Monday, 25 November 2013


View from a footbridge in Tartu
It has been a bit up and down week this week, so stick with me it gets better. Sorry if the lows are getting depressing - matches the weather I think, damp and dreary. A short while ago a conference I had applied to attend and really wanted to go to, suddenly announced it was cancelled. It would be just plain annoying, but it actually takes me rather too much of my time to write an abstract (a short piece of work describing some of my research, but tailored to fit the theme of the conference). Of course it will get easier as I get more practice, but it is still annoying to go through the process and then for the conference to be cancelled. Fortunately I had already applied to another one and been accepted. I nearly withdrew my application for that one, as I would rather have attended the one that got cancelled and there is only so many funded trips I can take. Are you still with me? Life can be a bit complicated at the moment.

An ornate door that's seen better days. Still
gorgeous craftsmanship
So to continue. I duly wrote an application for funding for the conference costs and got a reply to say my funding application was accepted. Great! Now I could go ahead and book since it means I will get the money back. I went to fill out the online registration and it said "online registration closed, on site registration still available" or something like that. Oh yes! I'll just pop down to Berlin and sign in, shall I? I was not a happy bunny! Well actually that is greatly understating the case. I was rather upset. I was just glad I had some work to read that didn't demand too much brain energy. I was just writing an email explaining the problem to my supervisor and pouring out my frustration about the whole funding/conference issue when I went back to check on the online registration site, because I wanted to send him the link to see what he made of it. Unbelievably the online registration was back up and running. You have never seen someone type so fast to get the booking done. It still feels a bit like a game that I still haven't got the hang of and not one I particularly like, at least the outcome was fine in the end though.

Our Christmas tree on the right. One
of them has to go and so it may as well
be used. It won't be cut down for a
while though. I don't put up the
decorations until Christmas Eve
We've had tenants in our other apartment for the last two months. Can you believe it, we've had two months without a bath. Don't worry though, we do still have showers, not quite the same though. It was worth foregoing the baths as our friends had a good time here in Latvia and enjoyed staying in our apartment. They have made the most of their time and been busy out and about visiting folks, chopping wood, chipping wood - I think between us and the camp though, we put them off chipping for life, helping and encouraging as they went. They were sad to leave, but I think they will be back again sometime and maybe by then I might be spending a little more time at home - maybe! It does mean that this week we were able to re-instigate our Saturday night routine of bath night and DVD, currently we are making our way through the Edwardian farm, but that was only because I wasn't travelling up to Estonia on the Sunday morning but getting a lift up on Monday. Watching the Edwardian farm at times makes us giggle, because some of the information in it is so basic - basic to us that is, because we've been gardening for well over 20 years now. We learnt an amazing fact this week, the eyes on the potatoes sends out shoots to make new plants. Do people really not know that? Fortunately there are lots of other fascinating snippets that aren't quite so basic and could even be useful for a more low tech approach to farming. Ian still wants a shire horse though.

I love names of things that don't travel very well. How
about this for the name of a shop "Takko?" I don't think it
would do too well in the UK
We finally have the inventory done on the barn. That took a bit of organising. At first the lady couldn't find the place and tried to phone Ian, but she didn't speak English. We got someone to phone her back who spoke Latvian and she then planned to come out with the architect. At least the architect knew where we lived and Ian picked them up from our apartment, after first letting the animals out. The inventory is a record of the structure, as it was a little different to the original plans. She took pictures and measurements and then asked if she could see the alpacas. She took more pictures of the alpacas than she did of the barn. She thought they were wonderful and they played up well for their audience, coming to see who was visiting. I think they were thinking they were going to get fed, but at least they looked friendly enough.

James the stalker
The mild weather has been a bit dreary, but at least it has meant that I could dig up the last of the beets for the animals and carrots for us from our home allotment. Just got a few more carrots and some leeks to sort out on the land, but unless we have severe weather, we are not hurrying. James our cockerel is performing one of his last duties this week. He is making sure that the new chicks, we introduced into the big hen house, do not get picked on very much. Apparently a dominant cockerel should keep the squabbling to a minimum. He more than sealed his fate on Sunday though, Ian has never seen James stalk me until today. Not sure why he should do that and has never done it to Ian, well not while he is on his own, but he did today as we went for a walk in the woods. So after a week or two he's in the pot and a newcomer will get his place. He has been fairly good at taking care of his lady hens and keeps them together, but his aggressive nature is not what we want on the farm. Just hope the new boys will be up to looking after the ladies.

A list of the 54 who died. It brings it home to me. Three
were firefighters who were trying to rescue people. 16
children have lost one or two parents. A massive loss to
a nation of just 2 million
It's been a shocking week this week for the news, with Latvia making the front page headlines for all the wrong reasons, 54 died in a supermarket and three days later 7 are still missing. People were just going about their every day shopping on their way home, at a busy time of the day when the roof collapsed. Of course rumours abound, not least the complicity of the construction company. It is still such a shame that Latvians are often robbed, not by thieves on the street, but by thieves in companies who siphon off money. From the money that has leeched out of the money allocated to road building, money allocated to water upgrades, and goodness only knows where else. A situation they are slowly getting to grips with, but maybe this time there will be a wake up call. Even if the construction company were not to blame for siphoning off money, we can only tell that when the final report comes out, lives were lost this week and how many more lives will be lost due to corruption in departments that close their eyes to substandard building, to corruption in companies that cut corners to line their pockets, to lack of finances in rescue services that does not give them adequate machinery and training?  How much longer will people complain and their voices ignored? I have heard more people recently who are ready to speak out or not put up with corruption in whatever form it takes and I find that immensely encouraging.

Sunrise on a beautiful frosty morning whilst waiting for my
I promised to finish on an upbeat note. I got an extra day at home this week. Big deal! Some of you may think, but to be honest it has been nice. I actually got to travel up on the day of my lecture this time, because I had a lift up in a car from some of my fellow classmates, who are also from Latvia. It did mean leaving on the 6:40am bus, which is a tad early to get up to so we could meet up somewhere convenient - where I live is not very convenient to get to at all and would put a lot of extra miles on. It also meant waiting around for half an hour on a rather frosty morning, wishing I had put on a thicker pair of trousers, but rather glad for having packed a flask of hot tea and for the fact that I hadn't been able to convey to the bus driver to stop where I wanted to stop. That little episode meant I got off two stops after I wanted to and a 20 minute walk back to where I was supposed to be meeting my friends, but at least that was 20 minutes walking and 20 minutes less standing around getting cold. The trip up was lovely too, with the frost never leaving the fields the whole way up, until we got close to the city of Tartu and the sun even made an appearance during the journey. Quite nice after the dreariness. To top the day off, I got an unexpected bonus from another fellow student, as he paid me a rather good amount for looking over a paper he was writing. English is not his first language and there were a few obvious mistakes and a few poorly worded bits, nothing too major though and he was obviously happy with the work I had done on it and the comments I had digitally scribbled all over his work.
A happy find in a supermarket shop today! Wensleydale
cheese with cranberries. A nice bit of English cheese

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Travel and things

Winter jobs, cutting up wood for either later on in winter
if necessary or for next year. Ian had some help too this
week by some friends who are leaving to go back to the US
soon. It doesn't seem five minutes ago since they arrived
and yet it is nearly two months ago.
Didn't get off to a good start this week as I got one of those virally things which resulted in a disappearing voice. Something that still amuses my youngest son, even now as it used to happen a lot when they were growing up and so he took great delight in Skyping me, just to hear me squawk. The virus meant that I slept rather a lot more than usual and didn't get much done that I should have got done. It is that bit that frustrates me the most. The days are dark and dreary at the moment, but still relatively mild and I suppose that doesn't kill off the bugs. I really need to get some solid work done but things keep cropping up that get in the way. I suppose I am going to have to get ruthless so I can see some progress and make sure I get some time off around Christmas time.

One of our cats and the chickens sharing a meal. I don't
think she has been catching enough mice to keep her warm.
The cat is the one on the right, there should only be brown
chickens or brown and white in this ark.
It is not just sore throats that make me sleepy, I'm finding it easier and easier to fall asleep on trains, buses and this weekend airplanes. It was quite strange this weekend to not be setting off in a bus up to Tartu at 7am on a Sunday morning, instead I got a lie in and we set off by car to the airport about 9:30am. Stranger still was taking about the same length of time to travel all the way to England, as it does for me to travel the far shorter distance up to Tartu. So instead of four buses and two 20minute walks, it was a car, airplane and rental car trip journey. It also means that I missed my lecture for the week, but I'm allowed to miss three, so I'm okay.

A statue outside of a church in Cesis, took last Sunday
on my walk around to try and fill in a few hours
One thing we do not miss about England is the traffic. Even on the Sunday afternoon when we arrived, the motorway was clogged with cars. At one point on the opposite side of the motorway the cars were at a standstill and I don't think there was an accident to hold them up, just sheer volume of traffic. Not something we deal with here in rural Latvia where four cars in a row is rush hour. We drove back today and set off at 4:30am and couldn't believe how many lorries were on the road at that time in the morning. There were two lanes worth of lorries most of the way. By 6am when we arrived at Luton, we were only too happy to get off the roads and be heading home.

Another picture on his own and why not, he did well! 
The trip itself was worthwhile though, as it was nice to see our youngest son all dressed up in his graduation gown and meet some of his friends from the course as well as his lecturers. It is strange to think that this was the culmination of the dreams of a nine year old. Despite having moved around a lot over the last ten years, we still have some of his early drawings of cars that he did, as his passion for drawing improved. You can see how far he has come on his facebook page (link). It is also strange to think how divergent our paths have gone, my son's course was in automotive design which was a little different to Ian and my courses in the natural sciences. Obviously children do not always follow in their parents footsteps. Seeing our son wasn't the only perk to the travel, it was getting to see his lovely fiancée and her daughter. The little one has even got the hang of calling us Grandma Jo and Grandpa Ian and we went and did the grandparenty thing of going into school with her to see where she hangs her coat and puts her boots - important to a little one in school for her first year.

A water tower in Cesis. For those in the
warmer areas further south, note there are
no leaves on the trees. It was quite a shock
to see England still so green.
I have found a few things have got easier with travelling, one is the hanging around. I no longer think that waiting for an hour is endless, now an hour feels quite short. Time just seems to pass by now. Not sure if that is a good thing or not. Another thing I have found is that pleasant people really make the journey itself more pleasant. The staff for Wizz air, did try their best, although Sunday was not one of their best organised days, but they are dealing with stupid rules. Allocated seating really does make a difference and I am fairly sure, it also makes boarding quicker. Hassling people onto the plane, constant reminders to quickly take your seats, does not necessarily make the boarding any quicker. I wonder if anyone really does make evidence based decisions on boarding. Has someone really monitored how long it takes? Wizz air also has a massive fail on its baggage policies. We watched as one woman was made to pack everything into one bag and ended up throwing a perfectly good computer bag away and yet she wasn't carrying a huge amount of luggage. Beware, Wizz air's restrictions on free carry on is very small and what would be considered normal carry on by most other carriers is considered large and as such will be charged extra for. Okay so this is explained on the boarding pass, but who reads all the gumpf on those things? Regular travellers with other companies are most likely to fall foul of this one. It's such a shame as it was a viable alternative to Ryannair and I'm not so sure now.

A bit hard to see, this is not just another
picture of the water tower but a picture of
a sculpture or something to play with, I
wasn't sure but those coloured blobs are
cup shaped and so I assume moves in the
wind? Maybe!
One pleasant woman today was a lady on the tills in "Real Food" in Luton airport, who offered to help carry trays for customers who were loaded up with baggage or make the tea or coffee from the self-serve section at the end. It is hard to carry a tray and wheel a bag around when it is loaded up with full English breakfast and tea and so she offered to help each customer (not sure if this is company policy or her own policy, but good for her anyway). Not that it was me who she helped, as there were two of us, one managed the tray and one managed the tea and we didn't have a full English anyway - not enough time. Not quite sure what would happen in the busy periods, but the pleasantness was nice. I was also called "darling" this morning by a very pleasant gentleman in the petrol station (gas station) - not bad at 5:30am. So thank you sir at Newport Pagnell petrol station, your pleasantness made the journey more bearable on a dark November morning. I know not everyone appreciates being called "darling," some would even call it sexist possibly, but I took it in the spirit it was intended - a friendly greeting to make life a little more pleasant.

This church has seen better days (in Cesis)
One massive fail at Luton airport are some of the departure gates, there were plenty of travellers with little ones today- it was almost like a kindergarten outing, there were so many, as Ian remarked. The problem was the stairs down to the departure gates and no staff on hand to help those travelling alone with youngsters, fortunately there were helpful customers who stepped in and Ian carried one ladies pushchair down for her. We seem to be making a habit of helping those with little ones, I helped a little chap on our arrival in the UK up some stairs. He was pulling a little suitcase along and needed help up the stairs, but his Mum already had a baby to carry too. Maybe if someone will pay it forward for our family with their little ones when they are travelling, that would be nice. I just wonder though, if all airports could not make their departure gates more accessible, it is not just those with youngsters but less mobile folk that would have suffered too. I guess for those in wheelchairs there must be an alternative route - or is there? 

Dark and dreary or mysterious, whichever mood takes you
One final thought for this week. I had to share this comment on Gene Logsdon's blog, The Contrary Farmer  "Eat real food with real pleasure. I’m pretty sure health and happiness follow" by Laura Grace Weldon. I like the idea of eating real food with real pleasure, I'm sure if we followed that lovely piece of advice our relationship to what we eat would be a lot less fraught and more healthy.

Monday, 18 November 2013

A little busy today

Just a bit preoccupied today and so I shall be posting tomorrow, but just to be going on with, here is a couple of pictures of what we were doing today.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Diamond moments

A close up of our old girl, Alicia.
You'll be glad to know that I didn't have a meltdown this week. Thank you for so many kind words and words of care and concern for me, I do appreciate them and they certainly helped. Fortunately I bounce! Not that I'm up and down all the time, but I don't tend to stay down for long, I'm too much of an optimist/daydreamer for that. Having a meltdown though, did send up some red flags to me, that I needed to get a little balance in my life and so I have been looking for the little diamonds that make me smile and there seemed to be a few of those this week. One moment was sitting in a chocolate shop between meetings and eating a lovely dark rich chocolate cake and drinking a pot of tea, with the wafts of very chocolately smells enveloping me, a heavenly moment for sure. The moment was brightened all the more when a slightly portly chap, with a distinctly white bushy beard and red checked shirt walked past the window - Father Christmas! Well that was the thought that came to me. The next amusing moment was when a young chap strode into the place with a resonant "labdien" (good day in Latvian) to the ladies at the counter, out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed a handlebar moustache on a strikingly tall young man. I had a job not to snigger into my tea. He definitely seemed a theatrical sort and maybe he was, as we were just across the road from the opera. I did my best not to stare as he turned around to face me and sat down. I suppose I might incur the wrath of other handlebar moustache wearers for my response, but it isn't every day you see a young chap with such a distinctive moustache - although, maybe he was wearing it for Movember, hadn't thought of that.
The boys looking grubby this week in the rain

It was nice to get an assignment finished on the Monday and the teacher happy with my work, that is another course done and dusted. There was also no homework for this week as we had a guest lecturer from America in. He was a nice enough chap, but I did have the feeling that the stuff we learnt could have been said in the first hour. I also cringed a bit at being told to stand up and take a breath every now and again, to keep us awake, as well as cringing at the comedy show excerpt from something called "The Big Bang" but then again I have never been a big fan of American comedy shows anyway. I expect others found it more entertaining than I did.
The alpacas have been attacking the hay this week. We are
wondering if we will have enough, or whether to buy some
now while it is cheaper. The jury is still out on that one.
At least we haven't had any chicken losses this week.

I said I had two meetings this last week and they were good, well worth trailing back into Riga for. One was a young chap who is looking at the results of participatory development meetings and we chatted over the things he had found. It confirmed many things I knew about and suspected, I was also able to add some insights of my own. I am hoping that he does keep in touch and I can see for myself some alternative ways of doing the meetings that might have a more productive outcome. Currently the meetings are just really stone throwing matches, with no real dialogue and certainly not the point of participatory meetings. The clue is in the title, people are meant to participate in a meaningful way and it just ain't happening. The second meeting was more a getting to know each other meeting and the outcome was I have now been invited back to do a guest lecture towards the end of the month. Very exciting! 
They turned the section that Ian had
recently dug for electric cable into a
mud bath with deep footprints in it.

Unfortunately it was Ian's turn to flip out at me. He had had a bad day, first of all he was greeted by the sight of a small herd of cows out on our land, they made rather a mess of the place in some areas. They are definitely harder on the land than our alpacas and sheep are. At least they left us some manure in places, but also some rather deep holes from their hoofprints. It's bad enough with the wild boar, without some neighbours cows joining in. Ian had to take a trip up to the neighbour to see if she could ring round and find out whose animals they were and later on a couple turned up to collect them. Ian said the cows were quite tame and even came up to him in a timid sort of way, just at the point though where he was trying to drive them away from our greenhouse, the owner turned up and called to them, as well as rattling a bucket and off they ran to him. They obviously knew who fed them.
Put huge footprints through our new blackcurrant plot
Dislodged old hay bales

Ian then had to go around to check on any problems they had caused. He found they had dislodged a hay bale from our hay stack that then got soaked in the rain. He couldn't put it back on the stack and so decided to chuck it over the fence into the alpaca paddock so he could put it out of the rain in the overhanging area we have. In doing that he caught the fence and managed to not just snap one fence post, but four. Fortunately he had some spares from making APH2 paddock, but it was a job he wasn't really wanting to do that day. To absolutely cap his day we had a miscommunication. I went into Riga with some friends and after eating we were coming back together that evening, Ian though had asked me that morning if I was coming back on the bus and apparently I answered "yes!" I obviously misheard what he said (I really need a hearing aid) and only found out when a slightly irate - no, a very irate husband rang to say "where are you?" My reply of I'm on my way back with our friends did not go down too well. We have made up since though and I am forgiven.
At least they left us some useful manure, just not always in
useful places. This is in the middle of a tractor track and
not actually on the field where we would want it.
The rain means our stream is beginning
to flow again
There were other diamonds to glimpse this week. I travelled up by bus again this week to Tartu, so that meant a 2 1/2 hour wait on yet another fairly grey day in Cesis. I bought my ticket for the bus and then set off for a trip around and an explore of parts I haven't actually seen before. It was still a fairly dead place to be on a Sunday morning, but I did go back to another chocolate shop that I went to last week, where there are no drunk people asleep and had a black coffee and a piece of cake. I would prefer tea, but I am okay with a cup of coffee in peace than tea with a group of loud drunks first thing in the morning. On my way back there was a lady at an ATM, just as she was finishing up getting her cash a cat walked up to her meaowing away. You could almost imagine it saying "Got any money for a bag of cat food, love? I'm rather hungry this morning. Not many mice last night to be had." On one of the four buses I took that morning I spotted a lovely woodpecker pecking away at an apple on a tree and the rather grey day at one point broke and I had a glimpse of blue sky. The sunset was also gorgeous, with the sun setting bright orange in an early wintry way behind a house and tree. Even two of the bus drivers were very pleasant guys. All of these moments I drank in and let them water my soul. 

The light wasn't good but the red topped sticks mark the
channel. The last one in the row marks the site for the
proposed well. Convenient for the animals anyway,
but means a channel scarring the land up to the house for
water pipe and electric cable for the pump.
We had one of those dodgy guys out to our land to tell us where water is flowing. Not quite sure what to make of it all, but around here the water diviners are even used by companies to detect water and electric cables. You will of course be pleased to know that our proposed house site meets with his approval and is not sited in an area of bad energy. He also says our land drainage must be blocked as it isn't flowing, not surprised really it could well be blocked, but also there hasn't been much rain over this last year and so even the drains we know are not blocked have not been showing signs of water until this week. He said we have got somewhere where there is water and it starts from an area where we have our tractor trailer and Lada parked, but at that point it is about 15-20m down, it then runs along the hill in the direction of our ponds and is about 3-6m down at that point. Well we won't know until next year when we start digging, but Ian has mapped out the channel of water that he pointed out. Half of us is sceptical and it's all hocus pocus, but the other half does wonder. After all how many of us are really attuned to the electrical fields around us? Water running has an electrical charge, can someone be sensitive enough to feel it? As I said, we'll find out next year when we start digging.
Hay feeder constructed in APH2 for the
girls. It means they should have plenty
of access to hay no matter what time of
day or even if it is raining. We need to
keep the two pregnant girls in good

I can't finish without mentioning something that I read on the BBC website about some Afghan troops working in one area and the General said
"When the US forces were here, they used to nickname the Pech Valley as the Valley of Death, now we are calling it the Valley of Peace."But one has to fight and work hard for peace, it does not come cheap."
What a positive declaration that is. How easy it is to nickname something in a negative way that can then influence how you perceive a place or even influence others. In the Bible, names of places could carry very strong messages and this sounds the same. I also agree with the sentiment about the need to work hard for peace. I am reading a book by a Latvian MEP, Sandra Kalniete, called "Song to Kill a Giant" and it details the time of transition of Latvia from the Soviet system to independence. It makes me sad to realise how much dignity and restraint was exercised in making the transition, they fought with words, with singing and holding hands, not violence and bloodshed and yet the transition afterwards has been fraught with mistrust. There is much discord between people as the distrust they held for others before the transition from the Soviet times, resurfaces in many ways, making it difficult for people to work together, one example being our apartment block, as the rumbling issues continued this week. If only they could work together in the same way they sing together. That would be worth fighting for.
Ian has put shelters over the hay for the girls on the outside too

Salt and water in safe places

Monday, 4 November 2013


Ornate surround for a window in Tartu
I had a minor meltdown this weekend. I have tried ever so hard to get stuff harvested, but it has been a right royal pain, but even harder than that is the processing of the stuff. I've done alright with the tomatoes and the last of those went in the slow cooker this week and not too many of them degenerated into a mouldy mess, but as for the rest of the stuff, we haven't done so well. When we got back from our trip to England last week we were greeted with an awful smell as we walked in through the door, some of the peppers that had had to be pulled due to getting frosted ended up in a pool of liquid gloop on our tiled floor - we had anticipated this and with no time to deal with them, put them in the best place possible where they stood a chance of hanging on in there until we got back and if they didn't they weren't going to cause a disaster - hence on paper on the tiled floor. That was frustrating in itself. There is still a third of a basket of apples in the hallway too and they are heading for the chickens, so when I got to the land to take a bit of a breather away from the computer, I was not best pleased to find the pile of amaranth seed heads had gone mouldy in the middle, only a thin layer on the top were fine. I flipped out at Ian as I felt he could have at least kept the stuff turned to keep it aired and it might have been alright. We will be able to salvage enough for seed for next year, but I was just so frustrated, I was going to try making something with the amaranth seeds for ages and hoped we'd got enough to do something with this year, but it's not to be and as Ian said (didn't feel helpful at the time) it's a lesson learnt and we will know what to do next year. 
Our girls and James in their hen house.
Unfortunately it looks like we may
have lost another hen to a bird of prey.
Ian found feathers for one of them last
week and another today

Part of the tiredness is the travelling from my village in Latvia to Tartu in Estonia. I'm just not used to it and I apologise to everyone who has to put up with endless commutes to work, I really don't know how you do it. This week I added to the variety and I took the bus to Tartu or rather buses - it meant I got a whole extra hour in bed than if I had travelled to Riga by bus then caught the train. Didn't feel like it though. I'm becoming like one of those people who only become human after adding coffee, not instant coffee either, but the sort that needs to stand for awhile before it's ready. I was panicking a bit at first in my own village as we turned up at the small bus station at 6:55am with not a soul to be seen. 7am came and went and there was no bus either. I was just about to give up when the bus came around the corner and I jumped out of the car to get ready to go. I don't think the bus driver was expecting anyone and certainly no one got on the bus for half an hour. At least all the other three buses were fine and connected without a hitch, only it was just a very, very long day by the time I rolled into my accommodation at just turned 5pm. I also found out that 9am in Cesis on a Sunday morning in November is not great nor a good place to spend 2 1/2 hours. I suppose I should add that in October last year during the week it was lovely with lots of nice places to see, just in case you think it is an awful place to visit, just don't go early Sunday mornings in November. Part of the problem was that the nearest cafe to the train/bus station was a bar and one guy was fast asleep with his head on his knees when I walked in, I got my tea and pastry and once I sat down, in walked four very drunk and loud men. One tried to engage me in conversation but I was too tired to do more than say quite firmly I didn't understand Latvian (in Latvian), nor Russian when asked and when I confirmed I spoke English, he raised his hands in despair and left me alone- thank goodness! 
Franken hay feeders on the side of APH2

Another part of the meltdown are rumbling issues, sometimes it is just family stuff as we re-adjust to the new norm and this week it is rumbling issues from our apartment block. In both cases it feels like something was dealt with, only to spring up unexpectedly again sometime later. Sometimes it feels like being on a Merry-go-round and it is a bit wearing, especially at the moment. Things seem to flare up while I'm away and that makes communication more difficult, as it then has to be via email, with all the potential there is for mis-communication. At times it sometimes feels like heading for a slow crash, where something will inevitably happen, but you try and manage and prepare for the inevitable fall out before it happens. Slow crashes are one thing, but my mind can run away and that takes some reigning in at times. It is not helpful to have a list of possible outcomes constantly racing through the brain, whilst it might be helpful for careful analysis when based on some realistic scenarios, it is not helpful to have constant rehearsals based on improbable outcomes. Gosh that sounds like words straight out of some of my essays - analysis, scenarios and outcomes!
Another winter job complete. Frankenwindows to stop
the snow blowing in through the gaps

Backtracking a bit to last week I forgot to mention an important milestone in the year, the caravan went into the greenhouse for the winter. This is the point when all hope of raising something in the greenhouse is lost and the recognition that if we don't get it in soon then the ground will get muddy and make it difficult to move. It does mean though that Ian can keep warm as he can connect the caravan to the electric, but not that this makes him happy as he hates the onset of late autumn, with the muddy gloomy days and the caravan moving into the greenhouse just reinforces that winter is on its way for him. He has also been doing plenty of winter preparation jobs, like making sure there are hay feeders for the new alpaca ladies - seems they like the hay and seem to be eating rather a lot of it, which means that they needed to be trusted with the electric fence so they have more access to fresh grass (or at least as fresh as you can get at this time of the year). He also put the implements into the barn, another job he finds depressing as it signals the end of summer. No more cutting hay, harrowing ground or anything like that till next year. Our summer finished with a washout this week with the pond going from a puddle to a full pond, virtually overnight - not helpful for someone already depressed with winter preparation jobs.
Hoppy's box has now got an upward extension, to
accommodate some of our chickens as we start to split
them up into breeding groups (well as long as we guessed
 right on the sex of the chickens that is). This is now the brown
chicken box and the dark brown girls put up a fight with the brown
and white speckled cockerel, until they relinquished after 3 mins
of ferocious fighting. Chickens can be cruel. I think we need
aplaque for Hoppy's box, with a picture on it of Hoppy.

The girls are doing well now, they are going in before Ian.
Certainly got into the routine much quicker than the boys.
This is Estelle, she is truly a little sweetie, she will even let
Ian stroke her.

For me I attended one day of a two day conference here in Tartu about the future of doctoral studies. I found out that I am not a doctoral student, I am a doctoral candidate. I had heard this definition before but I hadn't really understood the reason for it, but apparently it is because doctoral candidates sounds more professional and we should be treated as such by our colleagues and not as mere students. Made me laugh anyway. It seems like the consensus from the meeting was that numbers of doctoral .... candidates, should be halved but the money given to them doubled. Now that would be nice, not that I'm getting any, as my studies is treated differently. Maybe I should reconsider! I also, in the role of my new professional status, helped with a seminar for Masters students on participatory development (I hope you can see me smiling when I wrote that, it feels and sounds so bizarre that I'm still adjusting to it). Anyway the seminar went well I feel. I was particularly pleased that a number of students picked up a very important point from a paper I gave them to read about the role of knowledge in making decisions. Too often it is the "experts" knowledge that counts in decision making and "simple farmers' knowledge" doesn't count for much. Of course anyone who really knows anyone who farms would hardly call them simple, even if their maths or language skills aren't great, what they do know is their land and their animals. Admittedly the knowledge may have flaws, so might the farmers' knowledge.
Franken shelter for the sheep. At least this time they can't
stand on it.

I actually had a productive week and finished two projects that had to be completed before the end of the week in one morning, only to find within the hour that one of them was not needed after all as the conference I had written a piece for was cancelled. If only they had been a few hours quicker. I got another couple of pieces of work finished over the afternoon and evening despite this set back, so from that point of view it was a good week. Pity I had the meltdown then.
Trying the shelter out

A few weeks ago and about the same
as before the rain

The same puddle after the rain. That wooden structure
on the left by the pond might give you an indication of
the sheer volume of water we had, as you can see it
standing way above the water line in the picture above