Monday, 30 November 2015


Brencis is getting quite big now and nibbles on our clothes,
something that he will have to stop. 
I have been thinking a lot about the power of stories this week from the stories that entice someone to move somewhere else or to see an old place in a new light, to the stories that sell a product or the stories that help us cope with life. Facts don't always help, even if we think they do or should. As I learnt on a course, we are all quite irrational beings - we have to be - we have to make instant judgements at times or we would be in danger of being overwhelmed by details. We have to think intuitively, which is often built on experience but not always. It does help if our intuition is based on previous good experiences but if our previous experience was negative, of course that hampers us in making those intuitive judgments.

Turbjørn eating snow again
Our move to Latvia started with a story, someone else's story. A friend of ours had visited Latvia the year before and told us about his experiences of helping in a children's camp and Ian and I felt it would be a wonderful opportunity to visit as a family. After eight years of nearly yearly visits we took the plunge and moved here and not regretted that decision since. That isn't to say that it hasn't been hard at times, but we love living here. Something we were explaining to some visitors this week. They were thrilled that someone could love their country enough to try and make a go of living here, and not only that but living out in a very rural area. Anyway more of that later.

One dead wild boar
One of the stories I have been trying to tell in an academic paper, is the story of the issues with wild boar management where we live - I have been working on that most of the week yet again. It is still an ongoing story because we have also had more pig damage a few days ago, but we have also had some success - Ian found a dead pig on our land just before the weekend. It had been shot, but we are not quite sure why a hunter hasn't collected it yet, despite our calls, via a friend of ours. It was tempting just to take it, because it was still fresh and butcher it ourselves, but there are issues with African Swine Fever, which as I have mentioned before that has reached our area now. We have no idea what is supposed to happen with regards to testing of the animals first before consumption and we don't know what to look for to see if it was healthy before being shot. Only this week there have been moves by the government to increase hunting to reduce numbers of wild boar, to try and halt the advance of the very infectious disease. The phrase "trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted" comes to mind. Maybe they should have taken more notice of my report three years ago. Oh well! Anyway, if the hunters do not collect it by tomorrow, Ian will call the authorities (or at least try to arrange it) and ask them what to do with it. It is worrying to have a large dead animal so close to our sheep. Fortunately it has been cool enough not to attract predators yet, but the weather is due to warm up and our snow has disappeared.
A night's worth of damage

A little more damage here too. Possibly the work of the now
dead pig

A snowy winter scene. 
Unfortunately that isn't the only death this week, one of our chickens that was hatched this year died. We had one sick one, but she is picking up. The one Ian found today hadn't even appeared sick yesterday - typical of chickens really. At least this year we haven't lost any other chicks - apart from those we had to dispatch after hatching. With those we knew from experience it was not fair to let them suffer and their chances of recovery were low. We also appear to have lost another chicken from the hen house, but she wouldn't always go in at night and so we half expected to lose her to a fox or something like that one day. She was a smart chicken but not smart enough to realise that it is not safe to be outside all night on a regular basis.

Mari and Chanel
At least the alpacas are doing well and the new ones settling in nicely now. They seem to have got the hang of the evening routine and managing to get some grain to eat instead of losing out to the others. Veronica has also largely stopped chasing Mari, much to our relief. The new ones seem to be okay when we have visitors - something they were probably used to on the Estonian farm - but Chanel is not happy when I treat her foot. For such a little animal she takes some holding. At least her foot looks like it is healing. I just hope that the warmer but wetter weather we are expecting doesn't make it worse. Hopefully as she settles down, it will heal itself anyway. It could well have been a reaction to the stress of the move. At least they are all enjoying being out on the grass again, now the snow has disappeared - at least for the time being.

I forgot to take a picture of this last week. This was on the
sideboard when I got home. The pompom dandelion was
a gift from a teacher earlier on in the year, but made a nice
touch to the message.
The nights are now very long and even longer when we don't have electric. Our lights suddenly dimmed shortly after our evening meal on Sunday night. I was looking out of the kitchen window as they dimmed and saw a very blue glow light up the sky. Twice more the electric came on and then disappeared with the same eerie glow from outside. We ended up with a very hygellig two hours, especially as we lit some candles in our Danish candleholders. They were a gift for hosting a lovely young lady whose parents lived in Africa who she couldn't get to see that year. She was a friend of our oldest son from his time at an Efterskole that was run from a Bible College in Kolding, Denmark. (For my non-Danish friends a short explanation might be required. Hygellig is a Danish word that encapsulates a cosy, evening in with candles and a log fire in a very relaxed atmosphere. An Efterskole is a boarding school for 14-18 year olds, that allows them to develop themselves or finish off their primary education whilst they decide what to do with their future). It also seemed appropriate to have to light candles for the beginning of advent.

Ian concentrating hard on his spinning
The long nights though means more time for other pursuits like sitting on the internet - we do too much of that already! It also means that Ian has had a chance to do some carding and spinning. At least he has got the spinning wheel I bought up and working and I don't think the yarn is too bad at all that he has spun. It was a bit over twisted but I think it is quite even really. Thicker than some one with experience might manage, but that is only to be expected and to be honest I actually like it thicker. We ended up plying the two bobbins together with the drop spindle as the yarn was a bit thick for the spinning wheel to handle. The yarn is now stretched out on a gadget for making hanks or for holding a hank of wool while winding up a ball of wool. All gadgets I happen to have due to my love of all things crafty and a history of craft making in the family. Both my grandmothers were avid knitters, embroiderers and cake decorators.

The resulting yarn
Sometimes our stories cross with those of others and so it is a joy to interact with those who have been part of my life in the past for one reason or another, especially when those connections cross the generations and even span the globe. One young friend contacted me from Ecuador to talk about universities and my experience of online studying. We have been in touch on a regular basis, but I still think it is amazing to carry on a friendship from such distances. Another re-connection is via facebook with a young lady who I used to take care of as a baby, so quite a while ago. Her mum was my children's teacher at school and she asked me if I would look after her little one. I wasn't a childminder at the time and was quite thrilled that she asked. My son let me know that the baby I once looked after was now getting engaged and so I thought I would send a friend's request and was chuffed that she accepted.

Despite having the paper to sort out, I took the opportunity to have a weekend off. I think having a clear head helped to get the paper done quicker today and ready to post tomorrow morning. The first day I did the mundane things like tidying and processing. All the apples are now processed into pulp and juice and the willow herb leaves stripped off the stems for tea and that completes the processing for the year. It is a nice feeling. There are still beetroot and some turnips and swedes in the ground, but they are mainly for feed anyway and if we get them dug up will be stored in sawdust and not processed. If we don't get them all dug up, the sheep will be enjoying the beetroot when they are moved to their winter quarters.

Peedo eating hay in the shelter. He is so dark he is actually
quite hard to photograph at times
I was digging up a few beetroot when I saw some people walking onto the land. It wasn't the nicest of weather for a hike and so I was a little surprised. My surprise grew though as more and more people came up. I hadn't heard any car doors slamming and so was not prepared for anyone. It turned out to be a Latvian company who organise trips, they do walking trips in the mountains in summer and walks around Latvia in winter. The guide couldn't speak English, but there were a few who could. They were mainly from Riga and were interested in visiting our alpacas. I handed them over to Ian and we spent an interesting half an hour chatting. As it was late in the afternoon they had to head off as night was starting to close in and we would be preparing to put the animals away soon too.

Our boys favourite hang out - the feeder
One lady wanted to adopt Agnese who was being a star performer as usual. Many of them were interested in our story of why we were in Latvia and one lady in particular was very interested in possibly organising a school trip because she worked for a secondary school in Riga as an English teacher. Exactly the sort of thing we were planning on doing. She has taken my card and so we hope something will come from that. Ian will need a card though soon as it would be better for people to have his details - he is more likely to be around for those kinds of outings.

A happy smiley face
There are other stories going on all around us of course. The stories from the middle east are brought home to us via the refugee crisis and the bombings in Paris. Only they never were just the issues of the middle east but a complex story of meddling by Westerners and local realities. It was Westerners who drew up the modern day maps that cut through traditional tribal areas and that doesn't even mention the failed attempts to change the leadership by getting rid of the despotic leaders without a clear plan as to what would fill their place. It is the power of the story though that continues to fuel the war, from the stories that are told to recruit new followers to Daesh (or IS or ISIS or ISIL) to those that Western leaders use to encourage greater engagement through bombing. The question is though who benefits from all this chaos, especially when the stories get mixed up? Refugees are not terrorists, they are escaping terrorists. That seems to get lost in the whirling round of rumour and counter-rumour.

I went on an art course at the local school this week. It was
quite a simple task to do a painting with colours from the
cool end of the spectrum. I have done this kind of thing
a few times before, so it was  nice and relaxing. 
Daesh certainly benefit from the fear-mongering, Putin benefits from the chaos in Europe as it keeps the focus off him and what he is doing, it benefits the right-wing, fascist parties (who scare me more than terrorists do) and it benefits politicians who are trying to appear like they are doing something to show leadership. I am grateful though when I hear clear voices that state that bombing is not going to achieve what we want it to achieve. I am pleased when it doesn't sound like appeasement - hoping that the "bad" boys will suddenly become "good" after a bit of talking to, as that is not going to work either. Leadership is needed, talking is needed and possibly sanctions too and not just against the "bad guys" but against some that we in the West have been supporting and yet turning a blind eye to what goes on in their countries, like Saudi Arabia. I cannot pretend to have all the answers, but I have seen enough of the past to know what doesn't and on the evidence (whatever that is) bombs do not work.  (An interesting story, "Do terrorists really think they are going to win?" on the BBC talks about the power of stories for terrorists in the past)

There are of course many current stories going on today that intersect with this like the Paris talks and creative demonstrations, but that is perhaps a story for another day.

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