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.


  1. I'm glad you had a better week full of activity and fruitfulness by the sounds of it. Sounds like your food store is getting more varied each year. Nice to see photos of Farmer Ian and his gadgets!

  2. Oh yes! Fruitful indeed! :oD We are trying to grow different foods, to mainly see what works but also to spread the risks if you like, different things work in different years and somethings just plain don't work and we will give up on them

  3. Phew! ... and relax! (and that's just me reading about it all!)

  4. I know! I like the quiet contemplative life and life at this pace does not suit me, at least I know it is just a season because once July ends then the harvest starts and before we know it that will be the season over.

  5. what a range of gadgets ian has to have. all sounds satisfying even if hard work. i dont normally get too worried by insects but really cant bear horse flies :-( do you need insects in the green house or could you have mosquito netting up ?

  6. Hi Liz, Ian is pleased with his range of gadgets, they have got bigger over the years but at least it means he can tackle most jobs and repairs these days.

    Insects in the greenhouse does make pollination easier, even the dreaded horseflies are pollinators. They only need the blood for the eggs. i must admit it is tempting to have screen doors on but then we would have to make sure that I pollinate plants.

  7. I know what you mean about the kids growing out of the waves and smiles. I have two nephews who are now 14 and 13...they always rush up to me and hug me tight when they see me as I don't see them that often, they live up in Cumbria and I often come away wondering when they will stop doing that. I am surprised they still do it now actually so I make the most of it.

  8. That's so sweet. I hope they never grow out of it


I love to hear your comments and will always reply, so go ahead, ask a question or just say hi