Monday, 10 November 2014

400th post

I realise now I should have turned this around, it looks like
rather a large amount of potatoes and not much else. This is
Ian's plate and he needs the carbs. On the right though are
squash, carrot and mushroom burgers that tasted surprisingly
meaty, with a salad of mizuna, rocket, dandelion and lettuce
leaves, with fresh tomatoes (if you can call them fresh as they
were picked a few months ago, but they are storage type) and
the last fresh pepper.
Wow, not sure I ever thought I would make it this far, but I did. 400 posts and nearly 7 years worth of blogs. I have even managed to just about blog once a week, no matter where I was in the world. I can be very organised, or maybe I should say, I used to be very organised, but not very disciplined and never have been. I waver, I get bored, I think of a zillion other things to do and so I stop doing something, not because I planned to, but just because..... I also like short term projects, things I can get my teeth into and then move onto something else. I need new challenges to keep me going. That doesn't mean though I gad about and flit from one thing to another, after all I have been working towards a PhD for the last six years and that isn't possible if I flit around too much, but within that process I have found new challenges to keep me going and I do stick at something until its done if I have to. Aren't we all full of inconsistencies? Anyway I'm here and still going on the old blog.

The fire in the woodstore
Last week I posted this picture and someone on facebook asked "Why does Ian have a fire in the wood store?" Good point! It is not really necessary to have a fire in the wood store as the air circulation should dry out the wood. The reason for the stove though is to have a place to heat water for the animals in the winter. When it snows they often eat the snow and that is sometimes better for them as they don't get as wet trying to get water. Getting wet means a chance of freezing, whereas snow brushes off in very cold temperatures. Sometimes though, temperatures dip before the snow and we are left with frozen ponds and no way to get water easily for our animals. We then have to start bringing it from home and that is a lot of weight to cart up and down three flights of stairs. Our caravan does have electric and gas, but they cost, our wood is free to us, well apart from the petrol used in chopping down the trees with the chainsaw, so being able to heat water or melt ice using a woodstove makes sense for us. It will also give Ian an additional place to warm up, especially if the electric fails and it will also help dry the other wood out and herbs and beans in the autumn. So lots of positives for having heat in our wood store.

New wood cut and stacked to complete the walls. Shame
the chimney is outside for now. Improvements I am sure
will be made in the future
Aggie's (aka Agnese) our little baby alpaca or cria, as I should really call her, has learnt a new party trick besides escaping the fence on a regular basis. She can eat a whole apple from Ian's hand. Not in one go mind, but bite by bite as he turns it around for her. It is quite cute really and she prefers to eat it from Ian's hands than the chunks he cuts up for her. The ladies are fine with eating the chunks though. Ian is supplementing their feed more and more, as the grass nutrition will be declining as the year goes on. It is still quite green as the frosts have still not returned, but the number of daylight hours has declined and it is often dull and miserable. We are surprised that some of the chickens are still laying occasionally, even one of old ladies.

There is a door in there somewhere. Helps if you are short
like me. You can see how dull a day it has been, with the
flash reflecting off the tarp
I said the daylight hours is declining and we found out this week what is worse than waking up in the dark, it is waking up in the dark without electricity. No porridge for me then, as I usually use the microwave. No tea until we went out to the land, where at least the electric was on. The radiators were also cold with no pump, but fortunately it is still mild and we are used to cool mornings. There was also no internet to keep us in touch with the outside world - although maybe that is a good thing. Using the loo in the morning was also done by candlelight, since we have a toilet without a window - good job we have emergency lighting on hand in there just in case of being plunged into darkness at an inopportune moment.

Bottle carrots and home-made bread. All the small carrots
won't last long without some kind of processing and so
to save freezer space I bottled these ones.
My trips out to the land are not so frequent now either and very weather dependent. I look at the weather for the weekend and decide which day to go and if none of them look promising I might take a Friday off or a Monday. I am so pleased I don't have a regular 9-5 job for that reason. This week though the forecast let me down. I went out to the land on a Saturday expecting nice weather and it rained, the following day was lovely and I was stuck inside prepping carrots for storage. Still I managed to get the beetroot picked that had been under fleece. Due to the weird weather this year though, some were still quite small but there was still a whole large crateful of beetroot that were a decent size to pack away (it is layered with sawdust so not maybe as many as you might imagine at this point). The rest the sheep can eat when they get put into their winter quarters, which at the rate the grass is disappearing, might not be long.

The rest of the week was spent reading academic papers and writing up Sociology lessons. All this was made possible because last week I found a desk under a pile of papers - in other words I managed to tidy up and find some space to work. I do work much better at a desk, even though the chair is too high and I have to sit with my feet up on a little stool. One day I may get a chair that will be easier to cope with the height and a desk that moves up and down, so I can stand or sit at the desk.

Ian has been fixing up shelves and sorting out his table
where he prepares the food for the alpacas. His chopping
block is the triangular piece of wood and the knife is tucked
in behind. The roll of paper is supported on a thick piece
of electrical cable - because that is what was lying around
Ian went back into Jekabpils this week to take the car back for the timing belt to be changed. The glow plugs were also changed to make sure the car starts on those cold mornings and with our record for having work done just before a cold snap, we wonder what the weather will hold for the next month. The fuel filter was put in for free after being given the wrong one last week and a few other bits and bobs that go along with major service on the car were also done. All in all the total was €600 and Ian got the car back for 2pm. If you say it quickly it doesn't sound toooooo bad, does it?

Mild chilli peppers, basil with a rogue tomato plant in it
and a cowberry plant that was rescued before the alpacas
were put to graze around the current bushes. The cowberry
plant has never really thrived where it was put and we don't
think it would have survived the onslaught of the alpacas.
The car being ready for 2pm wouldn't have been so bad, but Ian had rung me earlier in the day to say it might not be finished in time and so could I go out to the land to put the animals away, as he might not be back on time. Sure, so I took the 1:50pm bus, as that was the only one that would get me there before dark at 4:30pm, in the rain. I got dropped off at the stop I knew to ask for and then realised that perhaps I would have been better to get the name of the next stop as it would be nearer and I could possibly get the driver to stop where I wanted me to. So I had a soggy walk to the land, and coming over the hill I nearly freaked the alpaca girls out, but fortunately they eventually realised who I was and I tried chatting to them to reassure them. I did wonder how frightening their look of intense curiosity would be to a stranger though, especially when Estelle started moving forward. At least I knew her stance was not aggressive, just curious. Ian rang just as I got off the bus to say the car was ready and he would be back in time, so I didn't need to go out there after all.

As a blogger there are always things that you write about and then somethings that do not appear in the blog, because it would not be good and is private. No one wants to mention the ins and outs of relationships in detail, although I might mention a few things to keep things real. I have also mentioned some things about neighbours, but I do not identify who they are or where I am exactly. I live in rural Latvia and that's enough for anyone to know on this blog. I might mention things in vague terms where there has been a problem, but again there is always that check, should I or shouldn't I. Well I thought I would share this incident. It did kind of shake me up a bit and worries me. I went to talk to a neighbour yesterday and inadvertently ended up in the middle of a row of which I understood very little, but what I did understand was that there was a real danger someone was going to get hit if I didn't stay and somehow intervene. At one point I physically stood between a gentleman and a child on a swing, rather than allow him to make the child get off. Like I said, I could not follow the argument but one thing was sure, the children were not going to be hurt in the process nor was I going to stand by and watch physical contact occur between adults. I even gently took the elbow of one of the women involved to stop her kind of fighting with the other woman over holding the swing that another child was on. They knew enough english for me to be able to express my concern about the children and they tried to argue back, but they could not really explain as there english was not good enough. I think that was a blessing as I could not then be drawn into the argument and without physically hitting me, nothing was going to make me move or allow them to force the children of the swings. After much verbal stuff and accusations of someone's mental state, the man and woman walked off. I spent the rest of the day wondering what on earth is feeding this hatred. It is stupid to make children pay for the arguments between parents.


  1. 400 blogs! I've just checked and I've been following you since May 2008. Doesn't seem that long. Your blogs are always varied and interesting. Hope you can continue for many more. You and Ian are a real inspiration. Thanks.

    1. You joined us quite early on in the journey here in Latvia, that's for sure. Thank you for your encouragement and your equal inspiration Mavis. It was such a privilege to meet up with you and show you around.

  2. Thanks for persevering as a blogger all these years. I'm glad to have discovered your blog and it has become a favorite of mine. Sorry you had to play the role of peacemaker (but good for those involved that you did).
    That plate of food looks wonderful! Great salad mix and squash, carrot and mushroom burgers sound delicious. :)

    1. Thanks Bill. I'm glad we have discovered each other over the blogosphere, as I have enjoyed reading your blog too.

      Have to admit, I didn't feel much like a peacemaker and trying to sort out my thoughts after the event is taking time. I do tend to take a while to process that type of thing though. In part because I have to process it, rather than leave it.

      It was indeed delicious :)

  3. I bet fighting over swings happens here too...unnecessary in any country. I love your pile of wood and the fact that you melt ice for the animals....good thing Ian can get warm too. Ian always makes me think of my dad, not in age of course as my dad is 74 but he goes to the allotment in all weathers, cycles through driving rain, loves to dig and dig....he isn't allowed near flower beds though as he can't identify the difference between a weed and a potential flowering plant. Neither can I actually but I don't volunteer for weeding!!

    1. I agree fighting over swings is definitely unnecessary.

      Lol I love hearing about your dad. Ian cycles most days but that is in the comfort of his own home on rollers. He does miss being out on the road, but the road to the land is just a dirt road and so not so easy, especially in all weathers. I have trained Ian over the years to at least recognise most plants, but he still asks before digging and that usually falls to me anyway. He does the mechanical stuff mainly. We both dig potatoes though when it comes to harvesting those

  4. That plate of food looked absolutely marvelous and all of it home grown. I so wish I'd had better luck helping you with the language, but my own seems to be getting worse and worse with the aging memory and lack of anyone to speak to in Latvian. But you manage to get by anyhow. More power to you!

    1. I really love looking at a plate of food and working out what wasn't from our garden or neighbours farms. Last nights, it was salt, oil (but normally that is unrefined Latvian oil), cheese (made in Smiltene), flour and margarine (If only we could afford butter and it would spread all year round like margarine). Everything else was from our farm or neighbours, so we had squash soup, flavoured with herbs and mushroom salt, jacket potato and cheese, followed by apple slice and custard (like pudding not egg custard for my American friends).

      It is a shame the online lessons didn't work out Gunta, but I think it would have been a bad year to get going on that. We do manage and hopefully I will get something sorted out this next year.


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