Monday, 31 October 2011

Frustrations and joys

I was asked to measure the holes in this area as they are not
part of the study area. This hole with my stick in it
measured 80cm.
This has been a rather frustrating week really. It didn't start off too well when at least one of our dear little puddy cats got onto the sideboard knocking a glass into their water bowl and then proceeding to traipse water everywhere including Ian's computer. Fortunately the glass did not break, but the computer was not happy and sulked to a stop. Ian needless to say was not a happy bunny once again, to see his computer dying on him for the second time, about a year after the last time. He then spent a fruitless day trying to get the wiring fixed on the horse box. I think I forgot to say that the horse box failed its technical inspection when we bought it, but that was only to be expected on an old trailer and it only needed some new tyres after they had started to perish in storage, which was no big deal. Unfortunately on the way home the cover of the rear light came off and Ian could not find it. So although the new wheels were easy to replace the lights were a different matter. Ian had to buy two completely new units, which weren't expensive, and fitted okay. So far! So good! Problem is that somewhere along the line the wiring seemed to have gone awry and on inspection some of the wires were perished and contacts corroded, one of the original units was also wired in wrong. So Tuesday we spent on the land with Ian fixing the wiring and me periodically doing the checks on which lights were working and which were not. We finished the day with no joy, as the units were still not working properly.

And because I don't have enough photos this week that I
can show you, here is the other half of the rainbow from
the other week 
As it was eating out night we decided to check first to see if the hotel had a conference on or not as last week we ended up getting to the bakery just before closing to get a take away. We were in luck this week, no conference and on the way home from checking we saw our new friends who we met last week. Our new friends have to move out of their rented accommodation soon, because the company that owned it went bankrupt, but they were really fortunate to find a flat at the right price. They were so excited about their new home and wanted to show us around. It needs quite a bit of work doing on it, but it's theirs and that mattered much more. After such a frustrating day it was good for our spirits to see the joy on their faces and to realise that our frustrations were minor compared to the threat of not having a roof over their heads. Just for good measure the computer dried out and started working in the evening too. I guess all's well that ends well!

Hopefully safely installed in the greenhouse. At least it is a
bit warmer in there. Just got to make sure the place is
ventilated from time to time so we don't end up with a load
of mould
Ian spent the rest of the week on the trailer and also on Larry the Lada. Our Swedish caped crusader friend came to lend a hand and suggested renewing the wiring on the trailer rather than trying to trace the fault. He helped Ian to sort out the starter motor on the Lada as well, as that was only working when it was not properly fitted, as soon as the bolts were tightened it stopped working. It took an angle grinder to get it sorted - not quite sure what they did but the phrase "if it doesn't fit, make it" springs to mind. I meanwhile toddled around sorting out our plants in the greenhouse and getting them ready for winter or digging up the ones that had finished. I had a shock at one point when I picked up some string and inadvertently picked up a small rodent. Not too sure who got the biggest shock though. I'm not the squeamish sort really, and mice don't freak me out - unless of course I pick one up without realising it and then I kind of jumped and shrieked. Just a little shriek you understand. Larry the Lada took rather longer than anticipated, but at least in the end it was working. We finished off the day by manoeuvring the caravan into the greenhouse to store it over winter (meanwhile praying fervently that the greenhouse does not collapse like last year). That sounds easy but it wasn't. The fit was tight, the ground uneven and slippy and in the end we couldn't use the car to back the caravan into the greenhouse and on our friend's suggestion we got the tractor and pushed it in.

Trying to get a photo of this little one was hard, she is a
bundle of energy
At least we are now a good way on to being prepared for the winter as Ian has got some of the equipment into the barn and I have got most of the plants snuggled under blankets of wood chip. I am trying that instead of conifer branches this year as it is easier to get hold of without cutting the branches off lots of trees. Also means I can leave the wood chip to decay gradually into the ground instead of having to remove the branches somewhere. I will still need to use branches for some shrubs on the land to stop the deer eating them though. I think the next job will be to mark the road way so we can still see it even under snow and then we can relax for the winter! All the planning for next year will then start.

Play time! The kittens using the greenhouse like a climbing
The kittens are doing well and it is funny to see their characters developing. Bella chirrups often, she sound more like a budgie at times than a cat. Sofie, I was shocked to find out by looking at a kitten chart, was seriously underweight for her supposed age, but some good food (yes no more cheap kitten food either after last week's smelly events) and she has put on quite a bit of growth and feels a lot stronger. She now fights back when Bella starts play fighting and can leap about surprisingly well - not quite the calm cat she once was, but she can still be quite timid at times. On Saturday we decided to take the kittens to the greenhouse as we feel sorry for them cooped up in our apartment. It was like taking the kids to one of those indoor amusement play centres and they sure slept well that evening. One reason for taking them is to stop them getting bored with being indoors all the time, there is more space for running around and as it turns out some excellent climbing frames for them, the other reason is the mice or at least small rodents in the greenhouse and we don't want the caravan overrun with them. Sofie did an excellent job, there was a blur of cat and a loud squeaking noise - not sure what it was but there was disgusting smell afterwards that smelt like tom cat, but we think was most likely emanating from a petrified rodent. I couldn't work out whether she actually caught the rodent or it got away in one of the many tunnels they seem to have built in the greenhouse, but at least they might think twice before coming back in.

Sofie hiding in the buckwheat
The finish of the week was no less frustrating for Ian as it would appear the connector from the car to the trailer was also faulty and so he spent another frustrating day locating 7.5 amp fuses - in fact we have probably bought up the whole of the stock in the village now. So rather than sitting in tonight we escaped to a friend's house, as we did not want to be around when trick or treaters called - a fairly recent introduction to Latvia and a very unwelcome one in my estimation. Our evening out, at least was not frustrating, in fact we had a great time with much laughter - always a good tonic for a frustrating week.

Monday, 24 October 2011

So what are we doing here?

A beautiful rainbow, taken by Ian. I love rainbows!
A story on the BBC about how politicians embellish the truth and a chat with several friends had me wondering about the difference between what we are expected to say about being here in Latvia and what we tell people. We do believe that God sent us here, but for what purpose? To live here! That's it! It would be so easy to embellish the truth, especially as people so often ask why we are here in Latvia. Many know we are Christian and expect us to have plans and projects to "save" the community, and yes we would love people to know Jesus and have a relationship with God - the kindest person I know - but that is not our focus, it's up to God to do the saving (One digs the ground, one plants, one waters, but it is God who makes the plants grow - okay I know it doesn't quite say that in the bible but I get the impression that Paul wasn't a gardener and the digging needs to be done first, but see 1 Corinthinans 3:5 to see where I'm coming from). We love being here, we enjoy what we are doing, we long to see love and hope flourish in the community, but that does not mean giving a three point plan on how to be saved, setting up a meeting on a Sunday or even more radical on a Thursday/Wednesday/Monday (no I don't believe that is radical really) and generally ending in a holy huddle that doesn't really impact the community at all. I long to see transformation of the community as a whole, but not into yet another Westernised community full of greed and self-interest, but into something distinctly Latvian, with Latvian values rediscovered, or for people to find out what being Latvian truly is. To find their destiny and uniqueness and be comfortable expressing that. We love the people and yes we sometimes find them infuriating when they don't do things our way, but more often than not we are relaxed about them doing things differently. It's their country after all!

Wild boar damage can be annoying but you have to admire
their ability to dig up tasty roots and delicately eat them
off whilst leaving the leaves behind, without the use of a
spade, and fingers to help.
It is not just politicians that embellish the truth, so do charities, aid agencies, missionaries etc. We expect them to have a far bigger impact than they do, in a short period of time and therefore they have to write reports that are not exactly lies (or at least I hope not), but carefully worded smokescreens, to hide the fact that making a difference in societies is hard work and long term and doesn't often go the way they would like. Sometimes it is just a cover for when things are not working and they have to justify still being in the place they are, doing the things they are doing. Aid agencies have had to rethink many of their strategies when it finally dawned on them that many of their programmes were not working and in some cases just exacerbating the problems as they did not tackle the underlying power relations in an area that kept the poor, poor. Honesty about the way things really are is crucial in many ways, but it is also crucial for people donating money to realise there are no quick fixes, that things may not work and that situations change. That does not mean that people have wasted the money, it just means that the time was not right, the right people were not in place, it requires a much longer period for something significant to happen or someone got it wrong! And we shouldn't condemn people for getting it wrong, not learning from it yes, but not for just getting it wrong.

So how can anything this cute make such
A friend of mine posted a blog on snickelling - going around the city of York using the passageways and alley ways to see York from a different perspective. I think in some ways that might describe our path through life, through Latvia, choosing the less obvious ways to get around and in the process seeing more of life, more of Latvia and more of Latvian life than we would otherwise. So where has our snickelling taken us this week? (At this point while writing my blog you have to picture me with my polo neck pulled up over my nose and making a mental note not to buy the cheap kitten food again as it does not agree with Sofie's digestive system because it results in smelly wind - Eughhh!) Anyway where was I? Oh yes, snickelling! Well actually not much has happened this week, we have just tootled along through this week, part of which was rather wet, making work difficult on the land and in the garden. I dug up some of the hamburg parsley, which is the last crop to get in before the winter for storage, started packing wood chips around plants to snuggle them up for winter and working on my written proposal and presentation for my course. Ian has been busy sorting out the barn again, he's finished off the drainage inside and levelled off the floor now, so it is ready for the equipment to be stored - only it needs to dry out a bit before he can take the stuff down to the barn without causing a mudbath. Next year we need to sort out the road to the barn so we don't have the problem again at this time of the year. Besides taking the kittens to the vets for their jabs and the usual processing food, shopping and fitting in a visit to the bakery that is about it! Just regular life for us here in Latvia! Now! How could I embellish that to make it sound more exciting? Hmmmm!

Our strange visitor
Oh I know the strange incident! One day we were out on the land when in wandered a dog. It wasn't aggressive or anything, but just wandered around a bit and then sat down, as if making itself at home. For a time it sat down with its front paws crossed quite contentedly, but then, for no reason that we could see, it threw its head back and started howling. It sat there howling for a good five minutes before wandering towards the road and howling some more, after that.....? It just took off and we haven't seen it again. No idea where it had come from or where it went. We have had other dog visitors too, one was from the hunt that went through our forest the other day. They aren't supposed to go through our forest as they don't have permission and one guy was even close enough that he said "Sveiki" (greetings), which felt a little bizarre. We could hear the guys whooping and shouting in the forest as they attempted to drive animals towards hunters and it was a bit worrying at times, as I half expected wild boar to come rushing out towards me, in fact we saw a deer making its escape far up the field. On the one hand we are pleased that the hunters are working the land, as it will mean less pig damage, but we would rather they respected boundaries too and we would rather know who they were. So there you have it, the unembellished truth!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The excitement continues

This is an example of the widespread damage that wild boar
can do to pasture land. That was probably one night's work
Oh yes the excitement continues here in Latvia, yes I am still counting pig holes. Well it is a great excuse to be out in the open, instead of stuck indoors reading more academic papers - that will come of course, as I will need to read more on the subject of wild boar and wildlife conflicts. I've even lost a few more pounds of weight in the process of tramping hither and thither across farmland. I did have a bit of a fright though this week, as I thought I had managed to delete one lot of photos representing over 2 hours of recording. I'm not the emotional sort but I came pretty close that day. Fortunately I did manage to find them, as iPhoto had decided to store them in a different order to the one I thought they would be in. I also found I got some other photos mixed up, because after a while one pig hole can begin to look pretty much like all other pig holes, but I have learnt that I need to take reference pictures to help keep me on track in my counting. There are probably easier ways of doing it but that would probably require expensive equipment.

Yes more damage, but what a glorious day!
Yesterday I came up over the hill to inspect more pig holes on one particular piece of land and was met with a sight of utter chaos, my first thought was "oh my goodness what have the pigs done now?" but something wasn't quite right. The chaos did not consist of tossed around mounds of grass turfs like the pigs often do, in fact it almost looked like huge mole hills but so many of them. Eventually my nose and eyesight clicked into gear and I realised it was manure, the farmer was muck spreading, so for the next three hours I was blessed with some gorgeous autumn weather, clear, bright and dry, sweetly perfumed with the odour of manure - not exactly my idea of a fresh air.

I think this courgette (zucchini) escaped our attention for
a while. Marrow Rum anyone!
Here in rural Latvia it gets very dark at nights, there is not a huge amount of light pollution, that has its advantages, as a clear night sky is a sight to behold with so many stars, but it also has its disadvantages, namely it's dark, very dark! It is law to wear something that reflects for walking at night, which makes perfect sense on the unlit roads, of which there are many. It also necessitates the need for making sure that we have a torch on us in winter and until recently was a necessity just to get from the car to the light switch for the hallway of our stairs leading to our apartment on the third floor (second floor UK). The problem was that to get to the first working light switch, we had to navigate about 6 steps, but now we have lights with sensors and we are no longer left fumbling around in the dark looking for the switch, when we have forgotten our torch yet again. It's only a little thing but it is still bliss (we're easy pleased!) Light sensors also means that we don't have to rush down the stairs at night, just to make sure we get down before they switch off and get plunged into the dark midway. Not easy if you are having a slow day, or carrying something.

Can you believe that these two kittens (Sofie on the left
and Bella on the right) can fit into such a small box
and not long before this were rolling around the floor fighting?
Our kittens have been a delight and great entertainment. It is a bit scary watching them beat seven skittles out of each other when they play chase, but they don't seem to do much damage and often curl up together to go to sleep, so can't be all bad. Of course we have had the various accidents, first while we were teaching Sofie about using a litter tray (fortunately Bella was already toilet trained), but also we have had the protest moves when the tray has not been as clean as they like. Without going into too much detail, we did have one little kitten moving around on the floor like she had worms and there was rather a mess in her wake - let's just say it is not a good idea to eat string!!!! Also thank goodness we walked in the door at just the right moment to deal with the developing situation. Aren't kittens wonderful!!!!! We have now dealt with the fleas and the lice that came with them, and no fleas do not just bite cats, they do like humans too. We have still not got them vaccinated as the vet does not like to do everything at once, and quite right too, so they are back tomorrow for those. At least they have now been wormed and using a tasty paste that you squirt into their mouth rather than those dreadful tablets. You know the ones that you have to shove down their throats, meanwhile stroking the throat and quickly shutting the mouth tightly to prevent them spitting it back out. I did get quite good at that with our cats, but there was one who was ace at pretending to swallow the tablet and spitting it out minutes afterwards.

Our lower pond has lapped over the bank now. Difficult to
believe that earlier on this year we were watching it rapidly
The fleas and the lice have not been the only wee beasties to contend with this week. Fortunately just about all the biting things have hit the deck with the colder weather, although sometimes cellars are inundated with mosquitoes as they look for winter quarters. The other wee beasties I had to contend with this week was in a full box of cornmeal. Sometime in the process it had got an infestation of maggots, which does not fill me with a great deal of confidence. I was not terribly happy at finding the little wiggly things in the box when I had plans on making some cakey treats to take with us when we are out and about. Good job I had other options and a good job I spotted it early on before mixing in the ingredients. It is amazing though how such small creatures can cause such misery and changes of plans.

The Stanley family
We have now added to our Stanley family. It has been great to find products that really do last and do what it says, ie in this case flasks that keep tea hot. They are not the light weight carry around everywhere type flasks, but sturdy metal products that bounce. The food flask finally arrived from England and been put to use already, great for these cooler days, also a good way of using up some of the produce we have processed into soups or sauces. Ian though has got into the habit of naming things, maybe he has been spending too much time on his own out on the land and so we now have (from right to left) Stan (1.9 litre flask), Mrs Stan (1 litre flask), son of Stan (insulated cup),  and the food flask is Uncle Stan - the strange one in the family and not quite the same!!! Should I be worried do you think?

Even our middle pond now has water, wonder how long this
will last.
The dipping temperatures are certainly a reminder that winter is not far away and we have been making plans for winter storage, not just of the produce but also the farming equipment. The barn still needs a concrete floor and there is no time to lay it, because the ground is too wet now to have deliveries of the sand and the gravel we would need, so that means Ian just has to level the floor as best he can and concrete it next year. He will also lay a drain in the floor to hopefully prevent a quagmire in the barn itself when the snow melts (assuming we get snow of course) and then he can start to put the equipment inside, to get it under cover for the first time since we bought them. We have had them under tarpaulins the last few years. We have also moved kale and swiss chard into the greenhouse so that we have some plants early in the year and maybe even over winter - who knows! We are planning to put the caravan (trailer) in the greenhouse to protect it from the weather, as it will just about fit between the internal posts. We are a bit nervous of doing this as our last greenhouse fell down in the snow of last winter, but we think this one is much more sturdy and maybe we can put planks across the top of the caravan to save it if anything disastrous does happen. It might also mean the caravan will be a little warmer than when it is stood outside, which will be good for sheltering during dinner breaks. We also have two roofing jobs to do as our workshop developed a leak and our wood store at our other apartment is not in a good state either. All jobs clamouring for attention before winter really does set in. Speaking of which we had our first frosts this week.

We are not meant to have a pond here

Fortunately Ian is on the case, digging
ditches. We now have a drain away
that goes all the way into the forest.
Oh yes and for those who missed my weekly blog yesterday, we had a lovely time meeting new friends. Did you know that Rottweiler puppies can be really cute? All seven of them! Don't worry, we won't be succumbing to these cute ones, a Rottweiler in not on our wish list, even though when well trained they do make great family pets and would probably be great at chasing off wild boar.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Heh ho!

Been to meet some new friends, and as we are never ones to pass up the chance of meeting someone new then off we go and my blog can wait!!!

Monday, 10 October 2011

451 and still counting

Mushroom in our forest. Not sure what sort,
so if you know I would be happy if you send
me a message or post a comment.
Well 451is how many pig holes or areas of damage that I have counted so far. I have at least finished covering four of the five areas of land, but the biggest area is still to do and I have only covered a small portion of it. At least in our area the hunt has been in the vicinity and so the wild boar have decided to take a vacation for a couple of weeks - well we hope it is at least a couple of weeks. The weather is definitely against me at the moment though, as the temperatures have plummeted and it has been drizzling. Drizzle is okay for just traipsing around fields looking at the damage done by the wild boar, but trying to measure the holes means I get a muddy wet tape measure that sticks after a while, the notebook gets covered in mud too as well as wet and I can't imagine it would do much good for Ian's camera that I am borrowing to take the photos as evidence. I think the next time I am out measuring the holes it will be woolly hat and gloves time, and that won't make things any easier.

Will post a picture in situ next week. Hope
it looks less of a mess where it is though by
then. Things are starting to pile up out there
on our land and look untidy.
We did get the horse box that Ian went to look at and it matches the caravan beautifully as both are in Latvian red and white, and guess what! I forgot to take a photo of it (so you will have to make do with the advertisement picture of it). Next week perhaps! I did get some photos of our cute new kittens though, so yes we did succumb. They are giving us hours of entertainment as they go hurtling around our laminate floors chasing old bean pods, toilet rolls, screwed up tissues, a stuffed old sock and the light from a laser pen. They are also causing us great consternation due to the fleas they both have, but they are getting better now that we found a flea comb.

This is Bella, but don't be fooled by that innocent look.
Bella is the first kitten we got and she is completely hyper. She charges around the house like a cat on a hot tin roof. She was thankfully toilet trained when we got her, but as many kittens do she often bites - gently but still! We have been gradually training her that this is an anti-social habit and she had better desist. She is also the first one into any trouble, most of the time and spends most of the time picking a fight with our other kitten. It is funny how she sort of chirrups when she has been caught doing something she knows she shouldn't.

Sofia, the quieter kitten
Sofia, Sofie or Sofs for short, is a far calmer character. She seemed pretty timid when we brought her home, but that could be because she is a barnyard kitten and not as used to people as Bella was. I first saw her when I was walking around the farm for my wild boar project with the owner of the farm. She was sitting watching two other kittens playing and looked so cute and I guess you could say she was the reason for giving in. We were worried that being a barnyard kitten she might be a bit wild but she is far from it. A gentle creature - unless provoked by guess who! - and perhaps deaf, either that or she has a high tolerance for all sorts of strange noises that freak Bella out. They have adapted now to each others company and show no jealousy over food bowls but definitely both jealous of people's laps. It is not a kitten each but usually they are both sat on Ian's lap (or mine now as I try and type this). Not sure what they will think of us tomorrow though as they will be off to the vets for check ups and injections. Sofia is the smaller of the two kittens but maybe actually quite a bit older than Bella, so not sure if she was just underfed or just a small cat, so we will see what the vet says about that.

One on your lap, both on your lap
Another milestone this week was our Wedding Anniversary. We have now been married 27 years and we have known each other for 29 years. We met the first week of the first term while at uni and got married between our second and third year and so the anniversary of our meeting was two days before our wedding anniversary. It has been an amazing time and if you had told either of us what we would be doing, where we would be and where we go in that time, I am not sure we would have believed you. It has been a great journey and I pray that our kids enjoy the journeys in their married lives as much as we have. Now I wouldn't like to give you the impression it has all been plain sailing because it hasn't. We still have adjustments to make to our new lifestyle and having each other around so much, we have had our ups and downs too, but thankfully not many arguments. Early on I took to writing letters to Ian to tell him about how I felt about certain situations and this allowed me to put my thoughts down in a more considered way, especially as the first draft usually got thrown away.

The village lake has been returned to full
capacity now as the work continues on
the new hydro-electric plant
You can tell it is winding down time as we even found time to go to the bakery for a cup of tea and a pastry, which we haven't done in a while. We have made it to the bakery to get a pastry to sustain us through the day, well a pastry or two if the truth be told, but not had the time to go and walk there. We probably didn't really have the time as it was one of the few dry days this week and I guess there was plenty we could have done, but life doesn't seem quite so urgent as it has been, as we have got done a lot of what we need to do to be prepared for the winter, or at least what we have been able to do. Must mention the fact we needed to go to Jekabpils for some supplies we couldn't get locally and well since we were there we had to have some English style fish and chips at the local Tomato Pica place (thought it might become a regular feature). Despite our times of relaxation there needs to be a final push though to get wild boar holes logged, the last of the veg dug up and then next month it will be putting plants to bed before the real snow and cold arrives. We may get some soon (none forecast yet but you never know) but that usually melts to leave us with a muddy mess.

We were surprised to find our heating came on today. It hasn't been that cold recently, although it was today and it isn't October 15th yet either. The regulations are less than 8C during the day for three days or below freezing at night for three days. This usually means a cold September early October, but the unseasonably high temperatures we have had meant it was just not cold enough for heating and we have only had our wood burning stove on a couple of times. We had planned on lighting it tonight  as it was around 4C most of the day and only got up to 6C at its warmest, but there is no need now.
Our barn is now finished, they added the locks today. The
concreting has to wait until next year now though

Our neighbours on the allotment are a bit bewildered as to why we are not out digging the garden over, in fact we put clover seed down as a winter cover crop. Most Latvians have pristine dug plots over winter and then dig it all over again in the spring which destroys the soil structure, it also leaves the soil open to leaching of all the nutrients from it over the winter. By leaving plants intact we risk the pests not being disturbed but then we rotate our crops and so is not as much of a problem and I remain to be convinced that digging brings all the harmful bugs to the surface to be eaten. Another factor for leaving the site covered with vegetation is that we have a sloped site which is sandy and that means that it is more prone to leaching. We are trying a bit of the technique used in the link (Garden of Eden film) I shared the other week of using wood chippings, unfortunately we can't get the chippings with the leaves on our plot (we can do that on our land though), but we can mix it in with compost and manure for a more nutritious topping. We have sourced the wood waste from a local wood mill, which means there is a lot of bigger pieces of wood in, but they will rot down eventually and they had a pile of well rotted stuff as well which we can mix together with the drier stuff. We can also rake up leaves from nearby trees to add to the mixture too. Now we just need to find time to do this and the right weather, although spring time will also work if necessary.

The new hydro-electric station, still
under construction

It has left the river with a lot of sediment. One friend of ours
has lost a swimming area to the silt but has been assured
that it will wash away in the spring floods - we shall see.

A neat little water works station (well at least that is what I
think it is).  Beats the dilapidated old building that it replaced

The newly tarmacked road up to the technical
school, it was just a dirt road before which we
have many of.

The new skate park

Monday, 3 October 2011

A catalogue of tales

Typical open fields of the Latvian countryside, under threat
due to the damage by wild boar
Maybe I should refresh my memory of what I put the week before - sorry I used the same picture two weeks running of me standing in a hole that pigs have dug. It took my very observant husband to point that out to me. So in preparation for this week I have just quickly skimmed through last week's offering and I am sad to say I still haven't got around to photographing those transformations. So what have I been doing all week? Mainly still processing food, stripping beans off bean plants and then depodding them, and measuring pig holes. I have catalogued over 300 places where pigs have dug holes or churned up grassland, some very close to buildings and I'm nowhere near finished yet. Just need for some more fine days to get them done before the weather closes in. Apparently 10-14 days after the geese fly south for the winter it snows here in Latvia or in Estonia, well they were flying last week so it is kind of worrying. It is sad to see how much damage to grassland the pigs have done and they have been through our land again this week and I had another 40 holes or churned patches to measure just on our small patch.

My audience whilst measuring pig holes
Pig holes are not the only thing I have been cataloguing, since it was raining today and not conducive to being outside, I catalogued my jars of produce so I have a record of what we actually have. I had my jars all neatly arranged in rows in alphabetical order all over the floor, so I could write down what I had, when Ian tried to get  up out of his chair and in trying to avoid jars of chutney he slid across our laminate floor, pirouetted and neatly landed on his behind. He is fine and so's my chutney! In all I have 172 jars or bags of processed food, from chutneys and ketchups to pickled cucumbers, dried tomatoes and herbs to jars of jam and bottled tomato sauces of various kinds. The worse thing is I'm still not finished! Still got some more jars of beans in tomato sauce to do and no doubt there will be more tomatoes to process depending on whether the basketful we have ripens or not. It does sound a lot but then again it takes a lot of jars of tomato sauce to last through to next year when we have new tomato plants producing tomatoes. If you see those photos of people with a week's worth of food laid out in front of them, you can get an idea of how much you need to process if you want 6 months worth of food. It's a lot! Our big freezer is just about full now, and not much room in our small freezer and so I was really relieved to hear someone had some spare jars, so I could bottle up more food. We had travelled all the way to the big town to get bottles and they had sold out, so we ended up spending a lot of money on lots of other things instead that we needed. It all sounds a bit excessive at times, but the thing is that the more that is bottled up the less we have to spend and the further our money will go. No we are not about to run out, but that's not the point. What is there has to last until we start earning properly.

Not sure if this frog was also watching what I was doing
In one way we are saving money by generating our own food but on the other hand we have been spending in preparation for next year. We are getting our own trailer and small baler, so that we don't have the problems of large bales rolling down our ski hill and we can bale up all our good grass separately from our poor quality stuff that is only good for composting, they are awaiting shipment now from the UK. We have also bought a hay rake from a local company and were able to pick that up ourselves in our trailer (see pictures below) but in preparation for next year and getting alpacas, we also on the look out for a double horse box - I will have to keep you posted on that as Ian is going to look at one tomorrow.

Our autumn hasn't been as hot as in the
UK but it has been rather warm for this
time of year and we have had some
gloriously autumnal days
Most of the time we are quite sensible in our decisions but there are times our hearts rule and at the moment we are not sure whether to listen to our hearts or our heads. There are quite a few kittens around at the moment and some of them are absolutely gorgeous and we have been offered different ones at different times. In short, we are sorely tempted. Is it fair to keep a cat indoors in a third floor apartment? Should we move up to the other apartment? At least that is a ground floor flat. But it is smaller and we struggle with space for the amount of stuff we have now. Should we downsize? Should we get two and then at least they are company for each other, even if they are inside? Decisions, decisions! Can we procrastinate long enough to avoid the decision? Who knows, you will have to look next week and see what we decide.

Our new hay rake. Next problem, how do you get it out
of the trailer with no fork lift truck to hand? Easy one tractor

Some tow ropes and hey presto!

Jobs a good 'un!

Wheels on- sorted!