Monday, 4 December 2017

Step by step, moving forward

The view from my window whilst writing. This was taken on
the first day of advent when the Latvians commemorate the
genocide of the Latvian people by the totalitarian communist
This week has definitely been mainly a writing week. I finished an article for an organisation and now I’m just waiting for a friend to proofread it for me. I have also continued writing another paper and a bit more on my thesis. Just plugging away, bit by bit. I at least feel like I’m in the right frame of mind for writing and it doesn’t feel like drawing blood. Maybe it’s due to the increased light levels with the recent snow or making sure I take Vitamin D, or maybe I have just suddenly switched back into academic mode, who knows!

Can you guess what Ian has been doing?
On the academic front it has been an exciting time. I notched up a second citation on my first paper for a start, which basically means that other academics have quoted from my paper in their work. It is not a huge number of citations, but then again I’m not particularly well known. It does mean though that others have thought my work was relevant to theirs and important enough to quote from, which is a satisfying feeling. It was also a quote in a report for the European Food Safety Journal on wild boar management, so even feels relevant to me. The first one I was a little surprised at, as they had interpreted what I and my co-author had written from a sociological perspective that I was not really aware of, so kind of interesting and felt a bit weird. 

A little snowed under now though
The second one on the academic front was finally getting the reviews back on the second paper. I was beginning to get really worried about this and wondering if we needed to withdraw the paper and submit it to another journal, which would have meant another long drawn out process. Anyway the reviews came back on Sunday night and they were really positive and only require me to make minor changes, nothing horrendous. It probably only needs a paragraph or two and then a bit of editing. This is such a relief, after the horrendous process with the first one where it went backwards and forwards so many times. I was so happy with the news that Ian was welcomed back home to me playing Pharrell Williams “Happy” at top volume on my phone. He kind of guessed I was in a good mood as I very rarely play music much during the day at all. 

I have been out on the land a couple of times this week. Ian got a call to say that the vet was coming to do some ultrasounds on the girls in the afternoon so he came and picked me up. The last time this particular vet came, Freddie and George were just pictures on her screen and she was enchanted to see our little fellas in the flesh- well they are rather cute. We found out this week that George and Freddie are in the top twenty names in the UK for newborn human babies. I don’t suppose folks know that they have named their babies after a couple of alpacas. Anyway it would seem that both Aggie and Mari are pregnant again, but probably not Chanel. This is a surprise as Chanel got pregnant so easily last time. This does mean that early next year we will start to mate Chanel with one of the boys, but not sure which one yet. 

Mari is pregnant
The ultrasounds would have been an easier process if Sofie, our cat, hadn’t tried to get in on the act. I lost count of the number of times we tossed her over the half door ( I hasten to add tossed her gently that is, so she could land properly). Every time she jumped back in. We couldn’t shut the doors as it would have been too dark, so we just spent the whole time, cat in, cat out, cat in, cat out, there were even a few times she nearly ended up on the end of the ultrasound scanner as she tried to rub up against the vet’s hand. Our alpacas also have a habit of chasing her, so it wasn’t safe for her to come in and so not quite sure why she was so persistent.

Snow sliding off the roof of the new alpaca house/hay store
Now that most of the veg has been brought in (we still have some under a heavy mulch such as carrots) we end up eating a lot of squash. We grew a new variety this year which has a lovely creamy flesh, but the skins are so incredibly hard, in fact they are so hard that it is almost dangerous to cut them open, so I tried an experiment. I used a method that has worked quite well with other squashes and that was to use the microwave. I pierced the skin like I have done before with spaghetti squash and set the timer. Hmmm! Well! Must make a mental note that Courgette -Tondo di Piacenza (yes it is a courgette rather than a squash but not like any I have grown before), apparently is not safe for microwaving. The bits did come off the interior of the microwave though, as I fortunately turned it off before it baked on.

Ian has been removing the snow in case it lands on the little
It is a good job that not all my cooking goes like that, as we had visitors this week. As I mentioned last week I found out there was a young couple, half Latvian and half English who were living relatively nearby and building up a farm business. They were keen to come and see our alpacas along with the lady’s brother, so I invited them over and suggested they come for a meal too. 

Although, they have been inside mainly, eating and eating
Earlier on in the day before they arrived, Ian popped back to pick me up, but first of all we finished off the shelves in our other apartment so that I could start to organise our stuff - no better word for it really, but at least I now have shelves for felting and shelves for material and it is all easily accessible - well it will be, at the minute the material is all over the living room floor in piles that look like a rainbow. I need to put them in crates so that I can see what is in them, then I am more likely to use them. After building the shelves and a quick lunch we headed out to the land

Aggies is pregnant too
They had the grand tour around, even though it had snowed. In fact we were wondering if they would manage to make it, but they have been in Latvia long enough and used to the conditions that it was not a problem. After putting the animals away we headed back to our apartment where I had pre-prepared an evening meal. We then had a great time talking about our experiences of farming in Latvia, they have a market garden and so much more productive than we are, but we share similar views on caring for the land in producing food, so plenty to talk about. I also sent them a few links and contacts that I thought would be useful.

Chanel eating through the fence. Looks like she will be
having a rendezvous with one of the boys next year
Along with writing, winter days are also time to do some pondering. A thought that occurred to me was, did we ever think that we would know what it is like to live in the Soviet Union? In some ways we have a glimpse of that today, where the truth is cloaked in lies. Hidden in plain site to the point where it is sometimes hard to tell who is telling the “truth and how much of the truth. We are living in times when a President feels it is okay to openly spread lies and hit back at those who point it out. Yes there is a problem with terrorism, but it is not a Muslim issue, it is not a nationality issue, it is a terrorism issue. Terrorists are many different colours, many different faiths and none and turn up in many different places. They are outsiders who have learnt to hate, who desire a “pure” state, whatever that means to them and are prepared to kill for it. 

A chilly week at times, but the pond still keeps flowing, so
the water table must be high
Our society is breeding mistrust, breeding acceptance of half-truths and outright lies and it needs to stop. We need to stop it in our own lives. We need to check and re-check posts we want to pass on because it fits with our own beliefs of the way things are. We need to look for the truth, even if that truth is uncomfortable and doesn’t fit with our worldview. We need to be seekers of the truth and that doesn’t stop at our own religious beliefs, it may start there, but it must carry on into society to search out the truth in our daily lives and those around us. After contemplating these points, Ian sent me a link to a Guardian article on how we get sucked into debates where we want to score points and instead we should be more mindful of how we interact with others and not just purveyors of the truth. 

The snow has been coming and going this week
“Yet another sign you’re trapped in the Vortex is the phenomenon that’s been labelled “position creep”, in which otherwise sane people adopt, then feel obliged to fight for, the sort of black-and-white, nuance-free stances they’d never defend in calm conversation over cups of tea offline.”

Now that’s my line of thinking, there is so much that could be solved over a nice cup of tea.


  1. Well done on the citations Joanna, that must feel very satisfying. Lovely to see the snow!

    1. Thank you Gina. I must admit, it does feel very satisfying. I like the snow at this time of the year, it does brighten the whole place up


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