Monday, 27 October 2014

Planning ahead

Our cats have been cuddling up for warmth this week. 
The clocks changed, did you notice? We sure did, especially as Ian is now home from the land very early, about 5pm at the moment, by which time it is quite dark. The changing clocks really does focus our mind on the coming winter. This last week has been so cold (-10C/14F at night and not above freezing in the day) that the ground has well and truly frozen. This does mean that Ian has been able to get on with some work, like moving bales of hay with the tractor, but he can't get the wooden stakes in to mark the road yet for when the snows come. It should thaw though this next week and so that kind of preparation work will be undertaken in earnest. I should have got the garlic in a couple of weeks ago, but didn't and now I have to wait for the ground to thaw too to put them in. Mind you, I have a cunning plan, there are some chippings that have got far to rotten for Ian to put on the roadway, but they are not so wet that they are frozen. If the worse comes to the worse then I use that to put the garlic in, on top of the frozen soil. It will sort itself out in the Spring if not before.

Ian experimenting to see if he can get
our woodstove up and working out on
the land. It will help to dry wood out,
provide some warmth if the electric
ever goes out and heat up water for
the animals to drink
I mentioned last week that the heating was rather too warm, but the house manager got a system installed that seemed to be working to keep the temperature pleasant and so it stayed for quite a few days (no that is not a picture of our apartment house heating system). The last few days have been on the cool side, but I think that was due to the rather bitter cold wind we have been having. I don't care though, I would rather have it a tad cool than too warm or freezing. After all an extra layer or a blanket suffices or even the fire on if necessary, but when it is freezing for days on end or too warm, there is not much you can do when you have communal heating and no individual means of regulating the heat.

Improvements to the stove. Ian took
the legs off so it would sit lower in the
little woodstore area. He then put
stones around to retain heat. Next
will be some walls of some description
Besides preparing for winter I have been sorting out my students. I now have three, one in Estonia, one in Latvia and one in Uganda. The Estonian and the Latvian are both Masters students and helping me with my PhD research, the Ugandan is my Sociology student. I was a little concerned I wasn't getting work from my Ugandan student to mark, but it turns out the electric has been a little haphazard. Oh they joys of online learning! It is challenging supervising Masters students and tutoring someone at GCSE level, which are exams aimed at students primarily around 16 years old in the UK, but I like a challenge and would get bored if I didn't have challenges to keep me going. I met up with the Latvian student in Riga last week and we had a good time. I think we got a good understanding of the project and where we are heading, so that was encouraging.

The Freedom monument in Riga
I went by bus to Riga to meet up with the Latvian student and it was my neighbour who was driving. I got the privileged front seat, the one they usually rope off until the bus is full. It was a dark start at 6:40am and it made me realise how observant the drivers have to be on the dark country roads. I would notice the driver signalling and slowing down and then see a small bright light at the side of the road, that I had taken for a reflector on one of those road edge indicator posts. I did wonder what they used to do before bright torches and reflective strips. There was one guy who had neither of those and was dressed in a dark jacket and dark trousers. I wondered how on earth the driver saw him, but I guess it helped that by then the sky was starting to brighten. It was sad to see the tail end of the flooding though. There was so much water still standing in fields and rivers were also running high. Some of the large round bales of hay were sat in water 2/3rds of a bale high. All I could think of was the wasted effort and money for the farmer.

Old Riga, taken with my back to the Freedom Monument
Whilst in Riga I also met up with my young friend and she helped direct me to a little shoe stall on the market that had winter boots. I managed to find a pair, for which I was very grateful. I hate trudging around shops looking for things and to my delight, so does my young friend. We hit the second hand shops for about an hour, if that! Then we were both bored and had enough, perfect! I didn't buy any clothes, but she found some fabulous blouses that really suited her and were great for a more business like look. At least I know where to go for decent second hand clothes in Riga now. On my way to find my friend at the bus station I spotted a statue I hadn't seen before, I didn't think it was the prettiest of statues, as it looked like a fairly gaudy statue of Mary and baby Jesus that looked like it belonged in one of those very over the top, decorated churches or maybe the kind of relics they sell at tacky shops for Christmas. I was trying to work out what it was and why I hadn't seen it before, when the statue started to sink down into a black box looking thing. It was very freaky. Once it had almost disappeared from view and just the crown on its head was all that could be seen, another statue started to rise of a gentleman from either the late 1800s or early 1900s, quite yellow in colour. I'm sorry I was so bewildered by the scene I never thought to get out my ipad and take a video and I hadn't got my camera with me anyway. By way of explanation I did find this quote from a Guardian news article  
To mark its status as European Capital of Culture 2014, hundreds of small projects are aiming to explore Riga's rich heritage, while also looking to its future. Monument Wars is a new art installation on Brivibas boulevard, where a Lenin monument once stood. Designed to illustrate different influences on the city, it is made up of four alternating sculptures, including a Virgin Mary and a black-skinned Barbie in Swedish dress.
Well that explains one of the other statues and I know there was a fourth but I didn't hang around long enough to see what that one was.

Frosty days and autumn leaves have nearly all gone
 All this planning for future projects and winter preparations wasn't the only planning we have been doing this week. My daughter announced that she could come and visit us again in early December. I won't be there for the whole of the time she can come, but then it does give our granddaughter a bit of grandad time, which I'm sure they will both enjoy. It is nice to have her that much closer that she can come and visit more and it is nice to be able to do grandma-ey type things.

At least the sun has returned
I forgot to mention last week we had more pig damage and quite close up to alpaca fences. It is very annoying, as the pasture was finally looking good after a summer of loving care and attention. The advantage though of freezing temperatures this last week, was no pig damage. The ground was just too hard for their big snouts. This next week maybe more of a problem if there is a thaw, they could be quite hungry and it seems like the pigs will not be fed this winter to allow their numbers to dwindle to reduce the problems of over crowding to tackle the spreading African Swine Fever epidemic. Apparently they are still finding about one animal a day with the disease, but fortunately for pig farmers, none have been found in the domestic herds since September and so biosecurity measures seem to be working. 

And yes that is one my neighbours, raking up the leaves
and depriving the worms of leaf mould, whilst making a
very smoky fire to envelope the washing line. There will
not be a black hole in the grass, as the leaves are burning
in the ditch and fortunately there was no washing on the
washing line. 
And that brings me to the end of our week out here in Latvia, so I thought I would finish with my thought for the week. After all the negative thoughts about my neighbours last week, the thought crossed my mind "Who is my neighbour?" When Jesus talked about the Good Samaritan we forget how despised the Samaritans were. I am pretty sure that if Jesus was re-telling that story today, the Good Samaritan would be replaced with the Atheist, the Muslim or the homosexual, all groups often despised today by those who would call themselves Christians, just as the Jews demonised the Samaritans in Jesus' day. I know the way that some groups or authorities treat Christians is appalling, but often in those cases the venom and hate is not just reserved for those who profess faith in Christ, they reject any decent human being and sometimes those who are not decent too. They just hate, full stop! Not all atheists are God-haters, who take delight in pulling down Christians, some of them are quite nice actually, they just don't believe in God. Not all Muslims are terrorists, waiting to blow us up at the least provocation, many are longing for peace and secure families just like many of us. Not all homosexuals are out to pervert our children, again many just want to live in peace and some are the kindest people you might meet. I'm tired of hatred, so let's stop it, please!

If you are squeamish about insects, do not scroll down

I'm warning you! This isn't pretty 

You were warned

These monster cockchafers were found in our wood chipping
pile. The smaller ones you see are a more normal size and
there are some sprouting acorns for comparison. We have
never seen any this big before. Still not sure if I knew
they were edible if I would eat them, but then again, why
worry about that when the chickens fight over them.
Well some of them do anyway, some just look with complete
disdain at the offerings.

6 comments:

Pene said...

Australian Aborigines would call those grubs "witcheygrubs" & "YUM".

Joanna said...

We can save them for you Pene, they are frozen :) Ian says, maybe if it was a difference between life and death then he would eat them. I think I might be the same. I found this about witcheygrubs on Wikepedia "The different larvae are said to taste similar, probably because they have similar wood-eating habits. Edible either raw or lightly cooked in hot ashes, they are sought out as a high-protein food by Indigenous Australians. The raw witchetty grub tastes like almonds and when cooked the skin becomes crisp like roast chicken while the inside becomes light yellow, like a fried egg." Although ours are almost certainly larvae of cockchafer beetles or Maybugs I guess they will probably taste the same, since they also eat roots like the witcheygrubs.

Pene said...

Give them to the chickens.

Joanna said...

I'm sure they will appreciate them far more :)

Bill said...

We're hunkering down for winter here too. Last night was our first night below freezing, so yesterday we brought in the last of the tomatoes, pepper and eggplant. We fired up our wood heater too, so I'll smell like smoke from now till spring (which if fine by me). Some of those stones look pretty heavy to me. Hope Ian is being careful about his back. :)

Joanna said...

Hunkering down is a good phrase. It is the anticipation of winter that gets us, once it is actually here we get on and manage as best we can.

Ian is fairly careful about his back these days, he has hurt it a couple of times and doesn't want to repeat that. Having said that, I don't think the stones were that big, the stove is only small, the top is probably about the size of a laptop :D if that. I think even I could lift those stones and Ian is pretty strong now with all the lifting and carrying he does do.