Monday, 29 December 2014

Unequivocally a white Christmas here

A brooding scene
It was one of those weeks of "Is it, isn't it going to be a white Christmas?" the snow came and went, came and went again. Some mornings we would wake up to a snowy white world and the next it would be green again. Eventually though we had snow on the 23rd and it has been white ever since. Mind you, we haven't got as much snow as some of our friends in Sheffield in the UK, which is rather unusual. Still it does mean that skiing season has begun here as I spotted some folks walking around with skis in hand today. It also means that the snow clearing season has begun and the snow blower actually made it out of the barn for the first time this season, which is about as many times as it made it out of the barn all of last winter.

Ian is there somewhere
We didn't plan much for Christmas itself, apart from what we were going to eat. We decided to go for free-range pork for the dinner, aka wild boar! You can't get more free range than that! It was rather tasty done in plum juice, sage and lovage, all from the garden, with just a little balsamic vinegar, mustard and worcestershire sauce. I also roasted other vegetables from the garden, like carrots, turnips, onions, beetroot and potatoes. It was rather satisfying to sit down to our Christmas Dinner knowing that so much of it had come from either our own garden or from the local area. I followed it up with a type of tiramasu, made from home-made chocolate cake soaked in squash and raisin rum, (which we have just decanted off from last year's brewing) and coffee, layered with home-made custard and blackcurrants. We ate Christmas Dinner on Christmas Eve as we were visiting neighbours on Christmas Day itself.
Beautifully labelled! Not! Quite a few bottles of squash or
squash and raisin rum and it all tastes rather nice.
When I go out to the land, I usually feed the chickens and
as Ian went out the door, he called "Don't forget to check
for eggs." I do forget sometimes! As I checked I found a
package with five twix bars in the egg laying compartment.
The clever chickens had double wrapped them and written
a lovely little note for me. Isn't that sweet!
The croissants were made once again for Christmas Day breakfast. This is an annual ritual for many years. I'm not quite sure how it all started, but it makes a change from porridge anyway. I have baked them in the morning of Christmas Day for the past two years and then we've taken them out to the land to eat. As I've already mentioned we were visiting neighbours this year. We usually collect milk on a Thursday and weren't sure if we should go up, but since most Latvians have their main celebration on Christmas Eve it wasn't a big deal to be going to pay a visit on Christmas Day itself. Our neighbours daughter was home from university too and so it was an ideal time to catch up on some news of how it had all gone. What we weren't sure about before we went though, is whether we would end up eating there, as it has been known for us to turn up and a meal prepared when we weren't expecting to be fed.  As it turned out snacks were provided and we had pīrāgs (which is a kind of bread roll filled with ham and onion usually) and apple cake, just right after a large meal the previous day. We also came away with a bag of apples and more apple cake, so that will keep Ian in cake for a few days. As for the young lady at university, it was nice to find out that she is doing very well and really enjoying the work, as well as adapting well to the city.
I said he was there somewhere
Still in captivity! At least they haven't escaped just lately
We have more exciting news to announce this week, grandchild number five is on the way next year, this time around the beginning of July. It doesn't seem that long ago since we were announcing the arrival of our first two grandchildren or telling you about our adoption as grandparents by our son's fiancée's little girl. It has seemed such a rapid transition to life as a grandparent, albeit from rather a long distance. Thank goodness for Skype. It not only keeps us in touch with our grandchildren, it has helped Ian keep in touch with his elderly mother, who has not been very well just lately. It is a pity that she is afraid of computers, otherwise he could talk face to face, but she is happy enough hearing his voice. Just in case you are wondering, Ian still has brothers nearby to his mother and so we know she is well looked after by them. It is still a worry though, not quite knowing how she is. She ended up with a trip into hospital this week and we are not quite sure if she is out yet or not at the moment.
The snow might be a nuisance for Ian and adds to his chores,
 but it sure looks pretty.
Looking for seeds in the sheep's hay bedding
There is no denying that I am at a certain stage of life where hot flushes are a periodic reminder of how old I am. They have been both a curse and a blessing this last week as they seem to have returned with great regularity. In some ways they are quite nice for warming up freezing toes, but as I have discovered they can be quite dangerous too at below freezing temperatures. I was out on the land with Ian and although we have the caravan, it has a lot of warming up to do before it reaches a good temperature of about 6C. When a hot flush ensues I have to start whipping off hat, gloves, scarf and opening my coat up before I start to sweat as the last thing I need when it is -8C outside is sweat freezing. I then have to wait for the flush to subside and try and judge the best time to fasten up my coat and put all the other things back on to keep me warm and toasty. So far I seem to have judged it right and I've not frozen afterwards.
This little chap seems to be spending a lot of time around

And seems rather bold

Playing with my camera again. The alpacas in the snow
using the sketch setting
In the UK a rather well know supermarket used the Christmas truce of 1914 in their advertising. It is quite remarkable that in the middle of a war, men stopped firing at each other and played football, or sang Christmas hymns to one another. It makes you wonder whose war it was? For a brief period of time, men stopped seeing each other as enemies and made connections with each other. One of the soldiers of time, Louis Barthas, said this
"Shared suffering brings hearts together, dissolves hatred and prompts sympathy among indifferent people and even enemies. Those who deny this understand nothing of human psychology. French and German soldiers looked at one another and saw that they were all equal as men."
You can read a fuller version of the story on the BBC here. It makes me wonder what could have happened if the soldiers had then decided to call a complete halt to the war. Was it possible? It is sad that not long afterwards they were shooting at each other again, after orders from above and the moment was lost. Something wondrous happens when we stop seeing people as enemies or the other. It means we can see them as people, with hopes and dreams. It is hard to see some people in that way, especially when they have carried out heinous acts. But what happens when we do see them as young men and women with distorted dreams? Dreams of a pure life with a certainty, but bought in blood? What happens when we see them as people who have grown to hate our world with its inequalities and all consuming greed? Will it help us to sit down and try our hardest to try and work out why our society spawns such hatred and try to do something about it? I hope so.
Turbjørn looking handsome in the snow

Tellus in sketch mode

Aggie and Estelle looking inquisitive.
Looking upwards into a snow covered canopy of aspens
Well New Year is nearly upon us. What will this New Year bring? People are certainly filled with uncertainty and are worried what it will bring. It is hard to hold onto hope at times, but I cannot and will not let go of it. I still have my dreams, I still have my faith. I still believe that God is into renewing this planet that he made and I will work to the best of my ability alongside him. I cannot take any certainties into the New Year, but I can take hope and that is enough. Many years ago, as I looked forward into what appeared to be an unknown future, I took encouragement from a song called "Beyond these shores" by Iona. It gave me the courage to take risks and to step out of my comfort zone. I'm not in my comfort zone at the moment, but I can still keep going based on the hope this song inspires.

Another photo playing around with my
camera. This reminds me of the song 
- a song to take us into the New Year
Beyond these shores Into the darkness
Beyond these shores
This boat may sail
And if this is the way
Then there will be
A path across this sea

And if I sail beyond
The farthest ocean
Or lose myself in depths below
Wherever I may go
Your love surrounds me
For you have been before
Beyond these shores

Beyond these shores
Into the darkness 

To hear it on YouTube, here is the link 

I've been busy dyeing today. This pink
fleece is sat in a shallow layer of blue

This will be Ian's mother's Christmas
present. I still have time, Christmas is not
over yet!
Because it's Christmas here are a couple of videos, first our alpacas in the snow. Herkules loves to sit in the snow or even roll around in it. Unfortunately Aggie likes to roll in the hay, just look at her fleece and all the bits in it when you see our youngest alpaca. She is meant to be white and I am finding out how hard it is to clean the fleece once it is spun. Can you imagine how hard this will be.

This one is a panorama of our winter wonderland


  1. Happy New Year! And may God bless you both in 2015.

    1. Thank you! Greetings to you and your family for the coming year

  2. Sounds like a lovely way to spend Christmas. I've just been googling squash rum. :)

    Congrats on the wonderful news! We only have one grandchild now, and that is a joy.

    Re. the Christmas truce, I recommend a French movie called Joyeux Noel, which came out a few years ago. Powerful.

    All best wishes for a wonderful and very happy 2015!

    1. Try googling Marrow rum, since that is the recipe I followed. I didn't have any marrows that particular year.

      Thank you for the congratulations and the info. Will have to try and find that.

      All the best to you in 2015 too

  3. Sorry to have fallen so far behind in keeping up with your adventures, but I'm hoping it was both a Merry and a Happy Christmas for both you and Ian and the lovely critters. I particularly loved the videos of the alpacas and what very clever chickens you have!

    The mention of pīrāgi and apple cake brought back some warm memories.

    1. Thank you Gunta and I'm glad you managed to catch up in the end. Pīrāgi and apple cake are definitely very iconic features of the Latvian guest table, no wonder you had warm memories of them


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