Monday, 5 November 2012

Plodge, plodge

The wraps are finally coming off the accommodation block
for the school
There has been some excitement in our household this week, we got to see baby pictures of grandchild number two. This little mite is not as chilled as the first one, as it wouldn't lie quietly to have its picture taken, so not so clear, but still it is there and appears healthy and that's the main thing. It is lovely being able to see the pictures and see them despite our family being scattered across the globe.  It all feels a little surreal at times knowing the events are really happening, but not being there in person, but it is comforting to know that we are only a Skype call away and can still be involved in the process, albeit in a more limited way than if any of them lived down the street from us. 
Bit of a difference to when they started. No balconies now,
no crumbling brick work and all clad with an outer skin
of eco-friendly products - well that is theory. Hope it is
well done and it lasts. 

There was more excitement when I read the front page of the magazine that had an interview of me in. The front page headline read "Mežacūka. Draugs vai iednaidnieks?" which means Wild boar: Friend or Foe? My masters thesis title! I wasn't quite sure whether to be upset or not, but the reason for picking the title for my thesis was to capture people's attention and it looks like it worked from that point of view. I was credited with the title in the main body of the interview so that's okay. The article came complete with silly photo, although I did look very earnest, as if I had something very important to say. It was a good job though that I had changed for the interview just in case and didn't see the journalist in my usual scruffy clothes. From what I could tell the article looked fairly well written and a neighbour agreed with that assessment, but I still need to get a more accurate translation of it. Hopefully I shall let you know if I fully approve next week.
Before the dig

In Denmark we had a tv for three months when we lived in a rented flat there and one of the programmes we used to watch was "Time Team," but we used to nickname it "Dig a trench." As many of you know whenever they wanted to find something out about the history of a place they would dig a trench as an exploratory first step to see what was there. Well Ian has been doing his own "Dig a trench" for our electric cable and it is proving to be a fascinating cross section of our land as far as the make up of the soil is concerned. We have everything from sand to clay to rich loam, all within a 500m transect. He started off in good but cold weather while the snow was still on the ground and everything went well, but then it melted and the rain started again. Now it is no longer squelch, squelch in the mud, it is more like plodge, plodge in the water (Verb plodge (Geordie) To wade or splash around in puddles, mud, clarts or mire.). Our lake has reappeared as it seems to do every time it rains now and we have rivers of water running across the fields. It is not making life easy at the moment. The lake is right where Ian wants to dig for the electric cable and he can't really skirt around it as it is onto neighbouring land. It is so frustrating. The trench has also collapsed in places as the rain washes some of the soil back in, and some of the soil is just being washed back into field. The trench is 70cm deep and in places it is filled to the brim with water. So what should have been a fairly tidy neat scar across the land, may turn out to be a much wider scar with a depression in it. Not what we wanted to do.

After the dig. It kind of looks like we have a
rather large mole problem
I finally got all the fodder beet in to feed the chickens, the remaining few beetroot, hamburg parsley and some parsnips. I had commented this week on one blog that we don't seem to be troubled with voles nibbling our vegetables, unfortunately I discovered that we do have a problem in one of our allotment plots after all. It could be because I was the last to dig up a root crop and so the only one with anything worth eating in the area, but there was a whole row where the leaves looked fresh and green but when I pulled them there was nothing but a hole left in the soil where a root once was with a tunnel onto the next one. Not a good sign. At least it was our allotment plot and not out on the land, there they would have been dug up by the wild boar if it hadn't been for the electric fencing around the plot. Shame electric fences are a bit useless against voles. On the land the parsnips were of varying sizes, some a decent size and some small but they were all good and long, which is a good sign as it means the soil is deep at that spot anyway. It was also the first time we had actually managed to grow parsnips reasonably well out here in Latvia and maybe warming the soil first before putting the seed in paid off

Looking back up the hill
One of the frustrations with trying to do something a bit different is trying to get appropriate equipment. So much money is spent on big agricultural machinery that there is not much available for the small diverse farmer, there might be in India or China but not here in Europe, or if there is we haven't found it. Sometimes we find something if there is a market elsewhere like in landscaping or vineyards which require the smaller equipment but where would you find a small scale thresher? Or a small scale seed separator? I feel there is a real need for engineers to work on small scale machinery that mimics some of the jobs that were done in the days of yore and yet reflect the engineering possible in this day and age, a real fusion of old and new thinking. This hopefully would make entry level farming cheaper, instead of relying on equipment with a huge outlay, which severely restricts the opportunities for young farmers unless they take over a family business. Another idea would be for engineers who were capable of restoring old equipment which are lying around in many barns, no longer used but still capable of doing a valuable job if only people could get them to work again. Oh well! If you know of anyone who fits the bill, then do let me know, won't you?

Bella in the chicken box. Neither Bella nor
the chickens seemed bothered by the company.
I think she was after the parsnip flavoured with
some fat poured off some sausages I had done
in the oven - either that or she has developed
a liking for parsnips!!!!
Small farms are efficient, believe it or not! They can produce more per acre with smaller outside inputs but it does require a lot of manpower. It is not efficient as economists might measure efficiency, but it is kinder to the environment to have more people producing food with fewer fossil fuel inputs. One of the reasons for introducing animals to the mix is to improve the efficiency of the vegetable garden by producing onsite fertiliser, instead of shipping it in. We are still experimenting with working out what we need to raise to support the livestock we have (sounds grand for three alpacas and 15 chickens, but it's a start), so that when we scale up we will have some idea of how much we need to grow to keep them in food year round. So hopefully as we grow the vegetables to feed ourselves and the animals, the cycling of nutrients will be good enough to keep everything healthy. Well that's the general idea anyway

The chickens with their new cobbled together roof aka
Frankenroof. The low roof was fine outside for the
chickens with the good throughput of air but inside
the greenhouse it meant that the ground was always damp
so we thought it would be best to have a net cover instead
After a flurry of anonymous comments which are only spam, I have taken the decision to remove the permission to post anonymously. It certainly won't affect my regular posters, but I am sorry if you had intended to comment but don't want to post with a profile, only it was getting too time consuming dealing with the anonymous comments that had nothing to say apart from that which already been said all over the internet, word for word. 
I said it had been wet. This is Ian's new walk in wardrobe
or where he hangs his wet stuff and just lately there
has been a lot of that.


  1. lol - the digging sounds like what we did as kids at the seaside :-)

  2. Only on a grander scale Liz.

  3. Congratulations on your interview about your thesis being published. Fame!

    I hope you manage to get all the electric fence sorted before the snow comes.

  4. Fame! Takes a bow :D

    We are praying our electric is sorted too, although we hope to have more than just a fence :) Heating would be nice too

  5. innovation!!! the walk in wardrobe I mean....


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