Monday, 6 January 2014

In the Eurozone

Nearly time to put the Christmas decorations away, but not
just yet. I know it is traditional to take them down either
yesterday or today, but ours make the place look cheerful
in this rather dreach weather. You may notice the rather odd
addition to our manger scene. He comes out every year and
is called Dally. 
The first of January saw the beginning of the end of the Lat, which many are quite sad about here in Latvia; although there are some older folks for which is not a problem as they have seen rather a lot of changes of currencies over the years and at least the Euros have bigger coins that are easier to see. It was quite common to see an old lady hand over a pocketful of change for the cashier to sort through, as it was almost impossible to tell a 1 santim coin from a 2 santim coin. We still had some Lats leftover and so we have just about spent them all now, we have until the 15th January. 

Some green grass, but not much
Being in the Eurozone means there is now no more confusion between Latvia and Estonia for me when I'm travelling, since Estonia was already in the Eurozone. There were worries of prices going up with the switch, but since I don't buy much or take much notice of prices when I do - it is what it is!- as our Swedish friend is fond of saying. It is the kind of attitude we have developed over the years of travelling, after it became much to complicated to convert back to a currency we were familiar with. However, I do know my milk, from my local farmer, has gone down in price. It should be 57c per litre but it was reduced to 55c - easier to add up I guess.

Ian has dug up the last of our carrots. Normally we don't
leave them this long, but since the weather has been mild
we could risk it. In fact this is the second mildest year in
Latvia's history or rather since records began.
As I said, the reason we don't take much notice of prices, is the fact we don't actually buy much from the supermarkets. My milk as I mentioned is from the local farmer, we are practically self-sufficient in vegetables, the lamb we hopefully get this week is a swap for some hay at the beginning of the year and we should have some chicken soon, once the cockerels are big enough to dispatch, which all goes to mean that we don't need much beyond citrus fruits, mushrooms, oil, salt, flour, cheese, rice, sugar, margarine, yeast, tea, coffee and toilet rolls. I think that is about it, apart from chocolate and it isn't just me who craves chocolate from time to time, Ian is the more regular consumer of that. 

Not much grass here!
We decided to go on a walk this New year's Eve to watch the fireworks. Turns out it was a little more dangerous than we thought it would be, as one chap threw a firecracker in our general direction. He wasn't even a young chap, so we can't blame the act on youthful exuberance. Fortunately it just made us jump rather than doing any damage. Fortunately the rest of the walk was uneventful and we saw quite a few fireworks. On our way back we saw a glow in the sky and wondered what it was, too low and slow for a meteor, too low for a satellite and not enough noise for a helicopter - besides who flies helicopters on a New Year's Eve? It turns out it was a paper lantern, as we saw it stuck in a tree burning away. The thought that came to our mind, was what if it had landed in a farmer's hay stack instead? I do hope it is a fad that disappears.

The new shelter for the sheep
We've had a little change around on the farm this week. The sheep, as I said last week, were escaping and we can't really blame them. Although they were being given hay and concentrated feed, what they really wanted was green grass and there was precious little of that where they were being kept. Ian could only move the fence a little and they still have shelter and so we decided on a complete change. Around the back of our barn and greenhouse is some reseeded grass that was still long and green. Ian built another shelter from some logs and a tarp we had and between us we moved the sheep up. For two of the sheep it was pretty easy, Ian just walked up with a tray of food and they followed, the other one is a bit more nervy and so I walked behind to encourage her to go in the right direction. That sort of worked, most of the way, but she didn't quite make it into the area we had fenced off and she had to be chased back in to join the other two. Unfortunately she decided to take the quickest route and crashed the fence, breaking one of the fence posts. Oh well! At least now they have the opportunity to eat fresh green grass during the day and they get penned up into the smaller enclosure at night. They may as well make the best of it, as the temperatures might plummet in just over a week's time and we would be lucky if the grass was still green then, or even if it could be seen if it snows. 

Yey! The food man's here! Even when there is green grass
the concentrate is still appealing
Our young chickens have shown signs of growing up this week, two of the cockerels started crowing. These are the two we decided to keep, as we thought they were the more advanced of the chicks. It is funny when they first start to crow, it is almost as if they are shocked at what they have just done. Even the other chickens turn their heads and seem to give them a funny look, as if to say "What was that?" On a slightly different note, we had a visit from a forest ranger this week. In Latvia you need a permit to cut trees down over 12cm wide, which is fair enough as it is to stop people from over cutting the forests. The only problem with getting a permit, is that the forest rangers then start inspecting the forests and expect it to be kept tidy. That means clearing the undergrowth and thinning trees, which is what we were going to do, but at a slower pace than they were hoping for. Anyway we have done the majority of it, and he could see we had done some work on the forest to tidy it. The only thing was that he couldn't speak English and our Latvian is not good enough to hold a conversation. Still he got as much information from us as possible, we didn't have the paperwork out on the land, so that wasn't helpful for him and in the end, he decided it was enough and went. Sometimes it is helpful not to speak the language. 

Yum! Grass!
Life at times takes on a bit of a scary quality - although that seems a bit of an overdramatic statement when you compare our safe lives compared to living in a war zone - but there are times we are not certain of the next step and it reminded me of the "Bridge of faith" in one of the Indiana Jones films, where he has to step off the cliff before he sees the bridge (you can see it in the YouTube clip below). I feel a bit like that at times. I know it might seem stupid, but marking someone else's Masters project felt like that. It doesn't help that I didn't have the kind of feedback that I'm giving to the young man whose Masters I'm marking, mainly because the process is different in the UK. It is only by stepping out though and trying these different things that I can put into practice what I know. I'm sure it will get easier, but it still feels a bit scary. 
Shattered fence post. Not the one the sheep broke, this is
one the alpaca girls broke when they decided to go walk
abouts. At least Ian found out the girls are now quite happy
to follow him too. No idea how they managed to shatter
the fence post though

I’m not into resolutions and haven't made any for years; that is partly because I fail miserably at that sort of thing anyway, but thanks to another blogger who is, I have a phrase to carry with me for a while and that is the phrase “God is enough.”  I do know that really! I have lived that! Time and time again I have know that to be true, but each time the journey gets scarier and the potential to fail higher and each time it is like stepping onto that bridge of faith in the Indiana Jones film, that aspect doesn't get any easier, well not for me anyway.

On the topic of war I know I know, I sometimes get on my soapbox but I couldn't let this pass. A Unicef representative said this last week, "Targeted attacks against children are a violation of international humanitarian and human rights law and must stop immediately. Concrete action is needed now to prevent violence against children." But war full stop is a violation of human rights, not just targeted attacks on children. That is abhorant, but so is blowing them to bits with bombs, so is blowing anyone to bits with bombs. A war by its very nature is a violent act that violates rights. When will we learn? There is no justification for war, ever! Right now I will get down off my soapbox.
I managed to get a little creative this week. I not only finished some presents and sent them off along with the presents I posted the photos of last week- now that the post office is finally open. No photos for those I'm afraid, hopefully the recipients will take photos. I also did some more felting. I managed to find some finer fleece and so made some slightly softer felted pieces than the last time. So here are my efforts for one days work - combing the fleece by hand is obviously not such a quick job, but it was relaxing anyway.
Oh yes, lots of ours to comb enough fleece for this little lot

A piece done on a long silky piece of fabric

Close up of the swirly pattern

Background for a snowy scene?

Felted onto a piece of dark purple and green fabric

Felted onto a piece of lace


  1. Your late carrots are looking great. I love your felt. Do you have any plans what you're going to use it for?

    And yes, I totally agree with you about war. Don't set me off!

    Another interesting blog keeping us up to date with life in the country.

  2. Thank you Mavis. I hope to make a book for one of my grandchildren with some of this felt. Some I will probably stitch into it and see what happens.

    Glad it isn't just me and my feelings about war. There has to be another way

  3. Nice lot of felt- a hat? Keep warm. Just rain here

  4. I love the phrase God is enough. I'll definitely take that as my phrase of the year x

  5. Sure is a good one Alison :)

  6. making felt? how wonderful....will you stitch on it? Euro!!! That would be my worst nightmare. If we ever get the euro here I will chain myself to the railings on Downing street....over my dead body. I get incensed. Can you tell?? That's my soap box moment although yours soap box speech is eminently more worthy of a hearing.

  7. I will indeed be stitching onto it. I have plans! You will have to wait and see

    Life without soapboxes would be boring Karen :)


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