Monday, 27 April 2015

Conversing with academics and chickens

A typical Latvian rural scene, complete with obligatory
stork's nest, pond, orchard and old buildings. Wonderfully
photoshopped by wonderful youngest son to remove the
car. I wanted this for a paper that needs to be in by Friday
and he spent about five minutes of his lunch break on it.

It has been a bit of a strange week for me. I’m home alone with the alpacas and not Ian for a change. He is off in England learning more about taking care of alpacas and then tomorrow he will be learning about shearing them. On Tuesday of last week, I went out to our land to find out how to take care of our alpacas and their routine, then on Wednesday, my birthday, I was up early and heading out of the door to travel up to Tallinn for a conference. I did at least get cake as they had some refreshments during the registration, albeit rather small but nice pieces of cake. It was just not a big slab of moist chocolate cake that I rather like. Oh well! I’m sure my waistline is better for it.
The woods are starting to green up now and is
carpeted in flowers

A closer look at the woods
I had to do a presentation at the conference and mine was the first one in the first session. At least it meant it was over and done with straight away. The title was Dare to Dream? – well that wasn’t the complete title, the full title was “Dare to Dream? Role of inspiration and participation in moving towards a more hopeful future in landscape governance.” Trips off the tongue doesn't it? Basically I was looking at the role of inspirational leaders in helping to change communities into more optimistic places ready to take on the challenges of the future. It seemed to go down well and some people described it as inspiring, so that’s positive. In my talk I suggested that there is a real need to bring story-tellers, scientists and therapeutic professions, conservationists and policymakers, the public and experts into a conversation to help generate images of a healthy, sustainable lifestyle, connected to the landscape and the environment in which people live – to quote from my presentation notes.
Closer still. Wood anemones - unfortunately not edible
as they are a member of the buttercup family

More flowers. These are under the oak tree
As many of the people at the conference were educators teaching either children or teaching those who teach children about sustainable education, it was not a boring conference and many of the presenters at least had colourful slides that did not contain a huge amount of text – there were some which were a little tedious, but thankfully few and far between. There was one lady who gave a presentation on teaching undergraduates sustainable education, but since the university did not really value the topic there was little time allocated to it. She still came up with an interesting and thought provoking programme for her students though. She made them empty their bags and then she chose an item from it for them to research. They had to find out such things as where and how it was made and the life cycle of the item. It made them think a little more critically about the things they buy – it’s a start anyway. One lady demonstrated how she taught children to use shadow puppets for plays and one main speaker was particularly entertaining as he was not just a theology tutor at a university but used to be a theatre director, so obviously a dramatic delivery. I had to smile though as he struggled to get through his talk due to time constraints. It is one of the reasons I write mine down and read them. Not the best way, but it keeps me on time and on track - not taking off on another trajectory. Fortunately I used to read books to children, so reading text isn't an issue.
These are strange looking plants. If anyone
knows their name then feel free to comment.
Unfortunately I haven't got a lot of time
to do the research tonight

A field full of the flowers above
Just as in any conference there is a dinner and this one had a rather nice menu. There was goat’s cheese from a local farm and organic beef – of course for a sustainable education conference. It was held in the Seaplane Harbour Museum in Tallinn and it was very atmospheric sitting amongst all the ships close to a submarine. I and another lady were just a little anti-social by this time though and we sat at the edge of the group of tables and chatted between ourselves. We were rather tired by then and so it was nice just to talk, especially since neither of us were specialists in the field that many were in. We were both fascinated though by what each other had been doing, so plenty to chat about. Unfortunately you will have to wait for the photos, as Ian now has my camera and I didn't get the chance to download the photos.
These flowers are quite delicate looking.
A view from our ski hill. If you are eagle eyed, you might
just see our alpacas in the distance
After the conference I headed to Riga to stay overnight with my young crazy friend. She had a dress that she had bought from a second hand shop and it had a little tear in it. She wondered if I might be able to do something with it, so I repaired it with some embroidered flowers while we chatted, bit of a difference to talking at a conference. The next morning I headed to the airport to meet Ian and we spent an hour together before he went off to his course and I headed to the car to wend my way home. If you are wondering why I didn't go home first, the bus timetable didn't allow me to attend the whole conference and get back home, but I could get a bus to Riga.
Further up the ski hill and looking towards a neighbours land

My charges this week
So for the last two days or so, I have been taking care of the animals. This has involved having deep meaningful chats with our free range cockerels – along the lines of “invade my personal space one more time and you will be heading for a rendezvous with an axe.” I think they got the message as I chatted to them whilst they were tucked under my arm to reinforce the point. I was of course invading their personal space, as I was at the entrance to their abodes, to either feed them or let them out, but they need to realise that they had better be cool with that in order that we can co-exist side by side and they get fed and tucked away safely at night. The alpacas fortunately have been fine. There was a point when I wondered if the girls were going to disappear off before I had the chance to shut the door, but fortunately they turned around and went back in. I had fleeting visions of spending the night chasing them around the paddock. Lady V did demonstrate her disgust with me at one point by stomping her foot, but nothing too serious. The boys though have been very well behaved and very orderly. Turbjørn our slightly jumpy one has even allowed me to feed him from the tray and come to drink from the bucket of water I was carrying. Well someone kind of trusts me. One of our cockerels in the arks has booked his appointment with the axe though, he scratched me deliberately - this is nothing personal as he has gone for Ian before too. Wouldn't mind so much but I was feeding the chickens in his ark at the time, you would think he would be grateful.

Ian was busy this week before he went away. He has chain
harrowed the land to flatten the mole hills that always
appear over winter and some of the ruts the wild boar
have made
I forgot to mention last week that I was skyping with my two year old granddaughter and I was showing her the chicks. I picked one up in my hand to show her and she kept putting her hand out, she wanted to hold them too. So cute! She just couldn't get why she couldn't take them. I bet they are pleased she wasn't really in the room, not sure how gentle she will be with them. 

He has also rotavated this piece that had been ploughed
previously. We just need to collect the oats now to seed it.
Or maybe it is buckwheat going in there, can't remember now
More rotavating has been done and barley sown. Ian has
experimented, firstly with raking it in - which was rather
hard work for what looked like not much result and then
he used the rotavator on a section to turn the seed in. He
will see what the difference is. I guess it might need some
rain though. It has been a bit dry since it was sown
I was rather concerned this week to read the increase in the number of walls being erected on national borders. I will always remember the sight of the one in Nicosia with the pock-marked buildings slowly decaying in no mans land. It was a truly saddening sight. It was nice one day to see that the wall had actually been taken down in one place on our last visit. In fact we nearly inadvertently crossed over the border without realising it - not a good thing with no passport in our possession at the time. Fortunately it dawned on us where we were just in time. I think the last paragraph of the article in the Independent is very true though and should give us pause to think.

Still, don’t good fences at least make good neighbours? Not according to European integration expert Kalypso Nicolaidis. She says that in all the three main cases – in Ukraine, Bulgaria and Poland – governments are guilty of making decisions effective only in the short term. “People don’t really understand that it’s really about what’s happening at the source. Deal with Russia, deal with the problems that cause people to travel up from the Middle East and Africa – that’s much more effective,” she says. “But in citizens’ imaginations, walls have an imaginative quality which politicians tend to pander to. They seem like the easier solution.”
It concerns me to think that some of these barriers are to keep out the Russians, which really won't make much difference should they ever decide to invade anyway. All barriers do is breed distrust, just as the article states. Let's hope for a few more moments like when the Berlin Wall came down instead.

One of those places that is always wet
in Spring. Not sure if this is a spring or
drains. It's wet anyway
One last update and then I'm heading for bed. We had a house meeting this week and there is still not a unanimous decision to come off the district heating supply yet. There was an improvement to previous years- now it is 50/50 of those that want to come off and those that want to stay on. Unfortunately communication with two of the apartment owners is not very good due to some rather difficult issues that have been rumbling on for a while, so their opinion is not known. I do wish the defences would come down in this situation though and neighbours could get on better.


  1. Happy belated birthday! And a very nice job of photoshopping by youngest son. With all that work you describe, it's a small wonder you mentioned being tired in your more recent entries (I'm working my way backward).

    1. Thank you Gunta. Our son has been using photoshop since he was about nine and so should be good at it by now. He is also a qualified car designer after three years at Coventry University - so I think that helped :D


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