Monday, 28 January 2013

And it's a ......

A set of candlesticks
No not another new grandchild, the next one is due March, so not long now. I mentioned last week that Ian was getting into the woodworking lark with his pole lathe and so each night last week he would come home and show me what he had been making during the day and so far he has presented me with a candlestick or two most nights. The lack of tools has been restricting what he can make, so no beautifully turned bowls yet, as he doesn't have the right kind of chisel for that (isn't that always the case?), I must admit though there are some very nice, original examples, but how many candlesticks does one need? Looks like he could have quite a career ahead of him as a candlestick maker then! At least the activity keeps him warm and he is enjoying the creative process, he is now even eyeing up the very sorry looking oak tree that lost a large branch a few years ago for it's potential for candlesticks. He could make a set of similar candlesticks but there is one guarantee, no two will ever be the same, so not much good for a matching pair. The only other problem we now have is how to dry them without them splitting. He doesn't have enough to kiln dry them, it seems a bit much to boil them for hours and then air dry for three months, treating them with alcohol can't be cheap either and so there is the last alternative air drying them for six months. So don't rush to order them just yet.

Oh look! It's a candlestick made from
oak. I actually quite like this one. I also
thought that Ian could do some wooden
beads for me. I bought an e-book
Wee Felt Folk
 that uses wooden beads for heads of the wee folk. Perfect!
Over the years of living in Latvia, and Colorado before that, means that we have begun to get more used to extreme winter preparations and we get better prepared each year. When I mean extreme winter preparations, I don't mean the arrival of a snowflake or below freezing weather for more than two days. I am talking about below minus 20C (-4F). These temperatures cause us particular problems at the moment as I have said in previous weeks the car still needs new glow plugs. We are getting there, the garage now have three out of four and hopefully this week they get a full set! When the temperatures are set to get very low we decamp up to our other apartment since it is a ground floor place; Ian takes the battery out of the car and brings it inside, he covers the engine with a blanket and puts a heater in the place where the battery was. The previous weekend we saw temperatures of -25C and the car started like a dream using this preparation. Quite remarkable as the car has been struggling to start at -15C and when there are animals to feed it is necessary to make sure the car works.

Leaking into the walls above the window, it then trickled
along the window top and down both sides of the window.
A bit worrying when the weather gets so cold. We need to
make sure the water is out of the walls before we let the
apartment cool down
This weekend was a little more exciting that having to prepare for -25C though. Our doorbell rang and thinking it was one of my female neighbours who comes around quite a bit, I opened the door still dressed in my thankfully thick and fluffy dressing gown. Outside stood our neighbour from our other apartment to tell us we had a leak. Ian was nearly ready to go out to the land and so he hurried up and went around. Our neighbour who told us about the leak followed Ian into the apartment and they both looked at puddle on the floor in the toilet. We know we have a slight leak from some of the joints - a problem with poor componentry in this country at times - but it wasn't that that was causing the problem. Ian then noticed the water coming down the wall and raising his head upwards he noticed it was coming instead from our neighbours apartment upstairs, he turned to him pointed upwards and said "Jūs" (pronounced yoos and means "you"). Our poor neighbours face fell, he thought it was us that was leaking into his basement where he keeps his wood. He dashed upstairs to turn off their stopcock and by gently turning it on again found the leak was from the pipe leading to the meter. There was no sign of the water upstairs, it had all been trickling down under their floor and into our apartment.

This was the worse part that kept
dripping all day. There is a hole
that the pipe obscures that Ian
made to make it easier to drain
Well the rest of my day was spent keeping a fire going to warm the place through to dry it out, and using our vacuum cleaner to suck up the water that carried on pouring through the holes and down walls for much of the day. It wasn't gushing but dripping from many points meaning we had a swimming pool in the bathroom, a puddle that stretched out of that room into a pantry area, water coming in over the fire area and forming a puddle across the laminate in the kitchen. Fortunately it missed the electrical points - narrowly, but at least it did miss. It is also fortunate we had the vacuum cleaner and a dehumidifier to help dry the place out. We can't say for sure what the damage is yet, definitely repainting needs doing but the kitchen needed a fresh coat of paint anyway, which is always a problem with a wood burner and then there is the toilet ceiling that needs sorting out. Apart from that, so far the laminate looks like it escaped damage, but we don't know how much got wet and if it will start to buckle later. We are going to pop up and set the fire going a few more days and run the dehumidifier for the week and see what happens.

Yes! You've guessed it! Another
candlestick, this time made from alder. Mind you I think this is
my favourite
I suppose it has been quite an exciting time all in all, thank goodness not all the excitement was bad news, in fact some of it was very good news. I heard last week that my PhD proposal has been accepted by Tartu University in Estonia. I feel like this is going to be the start of a whole new adventure and I've no idea where this might lead. It does mean I will have to spend some time up in Estonia, but Tartu is a lovely place to be, so that's okay. At least for much of the time my research can be online hunting through journals for literature and speaking to people about participatory development and what they understand about that and since my research centres on the Latvian rural environment then that will be fine. It is one of the joys of the type of research I do, it means I get to talk to lots of interesting folks about subjects I really enjoy.

The sun beginning to rise
I have been acting like an unpaid company secretary again, I'm even getting to the stage where I don't even need to ask my neighbour for some of the information as I already know it. So what do you want to know about the Latvian wood trade? It's interesting and quite informative really, it helps me to understand business better in a rural area and shows me how things can work together, which is all useful stuff when I need to know how the rural environment functions, especially since wood products are some of the biggest exports from Latvia. At least hopefully one load of wood where I helped to negotiate the deal should be arriving this evening at its destination. Unfortunately there was a delay at the port and so it is a little late, but that's what happens in winter. And don't worry, I am not being taken advantage of, one good turn deserves another and my neighbour helps us out in many ways and it is nice to facilitate a fledgling company to get off the ground.

A frosty scene
Talking of wood products we also had to declare how much wood we cut from our forest to the State Forest Service this week. The system is not really set up for the local person just caring for the forest. It would be okay to just clean the forest of small diameter wood i.e. less than 12cm as long as enough is left to be classified as a forest, but we have some bigger trees that need cleared out to make room for other trees and some larger trees that are on our fields and need removing. To clear the larger trees means we need special permission to do that, it is easy to get, sort of, as long as you travel thirty miles to get a certificate to allow you to do it, but then every year you have to declare how much you have cut; well not a lot really! The expectation is that well over 10m3 of wood is cleared a year for this certificate, but we clear less than that, but we still have to go through the procedure. To put it in perspective, in Denmark we bought  2 x 2m3 crates to run our woodstove that heated our large living room every evening in the heating season. We still had wood leftover from that after the winter. Now of course we have a wood fired oven now that we run every weekend and a woodstove occasionally and so we need some wood but not 10m3. Even so it is only the large pieces of wood that need to be tallied, in reality there is more because we don't include the smaller trees. Complicated heh! I can understand having the checks and balances, because it stops people clear felling when they feel like it, it has to be approved and the forest has to be of a sufficient age to do that, then there are regulations that means you have to make sure the forest is rejuvenated properly and not just grows into an untidy mess. A healthy forest will give plenty of wood in its lifetime as weaker growth is removed to make room for the larger trees. Hopefully one day it will all be online, or at the very least we can post the information. As for all of that wood we cut out, we won't waste it, I mean there are candlesticks to make, but also fences, woodstores, alpaca accommodation for when we increase the flock and ......... oodles of projects to do. Now where is that paper to start writing the list?

A recipe from one of my friends. Equal
parts of grated ginger, lemon cut up
small and honey. Add to tea!
Makes a nice warming cup of tea,
great for beating off the colds this time
of year. Not that I get many of those!
Last week Martin made the comment on the birth of our new grandson:-
"You deserve a cuddle... then a few more years and he will be ready to work the land with the rest of you!!!"
Obviously the arrival of babies sets our minds to the future and we were wondering what our grandchildren's reaction would be to coming to see us. Will it be oh great we are going to see grandma and pops, because there are animals to feed, land to kick around on, loads of insects to observe and fight off, a pond to study, a forest to walk in, a chance to eat fresh eggs , animal tracks to look at and in winter a chance to ski as often as you like, or snowboard down an old Soviet ski hill for free and ride a sleigh with a neighbour's horse? Or will it be, oh no do we have to go there, there is nothing to do? It's miles from anywhere? No decent shops? We would love to think that maybe one day a grandson would come and share with us working on the land, but neither would we want that to be an expectation on such a young one. A child of reconciliation though would be good out here.

Not a candlestick! Are you shocked? This is for the pull on
a blind and is made from Aspen.
A book I had been waiting for since November finally arrived this week, but it would appear that one of the reasons for waiting so long is the fact that the post lady keeps making mistakes and putting the slips in the wrong box. Now she wasn't responsible for it being out of stock in the first place, but it might account for some of the delay. We are beginning to wonder if she cannot afford a pair of glasses - a very real issue here when wages are so low.

Updated labels to the post - in other words I forgot to add them first time around


  1. The poor don't get their eyes looked at. Have had several helpers who don't get glasses when they need them. Messes up my system of communicating with written notes. I love the wooden things. You're set up for giving presents for the next few years. adn on a market stall once the alpaca wool is in full swing ? teach some local youngsters so they can set up their own business ? The studying really has a good sound to it.

  2. Thrilled about the uni news! Those candlesticks might pay for a few books! lol

  3. Doing without glasses Liz, certainly does mess things up Liz. I knew a teacher who was struggling without them, which is bad news for education.

    We would have to get better at our Latvian Liz to do a market stall. Heh ho!

    Thanks Ju, you know where to come if you ever want a wooden candlestick :)

  4. your wooden creations are amazing and deserve some hand made beads. Sorry about your leak...I have been there too and congratulations on your PHD acceptance! That's wonderful....will you still want to speak to us mere mortals!!

  5. Hi Karen, I thought I had posted a reply but it seems to have disappeared, good job my hubby noticed. Anyway glad you like the creations, I think Ian will be pleased as he is really enjoying making them. He'll be taking orders soon, or rather just making more and more to sell.

    The leak, fortunately doesn't appear to be too bad. It does seem to have dried out.

    Talking to mere mortals? Who are they? :o) My PhD will depend on talking to lots of people, great and small and seeing what they have to say about what their hopes and dreams are for the future - fascinating stuff - so I had better be talking to everyone or it will be a short thesis


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