Monday, 17 March 2014

What a week!

This was just over a week ago, just to show you we did
have some lovely spring like weather. Our girls enjoying
the sun
 I gave a short presentation about my PhD studies to my fellow classmates this week, since it is one of the requirements of the course. There is a very short time for questions afterwards and one young man asked what I meant by the term "robust communities"which is what I would like to see as a result of my studies. It was a fair question, because it is a difficult term to measure and who am I to say what is "robust", but I answered him that I felt it was the ability of a village or community to adapt to outside shocks, like a banking crisis I suppose. Anyway he then got into a discussion on why doesn't everyone move to the towns anyway, as their career prospects would be better. I was a little incredulous at this point and asked him where he thought the food would come from to feed people, to which he commented that they could then use machines in the countryside. Face palm moment I think! Fortunately at this point the lecturer said we had to move on and we could fight it out later if we wanted to. I do wonder though if he thinks that isolated individuals communing only with their machines is a sustainable and ethical way to produce food, sounds like a dystopian vision to me, especially when so many people actually want to live in the countryside for a better way of life.
Who took the grass?
A rather damp looking Veronica. At least Alicia our old
alpaca has the sense to stay indoors in this weather. She is
also sounding a lot better than last week, but still not quite
fit and healthy yet.
There was much discussion about "our friendly neighbours" in the class this week too, as obviously the Ukraine/Russian situation has some of my Estonian classmates a little on edge. The discussion arose after one of the students was talking about Soviet history - should it be kept or obliterated, which is the theme of her PhD. It is an important question when memories are still raw, but should all signs of the past be obliterated, even if they are not pleasant? It isn't really possible anyway, otherwise there would have to be a massive rebuilding programme, as so many people live in Soviet era apartments. Still it is a debate worth talking about to decide how much and what to keep. I did worry though how a Russian classmate felt in that class. I have no idea where his sentiments lie, but he is a gentle soul and not a brash kind of guy, probably more concerned with his studies than politics anyway.

At least the sheep have the good protection of lanolin in
their coats to keep out the damp
I had lunch with the lecturer's wife, after the class. It is not the best time of year to come to Estonia from sunny Colorado, because in common with many more northerly countries, people tend to hibernate in winter and so it can be difficult to get to know folks. In summer time though it is quite a contrast and it is as if people go hyper, although perhaps still not as friendly as those in Colorado. Mind you I think there was a tendency for superficial friendliness in Colorado that annoyed me at times when I lived there. I don't mind being friendly with people, but a friend I think is something different, but I guess that's me being all northern. I hasten to add, I did make some very good friends while I was there and do recall my time there with a certain amount of fondness. It is funny chatting though about things we both knew since we used to lived so close to each other at one time, only 50 miles away. Not far in American terms and we had visited Boulder where they are from.

The chickens have the right idea. Taking shelter in the boys
feeder. They have been getting through a lot of hay just
lately. They have been eating more than the girls, who we
expect to eat more since two of them are expecting
I also had a another meeting in Riga this week and I had a great time once again. The meeting was with two guys who help and support rural local organisations and we chatted about a few different things. They are interested in new methods to help local people and we had a real backwards and forwards discussion on different aspects of the topic. I think we all felt like we learnt something from it. It did kind of feel like this is what all my studying had been for. I was also able to send some ideas there way in terms of websites that I have come across before, that I thought might be useful. We also arranged to do a study where I help to assess how well the local organisations are doing, assessing what makes them a success. There is such a need to look at what helps people to be active in their communities and to see if there are any common threads in Latvia. I am going to organise what happens during the study and write a report afterwards, which basically means just working out a way to find out what I want to know and they will help with transport and translate. I think that is what is called a win-win situation.

Our girls having a bit of an argument. They do regularly
spit at each other, when they feel the other one is getting
too close, but usually never at us. Veronica though, does
have a tendency to spit more readily, but she is
usually much better behaved these days
After a long day of travelling and the meeting it was nice to come home to a neat and tidy place. I wondered what had motivated Ian to tidy up, after all he works hard out on the land most days, it was then that he reminded me we had visitors coming the next day. Whoops! Slipped my mind a bit. Still I think we should have visitors more often, our home might be tidier. Our visitors were the people who organised the Latvian camelid society at Raksi. They came to see our alpacas and see what kind of a set up we had. One of the guys is very used to handling alpacas, but unfortunately one of our alpacas was not used to being handled by him. He took some feed and managed to catch Veronica around the neck quite easily, but Veronica does have a tendency to spit sometimes, especially if she doesn't like something and she wasn't impressed at being grabbed around the neck. She spat a great dollop of green, good and proper, right over one of our guests fluorescent yellow jacket. We did warn them to watch for her. Apparently their alpacas don't spit quite so far if they do spit, or as impressively.

Finally the chickens are getting into the swing of egg
laying. Not all of them yet, and today we got 9 eggs, but
we have 20 hens. The large egg on the right is enormous,
but you wouldn't guess which chicken laid it - not exactly
one of the biggest build. 
It has been quite spring like this week, butterflies have been appearing, geese flying north, swans circling around looking for lakes, eggs in the incubator and Sofie our cat got her first tic of the year (what is it with that cat, she seems like a tic magnet). It was all to lull us into a false sense of security though, as we now have more snow than we've had all winter, we easily have about 20cm. That isn't much compared to previous winters, but not what we really wanted now when Spring seemed to have arrived and the promise of green grass not too far away. Ian isn't too happy, as the ground was getting quite dry and he was thinking of getting on with the extension for the ladies alpaca house, in preparation for the new arrivals at the end of May or beginning of June. At least, he did say he has managed to get far more done this winter than he thought he might be able to, due to the mild winter we've had.

Ian's double sided doorlock. We can now open both
greenhouse doors from the inside or the outside and don't
have to walk all the way around when we forget which exit
we used.
I have to mention the passing of Tony Benn, he was a member of Parliament for Chesterfield when we lived just north of that town. He wasn't our MP though. I didn't agree with his politics all the time, but I always felt he was a man of integrity, which is more than can be said for many MPs, unfortunately. There are not many MPs that would give up a life peerage in order to serve the people, which is a route he took. He was born into privilege, but decided to give up some of that privilege for the sake of others and for that he has my admiration. I will finish with a very apt quote from him
"This idea that politics is all about charisma and spin is rubbish," he said. " It is trust that matters."


  1. yes, Tony Benn and Bob Crow too....I admired them both for different reasons. They're calling it the demise of the old left over here. That makes me sad.

  2. I agree, it is sad. At least they could stir up some debate, which is always healthy


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