Monday, 7 April 2014

Living on the Edge

Hatching eggs
I heard a song today and the phrase "Living on the Edge" came to mind, not sure which song it was and it wasn't the Aerosmith one, the words may not have even been in the lyrics, but it set me pondering. I feel like I'm living on the edge and in someways always have done, from living on the edge of towns to living on the edge of society. Not in terms of being homeless you understand, but in terms of living a life different from my peers. Ask our friends and they will tell you. We grew our own vegetables and bought organic before it was even fashionable, just whacky. I opened a fair trade shop in our church in the UK, because I believe passionately in justice for the poor. We moved abroad, not to be missionaries, like some of our contemporaries, but because we felt it was the right thing to do. We felt the leading of God for sure, but not in the traditional way. So we eventually ended up on the edge again, the edge of society as foreigners in a land where we don't speak the language well, to a country on the edge of Europe and to one that is feeling on the edge at the moment with Russia flexing it's muscle. It's not always a comfortable place to be, but then again I couldn't be comfortable for more than a few months, With a regular, normal job I would soon be looking for the next challenge. Not that I'm a driven person or anything, but I like to exercise my brain and tackle different projects. I'm curious about the world and people, I want to know how it works, how it fits together. And that in a paragraph I think sums up who I am.

Scrawny and helpless at first
So what is living on the edge like? As I said, it isn't always comfortable and at the moment we are both tired. It has been a hard winter, but today is my last trip up to Tartu for courses. I will have completed all my compulsory courses by tomorrow and I just have some work to do on an optional course to finish off. That doesn't mean I am completely finished for the academic year, there are still papers to write, lots of papers to read, then the  literature review to write for my thesis, so enough to keep me going in between planting seeds for food for us and the animals for the year ahead. At least today I had the use of a friend's car and it meant my journey was only four hours door to door and that was with a leisurely stop for lunch. There was one point when someone overtook me and gave me a fright, I fortunately saw him coming up quite fast and then heard him to my left. I also noted there was not much room between us and the lorry coming in the opposite direction and so I veered to the right to allow the individual space to pull in. At that point in time, I really did not want to spend the rest of the day extracting someone from under a lorry, even if it was their own fault, nor did I want to be explaining to the police what had happened. Had I had more presence of mind I might have used my horn to tell him what I thought of the manoeuvre, but I was so stunned that they had even tried to do what they did, that they had hurtled away by the time I had thought about it.

Perking up
Last week I took the train from Tartu to Valka and got off as normal to do the changeover from the Estonian trains to the Latvian trains, but there was a problem - no train! I wandered around the platform and the station, went to check on the monitor and it was still listed, but no train. Eventually a nice Estonian conductress pointed to a rather anonymous looking bus and said Riga. I deduced that they were probably doing the next set of train tracks and laid on a bus instead. It would have been nice to know and some signs would have been good. A young man got on the bus who offered to translate for the conductresses who seemed to be struggling with some passengers getting on who spoke English, they weren't English just using it as a common language like so many do. I asked the young man what the problem was and he confirmed it was track work. He told me a bit about himself and then gave me a bit of a guided tour of the area we were driving through and pointing out landmarks. He came from the area but now works in Norway, which I  feel is sad, as he was a really positive guy. He said he preferred other countries because they are more open and friendly and felt there was nothing for him in Latvia - even sadder. He was such a nice young fellow he even organised for the bus driver to drop me off nearer to where I wanted to be in Valmeira since the bus was going that way, rather than let me walk the distance back from the train station. It meant I had plenty of time for lunch before going to a meeting anyway. I also think I managed to convince him that Latvians have a lot of skills that have simply been lost in other countries and it is something to be proud of, so it's not all bad.

Cuteness overload
Ian had set some eggs in the incubator a few weeks ago and this week we had a good hatch rate with only one out of 14 failing to hatch. Unfortunately three of them ended up with gammy legs or spraddle legs if you want to look it up, one we noticed at the start, the other two may have been injured by the others in the rough and tumble of chick life. The three were all isolated and put back in the incubator for warmth and safety, but at the end of the day I had to dispatch one because it was too bad, it's joints were swollen and it couldn't even get its head up off the floor the poor thing. I had tried the bandage hobble but it wasn't working. It was ridiculously easy to dispatch unlike the adult birds, but not something I like to do of course. I know that coming this close to our source of food, means that from time to time drastic action is needed, another problem of living on the edge I guess.

Tap, tap here's your food
I said the other week we had a backlog of eggs and this week we had some interest in taking them, only they would like more than we can supply at the moment, but we will at least give them some. Our wandering chickens or happy hens as one of our friends describes free range hens are so happy wandering about they are not laying that much, otherwise we might be able to supply what they want. Well most of them were happy, one unfortunately died today. She hadn't been well for a little while and today Ian found her dead in the chicken house. The others are a little subdued after a visit from a large bird of prey earlier on in the week. We thought we had lost one of them when Ian saw feathers all around, but when he did a head count they were all there. After a bit of an inspection he noticed that one had flown into the wire of the fence in its haste to escape and severely stretched the wire - she must have been flying at some speed.

Look food!
Not only did we find a market for our eggs, they also wanted some blackcurrant bushes and we had a few of them heeled up over winter waiting to be planted this Spring, so that worked. Last but not least I was asked if we had some alpaca wool for sale and how much was it? Not being much of a business person I had not thought of that yet. We want some people to spin it and knit or weave it, so we can sell finished garments - not so we take all the profit but to give others an opportunity of employment and so I hadn't thought about selling just the fleece. The reason for the question is that I had taken some fleece to a lady who was giving a demonstration of traditional crafts and she wanted some different fleeces to show people the difference and just as I walked into the exhibition she was showing a group the alpaca wool - talk about perfect timing. One younger lady translated and I gave them a card so she could contact me later, as I said we had more that they could try.

I know some of you have seen these, but these
are the flowers I got for Mothers Day. They are
not doing bad after a week.
It kind of feels like we are on the edge there as well, we are getting there with having saleable items, but how much to charge is really, really hard. This is Latvia where things can be expensive for no reason and people do not earn much, so how much is reasonable? We want to provide opportunities, but also make a living ourselves. Being on the edge ourselves means we don't actually need much, not compared to many in Europe anyway, we have no interest in a consumerist lifestyle, not in terms of over consumption anyway. I would like to sell products that people want and really need, but will also last. Oh well! Need to do some thinking and meet the new challenges ahead.


  1. no travelling anymore? Will you miss it? It always seems exciting from here but I can imagine how it could become a bit of a bind. Your near miss on the road was scary.....I don't blow my horn in the car no matter what. It doesn't change anything and I try not to hold onto anger or even recognise it if possible.,,,your baby chicks are very cute...little fluffy balls and next time I go to the supermarket I will suggest they change the packaging on the free range eggs to read ''eggs from wandering chickens'' ....I love that.

    1. My travelling days are not over with at all, just the regular weekly travel. I am off to Tallinn later on this month, back to Tartu probably in May and June just for short visits and then Porto in Portugal in September and those are the ones I know of. I will have students to supervise later on in the year and so that might involve a bit of travelling, but I will hopefully use Skype too.

      I like the idea of free range being labelled as eggs from wandering chickens, but I suspect those ones in the supermarket have a different definition to free range than ours

  2. oh my....all the travelling? I feel for you. My brother travels a lot for work, nice hotels but if people express envy he tells them the real story, the boredom, the missing home...

    1. Yes nice breakfasts are about the only plus side of staying in a hotel. I have just learnt to get a lot of work done while away or fall asleep trying to do so :D


I love to hear your comments and will always reply, so go ahead, ask a question or just say hi