Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Better late than never

Our chicks were getting quite big and smelly and so it was
time to move them out to the land. This time they weren't
going straight outside, still a little too cool in the evenings
so we put them in the greenhouse
Right now where was I? I had some time off this week at last. So what did I do on my first day off? Cleaning! Oh I know how to enjoy myself. I got so far through the cleaning though and realised I wouldn't have enough window cleaner to finish, so I had two options, the first was to nip out and buy some and the second was to look on the internet to see what I could make up for a spray on window cleaner, rather than make a mess with lots of water and washing up liquid. So the internet won and I found a recipe that actually worked and was better than the bought stuff, as I now have smear free windows. Only I didn't have rubbing alcohol, as in the recipe, just some cheap lavender infused vodka - well it worked and I have lavender smelling windows. Here's the link if you want and you do have to shake the bottle otherwise the cornstarch (cornflour for us Brits) does settle and don't spray too much on the windows if the sun is shining, otherwise it is harder to rub off the cornstarch and may need a re-wetting.
Amazing how fast they grown in just a few days. They are at
the silly stage where they are strutting about and facing off
with each other, which looks very amusing when they haven't
got all their feathers yet and the last ones to grow are on their
The woods are beginning to green up now with a wonderful
carpet of flowers
I also got my academic paper submitted this week, one thing less to do. My supervisor was happy enough with my re-write that I didn't have anything further to do on it. Yeh! Now I just have to wait and see what the journal editor says and then probably wait months for the reviewers to finish with it. Maybe by next year it will be published, maybe!
Here's a close up. I know this is an annual event
Ian's water filter, to filter the pond water
I also finished off an exam or rather a series of questions related to making maps for one of the courses I have been doing this semester. It was an open book without time limit type exam, the only criteria was not to cooperate with another student. Easy enough as I don't know anyone else doing my level at this point in time, even if I had got the inclination to collaborate with someone, which I don't. Now I just have to write a review article on a topic of my choosing, so I am going to write on making maps with people and for people - well that's the gist of it and not exactly what I am going to call it, although maybe that would be a good strap line. I downloaded lots of papers to help me write the review and I can look at those while travelling later on this week, not up to Tartu this time but Tallinn - somewhere I haven't been yet. At least it feels like I am finishing off projects and they are not all mounting up the other end.

The cherry tree is beginning to open its buds
It is my birthday today, half a century old. Even sounds old when you write it that way and I wonder how I came to be 50. Time hasn’t slowed down since moving away from dear old Blighty either (England for those who haven’t heard the term Blighty before). I had my 40th birthday in Denmark and it doesn’t seem that long ago, but that’s life. I certainly would never have dreamt that we would not only be living in Latvia, which is what we hoped when we left the UK, but farming - even if it is hobby farming and that I would be studying for a PhD. I would have laughed if you had told me, probably hysterically at that. 
Mizuna seeds coming through in the greenhouse

My two cookbooks from my daughter. One is about bread
by Elizabeth David. It is a book I've heard a lot about and
now I get the chance to read it. It is more than just a lot of
bread recipes but also about making bread in general with
lots of information. The other book is in a similar vein and
is a book called Prairie Home Cooking and has plenty of
anecdotes sprinkled amongst the recipes. Fascinating reading
Since yesterday was Easter Monday, I thought that it would be a better day to celebrate reaching this milestone and I invited a few folks out to our land for tea and cakes. I didn’t want to stay in all day back at home, although that would have been easier for entertaining, as it wouldn’t have worked well for Ian and I would have been bored, so that is why I chose a tea and cake do. Cakes at least can keep in a cool barn, well in a fortress of plastic crates, weighted down to keep the cats off they can. Or maybe that should be cat? One is worse than the other, exemplified by the evening bbq where the dear little darling, kept creeping in to nick off with what ever she could before anyone noticed - only we did and she was evicted numerous times. Still didn't get the hint though.

Of course this is Latvia and so there were flowers
Not just one lot, but three lots and some hyacinth bulbs.
There was also sweets, chocolate and wine. Along with
more cake and so Ian has plenty to keep him going over
the next few months or weeks or maybe days.
Anyway, apart from the eviction of said cat on numerous occasions, things went rather well. Although I said anywhere between 10am - 8pm as I wasn’t sure what people’s plans were, most turned up in the late afternoon. Some of my friends are farmers and so fitting in visiting with animals requires a certain amount of flexibility. In fact everyone timed their visit so nicely that we were only just seeing off one group when another group turned up and we only eventually left the land as the light was definitely disappearing from the sky and we could only just about see to get packed up for the night at around 9.30pm. Oh the long days are upon us.

The annual picture of the caravan outside for the first time
of the year
At least the timing of people’s visits to wish me happy birthday worked well with Ian. We got the caravan out of its winter quarters in the greenhouse and outside in the morning, which also gave me time to give it a bit of a clean. That job is always a sign that we are heading into our busy time of the year. He also got most of the land graded or flattened out from all the pig damage and molehills and just needed a bit of time this morning to finish it off. This afternoon he switched to harrowing, which is like a big comb to just break up any clumps left after the grading and it also helps to clear some of the thatch of grass.  Now we just need a bit of rain to be forecast and then he can spread grass seed on some of the bare patches and it will mean our pasture will look much better. Hopefully the pigs won’t dig it up again, but there are no guarantees on that.

We have green grass
On a different note one of the things I have learnt over the last few years is the importance of transparency. It is a difficult balance between respecting people’s privacy and giving access to information of interest to others, but it is so necessary in public life. Vulnerable people, of course, need to be protected and those wielding power for their own benefit be exposed; too often it is the other way around. There were a couple of calls for transparency in Latvia recently, one was an open letter calling for the Maxima tragedy to be investigated transparently albeit partly so investor confidence can be restored, but at least it does mention others who need to know too. Another call for transparency was from Madara, a cosmetics firm that makes their product from natural ingredients, which has called on both businesses and the Latvian tax authorities to be more transparent in their dealings. The businesses may or may not be hiding something and unfortunately is a possibility - but where isn’t it? The state tax authorities seem to assume that everyone has something to hide though and can be quite aggressive in their practices and this doesn’t help.

Fence posts at the ready. We let the girls out for a bit of
spring tonic. There isn't a huge amount of grass, but one is
 still sick and two are pregnant and so need all the vitamins
they can get. The boys are still confined to quarters to give
the grass chance to grow
It doesn’t help when the Corruption Bureau is having issues, but this is between staff members who don't appear to be able to get on. If those at the top cannot sort themselves out, how is it expected those further down the line will? Not only have Latvians to contend with internal issues of lack of transparency and inability to get on, they also have to contend with outside interference too. Russian speaking activists have been defending the need for Russian speaking schools. Fair enough, you may say and I maybe inclined to agree with you, but not when it comes to aggressive policy of misinformation and propaganda from Russia. There is a greater need for encouraging integration of the Russian speaking population, so that there isn’t a repeat of the issues that Ukraine are having, but it won't happen with aggressive finger pointing from Russia. 

One hen nestling under the cover of the hay feeder. Our
dear alpaca here is being so lazy that he can't be bothered
to even lift his head or stand to eat.
Our lovage is beginning to reappear to as well. This seems
to have burst through in the last day or two.
Having said all that and recognising that it is hard for ordinary citizens to show the way, it would be a start. It is a risk when the state tax authorities breathe down people’s necks and people must account down to the last cent and I kid you not on that. Not the nearest $10 or £5 but the nearest €0.01. But there has to be a better way forward and trust will only be gained when there is a great deal more transparency in dealings and not the sort that costs a lot to obtain, which is often the way here. You can have all the information you want but it will cost you dear! Oh! Does that mean you don’t want the information? Sorry can’t help you there then! - Well that's just not good enough I'm afraid! Information needs to be out there and people need to be more transparent all round, then we can start to move forward. Well here's hoping for a more transparent future.


Gina said...

Happy birthday Joanna... and well done on getting your paper submitted.

Joanna said...

Thank you Gina