Monday, 17 November 2014

Who am I?

No I don't work with two computers. The old iMac is not
used and will find a new role soon as a dvd player. Too
old for much else but I still love its style
It must be the weather. Dull, dreary and not terribly inspiring that has put me in a philosophical mood. As I sit at home thinking about the stuff I have to do during the day, there is a sinking feeling that the reading part of my studies is done and now I have to sit down and collate the thoughts and impressions from various other authors. Who am I to do such a thing? I don't mind bringing people to the table if you like, to draw out the good in their work, but to critique it, I find that distasteful. I would rather ignore it. Again the question rises, "Who am I?" Who am I to tell others they are wrong or what they say does not apply in all the cases they think it might? It is almost like the bars of a prison clink down one by one and shut down the clear thinking process, the process that is needed to put pen to paper - or rather fingers to keypad, but that doesn't sound so poetic. I then go to my desk with a sinking feeling and try to avoid doing what I know needs to be done. Such is the life of many an academic. Many would happily sit reading papers by others, setting up projects to research, but the writing part can be so hard. It is like putting your baby out there, knowing it will be criticised, vulnerable to re-interpretations that you never intended.

Processing lovely soft fleece for felting
Writing a chatty blog with things we have done is the easy part. Sometimes I wonder if people want to really read the stuff, but I know it is not a life many lead and the differences can be entertaining, but writing about hopes and fears is more vulnerable. In the same way distilling the thoughts of a thousand authors (okay not quite that many, it just feels like that at times) can be fine but trying to arrange my own, original thoughts on the way development could be done seems far more scary and again those thoughts creep in, "Who am I?" I can also hold what might seem opposing thoughts in tandem, because I can see there is more than one way to skin a cat, as the saying goes, which basically means there is not always just one right way of doing things. For instance I think that development should be much more about a relationship between the developers and the people and no one way of doing that will appear, because each person within that process is different and the context is different in each place. I see it as a coming together of a myriad of possibilities, clashing, colliding and reshaping what can be to what will be. How do you distill that in a paper and not be mauled by those who think there is only one way forward? No there has to be diversity.

A bucketful of sunflower seeds
Too many of us do get overwhelmed by the choices we have to make, the work we have to do and the work we feel we want to do. I read a good article this week on how not to be overwhelmed. I love the analogy of the ants that move one grain at a time, seemingly doing nothing but bit by bit, little by little they are building a network of tunnels and living quarters. Apparently writing is often like that, sentence by sentence, word by word until a whole is made. I could go on to say this is not about me, but it is. It is not noble to claim "that it is not about me, but it is all about Jesus and the call on my life" - which folks do say. The truth is that we are all important, it is about me, it is about you, it is about Jesus in each of our lives. It is about seeking a better way forward for me, for you and for our communities. Not in some isolated, inflated ego kind of way, but in open, humble (at least as far as we can, for we are all fallible) joyous living. Living as if all people mattered.

A pot of parsnip seeds processed this week
My lovely red rose
Well I haven't been sat at home contemplating my navel all week. In fact it has contained a few things rather different to the usual routine. First was an evening out - that in itself is rather rare. We attended the opening celebration of a new music therapy room in the local school that a friend of ours has set up. The room was a little boomy and so she asked if I had some wall hangings and I had two that were still under wraps, so she took them to decorate the walls. So by way of a thank you she invited Ian and I to her do and got a public thank you and a lovely red rose. We also got to hear a mini concert and an amazing young saxophonist. It was hard to believe she had only been playing since February.

Still working our way through the apples. Our animals are
enjoying them too
The following morning we had to be up nice and early for school, only not our local one but in the big town. It was time to repay our dues to the English translator, who also happens to be an English teacher. We took four classes of English. The kids seemed interested about our life - good job we are not that egotistical, just we don't do normal I guess. One young man was looking all teenagerish and slumped in his chair and it was most amusing to see him perk up and his mouth open as we said that Latvian people are friendly. Not something that he thought obviously. Latvians are not wildly friendly like we find American or Brazilian people can be, but give them time and they are quietly friendly and as long as you are not in their face, they are also very helpful we find.

Garlic salt and pepper
There was an unexpected pause as one class we were meant to be teaching were actually in a meeting with someone who had been at the beginning of the "Awakening" in the late 1980s just before the collapse of communism. We listened for a little while, but it would have been difficult for a translation as it would have disturbed the lecture, so we slipped out for a cup of coffee. We sat down in the cafeteria whilst the teacher went to look for some coffee and next thing we know we are presented with a bowl of soup. We were a bit stunned as the teacher was nowhere in sight and we thought lunch was going to be after the lessons, but since we have faced situations like this before, if food is presented just say "paldies" or thank you and eat. Next appeared a rice dish with pickled cucumbers and finally a jelly dessert. At this point the teacher returned with the coffee and joined us for lunch. Our talk went down well, so well that we have been invited back to talk to the other classes, including the older ones, they might also arrange an excursion to our land to look at the alpacas in May next year. Oooerrr!

Playing! I haven't finished it yet. This is to tidy up a load
of business cards I have. The detail on the side is actually
a piece of crochet that has been cut up and stuck on to
give a textured effect. I think I will go for a coppery look
in the end.
Another change to our routine this week came with a text about 9pm at night. It was from our neighbours to the land. So after a long stint of no towing, we had our first request. The text basically said her dad had had a weird accident and her brother was at the bus station could we help? Ian went out to pick up the brother and found her dad not far away from home but precariously close to a rather deep ditch. Fortunately nothing was damaged and he was easy to pull out. They tried to pay us, but Ian was not going to take anything, in the end he just said "piens" which means milk, so another few weeks of our extra milk.

Baking cakes. Can you tell that we didn't get any photos
taken outside this week? I ran around the house looking
for inspiration and realised there are a lot of things in the
process of being made or have been processed.
Ian also finally got the chance to do some jobs that have to be done. He bought some pipes for the heating system and connected up all the radiators using a heating tool borrowed from a friend. He then slowly filled the radiators. Next he lit a fire and we ran around bleeding air out of the system. So far so good. All the joints he had done were good and all the connections to the radiators appeared to be sealed. Only we had water coming out. As the pressure increased it caused one of the pipes to start leaking through a crack that must have happened when the system froze. We were disappointed and annoyingly it is a a holiday weekend and so no shops will be open until Wednesday. Still at least everything else seemed okay and so he just has to replace that one pipe - pity it is a little awkward to replace and pity it was a thin pipe as he had plenty of the thicker pipe. Yes they should all be the same size, but this is Latvia.

I mentioned that Ian goes on his bike
regularly but inside to someone who
commented on the blog last week. Well
here it is, the bike inside on rollers
Ian also got on with separating Agnese from her mum to give Snowdrop a chance to put on some weight before the winter. Giving milk to Agnese takes a lot out of an alpaca mum, especially when they are also usually pregnant with the next baby. Agnese and Estelle have been given one half of the alpaca house and Snowdrop and Veronica the other half. The paddock also had to be divided. Estelle though disgraced herself and muscled through the wire fence and broke it. Ian thinks she got a bit of a fright and he thought she wasn't going to go in tonight, but eventually she did. Now he just has to make sure there is a hay feeder in that side and everything is set so that Snowdrop can dry up and concentrate on hopefully feeding next years baby as well as herself. Ian was saying it is now easier to feed Agnese and Snowdrop since they are separated. Snowdrop is greedy and she would go to different bowls, which makes it difficult to actually plan which bowl she will eat from, so not much point in putting down extra for her, Veronica though will not allow her to take her food, so she has to stick to her own bowl. Most of them also will try to muscle in on Agnese and so with just her to concentrate on, Ian can make sure she eats in peace.

Leftovers in our toilet. Ian fixed the
hole that was made after the neighbour
complained we were leaking water into
his basement - which we weren't, it was
a leak from the roof, missing us and
leaking into his apartment beneath us. 
One of the problems that we face as we farm our land - I still hesitate to use that word "farm" because I know we are only dabbling compared to others - is the risks from diseases and infestations. This year we have fought a mite problem nearly all year. Fortunately winter times the little wee beasties tend to die off or find warm places to hibernate in. One of the advantages of not cosseting our animals with heating is the wee beasties have nowhere to hide on our animals without risking a freezing and so our animals get a respite from those and as long as we feed our animals well, they cope well enough with the temperatures. Others though face much more serious diseases like the African Swine Fever where neighbours have had to cull their domestic pigs and hunters have to beware of not trampling the disease into farms that have pigs. I was sad though to hear of a duck farmer who is having to cull his whole flock due to Avian Bird Flu. It looks a big farm and probably run as a very commercial enterprise, there is no information on that, but even so, they are still farmers, it is still their livelihood and what do you do when the whole unit is wiped out overnight? How do you build up your stock again? Or do you give up and go get a job in the city? None of that is reported, no comment on how the farmer is coping or anything like that. Just a matter of fact report that glosses over the impact on a livelihood.


  1. How many strings to your bow do you have?! Great to see how you are immersed in community. Whatever next?

    1. Lol Ju. I think the phrase jack of all trades and master of none encapsulates it. I do remember hearing someone say though that is rare to get a specialist generalist - might just qualify for that :D

  2. Last year at this time I was staring at El Diablo Blanco, and wondering if I could possibly assemble my research into a thesis that was sensible. Eventually I started banging away on it, convinced often that was crap. But a few months later it was done. I often thought of the ant analogy too.

    Best wishes as you soldier forward!

    Having to cull a herd or flock like that must be a painful thing. I can't imagine...

    1. Thanks Bill for the encouragement. At least I don't have to have the finished work done before January 2017, but that will come around soon enough I'm sure. I think it is so useful to know that others have to just start and it is crap at first, but getting your thoughts out of your head and onto the paper or screen helps in the processing of the work. El Diablo Blanco is definitely a good word for it at the beginning.

      What was your research in?

    2. I did a study of how the teachings and writings of John Wesley correlate to the ethics behind the contemporary food movement. It all came together eventually but there were times along the way when I was fairly sure it wouldn't.

    3. That sounds very interesting, wouldn't mind a read of that sometime


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