Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Cooling down

At least here they are just chasing each other
around. It will do some of them some good and
a good work out to warm themselves up.

We had a heavy frost this morning and several, large flocks of geese were making a determined headway southwards. Yes! Winter is creeping up. Not quite here yet, but you can hear its whisper in the cold northerly breeze, or the crunch of the ice underfoot on a frosty morning. Today was one of those glorious late autumn days, crisp in the morning and bright sunshine all day. The boys came out fighting, only Turbjørn didn't join in at all. Something was in the air as they are not normally like that. The younger boys usually get a bit argumentative in the evenings, but never in the mornings. The nip in the air didn't leave all day, but at least it was better than the damp, wet days, which we've had a few too many of just lately.

The physio came out to see Turbjørn this last week.
He had a painful spot on his neck, not just the 
stiffness he normally has these days. She gave him
some laser heat treatment on it and Ian is giving
him regular treatments with the heat pad again. Mind
you, he's not that bad as he's still sitting outside when
it rains. He was so wet one morning that Ian couldn't
use the heat pad - he would have sizzled.
Oh oh! This is looking serious

Sunday morning I cut down the shrivelled remains of the Jerusalem artichokes and started the process of digging up the tubers - at least enough to clear some ground for Ian to dump the alpaca manure and expand the bed widthways. The rain set in for the afternoon, but fortunately I had some proofreading to occupy my time. I also dug up the dahlias that I raised from seed this year. The tubers are drying off in the little greenhouse ready to be taken back to the apartment. I also cleared and mulched another bed and so now nearly all the beds are settled down for their winter sleep. 

Not just the odd flock of geese this time. Lots
of flocks have been flying over. Winter won't 
be long now, so they say!
Wish vegetable gardening was this easy. Just
put the animals out on the grass and let them
eat it down. Not much mowing goes on these

I need to work on the garden for next year, as it has started to get out of hand and take too long to deal with. I'm thinking of a very low maintenance to no veg gardening next year to give me time to get the flower and herb garden sorted and make the veg beds more manageable. It doesn't mean we will have nothing to eat from the garden, there are plenty of herbs. 

There are some gardeners on our land who we 
do not appreciate. The moles have been
working overtime. They are all round the
greenhouse and have even been digging up in our
new greenhouse now. They are in various places
in the fields. They also dug up the ditch and
blocked it so Ian has taken up the small bridges
and has re-dug it. So far they haven't been back-
close but not back yet! 
Such a glorious golden autumn

There are also plenty of wild edible weeds that we eat a lot of in spring and I can sort of cultivate them too. Nettles are really nutritious and if we cut them back they can be harvested later too. I've already put some potatoes in to see if they will be okay over winter. I know I've tried it before and it didn't work but then again the winter was hard that year. We seem to have lots of potatoes that grow up anyway where I haven't planted them and they are cheap to replace, so no big worries. 

...panning round a bit more
Such a profusion of colours, all bathed in a 
golden light

I might also buy some plants instead of trying to raise them myself and put some seeds in that can overwinter. I tried it before with parsnips and that worked really well. Those sorts of veg don't seem to need a lot of work and so can just sort themselves out with a bit of mulching later on. . Once I have the garden under control I could then think about late summer and autumn vegetables as they seem to be doing okay. The garlic is already in too. It is easy to put that kind of thing in after the potatoes have been removed (I say removed rather than dug up as I don't use a spade - no need and a lot fewer losses from spade or fork damage). After the potatoes the bed is clear and just needs a quick raking over and then mulching. 

Then we had the damp squib of a day which
drained the colour and makes the photos look
like a slightly faded one from the 70s. Karla 
and Lolly were wet through this week, but
none the worse for it.
Generally they get on, but sometimes little Lolly
pushes Karla to her limit. Karla is smaller in
height but much stronger than Lolly. But 
Lolly can outrun all the girls I think with her
long legs and boundless energy.

Another aspect I really need to sort out is compost. We have plenty of manure and that, but not a convenient place to compost it all. I need the compost for starting seeds and it seems daft to buy it in when we have so much stuff that could be composted. I could do with doing some hot composting to get rid of weed seeds and then bagging it up, but I just don't seem to get organised enough for the beginning of the year. April and May is just such a busy time, both for the academic and agricultural year, that trying to fit in finding compost, raising seeds, finding sticks for beans and so on, all gets too much. Starting earlier isn't an option either in our short season, as the ground can still be frozen in March and we still risk hard frosts and snow. 

Like miniature stained glass windows.
Looking gorgeous there Mr. P

Ian will have to get cracking with wood chopping, as now we have finally got the wood to the apartment and down in the cellar there, ready for our return in winter. I say we. We both stacked the horse box and Ian did one run to the apartment on his own. I had work to do and there was rain forecast which makes getting the horse box on and off the land tricky, so he made a start. We both went another morning to finish it off. We made it before it rained anyway. It would have been done earlier but we had a problem with a delivery of flour. I get my organic flour online and it was too heavy to use the post box and it had to be sent by courier. Well there are problems with our address since the administrative changes as there are now two places in our larger municipality with the same name and the courier got the wrong one. I always wince when people swear in my language. I'm not the swearing sort and so this just kind of compounds it. I did feel sorry for him though as I know they are on a tight schedule. 

A soggy Brencis
Mr. Tellus with a few glistening jewels

I heard last week that the paper that seems to have gone on for ever has finally been accepted. I sighed a huge sigh of relief but then got a message that they would like a summary of the paper for policymakers and the general public. Oh boy! Just condense 18 months of work into 1000 words please! Don't use anything too technical! Okay but it's one of the most technical papers I've ever written.... so....anyway it's done and sent off to my colleagues to comment on. Work seemed to be piling up this last week but at least I've managed to clear some backlogs in the last two days and can now get back on with the more routine side of things - whatever that is. 

A two-tone George
Golden morning rain with Freddie and Jakobs
A rainbow in our forest
The other end of the rainbow on the hill
Two-tone George on a frosty morning
Josefs and Freddie fighting

Still at it
Josefs taking a breather
Morning jog
Father and son wrestling now.
Now it's Freddie and George's turn. But don't
worry, Ian calmed them down after a while and
no one was hurt.
Ice on the car
A disagreement this time between Freddie and 

Monday, 11 October 2021

You're supposed to fly south!

A glorious autumnal day

Have we missed winter? Did we fall asleep and not wake up for months? It felt like that on Sunday when a small flock of large geese flew north east. After a few minutes one lone goose flew south west. It was honking away as if to say, "I told you all, you're flying the wrong way, but would you listen? No!" I knew how it was feeling. There are times I feel like I'm just flying the opposite way to everyone else, but I think we all feel like that from time to time. 

....but winter is on its way. The photo looks 
greener than it did that morning
...to prove my point

Well, Latvia is in a state of emergency again for the next three months. People are simply not getting vaccinated in enough numbers. The government are organising mobile vaccination clinics and hopefully that will help in the more rural areas. There are also more restrictions on non-vaccinated people, which seems to be providing an incentive to get in line to get the jab. Meanwhile Sweden, Norway and Denmark have reopened after they have vaccinated a high proportion of their population. It's not rocket science. Vaccines work. It brings down the incidence. It reduces the severity of the disease even if you do get the virus. But as long as people are not getting vaccinated in enough numbers this whole stupid situation continues and the virus goes round and round and round.

Mari. Ian mulched this long, dry grass today
Two trailers! There's a kids story in there 

Not sure if ivermectin is a thing in Latvia but I understand that it is elsewhere in the world. Marvellous! So not only do we have a virus circulating around due to a lack of vaccinated people we are storing up problems for resistant parasites, as people take ivermectin as a precaution against Covid19. There is already a huge problem in the livestock industry of resistant parasites. So mange anyone? And yes people can get it too and it's called scabies. Or maybe a nice intestinal parasite like roundworm or a wonderful case of lice. Oh life will be fun when we can't get rid of these things because they are resistant. It will add to our woes with failing antibiotics due to overuse. 

The girls enjoying the sunny spots these days, 
after spending the summer seeking the shade.

Well life for us does carry on in our little rural bubble, especially as we've closed the farm to visitors for the winter, so I don't think we slept the winter away. Our caravan is now back in the greenhouse. It didn't seem to go in very easily and it took a bit of too-ing and fro-ing to get it up the ramp and in but at least there were no disasters - close but not disasters. It's a good job that this autumn hasn't been as wet as last year, because it was mid-November before we got the caravan in the greenhouse that year. The weather this October though has been mainly dry and over the weekend it has been glorious, if a little cool. This last week we had a couple of hard frosts that finished off any tender plants, but we still have plenty of hardy stuff in the garden.  

Spot the babies! They're getting big now
Not long before Ilvija will be scanned to see if
she's pregnant.

The dark blue grapes have now been cut back, a bucketful of them steamed and some of the remains sieved. I did give up after the third attempt at unjamming the hand food strainer though. This was despite using the right insert in the strainer that is supposed to handle grape pips. Oh well! The tub full of pulp was added to what might be the last of the autumn raspberries and steamed in the pressure cooker to add to porridge over the winter. Another job done. We still have other grapes and they will have to be cut soon, but they've held up under the frosts. 

Aggie. She's a funny one. She seems like she's
almost getting motherly with Lolly. A bit late now.
Aggie's eye is slowly getting better now. She's
had more antibiotics and now on a steroid
cream as well. It might be caused by ingrowing
eyelashes but we will check again, once all
the swelling has gone down.

Today was glorious again and so I took half a day off to stack wood in the horse box with Ian. That's another job that needed to be done before winter rains set in. That was enough for Ian's back and so I will take another half day off to help him stack it in the basement. It felt a bit of an odd day, frosty first thing but then a relatively warm wind from the south. No wonder those geese were confused. It felt like something was in the air, a wind of change. I'm basically an optimist, despite the rant above, my optimism keeps me going, pushing forwards for change. It's six years since the song, "Winds of change" hammered into my brain (link). Six years ago seems like a lifetime away and so many situations have taken a turn for the worse. More countries feel precarious or on the edge. 

Lolly has grown well on grass and bottles of milk
from the neighbour's cows. Ian has dropped one 
of her feeds in preparation for weaning and also
to ensure she is ready for when we do go back
to the apartment and cannot give her late night 

Karla looking dreamy

But it is times like these when change happens. A generation has gone since the Scorpions sang their song and now it is time for a new generation to rise up and step away from the path that others have trod towards destroying the planet on which we live. Change scares us, but staying the same scares me more. I want to pass on a living, breathing planet to my children and grandchildren. Not a shrivelled up wasteland that we are preparing for them at the moment. We've seen in the last couple of years that if nature is given space it can grow in abundance. It can fill the gap. If we don't! It's not even worth contemplating. So I will continue on my path of looking towards the landscape changes that will be needed to give nature and people space to breathe. The paths that involve political change, individual change, system change, the lot. That path will also continue on our own land, as I give myself room to breathe and space to think. It's been awhile!

Vanessa soaking up the sun again

Sometimes there two are the best of pals and
sometimes they're not. Like kids really!

Chanel is still giving us cause for concern. She
might be having a course of ivermectin. At least
in this case it will be used for what it is intended 
to be used for as an anti-parasite medicine to treat

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

Catching up slowly!

Some very intrigued alpacas. The boys are 
rather interested in something.

Last month I received a request to meet a Polish professor who was visiting our university. I was intrigued. Apparently, our research overlapped, which kind of felt odd when our academic disciplines are different. Then again, my kind of research in rural landscapes does cover various aspects from rural out-migration to place attachment, from agriculture to tourism, and from landscape types to practical realities of living in sparsely populated areas. It's diverse and I like it that way, I find it much more interesting than being a specialist in a narrow field. 

Our place is looking very autumnal now
Not sure what Rocket Ron is staring at, or 
maybe he's just sleepy.

Our overlap apparently comes from her focus on the market branding of regional areas to my focus on the place attachment that can be branded or rather the specific identity of a place that people feel connected to. It kind of reminds me of the attachment of Sheffielders (from South Yorkshire, UK), where Ian and I used to live, to Henderson's relish (you might have to look that up) but that all comes from a sense of belonging connected by something you put on your food. Something very regional and distinctive to a place. Anyway, the meeting with the Polish professor went well and we will explore ways to apply for funding for a joint project. That would, if all the funding comes together, make three projects on the go at once - common enough in academic circles, none are full-time but should add up to a full-time job. Now it is just a case of waiting to see what happens. 

Our neighbour's trees
So peaceful

I went in the car to the university because I didn't want to spend too long travelling - 3 1/2 hours compared to one day on public transport. Well, it would have taken me 3 1/2 hours, but I stopped on the way to take a meeting, which of course is possible in the car these days. I didn't use the video to save energy, but I don't think I really needed to do that. Despite being in the middle of nowhere the coverage was adequate to have a problem free meeting. In fact, a meeting later on in the week suffered more problems with the internet connection from someone's house in Cambridge than it did from my car in the heart of rural Estonia. The joys of being in digitally well-connected countries. Apart from the fact ours is going through a naff phase.

The plan was to put the caravan in the greenhouse,
but we didn't. It's fun to see the boys while working
Just looking!

I also should mention that I took the advantage to go and visit a woollen mill that spins alpaca wool on the way up, as it was only a short detour of about 5 minutes. I wanted to see what they can do and what was needed to prepare the fibre for spinning our end. It was a very interesting visit and I got to see quite a few possibilities to use our wool and to understand some of the challenges of the fibre. The woollen spinning mill is only a small building on a huge farm, but the mill has customers from all over Estonia, Latvia and Finland. The lady herself used to hand spin yarn from her own small flock of Wensleydale sheep but now it is all processed by machine, albeit still small-scale. The long locks of the Wensleydale sheep are gorgeous though, so silky and curly. 

So that's what you're staring at Mr. P.
The weather has been largely dry for the last week.
That's been a lovely change from the endless 
days of rain.
Ian fixed the brake cables on the horse box this
weekend and glad to say it passed the technical.
Now we can fill the horse box up with wood and
take it to the apartment while it's still dry. Next
weekend's job I think.

This last weekend I've been trying to finish off as many garden jobs as possible, especially since we've been seeing more geese fly over in big, noisy flocks. It has a way of lending some urgency to the jobs, as we know the season is coming to an end and winter will slowly creep across the land - or race in, it depends. I finished off digging all the potatoes the weekend before and finally got around to bagging them up this weekend. They are now stored in our basement. There weren't as many as last year, but I think there will be enough. I stuck the tail end of last year's bags that we didn't get a chance to use on the ground under some hay and Ian will cover them over with manure over the winter. Saves a job next year if they come through, otherwise they will feed the local mice and shrew population, which in turn will feed the cats. I will also plant some little potatoes and see what happens. There will then be one row of white and one row of red to plant in the spring. So, let's see how many will be eaten by mice and how many will come through. 

One of our visitors was really concerned about
our poor Turbjørn. I thought he looked a bit 
brighter today, but lately he has looked rather down.
The other younger boys have been doing rather
a lot of play fighting that's led to some proper fights
and we wonder if Turbjørn is either getting 
knocked about or he's just trying to stay out of
the way and not relaxing. 
A cheeky look

Another job finished this weekend was taking up the last lot of beans. I've been in the process of de-podding them while I wait for the kettle to boil for coffee breaks, or while waiting for the evening meal to cook. There is still plenty of veg in the garden, but they are all plants that will take at least a light frost. So, we still have radishes (much better at this time of the year with fewer pests), beetroot, carrots, parsnips, kale, a few leeks (those that survived being dug up by the cats), savoy cabbage, turnips (still small, but we'll see how they do), broccoli and one squash. We also still have some tomatoes ripening in a box under fleece in the greenhouse, waiting for another day to make green tomato chutney. If I don't get around to it soon, it will be red/brown/yellow tomato chutney. I'm not fussy! Either will do.

Some serious eating going on in the fresh field.
They know too that the winter is on its way.
There were lots of visitors in one group and so 
they have to stay out of the paddock. Aggie
came and sat next to the fence though, so they
could all stroke her. Her eye is still 
giving me cause for concern. She will stand
while I irrigate it, but it didn't seem to make much
difference unfortunately. The vet has now been 
and she's on antibiotics. Sigh!

We are still getting visitors and one of those things occurred that just had to happen one day. Ian always talks about the reason we are in Latvia and one of those reasons is that he suspected he would be relocated to Miami if we had stayed in the US. And as he says, "Colorado, nice. Miami, no way". Latvia looked much more appealing to us. One guy piped up, "I'm from Miami (pause) and that's why I'm here now and so I understand what you're saying", or words to that effect. Phew! Good job he didn't take it as an insult. Ian does explain though that we are not city people and even the thought of living in Riga doesn't fill us with joy, we are happy enough in our rural retreat.

Karla is going to be a very fluffy alpaca by next year
And Lolly is going to be a tall alpaca we think

This particular tour guide always seems to make sure we sell something and this time I sold a hank of wool (only one left and Ian still has orders to fulfil for more), lots of felt balls and now we only have about two or three of them and I also sold an experimental piece of felt I made quite a while ago. I was intrigued by what the lady wanted to do with it and she said she was going to paint a design to match, then place the felt on it and frame it. I really should do something similar but haven't had the time to do that. Oh well! Nice to be part of someone else's creativity too. 

Oooh! That sun feels good
Mrs. Bossy boots though does have a nice smile

I was rather taken aback, though, by the young whipper snapper who cheekily suggested that because I'm old I don't know how to use the internet properly. Whaaaat! There are differences sometimes between the way I handle the internet and those of younger generations, that's inevitable and I most certainly use the internet differently to many within my own generation, but to suggest I'm old and so don't use the internet properly was a bit staggering. I think the gist of his argument was that he had grown up using it and I hadn't, which is true, but I'd certainly been using it longer than he'd been alive and errrrhmmm! I use it for my job and can effectively research a topic pretty quickly, even if I have to resort to "just googling it". I know it's limitations and the techniques you have to use not to get misinformation only. 

Lolly has a sweet smile too
Chanel can smile sweetly too, but she can also
be quite grumpy and spitty. She's loss the fleece 
off her legs again. We thought that after the
summer of spraying her with a mix of clove
infused oil and vodka, she was doing really well
and didn't need to continue. Apparently not! The
problem is that she is so uncooperative about it
and stressy, that's its not easy to spray her
regularly and not where we really want the spray
to go. We will persevere.

I've been doing another peer review for an article. I haven't done one for a while, but it didn't help that the notifications were landing in my spam box. I thought I had better send a message to one editor rather than let them think I was ignoring their messages - not a good look really, especially as it was a reasonable journal to review for. My. colleague has also resubmitted a paper yesterday that has been ongoing for aggggggesss. I do hope that is the last time ever with that article. 

I think Jakobs is wondering what Ian is doing!

As things are winding down a bit, I've actually had a little bit of time to do some reading of papers for myself and one I was reading was discussing the response to the Covid 19 crisis and whether there has any opportunity for progress on sustainable development. It reminded me of how nature didn't take long to take advantage of the pause in modern life. We need nature to recover more long-term for the sake of life on this planet, but it did show what can be achieved if we stop and slow down. Of course, there is the drive to "get the economy back on its feet". Pity! The economy they have in mind is endless growth and that is not a pleasant thought. 

A false morel. Not one we'll be 
eating any time soon, but an interesting
looking mushroom and quite large.

The boys in their field. They are now not far
from our caravan, so I can look out and be 
distracted by alpacas.

We really need to buy less and buy better. Buy local and if not local, then fair trade and based on ecological principles. With this in mind we were quite pleased to have found someone to do a zip repair on Ian's trousers. I don't mind repairing things, but I'm not a fan of replacing zips. He had two pairs done for €6 and the zips look sturdy enough, so that's good enough for me. How many other small businesses can we support? We buy locally raised meat when we need it, we buy from our local bakery once a week and we use the local small supermarket for our regular stuff. We top up using online shopping for things like flour from a Latvian company that sell organic flour and we buy milk from our neighbour. We can afford to do that partly because I'm earning now, partly because we don't have loans and mortgages and partly because we don't spend our money on a whole lot else. Retail therapy is a thing of horror to me. 

And now for some rather autumnal tree photos

I love the clouds in this one
There is also a lot of talk about getting back to normal by sending children back into school with face-to-face learning for the benefit of their mental health. This has been strongly argued but the premises are still a problem. We have to recognise that not all children were thriving in the school environment either. They need interaction with others that is true- but not just with children but other people of all ages, we all do to greater or lesser degrees. Some thrive in a noisy, vibrant environments and some don't. How to thrive in different environments is an important part of education, but we have to manage that depending upon the child. 

More of those clouds from a different angle
They don't look like that today as the wind has
been blowing for the last two days and the 
trees are starting to look quite bare.

How many have realised that a lot of work gets done without the endless rounds of meetings and people popping in and out of the office? Quiet spaces are important, a topical question at my workplace. So why is that not the same with children too - again some more than others. Often children need supervising, but not all the time. There is evidence that boredom is good for children as long as they have access to relieve that boredom. Access to the outdoors is important for that. Learning how to navigate barriers, creating stories in their heads and acting them out are essential for development of young brains. Plastic toys and structured activities may have their place but are not the answer to a child connecting to the natural and social environment around them. 

That is the highlight of laziness young lady! 


A push to reconnect both in schools and work needs to be balanced with working out how to do that safely and not pushing us into yet another round of unnecessary lockdowns or sending vulnerable people into hospital. It is also about creating a safer environment for the future - not one that removes all risks but manages them for the health and well-being of all inhabitants of this planet. Let's put health and well-being first and not the economy. The economy should serve the people, not the people serve the economy. If it isn't working, then fix it and it sure is broken at the moment. That's a whole other topic!