Monday, 10 March 2014


The unremarkable Latvian/Estonian border
taken from the Latvian side and looking
towards Estonia
It was six years ago this last week that we arrived in Latvia. At lot has happened in that time and a lot has changed in what we do. We never thought we would be doing what we are doing now, even six years ago. We arrived with very few plans, in fact our only plan was to get the apartment sorted out for living in and see if we could grow some vegetables in the gardens outside. Well we did most of that in the first year. Six years on and I am sitting in the Estonian University of Life Sciences, trying to finish off this blog as quickly as possible as I have a deadline of tonight to finish some work for one of the compulsory courses towards a PhD. It is a good job that I didn't know that before we set off to Latvia to live, I think it would have frightened me to death. It was still a scary prospect starting out on the study trail, but I didn't realise quite where it would take me. Today I was lecturing for two and a bit hours to Masters students in the Landscape Architecture department.
Snowdrop enjoying the sunshine
Our poorly Alicia
Another thing we didn't anticipate although I think we always desired it, was to have a farm. We got that and seven alpacas, three sheep, two cats and goodness only knows how many chickens later and we have a mini-farm. Unfortunately life down on our farm hasn't been easy this week. I have been going out there a bit more regularly so that I can help Ian with the alpaca boys, as we are using a medication to try and tackle the mites that have got a hold on poor Herkules and started on Tellus too. The girls will need doing, but we need to know the treatment works before treating them. We are using an injection of something normally used for worming treatment, but it is used for other types of parasites too, that has to be given three time two weeks apart. We also have to apply a mix of mineral oil - purchased from the local tractor shop of course, an antibiotic, and a few other bits and bobs mixed at the local vets and applied directly on the skin to smother the mites, the problem is that poor Herk is fed up with all the treatment he has had just lately and won't stand still. His eye is still cloudy and he is now having a treatment to seal the cornea, to see if that works. At least so far it hasn't taken a toll on their general condition and other than that they are fit and healthy. Alicia our oldest alpaca, has also been having a bit of trouble breathing just lately. Ian called the vet out to see her as she wasn't interested in her food Sunday morning, which is not like her at all. The vet thinks she may have a bit of fluid on her lungs and so she is on antibiotics too. This is a good job it it Latvia and not the UK, we would have been bankrupt by now.
Not more chickens in our paddock!

We go where girls?
We had to do some rearranging with the chickens this week too, we need an empty ark for new chicks, as we want to start new ones much earlier this year, so they are laying by the winter and then hopefully through most of the winter too. These new ones this year, weren't ready and some are still not laying even now. We sent some of the new chicks down to the chicken ark, as there is still plenty of room in there and since they aren't laying yet, they are not so precious. We had to have a rethink on the males too and we asked our friend for a couple of her cockerels to replace a few of ours. It is hard, but we had to cull some fine looking cockerels because they are related to the females. James was one of those who was culled. Ian wasn't happy about it and Ian thanked James for being a good cockerel in looking after the girls before the axe was swung. He was tasty though! The new cockerels are much bigger and so we hope they will make good sentinels for the girls, at the moment though they are following the girls around who know the ropes.
A suave looking chap - our newbie

So this is the water mill, and near by is a lovely camping
ground overlooking a lake, So if you are looking for a nice
spot with a bit of trout fishing here's the link
We finally got around to making a visit to someone I had met at the Transition initiative workshop the weekend that Benedikts was born, all the way back in January. It was World Women's Day so I got given a hyacinth flower in honour of the day. Our new friend took us on a trip to see a rabbit farm where he had helped with project advice, a sweet shop that makes their own sweets and a walk around his own water mill which is on its way to being renovated that he has been working on for many years. He is a business consultant and has helped many people along the way to get going and realise plans, so is a good contact to know, as well as a lovely fella to meet. It was nice for us both to be doing something different for the day. If I go out to the farm, it means Ian doesn't get a break and if I stop in, it's boring.
Rabbit farm near Skriveri. No rabbits in residence though
they are waiting for warmer weather as the winters are too
cold here - thank goodness
Eggs are once again becoming a regular feature of our diet
It has been a hectic week for me study wise, so much work to do for deadlines and I have found it a bit stressful. I thought I was on top of it the other week, but obviously this week was not so good. It didn't help that there was an extra piece of homework for one course, some software to sort out for another one so I can run a mapping programme on my own computer and a lecture to prepare. It was wonderful to discover the delights of a techie son-in-law and remote access though. After a little bit of fiddling about, we got the remote access working and I went to bed on Saturday night and by the morning the programme I needed was installed and running. Yeah! He'll be pleased to know that I even got a map nearly prepared to finish an exercise on it. My lecture went well this afternoon and the course leader was pleased with the added perspective I brought to the students. He liked my ideas to demonstrate some of the difficulties experts face when trying to decide who the people are who have an interest in the development of a project and how hard it is to separate them into groups to help when interviewing. It was simple really, I gave each group a set of card with details of a person, such as an indication of how long they had lived there, type of job and any affiliations to groups. With those three simple details it was hard to think who would be most likely to work with who and why and there were always the problem ones who won't fit into a group. I think the course leader enjoyed trying to sort them into groups more than the students did.
Is this edible?
Whoops! Bella looks on as Sofie tumbles off the logs
Ian and I still watch a DVD on Saturday nights together if we can, even though we haven't been up to our other place for a bath since the radiators burst- don't worry we have a shower too. At the moment we are watching the War time farm DVD and it has been quite an eye-opener. I hadn't realised some of the issues facing folks in the countryside in the war, such as the culling of livestock and the millions of hectares of land ploughed up for food. I knew about the dig for victory drive, but hadn't realised the sheer scale of it. It has also made me realise how far the English society had come from knowledge of the land, I didn't realise how unusual my own grandparents knowledge was of natural plants and some of their remedies, never mind my parents. Here I am telling Latvians that people my age don't often know much about their natural environment and in reality the rift had started even further back than that. Here it is not unusual for people to know at least a few natural remedies, a good number of edible mushrooms and berries and they actively seek them every year. Around in rural Latvia, it is more unusual if someone does not know how to grow vegetables and it is not because they are poor, it is because they like the taste and they like to be close to nature. So obviously much more in touch with nature than even the Brits before the Second World War.
Still a tad muddy! It is amazing where
all this water comes from though, as
we haven't had much in the way of rain.
This must be the water frozen into the
ground after the miserable autumn days


  1. Another interesting and activity packed week. I found what you said about natural remedies interesting. I found that living in Argentina, people know a lot of home remedies and use them regularly but that is because of the price of doctors' fees and medication. I think that the NHS and easily available pills and 'instant' remedies partly take over the need to know about natural remedies. But it is good to be able to relate to the natural world on all levels. After all that's how people survived before chemical medication took over.

  2. I studied Pharmacology at University and I often wonder if the natural remedies are somehow kinder to the bodies systems than the over-refined Pharmaceutical compounds at times, not all cases, but in some. I think there is far too much reliance on instant remedies today and that is part of the problem, if we are not careful we will be back to having to rely on the old medicines anyway.


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