Monday, 24 September 2012


Our three puikas enjoying the sunshine
It was Ian's birthday this week. He had a good day, not doing anything terribly special, in fact he was acting as a haulier yet again, this time collecting farm implements from one friend to deliver to another one. At least we feel better knowing that the equipment is somewhere where it can be looked after and won't disappear, always a risk when people are not at home all the time. I went with Ian in case they needed an extra set of hands, but I was kind of redundant, apart from watching over things. One of the neighbours came out to help, which was interesting as he was a little clumsy at times and didn't speak any English, but he tried and his heart was definitely to help, he even gave us a bag of apples and pears. There was one point when our friend and Ian went off to hunt out some more equipment and I was left alone with the neighbour, who tried his best to engage me in conversation. I tried my best in response, but my Latvian is still worse than rudimentary, however there was one point I nearly fell on the floor laughing; the neighbour referred to Ian as "puika," which roughly translates as a lad or boy. I'm not sure if he thought he was my son, which would be even worse, but the fact that Ian was 49 years old that day amused me mightily. I managed to explain - I think! - that Ian was my husband and it was his birthday, I also explained how old he was. Puika indeed!

Amaranth outside. It makes a colourful harvest
I explained this to Ian when he returned which cheered him up immensely after feeling rather old most of the day(okay I didn't help as I was rubbing it in some what). I then rang our youngest son as he had been trying to get in touch all morning (doesn't help when my phone had slipped underneath the car seat at one point and so I hadn't heard any of the calls). My son lives with his girlfriend and her daughter and he got the little girl to sing Happy birthday to Ian. Awww! You could almost see the tear in his eye. There was one point though that the little girl stumbled over what to call Ian, and our son was heard in the background going "Ian! No! Grandad!" Ian was "reet chuffed" so to speak. So Ian went from boy to grandad in five minutes, and he loved it.

My new cranberry bed, awaiting a stone border and sand
to cover the cardboard.
Ian didn't get any presents - they are either in the post or he already has them (shorts from Australia from our daughter), or he has to wait until someone visits to bring them. All quite normal in our household. He did get a couple of nice emails as well to amuse him, one from his brother wishing him a Happy Bithday (no I haven't mispelt that, that is what was written) and a rather irreverent one from our daughter, which amused Ian anyway (dear me and to think I was her English teacher at one point). To cap it all, he even managed to order a beef steak at the hotel that night - not always available, especially around the third week of September and the sunset was glorious.

An empty greenhouse
Ian jokingly said he was thinking of setting up a For Hire business as we have been lending out our trailers all week. I mentioned our trip to pick up the farm implements and we used our horse box for that, the next day our friend came out and borrowed our smaller trailer to pick up the rest of the equipment, the day after that another of our friends borrowed the small trailer to pick up bricks to repair another chimney on our apartment block and the day after that another friend borrowed the horse box to pick up some furniture. At least they are getting used.

The grass has taken very quickly on
the newly landscaped banks. 
I am in trouble for forgetting to mention the back hoe broke last week. Fortunately it only broke when Ian had just about finished the landscaping. One of our friends attempted to weld it at our place but the generator was not powerful enough for the welder. They then took a trip up to one of our neighbours and used their electric - good job we are good friends with them. Unfortunately although he managed to weld it, the weld was not good enough to hold. It requires more major work to do that. It is still usable, just not as precise as Ian is used to. Our friend will give it another try sometime soon and see what he can do.

Peace returns
We have more news on our Stanley flask, the piece of equipment that is vital when temperatures dip in the winter or even in cool autumn days when it is damp like today as Ian is beginning to feel the cold. Two weeks ago we had the news from Stanley head office that they were going to replace our flask, the next email Ian received was in Latvian from the distributor to which Ian replied in English requesting a translation. The distributor wants us to go all the way into Riga to take the flask to them, so they can check it out and make sure there is a fault with it. Customer service and the customer is always right has yet to make it across the pond with the product. Ian has said the lady is welcome to come and visit us to check out the flask, since he has better things to do with his time and the costs of doing so is 1/2 - 2/3 of the cost of a new one, which is ridiculous to have to do. Currently we are still waiting for a reply to that.

Ian in the distance shredding and the pile of logs he cut
Weather wise it has been a reasonable week, even when it was forecast for rain it hasn't been as bad as they forecast and so autumn tidying up jobs were in full swing. Ian has been cutting the forest back a bit as it has encroached past the ditch, which is supposed to be the edge of it. This should help us to sort out the drainage too as he will be able to get in with the tractor and when the back hoe works he should be able to dig the ditch a bit deeper. That has meant lots of shredding to do, which is a good job as our pile of shreddings has composted nicely but is not terribly useful for paths so we don't have to walk on the mud in autumn and spring. It also means we have quite a bit of wood cut already in preparation for next year, or this year if we run out at our other flat - at least there is now a wood kiln in our village which means we can have the wood dried if necessary. If we do build a house on the land we are going to need the wood, depending on how much we get it insulated in the first year anyway and depending on whether we live in it in the winter or not.

Four boys - we think! One is destined for a new farm to
replace a very old cockerel and three for the pot
Ian has also been acting as a chicken psychologist this week. We finally dispatched the other two broiler chickens which meant we had a box free to spilt the birds up into smaller units; one ark was becoming a little crowded. Those that lived in Hoppy's box could now be moved to a proper ark that is up off the ground - better for the winter and the male birds that are surplus to requirements could go in Hoppy's box (at least we think they are all the males). That did mean though that now that there was only one male and three chickens in a big ark and there was space for one more. We moved in one of the birds from the over crowded unit, but the poor thing was constantly picked on by one bird in particular. We gave them a couple of days to calm down but it wasn't happening, so Ian removed the offending bird that was the biggest bully and put that into the unit that had more birds in it, he then took out another of the chickens to join the bird that was being picked on for company. Are you still with me? Well the upshot of all of this is that there was only a bit of a fuss while they sorted out the pecking oder again but nothing quite as bad as before and all is calm now.

Okay I'm not tall, about 5ft but that
Amaranth is very high. the next bed
was no where near as tall.
Harvesting has been slow and steady, with the good weather the number of squashes is steadily improving but the tomatoes in the small greenhouse succumbed to blight and I got two bucket loads of tomatoes from that. I thought I had picked absolutely all the tomatoes but I spotted one more plant that I had left in the greenhouse, it is a tomato with such tiny tomatoes they are no bigger than a finger nail and still not much sign of blight on them. Just rather slow to turn red. I also started harvesting the Amaranth, again a slow job but not too difficult. I am sure it would be quite easy to construct some sort of a machine to harvest it as it just needs the heads to be rubbed between two hard surfaces to release the seed. Of course in my case that means rubbing the seed heads between finger and thumbs or between the palms of my hands. It then needs drying off and then winnowing, which is also quite easy and so the seed is relatively clean. I used the first batch in some bread, but when it is not ground it makes crunchy bread - not unpleasant but not for the everyday loaf. I shall grind down the seed for the next loaf. The amazing thing is though that such tiny seeds can give rise to such enormous plants. Definitely something to try next year as even the plants outside have grown reasonably well, even in the cool wet summer we've had.
That tiny seed in the palm of my hand is an Amaranth seed


  1. I can see you both setting up a scheme involving hiring out equipment in return for other jobs! Say Happy Birthday to Ian from us! We are enjoying having Paul L with us here in Cramy.

  2. Yup the barter system works well. Thanks for the birthday greetings, I have passed them onto Ian.

    Nice to hear you are enjoying having Paul around, he sure is good company and welcome back here anytime.

  3. what a busy life you lead....a Very happy Birthday to your new son! Signing off now from a VERY wet Lancashire....

  4. Gee Karen, I was hoping for more support than that! :oD You should come to Latvia, we have had more rain over the summer but we are not swimming in it, in fact today was very pleasant. Hope it stays that way when my mother and father visit in October


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