Monday, 6 May 2013

The Spring flood!

Spring has sprung. The alpacas in the distance (the white
specks on the opposite side) have been let out of their
paddock to feed on green grass. Unfortunately we still have
bare earth from the winter damage too.
Whoosh and now it's spring! Well that's what it feels like. We left Latvia with a half metre of snow, or thereabouts and temperatures of -18C and when we return the snow is gone, although there are the odd spots where snow has been heaped up in shadowy areas and they still linger, but that is all. It was quite disorientating, all the landmarks we were used to over the winter had disappeared, all the high banks at the side of the road had melted away and there was even a blush of green around the fields. We've had lovely weather since we arrived back, but it is still cool due to a cool wind, but it has meant we can get on with some of the many jobs we need to do to be able to feed ourselves and the animals over the next year.

The voles were busy over winter too. Those
channels through our little blackcurrant
bush cuttings are the remnants of the vole
runs. Hopefully our cats have been doing
their job, as I haven't seen many of the little
critters around.
We said we would hit the ground running and we have, fortunately our flood is more the flood of work that needs doing and not the real floods that parts of Latvia have suffered due to the rapid Spring thaw. On the first day after our return we headed out to the land and stayed out there until about 8pm, so we took all our meals with us. I also took my computer, as I still have my statistics to revise for and an assignment to finish. So in between revising, I planted onions and peas, unwrapped the young trees in the orchard from their winter plastic coats, sorted out the herb bed and flattened molehills of which there were many in the orchard plot. That was the first day.

A combination of damage from clearing snow, trying to
drive on muddy roadways and laying the cable at the
end of last year. Hopefully by the time Ian has graded this
lot and a spot of rain on it at the weekend, we will have a
green and pleasant land once again and not a muddy mess
I am so grateful for spending time making the beds from rotted wood chippings two years ago as they are so easy to deal with - no digging over at all, just remove the weeds and rake over a bit. I did add some alpaca manure at the end of last year to the beds as wood chippings alone are not enough to feed the plants, but apart from that I haven't put a lot of work into them. It does mean I managed to sow onions, parsnips, peas, carrots, beetroot, spinach and salad leaves outside with no bother this week. It is a good job that the beds don't need digging over much anyway as my arm still aches, although it is much better than it was. It aches because I am doing more and more with it, and it protests. My guts are still not right either after that course of antibiotics I had a few weeks ago and I had to resort to the medicine cabinet yet again this week (not that you really wanted to know that, but that's my life at the moment).

First area ploughed
Ian's been busy too and he has two areas ploughed with the two wheeled tractor - much better on slightly wet soil than getting the big tractor out. They are ready now, one for buckwheat and one for an oat clover mix. The oats didn't do well in the wet last year and lodged (fell over) and got a disease called rust (because it looks like rust spots on it) but the clover is still there and some will be turned in and some allowed to continue growing. We are going to plough strips into the clover, as we don't need the whole field for peas, beans, squash and marigolds. Just in case you are wondering, the marigolds are for the chickens to give nice golden yolks and can be used in food for us as well. Ian has also borrowed a grader from a friend, to level the damage done by the wild boar in the autumn of last year. Normally he would use a chain harrow on the fields after winter to level small damage and molehills, but the damage this year was too extensive and needs a more robust piece of equipment.

We managed to fit in a quick visit to the local Spring market this week, so we got some lovely local cheese and two sacks of seed potatoes. One lot of our potatoes we don't want to use again for seed due to the possibility of blight, so starting with a fresh batch seemed the best move. The other batch are full of small potatoes that have sprouted and we will chuck them on the ground and cover with straw, if they come they come, if they don't they don't. Well that's the theory anyway.

One of the difficulties we have of living here is not speaking the language, but it is not always a problem and we are not the only ones that struggle. I saw a local I knew and stopped for a chat, he's actually German and doesn't speak much Latvian, so our conversation was conducted in German and English, but somehow we managed to understand each other. Shows how communication can happen despite the barriers. He now knows we were in the UK and Australia visiting grandchildren and I now know he saw our neighbour driving our car around.

The mess we call the greenhouse, before we
took out the caravan and chicken arks. All
the fleece hanging down is because of the
cats, who have treated the fleece as a
challenge, to see how far they can walk
across it before falling through it. That was
up there to give a bit of shade in the summer
and prevent a little heat loss in the winter!
The post holiday blues, caught me out though and I was feeling a little overwhelmed on our return. The statistics still looms large and I have still to fix a date to take the exam. I have got as far as fixing the week, but not the actual day. The gardening jobs are also stacking up, and we needed to move the caravan and chickens out of the greenhouse, so that is available for planting up with tomato plants which are busy taking over our living room. It took a walk and a song to get me set right again, or at least the title of a song. Adele's song "I set fire to the rain" seemed to shake the lethargy. It is such a ridiculous concept really, but I have felt in someways that we've done that before, done things against the odds and things have turned out okay. If we've done it before, then we can do it again. We feel God has given us this path to walk and if he has, then he doesn't do that without providing the skills and the wherewithal to do it. And if we stray from the path? Well I also trust God to let us know.
Ian backing up to the greenhouse

Caravan on its way out after nearly 7 months of being cooped
up inside

Summer position

Sometimes we expect life to be conducted at 100mph and sometimes it just feels like that is what it is doing, whether we like it or not. But life isn't like that all the time, or it shouldn't be. Life is full of ebbs and flows, season of activity and seasons of dormancy where nothing seems to be actively growing, something that Mark Pixley in his blog talks about. Living life at full pelt will lead to burnout and that is something I'm very conscious of, I've seen it happen far too many times for my liking. Some people can hack it, but from my observations they can only do that by screening out other things and in so doing don't absorb the stress. I wonder if they miss out on other things though, well that's not for me to know. I think one of the antidotes to living life at full pelt is to have a garden, especially a vegetable garden. It is in the garden that you can begin to appreciate the ebb and flow of the seasons. It is in tending the garden that you can see the point of removing some of the good things in life to let other things grow and develop better and at the end of the year, when the frosts come, there is not much to do apart from tidy up and dream of next years crops and pour over seed magazines, the ebbing of the year. I'm not the only one who thinks it is good to reconnect with a garden, as Nancy Sleeth says

"Oh, if every church and school had a garden, how different this world might be! Caring for a garden provides something that cannot be purchased at the grocery store: the satisfaction of eating food planted, tended, and harvested with our own hands. A garden cultivates gratitude, reminding us that every ounce of food that passes our lips ultimately comes from God. And as any experienced gardener will attest, a garden keeps us humble — constantly aware that the enemy, entropy, is very much alive."

Seems like as good a reason as any!


  1. You quickly got back in full flow. I also love the garden and find many life lessons through observing what goes on there.

  2. We sure have quickly got back in the flow, but we knew we would have to. Our season is only short

  3. welcome back....I would guess post holiday blues are inevitable considering and also.....those statistic things you have to write would drive anyone to distraction. I really hope that you are soon back to your usual self x

  4. Definitely feeling better today thanks.


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