Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Back home again!

This is the nearest I get to doing the garden these days.
Unearthing beets from clamps, well what was left of them
after the voles had noshed on them. Amazingly some leaves
were still green though under their bed of hay. I also
scattered wood ash and soot on the beds to help them melt.
I was back on the trail again with another trip into Riga when I started writing this blog. I went in on the bus from one of the big towns so that I didn't have to get up at the crack of dawn and spend all day wandering around Riga with not much to do. I did try to organise some meetings but they didn't work out and I don't do shopping if I can help it, so that wasn't an option. It also meant that Ian could get some supplies from a large DIY place and a small mini-greenhouse so we can start off seedlings in the big greenhouse. As I mentioned I was working on this blog while on the bus and so I wasn't taking much notice of the scenery, until one point when I suddenly realised that the landscape I was looking at had very little snow. It was quite shocking to have gone from a scene of white to one only speckled here and there. There were also lots of obviously rotten hay bales in the fields as they looked rather flat. The bad weather over the last year had not been good for them obviously.

This was stencilled on the wall of my hostel room, which
seems pretty relevant at the moment
This trip involved an overnight stop, as I wasn't able to catch a bus home after the event I attended. I booked into a hostel that was described as clean and had a good review. I was very pleasantly surprised. The owner gave me a brief introduction to the small hostel - I think there was only about five bedrooms with a small kitchen area. It was perfect and beautifully decorated. It was also blissfully quiet, despite being only a few minutes walk away from the train and bus stations. The owner and I also spent some time talking about Latvia and the problems of living in the countryside. It's always good to hear the perspectives of Latvians on the topic. I would definitely recommend the Green Cat hostel to anyone wanting an inexpensive stay in Riga,  especially as they have a kettle with tea and coffee available. That wins hands down over having breakfast available to me. Breakfast can be bought in easily, carrying a kettle around not so much.

Is it spring yet?
The meeting was interesting, especially as I have said for a long time that artists and storytellers are needed in development, only this was in the urban context. When artists move in is often one of the reasons that places become gentrified. The impact of artists is also something that would benefit rural areas, to open up the possibilities of what can be done. It often needs outside innovative ideas to stimulate the process, although it also has to be done with sensitivity to the people already there. It was good to hear of how these processes happen and maybe we can make that work in our village too. Maybe!

This young lady is starting to get noisy and demanding like
her mother. Not a good trait
It was also nice to be able to contribute to the discussions and draw out something from my observations of activists who I likened to spinning tops. They often spin so fast and are so busy that they run out of energy or they spin off in different directions. I suggested they needed time to reflect on what they had done to refocus on what they valued and that would help them regain energy and courage to carry on with a better focus on what is important. It is too easy to get engrossed in doing and forget what is important, sometimes it can't be helped but often it is unnecessary. I guess that is my advantage of being older than most of them there. One lady agreed with me and mentioned that focussing on values is always important.

Tracks in the snow
The good news this week is that the car is back on the road and functional. I had to go on the bus to collect it, so it is a good job that compared to some rural areas of Europe our bus services are okay, not perfect but fine for this sort of thing. The problem with the car was a stuck air inlet valve - at least that is what I understood and it appears to have been the problem for the last three years, because the usual issues that we have when the weather starts to warm up have also stopped. We also had a rattle that started after we got the car back of course, but that seems to have disappeared once Ian tightened up some wheel nuts. I am beginning to wonder if it is something to do with the extremes of temperatures we have here that seems to work some nuts loose, as Ian is not negligent when he works on our car. Well that and the dire state of our rural roads around here. Anyway, all is well and we are mobile again.

Chewing on life
This week has been a bit of a frustrating week from the point of view that I haven't been able to get on with much academic writing because I am waiting for replies and responses from others. I did at least get a reply from one supervisor about an abstract for a conference and he told me to just submit it, so that was easy. I must be getting the hang of throwing in the right words here and there to make it sound relevant to the discipline I am submitting the abstract too …. errr I mean I must be getting better at carefully crafting what I write these days. Whatever is happening, it is getting faster and easier to write abstracts for conferences.

It's a hard life
Another milestone this week was completing a job application for a large Christian charity. I don't expect to even get an interview really, but it was an interesting and helpful process personally. For one it got my CV up-to-date and helped me to understand the process of how to present, what after all, is a rather eclectic background to say the least. The other helpful aspect was to help me clarify what role my faith still plays in everything that I do. It is still important, even though it felt like I was wading through treacle last year. My faith shapes how I think and what I feel is important. It provides me with the motivation to do the most good that I can for the sake of others. That is not to belittle the inputs of others, but it is what motivates me the most. It was certainly an interesting and timely process to go through. Ideally, I would like to stay in academia, I love it, but I am finding it hard to find the right place because I haven't finished my PhD yet and until then I cannot apply for postdoc places. If that means me setting off in a new direction, well so be it. I know I can adapt and I love new challenges.

There are loads of these little creatures
crawling about on the snow now it is
beginning to melt. It is amazing how they
survive the winter. Mind you, they are in for
a shock as later on this week it is set to get
cold again and there might not be much snow
cover left to protect them.
We got to make a return visit to some folks who had been to see our alpacas previously, one is from the UK, his partner is Latvian but worked in the UK and then there was her brother. Well at least we did get the chance to visit once we found the place. Their Facebook page didn't help as the map only showed the village but they were miles outside of that. I rang and the lady sent me a map by text, but for some reason it first wanted to send us across the middle of a snowy field, so we decided to ignore that and go back to a road we had seen that seemed to take us in the general direction and hope the mapping software would work out a different route, which it did fortunately. Their house was in the middle of absolutely nowhere down a long forest track and was a very scenic route on a lovely cold, crisp, sunny day.

I attempted to ski again this week. The snow has been
melting though and the ski track was either rather slippy
for my liking and in random places the snow would give
way. After two rather slow circuits I gave up.
They now run a market garden, but of course apart from the greenhouse, which currently houses chickens for the winter, there was not much to see of their garden as it was under all the snow. We did get to meet their goats, sheep and geese and spend lots of time talking over wonderful soup, tea and cakes. We really enjoyed the warmth of the sunshine through the windows which overlooked their land. They are certainly an innovative and hardworking group and the nesting boxes for their chickens are designed to stop the chickens eating eggs. This is something that set Ian thinking for working out how to stop ours. Some of our hens are intermittent egg eaters but there are a few regulars who will be for the pot soon.

Chanel has improved slightly this last week. I put some different cream on her legs, a natural Latvian recipe this time. It should certainly help the crustiness of the skin and has the added advantage of an antiseptic element to it, which is not in mine. Mine has a more anti-inflammatory and tissue healing type of action. Ian also gave her some more Ivermectin and will repeat that for a few weeks. Mari has also improved, but she usually doesn't require such aggressive intervention to heal her skin.

I sometimes put leftover bits of meat in a box
in the fridge for the cats and of course I label
the box, well sometimes! This label seems to
have landed in the right place. Sofie and Eyre
went for their vaccinations this week, they
weren't particularly thrilled to see the nice vet. 
I actually got some more felting done this week. I started on a bag, but it still needs quite a bit of work done on it. The fibres I used are not the best quality, but they should be fine for a bag. It is part of the process of working out what to do with fibres that are not so good for scarves and hats. I was trying to see if the fibres would felt properly or not, but it did end up as a bit of a cobweb bag which of course will not really do and so I shall have to work on it some more. I will also add some embroidery to it as well.

Freddie on his first walk outside the paddock

One of the features of our marriage is that we very, very rarely argue. However, we often sulk or just do not communicate well at times. I used to write a letter when I got really frustrated as it allowed me to write what was on my mind and then work on it to try and communicate without the anger. It was a good process to get things out in the open and yet not just say the first thing that came into my head, which would probably have just been hurtful. Anyway some things have been whirling around in my head just lately and so I thought I would go for the updated version of the letter, an email. This allowed me to also illustrate my point in what I hoped would be an amusing way. Unfortunately it kind of backfired and only ended up confusing Ian. The first problem was that he viewed the file only as a preview and did not actually open, the preview didn't show the amusing cartoon figure and then for some reason I had managed to send an incomplete file. Anyway when I asked if he had appreciated the cartoon I discovered the issue - it has now been rectified and we have laughed about it. So alls well that ends well.

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