moved and we couldn't get it back in place, leaving it only hinged on one side. Fortunately Ian had his tool box with him and his large screwdriver made a temporary fix to the hinge which I kept secure as the alpacas were lead into our horse box. They weren't terribly happy about that but heh we got them in. Before we set back off we had a strong coffee and something to eat because we were rather tired as we had been up since 3 that morning. As we drove back we drove through a moving front of rain, which seemed to follow us the whole way. One the one hand it was annoying but on the other hand at least the alpacas were kept cool. 

Tellus our stallion alpaca.
The alpacas have settled in reasonably well. We had a minor panic as we thought they were coming with food to help them settle in, but it was all put on the floor of the horse box they were transported in from Sweden so they could eat along the way  and none was left for us to take home. Fortunately a friend of ours was going to the shops where they sold the sheep concentrate, which is what they eat and bought us a couple of bags, and of course our friends had to come out and see the alpacas too. One of them, Herkules, rewarded her efforts by eating from her hands. He's obviously the greedy one as he is the only one that will do that at the moment. Alpacas are normally quite quiet but these have been humming to each other most of the day. Alpacas are normally outside animals but since we put a deep layer of hay down in the old workshop that is now their home, they spent much of the day in there. Only one of the alpacas is halter trained, Tellus, and we are hoping that the others get used to their halters as we would like to use them to lead them to different areas of the land so they are not eating only from one small paddock. Not sure if one of them, Tjorbjörn though is going to take to it at all as  he is a much shyer creature and is much harder to catch even just to put the rein on him and eventually the halter will have to come off, it can't stop on all the time. Still we hope that little by little as they get used to us and we get used to them then we can come to some agreements on how things will go.

Here I am removing horsetails from their paddock.
Horsetails are not really good for any animal and the wet
weather has really brought them out. The alpacas were quite
intrigued with what I was doing
Our cat went missing again this week. She seems to be quite sensitive by nature. The first time she disappeared we had had a traumatic time giving her the worming cream. The second time we decided to give it her the night before and not the morning before taking her out with us to the land and she seemed happy enough, until I told her off for traipsing through my leeks. Unfortunately that was the last we saw of her for 6 days. She did come back though and she is thinner than ever and very clingy. Wonder if she has learnt not to run off this time? 

Horsetails shimmering in the morning sun
We haven't had a good time with tyres just lately and the tractor tyre has been a bit of an issue, as I mentioned last week. It got damaged the other week and we wanted to replace it with another good quality one, which we had ordered. The problem was that when we came to arrange the day to pick it up, someone along the supply chain announced that the company had been on holiday and they were only just starting to make them again and it wouldn't be ready until the middle of this coming week. Not much good when the forecast was for dry days Monday - Wednesday and possibly beyond. So the cheaper option was taken and we went to pick it up on Friday, along with getting the two wheel tractor cutter bar fixed. Of course it all took longer than we wanted but it did lead to one of those happy discoveries, we discovered an Armenian restaurant by chance and was the only place to eat that we saw near enough to where we were. It seemed like it was just a little house with the garden full of tables and on the menu was lamb. It is not often that lamb is on the menu here in Latvia and so we ordered it, but as the waitress was collecting the menus from us I noticed the price, whoops a tad expensive for here. We waited to see what would turn up, half expecting a half sheep to appear on a plate or a great big rack of lamb that would take hours to eat. As it was it turned out to be four large lamb chops, beautifully grilled and absolutely delicious.

Setting off from our land at 4am. Twas rather early
Other happy discoveries were blackcurrant and strawberry cordial with black pepper which seemed to have gone down a treat, an experiment that really worked. I layered up layers of blackcurrants and strawberries with 6oz of sugar per 1lb of fruit, plus 1tsp of ground black pepper per 1lb in a steamer. I then cooked it all for an hour and filled hot sterilised jars with the resulting juice. Done! It got the approval of one American family and Ian - not bad going! Another happy discovery is a sort of blackcurrant toffee, it was meant to be a sort of blackcurrant raisin but didn't turn out like that at all. I boiled up two cups of water with one cup of sugar and one cup of honey and added 750 g of blackcurrants to the boiling mixture. The recipe said to boil for 10 mins but I wasn't so sure that would work but tried it anyway, hence the toffee rather than raisins. One final happy discovery is that the horse box makes a very discrete place to have a wee. Ian told me he doesn't mind admitting that finding a loo or somewhere to stop can be a nightmare at times, he likes to be discrete about these things, not like some folks we see. Well one bottle and a horse box and no one needs to know why we've stopped. He did refrain on the way back, he didn't want to embarrass the poor alpacas of course. 

Spider's web in the early morning sunshine
I shan't be around a lot this week at home, as we are sleeping out in the caravan, it means we can keep more of an eye on the alpacas for a little while and get going on the land jobs earlier as well. It is quite fun sleeping out in the caravan, although it was a tad cold last night. Extra clothes tonight I think. It is nice to have just a small area to live in once in a while, not sure if I could do that on a more permanent basis but for now it is like real camping, only we don't have to go anywhere and the view is still nice.
Finally one comment from my internet trawl (there probably won't be much of that next week) I am always amazed when the EU issues a rebuke to a national government to set its house in order regarding corruption as happened last week to Romania. Does the EU not realise that to root out corruption you need to educate the public on what they can do about it? It is no good telling a corrupt government to sort themselves out and give them a smack on the hand. They need to help the population to mobilise against instances of corruption and explain how they can deal with it. They have been a population under a communist yoke for a long time with long standing practices and attitudes, they do not turn around in one night.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Oh yeah! Oh yeah!

Love the colour of this flower and must find out what it is
First of all let me get the official announcement out of the way. I am really pleased to announce that I am going to become a grandma. Ian is chuffed too about becoming a grandad. Our middle child's wife is expecting in January so I guess I had better get the knitting needles out in preparation. There is another announcement too and that is the tickets to bring our alpacas across from Sweden on the ferry have definitely been booked and the vet goes to see them on Thursday to verify they are fit to travel on Friday. Just wish it didn't mean such an early journey to pick them up, we will have to set off at something like 3 or 4am in the morning. Staying over only adds to the costs and also we have a horse box to lug around and so not so easy for parking and visiting. So hopefully by this time next week we will have them safely ensconced in the paddock that Ian has made.

As you can see we have had sunshine and showers so far
this summer
It might have been a cool summer so far but the berries, particularly the strawberries, don't seem to be bothered even if other things are rather slow like the beans. Our three plots have at least staggered their production of strawberries as we are getting bucket loads of strawberries every few days at the moment. Unfortunately the sun is not around long enough to dry our strawberries in the solar dryer and so we are having to resort back to the electric ones, of which we have two that have been going almost constantly for the last few days. I have also made strawberry jam, frozen cooked strawberries and bottled some in a light syrup for breakfast toppings, and still there is more to process. At the moment it seems a bit onerous but I don't think that we will regret it later on in the year when the gardening is finished and the snow lies thick and deep and we open an instant bottle of summer sunshine. Well we can pretend the sun shone a lot! At least we have more than in the UK. It also means that it is not quite as frustrating for Ian as he is waiting for a tractor tyre replacement and can't get on with large swathes of cutting, turning and baling but he has had enough dry weather to strim hard to cut areas and use the two-wheel tractor in other areas that the big tractor cannot cut. It's a long slow process but he is determined to get it cut and cleared this year.

One to go and one to stay!
We decided that time has nearly come to cull some of our chickens, the broiler ones and so we are planning on giving them extra feed to fatten them up over the next couple of weeks - they still feel a little scrawny under their feathers. The only problem is that there are three males and one female and we plan on keeping the female, if we had kept her in with the fellas then she would probably eat herself to death so she still needs to be on fairly restricted rations, this meant moving the female in with the smaller chickens. It was quite funny moving her in with the smaller chickens as she is almost twice the size, but at least we reckoned that moving her into their domain would lessen the chances of too many fights over the pecking order and our hunch seems to have pulled off. There were a few disputes but nothing serious. The head male seems to have laid down the law and she doesn't seem to aggressive despite her obvious size advantage. At least it gives her a chance for laying eggs and we shall see what we get from her and how long she lasts.

Hoppy is still going strong as is always the first
in for food. It is learning to hop around quite
well even in the long grass. 
I had one of those funny moments this week when you try and work out what on earth is going on! I was kind of semi-crawling under a low apple tree to pick the last of our strawberries from that particular plot and I had to lean with my fist on the ground to get to them. There was a kind of squeaking noise as if the ground itself was protesting. Now I know I am no svelte figure but I'm not that heavy. I peeled back the straw and the protestations continued but I could see nothing. I watched a little while with the protestations continuing and suddenly saw a movement, but not the thing responsible. I got a stick from the apple tree and gently prodded around, eventually unearthing a soil coloured toad from the ground - still protesting. It sat for quite a while very still before I thought the best thing I could do was walk or rather crawl away and leave the poor thing alone to recover.

A member of the pea family of which
we have many growing wild in our
We had to make a rather long trip the other day to a place called Rezekne which is two hours away as we found a firm that makes and sells natural twine for balers. It is fantastic to find a product that is actually made in Latvia and made from a sustainable source and ours is a mix of hemp and linen. I don't like seeing all the plastic twine around in fields and didn't really want it on our property if we could help it. Neither do I like the idea that we are using more plastic made from fossil fuels, although I realise that even producing the hemp/linen twine uses fossil fuels as does our travels to get the stuff. Mind you we fitted in a trip to some folks along the way that we know and so that was good to be able to catch up with someone that we don't see so often, so it wasn't just a trip for the twine. Sounds a good enough excuse to me anyway.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Lovely week

One at a time please! I think they are pretty eager to get out

Beginning to feel that I sound like I have bipolar disorder with my up and down weeks just lately, but I don't think that really describes me somehow, just that lately the highs have been high and the lows low. Well this week has been a truly lovely week and not just because Sofie our cat returned to us as I posted earlier. Our young friend who was visiting this week has been a joy to have, she was chatty, inquisitive, funny, and very thoughtful. We have had many a laugh with the running joke of the week "no smirking" or "you must not smirk within 10m of the door" etc. (just substitute smoking for smirking and you might get the idea). Absolutely barmy the lot of us I know, but it kept us giggling. She loved to see the frogs in the garden, with no freaking out when they started jumping. She has tackled the most boring of jobs with no murmurs and in fact enjoyed them. She has enjoyed getting mud behind her nails and trying various plants and berries straight from the garden. Okay the strawberries weren't as enthusiastically welcomed as they were at the beginning of the week but then again she did pick quite a lot of them. It was strange teaching her how to use a hoe and a spade, especially as I grew up using them, but if you don't have a garden and live in an apartment most of the time then of course you wouldn't know how to use them. How many teenagers in many countries know how to do that sort of thing these days anyway?

Buckwheat or Griki in Latvian. We have
rather a lot of it in the greenhouse, but
it is now going to seed and then I shall
feed it to the chickens
We had some great chats too about missionaries and missions as she is a missionary kid. I love that she is questioning the way missions are done and yet respectful of what has gone on before. She has not become anti-missionary as some do, but wants to know how to do things better or at least trying to think if there are better ways of still following Jesus and yet having a heart to go to other nations to teach others about Jesus. It is refreshing that she is exploring these ideas rather than either rebelling against the whole concept or accepting the whole package - that gives me a lot of hope for the future. One problem that missionaries often face is what they write back to their supporters and I have a great admiration for her and her family for checking up on each other to make sure that the truth is not stretched, while this might mean that support is not as good as it could be, at least they are being true to themselves. The way that support has to be raised and what kinds of stories that garner support is also an issue and one that we touched on, the problem is that missionaries have to have exciting stories to write back to supporters and yet it might be that actually they are called to just be a part of the picture and not the missing jigsaw piece that completes the picture - that's the exciting, part but the other pieces are just as vital, although not as newsworthy.

St. John's Wort. It is good and bad to
find this in the fields. Good for its
medicinal properties but not good for
animals in too large a dose and we have
a fair bit of it in places.
We are having great fun with the local kids, they are all saying "hi" as we arrive home and waving to us. We feel like celebrities at times. I may have mentioned that their smiles really light up our days but we will be sad when they get older and maybe less likely to wave and smile, or even not playing out so much, so we won't see them around, they are such a joy to see. Not many adults take the time to smile and wave to kids and really we are only doing the same as we do to adults i.e. acknowledging their presence, but they have really responded enthusiastically to that. We joined in with a honey party as well this week. A honey party? We wondered at first too. The invitation was written out in English as well as Latvian and posted on the noticeboard and so we had to go. The children got in first and had gone off to play by the time the party was supposed to start, but the adults were still around chatting. One of the neighbours had gone to her country house (many Latvians have country homes, that doesn't mean they are rich, just obtained their ancestral homes after the collapse of the Soviet system and it often is just a run down property on a piece of land) and while she was there she collected the first honey of the season and wanted to share it with the neighbours, particularly the children. We had to take a cup and bread, milk and honey were provided. Truly a country flowing with milk and honey - oh yes and strawberries as mentioned earlier. It was lovely chatting with neighbours and one of them speaks quite good English and so translated for us.

The jungle
Wish the countryside was always so idyllic with milk, honey and strawberries flowing, but of course it isn't. I have mentioned that Latvia has a diverse range of species before, especially the flying biting kind. The anti-horsefly gadget Ian erected hasn't been quite as effective as we had hoped, but then again it is situated outside the greenhouse and loads of the darn things are situated inside the greenhouse. As you can imagine tackling greenhouse tasks is not easy whilst trying to swat horseflies. This last few days have also been rather hot and humid and so I was a complete drip in the greenhouse and not enjoying the process of taming what had become a jungle as the tomatoes lap up the heat. We are contemplating relocating the anti-horsefly gadget into the greenhouse but there isn't a huge amount of room for it. The solar drier still needs some work doing on it too, at least for strawberries. It isn't quite fast enough for them and I am wondering whether the air flow may need improving, or more metal is needed to heat up the air better. The other solution maybe trying to use a preservative to give the fruit a little more time to dry without going off. Mind you it has meant less time using the electric dryer so some success.

Ripe red gooseberries
I mentioned earlier that strawberries are flowing and so this week marked the beginning of the jam making season. Four jars of strawberry jam and eight of strawberry and blackcurrant, using last years blackcurrants to get a better set. It won't be long before it is gooseberry jam as the red ones are ready (just realised I forgot to pick them today as I was busy doing other jobs, hope the birds leave us with some then) and jam from this years blackcurrants too as they are nearly ready. The tomatoes are also just beginning to turn - well all three of them! My taming of the tomato jungle though showed that we have lots of tomatoes that have set, but still need a few more days or a week before we start on a tomato glut. At least this year I shall be prepared as I want many more jars of tomato sauce base and tomato passata, they were such a blessing over the winter and easy to store.

Started off well
Other farm news (hehe I like that! Farm news! Well we are a proper registered farm now); Ian's tractor passed it's technical and the air con is working again, well briefly. He had the service engineer out to fix it and something was rather mucky, not exactly sure what, but unfortunately the whole thing packed up again not long after he left. New fuse and it is working again but for how long we don't know. It is rather nice to have air con when it is this hot and humid though. Ian also feels like a proper farmer now as he has cut, raked and baled some hay. I use hay in the loosest of terms as he was baling up the rubbish that he cut earlier to experiment on the set up. He has been keeping ground elder down all year to try and keep it in check and it was the remains of this that he baled. These bales will only be fit for composting but at least collecting it is a whole lot easier than doing it by hand as we have done in the past. Clearing it means that the grass has a chance to fight back and grow. It also means that when we get around to the actual good grass we don't have to worry about trying to sort out the good bales from the bad bales. Hopefully the weather will remain fine enough for us to get started on the ski hill.

Whoops! Well maybe that wasn't the way to do it!
Arrhh! Finally got the hang of it, well after one bale
without string, one bale that bust a shear bolt and
probably lots of rude words which I fortunately didn't hear.
After that plain sailing, well almost but we noticed that other
balers aren't 100% perfect either

The little bales, not huge monstrosities that take two people
to shift. 
Also some more good news, the alpacas are also now provisionally booked to arrive at 9am 21st July at Ventspils!!!!!! Not Riga!!!!! which is two hours away, but Ventspils which is 4 1/2 hours drive away. At least it is Latvia and less than 8 hours and progress for us in getting them but an early morning methinks.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012


This pictures says it all. One rather tired and hungry pussy cat. Found safe and well after about a week of not showing up.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012


Sofie in the barn
Sorry it has been a rough week again this week, so sorry if this is not too upbeat. Sofie our cat has been missing for five days now. Not sure where she may have gone to. We would take both our cats out to the land and they would go off and return every now and again, as if they were checking we were still there. Sometimes they would make a dint in the furry population around us - which is what we need as the moles and shrews make massive tracks all over the land and they are sometimes as bad as the wild boar - not quite, but nearly. However this week our cats have been making a dint in the feathered population, which we are not happy about. Both the cats found a little nest amongst the wood shaving pile with oak bark making a roof for it. There were perhaps six little chicks, but alas they are no more. We tried to rescue them, but we just couldn't do it. Our cats got the taste for them! That night Sofie came home with us but we didn't manage to bring Bella in. The next day Ian took Sofie back out to the land as normal and as usual Bella appeared soon after his arrival. Sofie took off and came back about lunch time and that was the last we saw her. No idea whether she had had enough of us trying to get worming medication down her and coupled with our disapproval of her new found delicacy maybe she took off and is sulking somewhere. I have never had a problem getting worming medication down a cat but Sofie seemed to test our experience somewhat. She was foaming at the mouth trying to get rid of the stuff, even the tasty cream we had. What is worse is to think of her suffering somewhere though, if she has been hurt or injured, but if she is, she is nowhere nearby as she has not responded to our calls.

A comfy place to sit
Meanwhile Bella has been further depleting the feathered population. This time it was a small bird that first flew into the barn window and stunned itself. Ian could see it was woozy and thought the cat might get it, so he picked it up and tried to find a safe place for it. He stuck it in the chicken cage (we realise in hindsight that was perhaps not a good thing to do with the diseases they can carry but it was an instinctive response). Of course the bird was not happy at being confined and tried to get out and it got as far as sticking it's head out from between the netting - that was enough for Bella and she whipped it out of the cage. In disgrace once again! The problem is that she has a tendency to hover around areas where she knows there is an easy snack and suddenly taken a lot more interest in the chicks. They are still small and can get their heads through the netting - but only just and is getting more difficult all the time for them. Well needless to say Bella has been at home the last few days, as we would not have been around during the day to supervise, just there to let the chicks out and put them away again at night. She doesn't seem to be missing Bella either, although she is trying to lick us more, which was a distinctive trait of Sofie.

At least the ferocious crocodiles that were spotted this week in our living room were more the sort to make us smile than get us worried or warrant our disapproval. We had visitors this week, our two friends who we have known since our first trip to Latvia and their three young boys, all back from Canada for two months. The older two boys were having a great time, taking the cushions off our chairs and scattering them on the floor and pretending that they were ferocious crocodiles, or were they to save them from the ferocious crocodiles? I'm not sure now but it was very funny to walk into the room where they were laughing and giggling to see the cushions strewn around. Perhaps they should have asked before doing that in someone else's house, but it just took me right back to when my kids were small and cushions would be on the floor because they were part of some grand imaginative play and that's the way it should be. Give me kids with an active imagination any day, rather than kids who whine because they want to watch the telly.

A gorgeous sunset
Our next visitor has arrived and she is a real blessing too as she is coming to help in the garden. Bliss! Our other guests have been a blessing too but in different ways, I am just amazed that a teenager wants to come and help in the garden and eat fresh healthy food picked straight from the garden for tea, amazing. She's lovely. I also got to see her mum for the first time, so that was nice and made looking after our neighbour's little girl a lot easier with lots of people to watch out for her and play with her. Mind you the little one gave me a bit of a fright as she sleeps outside in the pushchair, very common here and in Denmark, and the first time I looked out it was obvious that she was asleep, but the next time I looked she was standing up in the pushchair and I am two floors up from ground floor. Well you should have seen the speed I got down those stairs. Anyway she didn't sleep for me after that.

Hoppy seems happy enough and getting around
on it's one good leg
It's been a wet week this last week, not all the time and certainly not as bad as in the UK by any stretch of the imagination, but it is rather inconvenient and allowing the weeds to take over. One day I participated rather reluctantly in the sport of speed planting. i.e. trying to plant some plants in the gradually increasing rain. I am grateful though that it hasn't been that bad really, as some of my friends and family are facing. The hot weather in Colorado and the resulting wild fires has meant that some of my friends had had to be evacuated, the hailstones the size of very large marbles punctured holes in the old porch roof where my son lives, and the rain flooded roads causing more big potholes where my parents live and folks taking hours to get home where Ian's family live. Been quite quiet on the weather front really here by comparison, maybe I should be grateful that the worst I had was trying to plant in the rain.

The others seem happy enough with their new abode too
And going back to the animals we have been so near and yet so far as regards the alpacas. By yesterday we had paid the deposit and we had a date. The first date the lady doing the transporting was told she could book the ferry though was the 19th July which we said was fine, unfortunately by the time she came to book the tickets the space must have gone and she can only get a space in August and she is busy then. It is so frustrating. We have the transport and could have gone for them back in May or June, instead we have been going through all sorts of problems trying to work out how to get them here. I am truly fed up now. At least the chickens are happy in their arks, some consolation anyway.

The middle section of the roof lifts up so we can put in feed
etc. They don't have as much room as in the big arks but
that is fine as they still have plenty for the five of them.
One of the dangers that someone mentioned just lately is when the going gets tough it is easy to step back into what is comfortable and well known and I have been resisting the urge to seek the comfortable points, but I realised today that sometimes you have to go back to go forward. You have to go back to what you know, to remind yourself of your journey so far, to take a look back at where you have been. Remind yourself of your escape from captivity and the route into the promised land so to speak. I realise that is not really going back to what your comfortable with, it is taking stock of where you are. Going back over the process of where you have come from, to get to where you are now. To remind myself of where God has been all that time, to realise he never left me and he isn't about to now. I think that kind of going back is okay, it is sometimes necessary to remind yourself of the truths of your walk with God to be able to face the future with some kind of confidence. Not the sort of confidence that says "you can move mountains" but the sort that says "if the mountain has to move it will be moved and if we have to walk around it or over it then so be it, but whatever happens God will still be there."

Fairly certain this is a male, as well as the one peeping out
 behind, in which case we have three males and one female of the broiler chickens.
Had a lesson in reading comments before making judgements this week with Hilary Clinton's call for restitution for Jews - not quite what I thought at first!!!!!!! I thought it was a case of individuals being given back land that their family had owned in the past and my first thought was "Oh no! Not more ex-pats getting land and doing nothing with it!" However the call was to restore property to organisations that are still present in Latvia and that is a different issue altogether. It did, though, set me thinking once again about the issue of owning land! I recognise that there should be a way for people to recover what is rightfully theirs, but there is another issue at stake, neglected land! I see many examples around us of land owned by people living in America, Australia or even Sweden etc. abandoned and neglected but owned! Some have been driven away by the war, or ideology and some by the recent economic crisis. The problem is that Latvia cannot be productive on land that is not managed and keeping it just for romantic reasons of ownership is not good. Some people would live here if they could make farming work and that is one issue, but to just simply own land because it belonged to Granny without taking care of it is wrong! To own that land and bring the next generation into farming, supporting them and helping them to do so would be a step forward. Owing land with special natural ecosystems within it is possible, but it still needs at least a modicum of management just to ensure that one aspect is not getting out of hand like wild boar, or other successful species that can ruin a habitat as well as contribute to it. Owning land without putting investment into it, whether that be time, effort or money is not helpful to Latvia right now. For more recent migrants, economic hardship is one reason they cannot manage their land and I can understand that problem, but for migrants from a long time ago, then I think it is about time they thought about what they invest in Latvia and how they go about it. Not forcing people into their new ways as sometimes happens, but working with the population that is here to build something better and something that benefits the communities who live and work here, rather than hold onto what is theirs simply because they can.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Catch up

Just being doing some catch up with our visitor and so my post is not quite finished i.e. no photos which I'm sure for some of you is the most important part :oD. Will sort that out in the morning and post the blog then