Monday, 29 January 2018

It happens

A foggy snowy day
It's not been too bad this week, but just some of those things happened that you can do without. The weather has been iffy all week with snow coming and going, so we have no huge build up but it is wet and slushy with an expected freeze from tomorrow. That will be fun! Not! I can cope with snow, but ice not so much! I'm hopeless on ice as many who follow this blog will attest to. To-date I have seriously hurt two arms and one knee from slipping on ice and had a few more minor slips along the way. Oh well! Out with the spiked walking sticks next week to keep me upright along with the ice grips on the boots, or just not reappear until spring.
Slushy stuff. Ian has had to clear the drains to keep the water
flowing and stop it all icing up when it does freeze. Some of
the rivers are quite high due to blockages from ice build up

At least the snow falls off the roof but it is starting to push
against the plastic of the greenhosue
On Wednesday I had a good chat with a friend about how to move forward on helping the refugees. We tossed around a few ideas and ways forward and we hope to see where that goes. The youth at his church are good at meeting people from different cultures and so that maybe a good start. We hope to slowly include refugees in different events, so that everyone has time to adjust. The youth maybe used to different European and American cultures but of course it is a bit different when it involves Arabic cultures and so slowly, slowly is always a good move, but we think there is still potential to learn from other cultures. The Lebanese lady I met last week knew a thing or two about hospitality, which many of us in the West could learn from.
When you have an itch

You just have to get in there and give it a good scratch

Don't ask!

Somebody has a damp, mucky hairstyle
I have been working on the next two articles for journals. I only need one more to count towards a PhD but it is better to have two out there in case one is delayed in the process. The more the better as far as a future career is concerned, apparently. We'll see. I still have more ideas to put forward based on the research I've done that could do with testing, so I haven't run out of steam yet. Some days though it feels never ending, as if the end is still so far away and yet tantalisingly close. To use Sir Winston Churchill's words again:
“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.”
Well I'm not writing the book just yet, maybe next year but writing articles and a thesis seem to go through the same process.

Some frosty alpacas
It hasn't all been writing articles for me, I managed a little felting too. I have been playing around with felted cuffs and a small landscape picture. I have been experimenting with ways to include embroidery into the felting without having the back of the embroidery on show. They still need working on and I was a bit disappointed with the result from embroidering onto dissolvable plastic. The embroidery didn't attach to the felting well and went a bit hard. It might need more washing and I might have to resort to some embroidery stitches to hold it in place. Still it was fun to try.
A white halo of frost

And this was as far as he got with the snow shovelling on
the day he hurt his back. Good job he wasn't heading for
the alpaca house
One of the things we could do without was Ian hurting his back. He was non too chuffed as he hurt it doing some snow shovelling. If he had shifted heavy slushy snow, he would have understood. If he had shifted a large shovel full, he would have understood. But no! He was shifting a half shovel full of very light stuff when it suddenly went. He was shuffling around like an old man the next day and I had to go out with him to help with clearing the alpaca poo. We also gave Lady V and George some vitamin D injections since I was out there anyway. Freddie will get his in tablet form when we give everyone else theirs, but George is still not into eating the grain yet and so we thought we would take the precaution of giving him an injection, so we know he has had a boost.
Before Ian hurt his back, he had been cutting wood in the
forest when he heard this tree creak. Good job, he heard it
otherwise it could have come down on him when he wasn't
expecting it. 

The tree was obviously diseased

But it does make an interesting pattern

Some wood clearing

Tracks in the wet snow
We also needed to go to the big town to get a forestry form filled in, but when we got there, there was a notice on the door. We weren't sure what it meant - mind you, in retrospect we could have photographed it and put it through Google translate. Doh! It might have saved us a trip. Ian thought that it might mean the office had moved, so we set off to travel another 10 minutes up the road to the central office only to find that everyone was in a meeting. It wasn't until later that we put two and two together and realised that the note on the door was probably to say that everyone was at a meeting. Still it was a bit of a wasted trip. We did manage to get some cash receipt books and get the details to the bookkeeper so she can register them for tax purposes and dropped off a whole load of receipts for her to sort out.
George doesn't look like he's sure of the white stuff outside

Freddie knows what to do with it, eat it!
Unfortunately the lack of success at the forestry office meant that Ian had to go today to sort it out. At least he managed this time and he also took a handful of forms for future use.  Why it is not available online and easy to fill in we don't know. Latvia is getting there with getting official forms online but it is not always easy as I have mentioned before. While Ian was on his travels he also went to get some new switches for the electric heater. They don't seem to be rated high enough for the heater, even though they should be. It is no wonder that heaters often end up with faults as they overheat the switch. It as if the manufacturers don't expect people to have them on full power for long at all, but what else do you expect when it is cold?
Outside with a thick warm coat. HIs inner fleece though is
much darker
Chanel, Freddie's mum with a smile on her face
My adventure for the day that I could do without was to go for a mammogramme. This is my first time and to give the authorities due credit, even though I live in a small rural village (or town if you are Latvian) miles away from any large hospital we still have travelling clinics such as a mobile x-ray machine. However, winter is not a good time to go to a mobile clinic. It wouldn't have been so bad if the doctor had printed out the form for me beforehand. I was told to go to the clinic after 2pm, which I did and after standing outside in the drizzle and melting snow for an hour I eventually got in. Why they didn't park the other way around so we could stand under the shelter I have no idea.
The bottom pond seemed to have shrunk lately, but the recent
melting snow has filled it back up again
One scruffy, damp looking sheep. This ewe is now nearly
a year old.
Anyway it was when I got in that I found out that I was missing this crucial piece of paper. I trundled off to the doctor, who I had tried to see earlier but couldn't find her at the time. Fortunately she was there this time. I got the paper and went back to the clinic. In the meantime the queue had lengthened and it was another 3/4 hour wait before I got in. I was a tad cold. It is a good job that it wasn't windy and I was dressed for the cold. I thought I deserved a hot chocolate and a piece of cake after that and so met Ian who was just finishing his day out on the land at the bakery before heading home.
The older ewe doesn't look nearly as scruffy as her daughter

The boys have taken to doing a lot of chewing on the alpaca
One of the things we made progress on this week was getting a date to go and start the legal work on selling the apartment we are currently living in. We hope to get that started in mid-February. We won't be out until mid-April but getting the paperwork sorted and payments made means we can start to plan the next phase - whatever that is.
Close up arty shot

I think Herkules is looking so perky these days

Eyre doing her grumpy cat impression

More snow

Monday, 22 January 2018


On my chilly walk to the other apartment. I love the
reeds in the frozen pond though. 
It has been a week full of surprises. Most of them pleasant ones. The first was not though. We went up to our other apartment to heat it, so we don't have frozen pipes and to have a bath while we were up there. At one point the people upstairs must also have been having a bath and let the water out. We heard it gurgling through the pipes and it didn't sound good. I went into the kitchen to find that there was water gushing out of an outlet pipe. Sigh! I quickly got the wet and dry vacuum out and started to suck the water up. Fortunately not much, but still more water seeping into the floor probably on top of those other occasions when we've had a leak at that apartment. It would probably have gurgled up into the bath if we hadn't already had the plug in and water in the bath. We know where the problem is because there have been previous problems with the outlet pipe and so we will call a local company, who hopefully have the right kind of equipment to unblock the pipe.

The sky was glorious though. Winter sky at its best. 
At least the rest of the week was much more pleasant. First of all we got a call and an invite to dinner. It was much appreciated as the call came before I had thought about what we were going to eat. It makes a nice change not to have to think about it. I do all the cooking in our house and Ian washes up - I sometimes make that a difficult job for him. Hahaha! Ian got out of washing up too as they have a dishwasher, so a win all round. I did take a cake but I needed to bake as Ian has now recovered his appetite since we are no longer the house of plague.

As Ian wasn't out on the land today, I had to dig out some
photos from another week. This is Lady V about to eat the
Another plus is our friend's house is warmer than our apartment has been all week. It would seem that the new company does not seem much better than the old one. We are back to temperatures around 16C on normal days like last winter even though it hasn't been too bad up until recently, more like 17-18C. The school apparently wasn't warm enough after the holidays either. Not a good reflection on our local government - again. I was doing a lot of typing one day and so sitting around and suddenly felt rather chilly. The cold had been creeping up on me and when I looked at the thermometer it was reading 14C. No wonder it was a bit chilly for sitting around in.

Not a very good picture, as the barn was rather
dark and the kids wouldn't stay still.
We had to go and update the details for our farm, which a friend of ours does online. When we got to their house they were eating and since we hadn't eaten yet they quickly got out some more plates and we joined them for food. Two meals out in one week. It is so nice to be well enough to visit friends. It would be nice to be able to update the details ourselves but the website is not particularly user friendly even for Latvians. It's a good excuse for a visit anyway and we had plenty of time to chat, until it was time for our friend to go and see to her goats. They are starting to pop at quite a rate again and I think about 2/3rds of the pregnant goats have given birth so far, which I seem to remember was over 40 kids. Phew!

Here the kids are jostling for a place on a
cardboard box. These are all the bottle fed
The next surprise was kind of mind-blowing. I was invited to a meeting in Riga about hosting refugees. I was asked if I would share my brief experience. I hummed and I hawed about it. In the end I thought I was being stupid; just because I was tired, just because I'd been ill, just because it was winter and would mean either an early bus ride in or taking the car and leaving Ian without transport out on the land was not sufficient excuse. It just did not compare to the refugees' often perilous journeys to get to Latvia. I decided I really should go and Ian felt I should too. The next decision was whether to take the bus or car. What decided me was kind of selfish, I took the car as it meant I didn't have to get up so early.

Chanel and Freddie sunbathing next to the alpaca house
To continue a rather bizarre chain of events, at Christmas time my mother had given me some beads to give to a refugee family who were earning a living making jewellery. I asked the family what time they went to church to see if I could arrange a time to pass these beads on. I thought it might clash with the other meeting that I had now decided to go to and was happening at another church, elsewhere in Riga. As it turned out, they would be having coffee before their meeting and it was perfect timing for me to still get to the other meeting. So I arranged to go there first, have a coffee and meet with the couple who ran the church who were British but I hadn't met them before and then make tracks to the other meeting. As I was having my coffee a young American couple were chatting to the the husband about refugees.

Mr. B. It makes us realise how big he is after seeing another
herd of alpacas today. He would tower above them
It turned out they worked with refugees in Texas and had come across to help friends make their own connections with the refugees here in Latvia. It hadn't turned out the way they had hoped as their friends had backed away from the initiatives as they felt it was too hard to help them here in Latvia. People generally have a very negative reaction to refugees for many reasons, mostly out of fear but also historical reasons from Soviet times. The young couple therefore had come to the church I was visiting briefly after finding out the church had had some connections with refugees in the past. They had come to see if they could finally get the kind of connections where they could help out and be of use. The pastor was telling them they didn't really have much contact these days when I chipped in. I told the couple that I was heading to a meeting that afternoon and they would be welcome to join me. I thought the meeting would have the kinds of connections they were after.

Herkules with fully fleeced ears. It is so nice to see this after
all his health issues a few years ago.
So how bizarre is that? This was their last ditch attempt at making the connections they had come all the way from America to make and I just happened to be dropping off a bag of beads to a Syrian jeweller and had the car to take them to a meeting. If that wasn't bizarre enough, I thought I actually recognised the young chap from America. I asked him if he had been to Latvia before and he had. He had lived over here for about six years. I asked him if he had been to our village before (bearing in mind we are about 100km outside of Riga in the middle of nowhere) and he had. It turns out we had met before about 12-13 years ago and he had even worked with one of our sons on the camp next to our land. We met him when we were still only visiting Latvia and hadn't yet moved here, in fact we were still living in Denmark at the time.

Herkules almost looks like he's smiling here too. Such
bright eyes as well.
The refugee meeting itself went fine and we were all able to make connections that should enable us to help more refugees in the future. I returned back home in a bit of a mind-blown daze after dropping the young couple off in town. Just one more bizarre fact, the young American couple are expecting a baby around the same time that our son, who he worked with and his wife are expecting their third. Ian and I ended up eating at the local bakery, as I wanted to process what had happened rather than having to think about what to cook. Well one excuse is as good as another and our bakery does make rather nice cakes.

Tellus in contemplative mood, chewing a piece of grass
Today's adventure was off to a place quite close to somewhere I know quite well. I have visited the little village of Kaldabruņa a few times to meet with an organisation there who are doing fantastic development work with the local people. It turns out that a couple have bought a house and some alpacas quite close to there and so we went to pay them a visit. Any excuse for Ian to talk alpacas really, even if it is quite a trek to get there at this time of year. I heard about this couple from two different sources, there was a lady who had visited recently who had met one of them on a veterinary course for small agricultural animals and then through a friend of a friend of theirs who have three alpacas. I found out about the three alpacas and their owner from the couple who are buying our apartment. Are you still following all this? Life never ceases to amaze me at times with type of networks you can make when you are open to making new contacts.

After a chilly chat in the barn looking at the alpacas we were warmly welcomed into the home for home-made pizza and apple strudel. Every time my plate was empty the mother of the family put more on my plate, so I was well fed, but Ian talked so much he didn't get to eat as much. The mother commented that Ian's eyes were shining when he was talking about the alpacas and I had to laugh. It sure is a topic close to his heart.

Turbjørn in contemplative mood too. Having alpacas was
not on the horizon for us ten years back. 
And to cap a week of surprises, it is a surprise I am still blogging after 10 years. My first blog was the 18th January 2008 and I started it as we were preparing to move to Latvia. My blog sure documents how much can change in a decade! All three of our children have either got married or got partners and now had their own children. So our family of five is now a family of fifteen and soon to be sixteen. We have gone from one apartment when we moved here to two apartments, 13ha of land, eleven alpacas, three sheep, two cats and 25 chickens. We have got to know people from so many different places in that time too, including people in Estonia on alpaca farms and in Tartu where I am attempting to finish off my PhD. What a journey it has been and little did I realise when I named the blog a Journey to Somewhere, quite what a journey it would be. I wonder what the next ten years will bring?

Monday, 15 January 2018


We have been hearing tales that Sofie makes regular trips
to  our neighbour for a drink of fresh milk
Finally! Finally I got an article finished for submission to an academic journal this week. It only required minor changes from its first submission, so it should be fine. It still took nearly six weeks to get it done, but that was partly due to end of term hassles for my co-author, then Christmas and then health issues at both ends. Still we got there in the end and my head has finally cleared from the bug I picked up, so I felt I could actually put more than two coherent sentences together. Only another three or four more papers to go and a thesis.
Finally some sunshine, but poor Freddie has been feeling
the cold
Aggie looks like she needs a good strong coffee on
this rather bright day. Ian has been testing poo samples
all week and Aggie's is clear of anything. After last year's
performance with her health that is a relief
Finally Ian is also improving. He not only drives himself out to the land, but he has started getting some work done like cutting down trees. Winter time, when we don't have a lot of snow that is, is the ideal time to get some forest clearing done and at the moment we only have a dusting. He did manage to whack himself on the chin though with a branch that hit a hazel tree and bounced. Hazel is renowned for its bending properties and why it is used in basket making. Not that we have the right kind of branches for basket-making yet, but Ian is working on having coppice hazel in the future and then maybe we can.
Unfortunately we can't say the same for Chanel. There seems
to be parasites of some description but he is still trying to
work out what. She looks like she may be a candidate for
treatment. Apparently it is better to just treat the ones with
the parasites and not all animals routinely. This helps to
reduce resistance and one of the reasons for doing our own
testing. Unfortunately the camera that Ian bought to take
photos of what he sees down the microscope also seems to have
stopped working. 
George looking very fluffy
Although Ian is much better than he was, he still gets tired, but as I said, he isn't superman with superhuman recovery powers. He was shocked! Well in an understated way. It is hard when you spend your life outdoors to be confined. I haven't been out that much this week due to the writing project and the fact it has been so cold. It has felt rather mild for this time of the year until this week when most of the time it has been below freezing. In fact Ian recorded it at -9.5C when he was working in the forest. I noticed the forecast is for more this week - just in time for it to be our snow clearing duties for our apartment. Typical! I would like to go out to the land more but due to the time it takes to warm up the caravan to a temperature where I could type, it isn't really worth it. There is just not that much for me to do out there and plenty for me to do at the apartment. With Ian's appetite returning there will probably be more baking required to keep him fed in these temperatures for a start.
Mr. Tellus looking very elegant in the winter sunshine
Not looking quite so elegant here
It is lovely to see Herkules covered in fleece again. It is
definitely growing back better this year
After I had finished my article and was just waiting for the final proofread I decided I had better head up to the other apartment and get some heating on. We didn't want any frozen pipes. It was also a chance to get some sorting out and tidying done. Nothing had been done on it since I sorted out the shelving before Christmas and there were still boxes everywhere and bits and pieces to pick up off the floor. It was nice just to work on making the place look presentable again, in case either we or guests were to end up stopping there. It is also one more step closer to getting it ready for when we move there permanently.
Mr. P nibbling on the alpaca house

Mr. B, however, can reach much higher up the alpaca
house than Mr.P. This really shows how big he has grown
A little pair of Santa's boots. When I went for my haircut
before Christmas there was a little pair of red and white
boots that the hairdresser had felted. The white was
from our very own Mr. B. I couldn't resist adding a few
embellishments. The original is below
I forgot to mention last week that we had a late visit from Santa. A friend of ours quite often visits on Christmas Eve but of course we were in the UK this year. We don't hear from him for ages because he works away and then he turns up bearing gifts. Well he persevered and eventually he saw lights on and assumed we were back. He bought bottle of wine and a box of Lindt chocolates in a fuzzy box - you know the stuff if you ever played with fuzzy felt (now doesn't that date me or do they still have that in schools?), which seems rather posh for chocolates. They are rather nice though. The bottle of wine will have to wait to be tested.
A sweet little pair, even without the embellishments

Mr. B himself playing peekaboo

Mr. P in one of his rare good pictures. It's really hard to take
a photo of alpacas this colour

A picture I took on my way up to heat the
other apartment. A frozen wasteland

Not much snow, but rather chilly

An over the top patch for my holey jeans.
Part embroidered and part needlefelted