Monday, 19 August 2013


There be monsters in there. This wasn't quite
what I was expecting. The labelling system
didn't work this year and so I won't be using
marker pen on plastic cups cut into strips
again. Just now need to find out which type
of squash it was.
Hmmm! Tasty! We finally got around to dispatching our returned cockerel. He started getting crochety with the growing chicks, who would dive into the food before he even got a chance to bend down. At least the chicks now put themselves away, so he was superfluous to requirements and therefore he was put into solitary confinement in the other ark. The problem is that we really need that ark now that the younger chicks are getting bigger and we can't carry on feeding a bird that doesn't have a use, so he had to go. It took a few days before Ian was ready for the deed. Once it's dead he's fine, but it isn't easy to dispatch them in such a way that they are not distressed first. As he was an older bird I put him in the slow cooker for the day, as we didn't fancy rubber meat. What we didn't anticipate though was the dark meat on the legs, we always thought of chicken meat as white and turkey meat as white and dark, but no this bird definitely had dark leg meat and he definitely wasn't a turkey. It was very satisfying to sit down to a totally home-grown meal, even down to the meat. We had potatoes, carrots, beans, broccoli and our first sweetcorn of the year. The only thing not local on our plate was the salt and pepper.

Rally car test
Ian had a surprising Tuesday afternoon and a hark back to old times, well even better than old times really as he got to see some rally cars storming up and down the road passed our land, it was like his own personal rally. Ian used to follow the rally championships many moons ago and even occasionally got to see them race. This time a couple of guys came up onto the land to talk to Ian, fortunately one spoke English and he explained that they were closing the road to do some rally car tests and people were posted along the road at various points, wherever there was a chance of someone coming onto the road, to stop the traffic. They were all in contact with each other and so they knew when the car was going to go pass. Alongside our land there is a sharp corner and Ian stationed himself there and got chatting with the young lass in charge of the road that came on at that point, he didn't get any work done, but he thoroughly enjoyed himself. There was a slight hitch trying to get off the land after he had put the animals away, as the cars were still testing and the young chaps on duty on our access road had difficulty getting through to find out if Ian could go, they managed it in the end and he didn't have to wait until they were finished.

Ian busy building the next alpaca house
Our animals are being relatively well behaved this week, well if we discount the oh so free range chickens. Occasionally the chickens start straying into territory they are not allowed in and end up being fastened in their hutch again and again and again. They are suckers really, as all Ian has to do is wave their food pot around and they come running, no matter what time of the day it is. The sheep have now got used to him and know when feed time is so they start bleating for their share. It isn't really necessary to feed them at this time of the year, but we would rather they know who Ian is than be afraid of him and it is far easier to round up some sheep who come for food, than those who aren't used to humans. After all it is definitely not one man and his dog around here! For all my non-British friends, One man and his dog was (is?) a tv show that displays the amazing abilities of working sheep dogs to herd sheep across fields and into sheep pens and since we have no sheep dog and don't intend to get one we have to rely on the bribery method to get some cooperation.
A man must not be separated from his music
A bit later on and a little strategic help
from me and the framework is complete.
Now just needs the sides and a roof.
Easier said than done though
We of course don't just have the domesticated animals on our land, there is a lot of wildlife too and yes the darned pigs have been back again. Hopefully the hunter knows about it now and with any luck one of those little beasties will end up on our table. They did make rather a mess one night, but not as bad as last year so far, but it is still early days yet, in fact too early. Fortunately not all animals are quite so destructive, although they do have the potential to be. This week Ian has seen an osprey and a deer on the land and one day while having lunch an eagle flew out of our forest, fortunately he didn't decide on a little chicken dinner at the time, as I think they weren't in places they would have been easy to catch. It does make being out on the land a true joy though, to know there is such an abundance of wildlife. I often see lizards and many different kinds of frogs and toads when I'm weeding the garden. This week I finished lifting the onions, not too bad a year for them, some are big and some aren't. Definitely a bit more hit and miss this year in terms of the growing season. We have also had blackberries, a reasonable crop this year, not just one or two like the last two years and at least enough for two blackberry and apple pies/sponge and still another load to come. Next year I am sure there will be far more as that blackberry bush is now starting to make a bid for freedom. Another new vegetable for us in Aztec broccoli, it is more like spinach but doesn't go away to a mush. It is proving a little difficult to grow though as the first year I tried it, it succumbed to black fly, the second year was just a dire year anyway and so this year is the first year we have had something eatable and very pleasant it is too.

Time for coffee!
It has been nice to share our enjoyment this week of our land and lifestyle, as two of our friends have brought family and friends around to see our place and show them around. Normally we take our friends to see their places, so it is nice they want to do the same. One friend brought his son and grandson, who he hasn't seen for a long, long time and another friend brought her friend who wants to be a vet and she wanted to show her that it is possible to live out in the countryside. It was really interesting listening to what she felt was important about what we were doing and explained how we worked so hard, well Ian works hard, I do more of the thinking kind of stuff. She was also telling her friend how I was writing a project to help people live in the countryside - well that might not be the exact way I would explain it, but it is interesting that she thought it was a worthwhile thing to do.

Ian has been driving me mad recently with his fussing over a noise coming from the car. Well my hearing is that bad I couldn't really distinguish the particular noise that was irritating him. Eventually he jacked the car up and had a look and then announced we had to take the car into Jekabpils to get it seen to, as there was too much play in the rear universal joint in the prop shaft (any the wiser?, I wasn't either, but I always nod knowingly). The guys at the garage took a look and said that indeed the said joint was shot, kaput and they could fit it in that afternoon. Good job as Ian didn't really fancy driving it back home and then back again another day.

As we were in for a long wait we decided to go and try to get some official books we are supposed to fill in for the animals. We had much merriment with the phone being passed backwards and forwards as the lady in the office was finding out from our friend who was translating what it was we needed. I think we got the right ones anyway. We took the books back to the garage and hoped to pop the books into the car, only to find out that they were already working on it ahead of schedule. Well we decided that we still had time for lunch and as it was Jekabpils, we decided it had to be fish and chip again. It has become quite a tradition for us. The news came through as we were waiting that the car was finished, so all was well and good and the car is surprisingly quiet these days - so I'm told.

I never realised until lately that this is what
a Jerusalem artichoke plant looks like.
A friend of ours gave us some this year and
they can take over, so they are in the middle
of the plot, where they cannot come to much
harm and be mowed if they get too much.
On our way home we decided to go via the biogas plant to take a look at the fields around there. I wanted to know if they had planted maize again for the third year running. They have indeed. In fact there are many many hectares of the stuff, that we found as we took a round trip around the area. It was distinctly depressing. All we could think about was the ruined fields due to planting the same crop in the same ground year after year. The risks of diseases building up is high and also it is pig heaven. Wild boar absolutely love maize and they find it so easy to hide in. The fact that they are now cutting the maize is probably why we are seeing more pig damage on our land, as it will be driving them our way.

The bees seem to like them anyway
I had a revelation this week. You know how you think you know someone well and then suddenly you wonder if you do know them as well as you think you do, when they say something unexpected? I had one of those moments with Ian. He likes cheese! So what, I think you would probably say, but I was under the impression that he wasn't really that fond of cheese. He was fine with it added to food, but I've always been careful not to use it too often, well because he wasn't fond of it, or so I thought. Now where did I get that idea from? You can imagine my surprise one day when he commented he would really like some cheese to go with the tomato sandwiches he's been living off for the past couple of weeks (his choice by the way) and he was rather shocked when I said "but you don't like cheese." Oh well! I guess we'll get over the shock eventually.

We bought a hop plant at the DIY store.
I had been wanting a hop plant for ages
 and seeds didn't work.
I had a few more revelations this week. One was that I can reuse material that I have already written. Each presentation does not have to be completely different to the one before, I can copy slides for one thing, especially as the same people are not at every conference I go to. I might get bored with the content, but they might not, unless of course I also sound bored. Allowing myself to reuse material goes against the grain, as I had spent many years trying to get my children to write interesting pieces that do not repeat themselves for lessons, when I home educated them. Realising this important point took a bit of pressure off me as I worked on a poster presentation that I have to do for my next trip. The next revelation was that I might be low in iron again and maybe that is why I was so tired. I never got my blood levels checked, but around two years ago I was going through an intense tired phase and because of heavy periods (sorry chaps but telling it like it is) it was quite likely that I could be low in iron. Taking iron tablets certainly seemed to help at the time and I took a three month course and then topped up as necessary, i.e. monthly. Relying on diet to keep my levels up the rest of the time. Somehow the tablets stopped and it was only after wondering what on earth was wrong with me this time around and another heavy bout and the penny dropped. So back on the tablets again, and it seems to be working. I actually walked up our three flights of stairs and didn't feel exhausted by the effort.

A tidied garden in the sunset
I definitely feel much perkier, which is a good job, as there is a five hour hike in the mountains to look forward to on my next trip. I am also more alert mentally and don't feel so paralysed by the work I need to do. Stupid really as I know I can do it, but the physical exhaustion of doing the garden, possible low iron levels and the studying was really not doing me any good. It did make me realise as well that I was possibly running a bit too much on my own steam and not relying on God to help me. I'm feeling much more relaxed now, I still have some deadlines to meet, but knowing that God has my future in his hands means I don't feel like I have to strive so hard, just get on with the work I have to do and leave the rest up to him. I have my friend Steve, from Colorado, where I used to live in the US for two years, to thank for regaining a bit of perspective with his last blog post on weakness.


  1. I read this on my phone in bed last night....(a bad habit I know. I never sleep, always on my phone!!) anyway...I laughed out loud when you talk about your nods regarding the car terminology, as if you understood, That is exactly what i do too.

  2. I didn't think it was just me :)


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