Monday, 19 October 2015

I'm home - for now!

The site of the Latvian University of Agriculture. Well part
of it and the site for one of our lectures and lunch
on Tuesday
I never did find the kettle in the hostel I was staying at, but at least I did find out that there was one at the place where the course was being held... well eventually anyway. It was only a small course and the other students were lovely. The people who ran the course got on very well and it shows, with the lovely friendly atmosphere. In the afternoon there was always a themed break, such as chocolate break, apple break and cookie break and I ended the week with a rather high blood sugar reading when I got back home. Note to self - stay clear of the sweet stuff. That is going to be so tough for me, I do have rather a sweet tooth. Fortunately I also like fresh vegetables and there were plenty of those too for lunch.
Apple break by the river

Ironwork on the bridge over the river

A dowry chest in the old tower
The hot flushes have started up again and it is getting a little annoying to be talking to someone and then feeling myself suddenly getting rather hot and starting to sweat (okay you didn't want to really know that, but unfortunately that is the reality). Occasionally even my glasses start steaming up, thank goodness not too often. I just laugh though and say "It's my age!" I don't want people to think I'm embarrassed or anything like that, because I am not. I used to be easily embarrassed when I was younger, but not so much now.
Examples of old spindles made by young
men to demonstrate their prowess in
woodwork to the woman he wants to

Traditional patterns Zemgale,
a region in the South of Latvia

This is where I spent much of the week and is called
Valdeka palace
Overall the course was good, not because I particularly learnt much new. I did finally get the idea that cognition does mean, life the universe and everything, as I thought it seemed to do. The title was Landscape Cognition and as I mentioned last week the topic was a part of what I have been studying for over a year now. The problem was that I was always a little hazy on what the cognition part meant. I of course looked it up in the dictionary and tried to get my head around what it meant, but it just seemed too vague. I explained to my course mates that I too struggled with the word cognition, as they did, because it is not a word we use regularly. On the last day though, the Norwegian visiting professor pointed out that while it is true we do not use the word cognition very often, we do use the word recognition. Finally it made sense. When we look at a landscape our brain is matching the elements in that landscape to our knowledge, past experiences, our cultural understanding and so much more. Our brains are constantly trying to make sense of our surroundings and that is basically what cognition means, so it is life, the universe and everything.

The room was painted to recreate the
original interiors of the place

The wild horses
The course was not all study and we had a couple of excursions, one to see a spit of land in the river that regularly floods every year. They keep wild horses there to keep the meadow from turning into scrub. The horses are actually quite gentle, but are free to wander around, hence the term "wild". The gentleman who cares for the horses explained that they will be selling some of the young males off because they have too many stallions this year and so I have got his details in case we ever decide to get one. They are quite sturdy creatures and very hardy, because they effectively grow a fur coat for winter and so can be kept outside with some shelter, but not necessarily a shed, it can be a hedge, even in our harsh winters.
Furniture in the tower museum

The remains of the wall of the old church
The other excursion was to an old tower that once was attached to a church, but that part was blown up by the Soviets. The tower was kept to store explosives and the idea was that they would eventually demolish the tower. The problem was that it has really thick walls and by the time they were ready to blow it up they had built housing around it. To blow up the tower would have meant blowing out the window of every home for up to 300m around, so the tower was kept. It now has a nice glass roof on top with impressive views over the surrounding area. Our guide for the day was quite a lively young man, with ambitions on being a president one day. At least he has a positive attitude to life in Latvia, which is promising.
The greenhouse in the morning light

The cold weather has meant our two cats are now tolerating
each other much more. Cuddled up for warmth
One of the ladies on the course dropped me and another student off in Riga. On a previous trip through Riga I purchased a bus ticket, but I didn't need it as it was a celebration day and all public transport was free; fortunately it came in useful this week as we had to catch the bus to the bus station so I could get the last bus home. I got there in enough time to catch the bus, but not to buy a ticket for that trip at the station. Fortunately the last bus home on a Friday is not as full as the earlier one and so I got a seat. The earlier bus is usually standing room only for those who have not already bought a ticket.

The wine we started a little while ago
My first day back at home I sorted out the green tomatoes from the red tomatoes, sorted out the apples and removed the bad ones. I then cooked down some tomatoes, made green tomato chutney and made a batch of apple sauce and juice using the steamer. I also got two loads of washing done and read through my paper that was returned with amendments just before the course. It doesn't sound like a huge amount in one day, but it took ages to sort through the large amounts of apples and tomatoes alone. Cooking them was the easy bit.
Because there has to be pictures of alpacas :)

Ian working on the roof panels
The next day we decided to stay out in the caravan so that we could get on with jobs out on the land. The alpacas needed toe nails cutting and Aggie needed an injection, all jobs that I need to help Ian out with before clearing off to the UK for nearly a month. I also helped him with the roof panels for the new alpaca house. We have been joking that it is big enough to live in and it is seriously tempting to make it into a small house to stay in.
If we had a window in the new alpaca house, this would
be the view towards the road

One side finished

The mouse storage compartment revealed
One job we didn't plan on was spending rather a long time cleaning out Larry our Lada, but had to after we discovered that a mouse had been relocating alpaca feed into the roof space of the car. We thought that Larry had developed a leak as the roof liner was sagging, but when Ian drilled a small hole into it, no water came out, just dust. The mouse had shifted about 17kg of grain into the roof space - an amazing amount of storage for such a small animal. We had to cut open the fabric cover for the roof space to clear it out. We plan to feed the grain to the wild birds over winter, as we can't feed it to our chickens or alpacas and we don't want to tip it somewhere as that will encourage the wild boar. Sadly we had to put some poison out to kill the mouse as we don't plan on feeding mice all winter with alpaca food. It is a last resort as we haven't managed to catch it with a trap and we can't just lock the cats in there.

Some of the grain that was stored in the roof
Building inspector


  1. I'm envious of your wine. :)
    The amount of work (and damage) mice can do is fascinating. Like you I had to put out some poison recently because they are destroying my seeders and seed containers in a place the cat has no access. I hate doing it but they left me with no choice.


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