Monday, 17 February 2014

There and back again

The stream is melting and water
beginning to flow off the land into it
I am back to lectures this week and fortunately it is my last compulsory course. It is funny that the lecturer comes from Boulder, Colorado just 55 miles away from where I used to live in Fort Collins in the US, he even sounds like one of my friends from there. He managed to make part of the lecture entertaining by getting us to devise a rapid experiment to practice setting and testing a hypothesis. I felt it was a little basic, but at least we didn't have to sit for two hours and it made the point pretty well. In fact I think, with a longer time frame, it would work very well with even high school students, at least with a bit more support along the way in setting up the test hypothesis. We had to devise an experiment and hypothesis in 15 minutes, so no Einstein type of experiments here. One young chap came up with the idea of testing if it was quicker to go downstairs than to go up the stairs. So for the next half an hour five of us sauntered up and down four flights of stairs, we walked normally up and downstairs and then lastly we took the stairs at speed; only I had to repeat two of the experiments because on one I had managed to turn off my stopwatch and on the second a woman beat me to the door which ruined the experiment and being the conscientious sort, I repeated it. And the result of our experiment? It is quicker to go down the stairs in sauntering and normal mode, but in a rush it is quicker to go up than down! You can draw your own conclusions on that one.
Our winter barley is looking a little worse for the wear after
the winter. Not sure if it will survive or not due to the freeze
without much snow cover and now being swamped
These three are in bad books, they have been escaping, after
discovering finally the electric fence wasn't actually
switched on due to the cold. It is ON now though.
Downright ungrateful if you ask me, after all that effort of
making their pen better by covering all the poo with straw
The week didn't go quite to plan though, as there was a miscommunication with the mapping training I wanted to do - this is not a compulsory course, but one I feel will be useful to my research. I got to the computer room on Tuesday afternoon just as four people were finishing off some maps and no teacher. Apparently it was dropped on for that period because the week before only one person turned up. That means I have had to travel up to Tartu on Sunday again to do the course on Monday morning. At least it is only three or four sessions, although at the rate I'm going it will be more as I learn how to use a dratted Windows computer and mouse. Even failed on turning it on, but that is partly because I have never used a computer with a separate screen before and a long time since I have used a mouse and not a trackpad! Rather basic I know. I'll get there though and I'm sure I will speed up. It only took me for the polygon I was drawing, to disappear on me three times, before I found out the shortcut to extend a drawing, so I didn't have to keep getting nearly to the end of my drawing and then it disappear, I could part draw it, save it and then extend it!
Snowdrop showing her portly belly. She has been a little
uncomfortable this week and Ian was wondering if the
baby has been moving around a bit. Seeing the size of her
makes us wonder how our little Alicia managed to carry
Benedikts without showing that much. 
Electric in the barn, finally
I had a pleasant surprise when I got on the bus to travel up to Tartu at the unearthly hour of 7am (okay it is not really that unearthly, except it was a Sunday) my neighbour was driving. I have been travelling on buses from the company he drives for, for over six months now and never met him once. I told him I had a two and a half hour stop before I caught the next bus and so when we got to the end and I was preparing to get off, he told he I didn't have to, as he wasn't going on the next leg of his travels for a half and hour. At least sitting on the bus was warmer than sitting in the un-refurbished station of Cesis. He also told me about a cafe nearby which was open on Sundays, so when he had to go I trotted across the train tracks (as you do here) and headed for the supermarket that I hadn't realised was a supermarket. I also found out they had free toilets and the cafe was quiet, so I managed to get some work done, really pleased about that. I was also grateful as well that the snow, that was coming down quite heavily when we set off, fizzled out to rain and then stopped by the time we got to Cesis. I had had visions of me turning up in Tartu either freezing to death or looking like a snowman and fortunately neither was the case.
And now we have light
And chainsaws have new shelves
because the electric cable runs up
behind them
I have lots of work to do this week and it wasn't helped by a trip to the big town to try and sort out the paperwork on our greenhouse. We mistimed that badly as we arrived 20 minutes before the office was due to close and so she was not best pleased, so much so that she said we needed all sorts of stamps, codes and signatures that actually were there, but she hadn't looked properly. We got sent back to our local office and fortunately when we got back to that office, the guy was just heading out the door as there wasn't much to do and he was less bothered about having to go back. He was bothered though by what he was supposed to do and in the end rang up the lady in the big town and basically asked "what on earth do you really want, it looks fine to me." He added the code that was needed to the front page of our paperwork, so she won't miss it this time, added a stamp and signature and a few scribbles, just for the sake of it I think and we should be okay to get the greenhouse paperwork sorted next time we go back to the big town- more fuel and more time! Arrrggh! This time, mark my words, there will be no prevaricating, she will get it sorted, of that I am sure, otherwise she will be dealing with a very disgruntled foreigner and she won't like that. At least to compensate I managed to do quite a bit of reading on the buses, as I travelled and in the cafe. It did make me realise though why a tablet computer is useful, a laptop on a full bus is a bit of a squish with bags.
We also have running water. Unfortunately
this isn't a permanent feature
Full ponds again
There is a worrying rise of anti-immigrant sentiments across Europe at the moment. I'm an immigrant! I also don't speak the language of the country I live in, or at least not fluently enough to hold a conversation! Two criteria that should mean I'm ostracised, which thankfully I'm not. It is easy to make immigrants a scapegoat. It is easy to blame them for all the violence and crime without looking at the reasons. That is not to say that those who partake in violence are justified in what they do, but some of them are desperate, some of them have been brought up badly, some of them reflect the society that they immersed in, let's face it residents are sometimes no angels either and their behaviour can lead to retaliation too. It won't do any good to point fingers and throw verbal stones. We have to start looking at fairness and justice, both in the countries we live and the countries where the immigrants come from. Sometimes it is economics that make them move, but why? What part has our European nations had in creating the problems? Our corporations are bad enough in our own countries, you don't need to look far to see the lack of taxes paid and diabolical wages whilst they doing nothing to address this state of affairs. How much worse do you think they will be outside of Europe where the restrictions are not the same? Our European history has created unnatural divisions of nations all over the world, our past has not dealt kindly with the nations on other continents and left a legacy of what? Some good and a lot of bad? Can I suggest before reposting news stories that put immigrants in a bad light that we think carefully what it says about us as people? Are we scapegoating by reposting them on our facebook profiles and the like? I shall not get down off my soapbox.

Estelle looking rather mucky, because she has been rolling
in the mud. Goodness only knows what her fleece will be
like to clean after shearing. Hard to think that this time
next year, she will hopefully be pregnant. 
On another note, the EU have introduced one of their not so helpful laws (some of their introductions are I think fair, and some aren't) they are set to lower the limit for benzopyrenes in foods, which sounds good since it is considered a pollutant and carcinogenic, however it is not good news for small local smokeries, using traditional techniques that abound here in Latvia. Smoked food is not eaten in large quantities, but then again they are eaten by children, so there is a dilemma. Cigarettes also contain benzopyrenes but that just means that adults are allowed to kill themselves with the effects of the pollutants. The other sources though are gas roasted meats, over-fried foods and the bbq. The black parts being the worse. Some of our friends were thinking of selling smoked food and so are not happy with the new law. I have done a little research and found an article that says marinating food and adding herbs for their antioxidant properties maybe helpful and so hopefully that might be a solution and make the food healthier into the bargain. I do hope so!

And because I don't know where else to put this, our hens have finally started laying again! Yay! Fresh eggs.


R & G in UP said...

A great journey, Jo, so far ...
who knows this time next year eh duck!?

love ya both so

Joanna said...

Who knows indeed Roy

karen said...

study, study, greenhouse, pregnancy (the animals of course!! don't panic),study again....your life is a rich tapestry! I can't even cope with a bit of building work....

Joanna said...

I'm glad the pregnancy is not mine, but the rich tapestry it certainly is. I'm sure you will be fine with building work, just take deep breaths and lots of cups of tea :)