Monday, 20 July 2015

Didn't we have a lovely time, the day we went to...

It has been our turn to do most of the visiting this week and it has been a rather nice if tiring change. Our trailer was due for its annual technical inspection and so that entails a trip to the big town and a chance to pay a return visit to the teacher who we have been helping in English class and who helps us with translation from time to time. He and his wife wanted to show us their gardens and summer home, just outside the big town. Shortly after arranging the visit, the young man who Ian had met previously at the technical station also rang and said a German friend of his wanted to meet us. We were a bit surprised, but agreed to meet up in a small town on the way to the technical station and spent about 3/4 of an hour on the forecourt of a petrol station gassing (okay talking, I couldn't resist!) to the German friend, discussing in general terms about the Baltic states and trying to explain that the prices of agricultural land in the UK was rather more than in many countries in Europe. Here you can get agricultural land for around €1000 per hectare, in the UK it is more like €36,000 a hectare. Before you all start rushing over here it is now more complicated to buy than it was last year when we got in before a change in the law requiring purchasers of agricultural land to hold a specific agricultural qualification.

Another rainbow over our land. Still a bit wet this week
Someone had a close call with the bank on the corner of our
land. Not quite sure what made the mess, possibly a
piece of equipment on a tractor, because there are no tyre
So after that exchange we toddled off to the technical station where the trailer passed without any problems (I was going to say hitches but that is one pun too many). Funnily enough we met the young guy who had wanted us to meet his German friend too, he also was having his trailer tested. Ian and him seem to be making a regular habit of meeting there. We finished up our business in the big town and then headed for our translator friend's place, where we were treated to a lovely lunch after looking around his allotment. It was going to be a barbecue but unfortunately the weather was not on our side that day. During lunch we found out that our friend also had a German friend he wanted us to meet, but first we were going for a trip to the summer home to look around. It was a gorgeous old place, with so much potential, but of course as so often is the case, it also needs a lot of renovating which is expensive, if done with traditional techniques. Our translator friend's wife dug up some good old fashioned scented stocks and a strong type of mint to take home. We also were given chocolates at lunch time but we managed to leave them, unfortunately. I was surprised that they rarely stayed at the old place, I could understand in winter, as it would be cold, but in summer I would have wanted to stay out there all the time. It had a lovely view and seemed very peaceful, but I guess they were involved in too many activities where they live to spend more time at their summer home.
Just chilling outside. Ian does occasionally herd them out
onto the field to eat. They can be a bit lazy at times

Sorry no photos from our visits - too busy talking. These
are the pied flycatcher chicks in the bird house on our barn
So onto the next visit. The German friend was opening up a dog and cat shelter and in the process of building all the necessary enclosures for the endeavour. From his appearance he did not strike us as the devoted animal type with his tattoos and all but he certainly had a soft spot for them and a ring tone on his phone that had me looking for the cat I had stood on every time. No I didn't stand on a cat there, it just reminded me of the sound our poor little kitten made the other day when she got under my feet. The place he had bought several years ago was a hogweed infested site and he still battles it in a few places, but with hard work and persistence he had made a large area safe. If you don't know, hogweed is a highly dangerous plant that can lead to some very nasty burns when the sap gets on the skin and then is exposed to sunlight. He showed us all over the place and explained his plans and then asked us for our story. Needless to say we went home with a jar of jam and a bottle of mushrooms at a rather later hour than we should have, but fortunately our animals went away without a problem. One of the most interesting aspects of the day was that our translator friend had to translate from German into English and vice a versa and he was translating for people who were enthusiastic about his country and loved living there. I mentioned as we were leaving that sometimes it takes outsiders to show people the good things they have around them and I think our translator had enjoyed hearing the good points of being in Latvia. It is easy to get negative when circumstances make it difficult to make a living and so many leave.
A fledgling that had an altercation with our window at our
apartment. A little stunned, but judging by the lids after it
had flown, it appreciated the food and water

Gorgeous colours in this sunset. Unfortunately my camera
did not do it justice
Our next visit was somewhat longer. We weren't sure how long we were going to be away or what time we would be back. The days can be long in summer, but even so the animals need to be away by 9pm and so we organised with one of our neighbours to put them away in case we weren't back in time. Our mission was to pick up a seed processor that a previous visitor to our farm had said we could have, but what we weren't sure about was whether we were going to end up with a full tour of their farm or just pick it up and go. We weren't exactly sure of where we were going when we set off, just the general direction, but fortunately a text got through and we were given directions to a place we could meet up and be guided in the last 8km. We quickly got onto politics - not my fault honest! It was interesting to hear someone speak up for Putin, not in an unthinking way but from someone who has considered the subject long and hard. I don't agree with all that was said, but I took the point that Putin does indeed give many of the Russian people the sense that he is for his country and cares deeply about it and the people. How many politicians can we say give that impression?
A photo I found on my camera of Ian cutting hay a few weeks

The beast itself on our land
After quite a long discussion over tea, bread, cheese, meat and biscuits we went on a tour of the farm before heading back for more discussion and tea. We were offered blackcurrants and raspberries and since ours were not ready yet we accepted, only we ended up picking them ourselves, on our own while they got on with other chores, which was fine, especially as we got to keep the much needed food grade buckets we were given to put them in. We were not allowed to go though without having a meal which we were not expecting, but grateful for, apart from the fact we were heading to another friend afterwards and we rather suspected that there would be more food. It is a good job that in Latvia we are always prepared to eat whatever is put before us and Ian can eat anyone out of house and home anyway with his appetite. Before finally heading off though with the seed processor or winnower we were also given metal spikes for earthing rods, bee pollen and a full super of honey (that's the frame that the honeycomb is built on which contains the honey). Such a generous heart! They kept apologising for talking so much about politics, philosophy and the difficulties of farming, but that was no problem for us. We are quite open to talking about most subjects and to be honest it gave me some fresh insights into how different people think and the problems they encounter in the countryside. I admitted that I was mentally taking notes for my research.

Inside! Not sure if it is supposed to look
like this inside or if some bits are missing
Vents on the side to open and shut. Pieces of wood nailed
on to stop some parts of the wooden structure from falling
off, but it does work. Ian oiled it and put it back together
and tried a bit of the grain we had left over from last year
and there was clean grain at the bottom. Perfect! Ian says it
is wonderful to work on, because the parts come apart to be
cleaned and then go back together, not like modern rubbish!
Those who have followed my blog will know I am studying to complete a PhD with an Estonian University, you may or may not know the full title of my research which is Mainstreaming Participatory Development in Rural Latvia and Estonia. Now if you are scratching your head and wondering what on earth does that mean, then it simply means putting people at the heart of development and helping them to realise their hopes and dreams for the area they live in. Not as a nice little add on, or, as is usually the case, we have made our plans and to get the money "we have to make a semblance of asking the people what they think" type of way. I have been thinking of this in terms of Latvia and Estonia, countries that have gone through the Soviet system and so not attuned to making their own decisions, but having decisions made for them from some central authority many miles away. I have watched the EU debacle over the Greek crisis and realise that it is not just Latvia and Estonia that need to look at how to help ordinary people develop the place where they live. The dictates from the EU to Greece rides roughshod over the ordinary people who are crying out against the bankers. As our discussions with the farmer the other day shows, there is a great need for politicians to listen to the people in a way that shows care and concern.

Brencis and Agnese coming to see what I was doing
I mentioned that we were going on to see other friends after picking up the winnower. It was a good job they are good friends of ours, as we had to keep them waiting for our arrival. We knew they would understand, or at least we hoped so. They have been in Latvia long enough to know the unpredictability of visiting people, especially for the first time and people you don't know well. We were right about the food, but it had been a long day and after a cup of tea and a good old natter we were ready to eat again. We set off back to our land rather late though and rolled onto our land at 12pm. We parked up with the winnower still in the trailer and set up the bed in the caravan and went to sleep. We didn't even bother going home. The problem is that we hadn't planned on stopping out and so we had to go back home in the morning after letting the animals out and had breakfast there. Not sure how Ian managed as he usually has breakfast as soon as he gets up, but he did. We picked up what we needed for the day and then headed for a lazy day out on the land - if you class picking a bucketful of gooseberries and mowing lawns as lazy that is.


  1. The cost of agricultural land shuts out many would-be young farmers. As bad as it is here, I didn't realize how much worse it is in the U.K.

    1. It's dreadful really and all built on a bubble of speculation. So very wrong


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