Monday, 1 December 2014


A small rural station on my travels back from Tartu
I find as I travel about it often doesn't hurt to say "Hello! Where are you from?" especially if someone has an English accent and it is somewhere unusual where you wouldn't necessarily expect an English person. I was sitting in the university café in Tartu when I thought I heard the strains of English floating over towards me. It was hard to tell as the gentleman had his back to me and he was an older gentleman, so not very clear, plus my hearing is not great. Eventually he stood up and turned towards me and spoke more clearly to a young man and so I ventured to ask him where he was from. He replied with the uncertain voice of someone who clearly has trouble with the question of, "Where are you from?"something I can relate to and he told me "England." I replied with a smile, "Oh you can be more specific than that. Where exactly?" "The Lake District!" he answered. We chatted on a little more and I explained that I often had travelled up to the Lake District when I was younger to see my godmother, who lived on a sheep farm there.  He asked what her name was and at first I had to think hard, she was always just Aunty Betty to me and I rarely referred to her by her surname, but it came back to me eventually. It turns out he knew her. How amazing is that? Just before we parted company he asked me to send him an email when I was up in Tartu in February, as his wife would love to meet me. "Let's get together and have a cup of tea or a beer" he said. How English!
They are renovating Cesis station. I often see this station
on my travels, because it is also the bus station, so I either
pass by it track side or catch the bus on the other side of the
building. I was thrown this week when I got there and
found the building shut, as I normally buy my ticket there.
Fortunately they have opened a little ticket office nearby.
It should look much nicer when it is finished, it was a bit
gruesome and uninviting on the inside before.
Sorry about the glare and the mucky windows, but just
a typical scene on my journey
So from that little anecdote you can guess I was up in Tartu again this week. I had travelled up for a doctoral seminar with my fellow colleagues from the department. It was very interesting and very encouraging. My supervisor kept pointing out how my knowledge and research would be quite useful to the guy doing the presentation. I was quite surprised how he kept working that in. Afterwards we went through an email that I sent him with a short summary of what I plan to talk about for a conference in April and was rather surprised again to hear him enthusing over a paragraph I had written about how sustainable education needs to have trust, collaboration and a good state of mental health to be effective. To make changes often requires a level of self-esteem that is willing to take risks and unfortunately self-esteem is lacking in Latvia, particularly in the rural areas. People do not often trust each other and therefore unwilling to collaborate, but this also is linked to the way people feel about themselves. I wasn't expecting such a positive reception to what I had written, particularly as the day prior to the email, I had no idea what I would write and then following a bit of a brainwave I threw some thoughts together and emailed those to him. Maybe, just maybe things are coming together a bit in my head!
Another typical sight along the track. Not sure what this
container would be carrying, but many similar ones would
be carrying oil from Russia.
I love the snowy scenes of winter
Unusually for me, I went out for two evenings that I was in Tartu. The first night was to a sort of Thanksgiving party with just desserts available. There seemed to be every imaginable type there and it was hard making a decision, but I managed to restrict myself to only four. I hasten to add, that was four small portions. The next night was to a ladies evening, where pedicures and manicures were on offer. Ian said I should have a video taken of the pedicure, as he was sure it would go viral. I assured him, I was NOT going to have anyone anywhere near my feet - he knows how ticklish I am. In the end we didn't have pedicures or manicures, we ate tacos and sat around and chatted, well the three older ones sat around and chatted, the younger ladies headed to the sauna.
Winter wonderland

Turbjørn looking comfortable in the cold with his woolly
coat on.
Ian of course was back on the "ranch" taking care of our animals. He emailed me one day and mentioned Sofie had gone missing. Our errant cat returned after a day though, but then took off on another day. She has been known to take off for a week at a time, just never when it is this cold (10F/ -12C). We gave up worrying about her taking off when she seemed to do that on a regular basis, but this time we were concerned, since it was out of character for this time of year. Anyway, you will be glad to know she is back with us again and none the worse for wear.
I don't think the chickens would think it was such a winter
wonderland. They are all huddled in the doorway of the
chicken house and don't wander quite so much these days
The ponds are well and truly frozen
We've been looking back over past Decembers to see what they were like. It seems that we have had snow on the ground in early December on all but one year, but what we can't remember is it being this cold so early. It has never got above freezing for about a week now and not just that, but well below freezing. Even with the hint of sun today, it didn't get above freezing in the greenhouse. The advantage of that is the wild boar cannot dig very much and so we haven't had a lot of damage done this year. They have been rooting around under the oak trees for acorns this week and turned over quite a few leaves. It looks bad from a distance, but when you get up close it is possible to see that nothing is deep and it is only churned up leaves and snow, which might help it all rot down quicker in the spring. If this turns out to be a tough year weather-wise, then the wild boar will be suffering a lot due to the disease that is still spreading around and the fact they are not supposed to be fed to curb the numbers. It could see a very sharp drop in numbers, but then again this is supposed to be one of the furtherest reaches of their range, they are not supposed to be prevalent in places where there can be deep snow. They wouldn't survive in such numbers if it wasn't for the feeding.
More winter sunshine

Sheep shelter completed

A grateful recipient

This one loves a nose rub
Last but not least, a little competition.
Who? Where? Why? Any guesses?


Mavis said...

The last photo looks like a squirrel wrapped around an upside down face at one of the windows of the caravan! Dunno really. The mind boggles.

Joanna said...

Well you kind of have the where, so that's a start :D

Pene said...

One of the cats? But wouldn't know why?

Joanna said...

Getting close

Bill said...

That furry critter has me stumped. O'possum? Skunk? Raccoon? None of those are likely as I've never known one to do that.

Joanna said...

I would be worried if it was one of those critters, we don't have them here in Latvia. The nearest we have is a racoon dog, but that only looks like a racoon due to the same mask like look on its face.