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


  1. It sounds as though you are having a frustrating time Joanna. I hope things get easier.

  2. Thanks Gina. I thought things might be tough this semester and so I'm just hanging on in there hoping for better times. At least my homework is done this week

  3. Hope you find time for yourself so that you get some peace about all the stressful things that happen. As usual, they often come all together (though not like your buses!) - you are doing great stuff (I know it's not about 'doing') but your actual presence there is a catalyst for good things to happen for the community. Be encouraged!

  4. Thank you Ju for your encouragement

  5. Oh I would say that you are more than entitled to a meltdown. I have them for what seems like trivia in comparison to the hurdles you jump....

  6. Thank you, but I try not to have too many of them :)


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