Monday, 7 January 2013

Such fun.....

Do you see that! Blue sky! Shame it
arrived too late to actually see the sun.
Cold tonight I guess
We had a great New Year's Eve singing carols. We should have been doing that on the Saturday but the two daughters or our host were rather sick the night before and so it got delayed a few days. We don't often sing carols now, especially in English and certainly not ones we are particularly familiar with. Although we sang carols in English in America, they weren't the ones we used to sing regularly. There were only 7 adults and various children, but we all sang with gusto and it wasn't bad at all. It did help that one of our number has a particularly good singing voice with which she could belt out the melodies to keep us all in line. The greatest fun though was trying to explain some of the weird and wonderful lyrics we sing. Carols sung with a Latvian really makes you question the wordings of some of them though, trying explaining "deck the halls with boughs of holly" to someone who may have never have seen holly and why is it pronounced"bow" and not "buff" and what is a bough anyway? "Don the gay apparel" - my how language has changed, it even needed explaining to one of the younger English speaking participants (just in case you are wondering and it doesn't translate well in google translate don= put on, gay = bright, cheerful and apparel = clothes). We also never realised that you have to sing parts of that particular carol with a southern English accent and some with a northern English accent. I mean you can't sing "Fast away the old year passes" with northern tones, it just doesn't fit and "lads and lassies," has definitely got to be sung with a northern twang don't you think? I'm not quite sure the young man got the banter between the southern English and the northern English at times. And finally as for Good King Wenseleslas "tidings of great joy," oh boy the explanations went on and on but it was so much fun fa la la la la.

A common sight here, a logging lorry. These double trailer
vehicles are quite scary at times, especially if you meet
them on a narrow snowy road
Our presents have been arriving in dribs and drabs, we were still receiving presents and cards this week. My Mum sent me the full Victorian Farm collection, part of which is the series "Tales from the Green Valley" which was a series where archaeologists and historians recreated life in 1620s. It was fascinating and funny at the same time. It was funny how they had to explain that chickens don't produce all the year round, and in September the number of eggs reduces as they start to moult. So much knowledge is getting lost with time, as just about everyone would have known this at one time. We also laughed when they spoke about life being weather dependent. For all the mod cons we have now, life on a farm is still weather dependent to some degree, admittedly not as weather dependent as it was in the 1620s, but you can't hold back the seasons, you have to work with it. In our case, over the weekend the thaw finally finished and we were faced with icy, slippy conditions again, but it did mean that Ian could get the trailer off the land and as they had ploughed a lane through the snow down to our woodshed at last, we took the opportunity to shift some wood about. Ian brought a trailer load of wet wood from the land to put in the woodstore and we took a trailer load up from the woodstore to put in the cellar. Something that can't be done when there is mud on the ground or the snow too deep, in other words we are still very weather dependent.

Our shyest alpaca, Turbjørn. Well
when I say shy, I mean to humans,
anything else and he is first to
have a look

Our alpacas are getting bolder, at least with Ian who feeds them, even the shyest of them comes up close for feed time now. I think it has something to do with the fact that Ian holds the bowl for him, so the others can't nick his food. They are also animals with a lot of curiosity. Ian was chipping away at the ice outside their abode as the snow has been melting all week and he was using the mattock to chip away at it and all three alpacas stood around watching what he was doing. They often come to have a look when he is working nearby, I think they must be afraid of missing out on something. Rather like our cats who used to follow us on our walks, just in case there was something to see of interest, almost like a dog.

The road around the back of our apartment block, sheer ice
With the slippy conditions this week the local workmen have been out gritting roads Latvian style. The main roads are now gritted with a real gritting lorry and sand, the side roads are a different matter though. They are often gritted with ash, from the local heating company presumably, fair enough! However, to save the poor souls from walking the slippy roads and manually spreading the ash, which is obviously very dangerous, they sit in the back of a van with the doors open and spread it from there, with the van slowly driving up and down the road. Elf and Safety?

My task today, to tidy this room, it
is tidy honest! Well tidier than it was
Eurospan finally got around to replying I'm glad to say. Still waiting for the book to be in stock though, wish they had put that rather than processing on the original email. And the Book Depository have already reimbursed me for the book with loose pages - how's that for service! I do use them a lot though as they deliver free worldwide and so it works out cheaper than dealing with Amazon directly, despite it being the same company now anyway. It is quite a dilemma really dealing with Amazon, on the one hand it has a good reputation and enables some smaller companies to increase their trade but it also dominates the market which is never ultimately very healthy.

One of our cockerels. He didn't develop as quickly as the
other one, but still looking a fine handsome bird.
There has been some rather interesting articles and quotes on the internet this week. After reading one article I wondered if I am called to be a fungus. Not many people aspire to be a fungus, but it is not a bad calling really.
“There’s a particular type of fungus, known as mycorrhizae, that is one of the most extraordinary living things on this planet.  It forms in undisturbed soils and builds vast networks between the various elements that make up a forest, holding the soils together, increasing the plants’ abilities to scavenge nutrients, hold onto water, recycle debris, restore degraded soils.  It allows the various plants to send messages to each other, such as to warn about the arrival of pests and diseases." (Rob Hopkins: Transition Culture)
In other words this humble organism brings nourishment and deals with the bad things in life bringing restoration, it also communicates important messages. So are you called to be a fungus? It is a pretty important role if you are.

One of our egg layers. Yes we have at least two layers now,
as we have been having two eggs a day for the past three
This week the papers and internet news sites finally seemed to have got the message, that the pain in Latvia over the crisis was too much. The unemployment rate is not necessarily down because of a string of new jobs, it is that people continue to emigrate. Declaring that the crisis is over is premature, the pain still reverberates around the country and people only quietly moan, or at least don't moan much to foreign newspapers. We now live in a more unequal society than ever before - hardly progress! And as Rob Hopkins also said in a talk about the next 10 years said, there is no cavalry to come to the rescue which seems a rather bleak start for a talk. Fortunately he then went onto list several uplifting scenarios of things that were happening now, and I know there are now two transition groups working in Latvia to help build resilience in the local community. Something very badly needed here, so let's hope that transformation is about to happen.

Ian has been letting out the chickens an ark at a time, to
roam around the greenhouse and peck at the weeds growing
there and scratch through the soil and straw. When let out
the first thing, or nearly the first thing the ladies did was
to have a long dust bath
Ian passed on a link to me this week from Spain about the Pamplona locksmiths who have voted not to work with the banks to change locks on foreclosed homes. A brave move as it affects 10% of their earnings, but they did not feel they could continue to be on the side of the banks and how they dealt with their reckless lending practices in the cases where it had gone wrong. They could not face being part of the cause of putting any more people out on the streets. As they pointed out, they may have lost some income, but they have recovered their honour and dignity. I have great admiration for their decision and the brave move by the locksmith that initiated the vote.

And just to see how funny they look, here
is a video of the chickens bathing

Another inspiring internet link comes from a talk by Sir Ken Robinson, an international leader in the development of education, creativity and innovation. He is an entertaining speaker but he also has some radical things to say on education. He blames the current model for stifling many people, rather than releasing them. He also says how sad it is that so many people endure their lives rather than love what they do, such wasted talent, such wasted creativity and he blames that on their educational upbringing. It would be interesting to see what could change if people were truly educated in the way that releases them, instead of instilling them with a list of things they cannot do or don't enjoy. Maybe if the education of our children really could draw out of them their talents and gifts they would fully understand the statement by the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard "My message is there's only one you. Everything else in life, at the end of the day, no matter how precious, can be replaced." This was said in response to the wild fires in Tasmania as she urged people to take safety seriously, but it applies to many aspects of life. You are precious, you are unique, there's only one of you, you cannot be replaced and the world would be a poorer place without you, the world needs your gifts and talents. Stay safe and take care of yourself, but also live life to the full.

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