Monday, 9 April 2012

It is finished

Winter has nearly finished, not much left to go now. Mind
you I've said that before, about three times this winter.
It is finished indeed and no I'm not just talking about Jesus' mission to save mankind accomplished on the cross, I'm talking about my thesis. I finally completed the writing for my course and now it is just awaiting some photos, a grammar check and then it needs assembling into a complete document to send off to my tutor for his perusal and marking of course. It has taken me four years to get to this point, the first year I studied Development Management with the Open University, but due to the increase in fees I started a bit of hunting around for another course and found Managing Sustainable Rural Development with the University of the Highlands and Islands. I am so glad I did as I think this course is much more applicable to Latvia, where I now live, than the OU course, good though it was. The OU course was aimed more at developing countries, rather than a European setting, but it still gave me a good foundation in what development is all about  and the history of it that has helped me enormously in the current course. It also gave me a good start to get back into studying, for which I am very grateful, as it has been rather a long time since I was at Uni, in fact in the meantime my eldest had started a nursing course and is now nursing - that should give you an indication of how long ago it was. The course also gave me a Post Graduate Certificate in Development Management, maybe it will come in useful at some point.

A little creativity to stop me burning my fingers
Last week our car passed its technical inspection, or to be more precise the previous week, but who's counting? It is always a relief when our car gets through the technical without a hitch, especially as one year the inspector, who was inspecting our car, shook the car so much to test the suspension that we suspect it damaged the wheel bearing. It may have been going anyway, as the roads around here are tough on cars, but the shaking it got would have made it far worse. Even the tyres passed which is surprising, as we are still on the original tyres and we've had the car 4 years now, we will change them this winter though as they are slowly starting to perish. As you can tell the dirt roads we have around here maybe tough on the suspension, but they are not so tough on tyres, unless there are nails in the roads of course and we have picked up a few of them along the way. The dirt roads have been particularly bad this spring and we have never seen such a bad state in all the time we have been here and not to such a large extent, think giant washboard and you might get the idea. We have a robust 4x4 and even we were travelling at 20km an hour to save the car and I have never seen so many Latvians travel so slowly, it was like serious off-roading on road. We were expecting the roads to remain bad over the Easter weekend and so were very surprised to see the grader out on the Saturday and I'm glad to say the roads are greatly improved.

We even have flowers now
That reminds me we learnt the word for potholes in Latvian this week, fortunately it was through the insurance lady when we were sorting out the comprehensive insurance or kasko as it is called here - it is a name that kind of worries me, as it reminds me of the word catastrophe and I know that is what we want to insure against but I would rather not be reminded of that, comprehensive sounds so much more friendly. Anyway just in case you are wondering the Latvian for potholes is bedre and there are plenty of them around on the tarmac roads at this time of the year (yes we do have some around here, they are not all dirt roads). For small cars they are definitely worth insuring against as some of those holes are deep and you can bet they won't have enough money to do a good job on the roads and so once again as soon as the frosts are a thing of the past then the guys with their lorries of hot tarmac will be out patching the patches. Getting our insurance was quite a mammoth performance as we managed without an interpreter (although we had been in about a month ago with an interpreter to check things through and so she knew we would be back). I think we were there about an hour which included her photographing the car and getting us to test the alarm. The question is though, how do you test the alarm without actually breaking into the car? We managed in the end by winding down the window, locking the car and then Ian waving his arm madly through the open window and eventually it went off. Nice to know it is not over sensitive - I think! Next she needed to take some photocopies of the registration document, but wasn't sure which way round to do the copies so that the front and the back of our document was visible on the same page, side by side (it would have me confused too), meanwhile the photocopier jammed too. Well eventually Ian and the insurance lady managed to get the thing sorted and we were finished, apart from nearly leaving the registration document in the photocopier - bit of a problem as you are supposed to travel with that at all times here in Latvia.

Having finished my thesis meant I had a real sense of freedom for the start of this Easter holiday, rather apt really. Friday was a lovely day, if a little cool and so I went out to the land with Ian to soak up some sunshine and do a little pottering about. On the whole it was a fairly restful day, until Ian wanted some help shifting some timber that is. He was sorting through the timbers to see what was leftover from building the barn, as we want to build a shelter for the caravan. It is a bit old to be left standing outside and it would be better under some kind of protection. We are thinking of making it a more enclosed shelter then we can have an area in front of it that we can sit and relax out of the weather, rather than sitting in the greenhouse. It was a bit tricky negotiating with some rather long pieces of wood and I managed to slip in the mud, no bones broken, no ankles twisted but managed to get caked in mud. Yuck! Must remember to leave some spare clothes in the caravan.

The little finger puppet I made. The fabric
is some I had dyed a while ago and had tested
machine stitches on it. So as you can
see there is a reason for me never throwing
out scraps of material
On the Saturday I still went out with Ian, but took some sewing, as it was lovely just to sit in the warmth of the greenhouse and sew. I sewed a little finger puppet for our neighbour's little girl as we were invited to her first birthday party. I love going to the kids birthday parties as it is a great chance to sit and listen to Latvian in full flow and our neighbours fill us in with some of the conversation so we don't feel left out. It is also lovely to feel included, even though we are quite a bit older than our neighbours who have children, but somehow that doesn't seem to matter. We were treated to rasols or a sort of sausage and potato salad and cake and plenty of cups of tea. We also got to try maple juice, the sap from the maple tree. We've tried birch juice before and that can be okay but usually it tastes of aspirin to me, but this maple juice tasted of a slightly sweet but refreshing water. I guess that is another new taste to add to a whole host of other things we have tried since living here. The storks also arrived back outside our other apartment on Saturday and so now it finally feels like Spring may have arrived.

Purple flowers too. Must try and find out
what they are, wouldn't mind but I planted
Sunday saw us heading off to see some friends of ours that we have made through my course. Simon has written academic papers about Latvia, some of the few that I have found whilst investigating topics for my coursework. I realised that Simon was not a common name in Latvia and did a bit of digging around on the internet and found some contact details and contacted him. I was really interested to know what his research had shown about Latvia and Latvians as I thought it might be useful. Although Simon does not live in Latvia, he does have a house here and when he comes along with his wife, he gets in touch and we meet up. Simon and his wife have a wealth of experience of different countries and development and they love Latvia and so we always have much to talk about. We had a very pleasant day with good food and talk and a walk around the area but it was a little disheartening to walk around as Simon showed us the new wild boar damage they have and it was pretty extensive, not deep but certainly a lot of turf turned over. After my research on wild boar damage in our area I can see there could be trouble ahead in his area unless the hunters get on the case and take some decisive action, which they maybe doing fortunately; hopefully they won't end up with the same scenario that has happened around here with wild boars digging up year after year after year.

Gathering up the hay, yet again. This will only be good for
mulching and composting but that suits us fine.
At least the snow on Sunday didn't amount to much and didn't even stick, which was a little surprising since you may recall, if you follow this blog, that as soon as the snow has just about gone it has snowed again. Our friends to the south weren't quite so lucky though this time as they had about 4 inches of snow (10cm). That did mean though that Monday saw another glorious if cold day, another good day for those piles of snow to continue to melt away and for the ground to start to dry up. We pottered around the land in the morning waiting for the ground to melt a little and I got some tomatoes potted on into bigger pots and in the afternoon we started on picking up the hay off the field that we hadn't had the chance to gather up before the weather turned bad last year. Most of it was remarkably dry, but some was heavy and sticky and the ground became squelchy in places - there's still a lot of water in that ground. I seemed to spent a lot of time shifting hay by hand over the last few years, hopefully this year it will just be in small bales and not using a pitchfork. We need to shift the hay, otherwise it makes it difficult later on in the year to cut the new hay and also it gives the grass a chance to grow back better. It is also less of an attractor to the wild boar and there is enough of that damage on our land this year already from before the winter. If the weather stays dry enough then we might be able to get out and start to sort out some of the damage and get some grass seed down, now that will be nice. Hopefully I won't be too sore tomorrow either. Nearly forgot, we sold another 7 bales of hay to our neighbour and so we have just about sold all our spare hay now and nearly covered all our costs - very pleased.

Ian ordered me a birthday present this week, not so unusual you might think but it is. I have been known to wait two years to get a present and not only is this present actually ordered, it is ordered in plenty of time that I might even get a present on my birthday, as it isn't until much later on in the month - now there's a novelty.

There's no pontification this week but I will share a little about our cats, as I haven't shared much about them lately. They are quite talkative cats - is that because they are female cats or are they just noisy? I do wonder as we've only had male cats before. I think Sophie has learnt off Bella, who is definitely the nosier of the two. Bella just tends to be noisy when she wants something but Sophie seems to try and communicate. It is hilarious though when Ian sort of says "neowww, neowww" and Sophie then rolls over on the floor - I thought it was only dogs that rolled over for their owners. Being the fluffier of the two she also slides across the floor easier, which she seems to think is a great game and lets Ian do it quite a few times and comes back for more, he's even started calling her Slidy Soph. The cats are also enjoying their freedom a bit more as we let them out of the greenhouse and even took them down to the barn this week as we hope they will keep the mice at bay in there. Well there is another week on the Baltic equivalent of the Archers combined with the Little House on the Prairie as one friend described our tales.

Bella being noisy


  1. I bet you feel a weight has been lifted now you've finished your thesis. And it was well timed as now that the better weather has arrived you can get on with the work on the land without having to worry about your studies. It's always good to hear your updates and keeping us informed of how things are going.

  2. Congratulations on the writing. I am amazed how you have done all you have done these past years. Makes me tired (!!) but inspired reading all of your activity and vision. Big thumbs up to you and Ian.

  3. I do indeed feel a weight has been lifted off and the timing like you said is perfect

  4. Thanks Martin! Mind you I'm amazed it makes you tired, you are such an active person yourself. In meetings and out praying around places you put such heart and soul and energy into what you do, you would tire me out just watching you :)

  5. The plants are possibly some variety of scilla? Although they look a little more purple than the varieties that I have in my garden.

  6. Thanks Kay, they do look similar so I guess that's what they are :o)

    Thank you Liz :o)

  7. Congratulations! Do you still need a proofreader?

  8. Thanks Pene and thanks for the offer. I have got someone proofreading it at the moment but your offer is greatly appreciated.


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