Monday, 31 December 2012

Keep it simple

Our Christmas tree, complete with the
parcel I tried to post before Christmas
Christmas is an emotionally challenging time as everyone knows and such was the case in our household. The first challenging time was the christmas tree! Not sure why this is an annual ritual for minor irritations, but it is. First there is finding one, not so hard now we have our own land and plenty of weed seedlings to choose from of various sizes. The challenge this year was finding one that was not too big. Isn't it funny how they look much smaller out in the field than they do in the house. I remember once earmarking the tree that was growing in the middle of our hedge outside our house one year in Denmark. It was part of a bush where it seemed like it was starting to revert to a different type of tree - hard to explain, but there it was growing out of the middle of a bush and I cut it out and brought it inside, only then did I realise how tall it actually was and it touched the ceiling. Fortunately in this case we had more than enough room for it and it looked rather splendid in our large Danish lounge. Now we live in an apartment the room is smaller and not so much room for a tree, not without blocking the light from the window anyway and that is too close to the radiator anyway. This year we got it just about right and hauled the thing home. Our white and very cold start to winter though meant the tree was covered in a thick layer of ice and there began our troubles. Ian was stood in the hallway with a now dripping tree and we couldn't think where to put it for it to melt. We have a basement, but didn't really want a puddle down there and so in the end we decide the shower cubicle would make the perfect place to put it, only the tree was wider than we thought - well something had to be wrong with the size didn't it! After removing the shower doors and much huffing and puffing from a certain someone we had the tree in the shower and I mopped up the floor from ice that had already melted.
Made by some ladies from our Danish Church

Another Danish Christmas ornament

A Latvian walking stick and a wooden ornament from the UK

One of the angels I bought whilst in America

Oh yes and he makes an appearance
every year too now. A freebie
from Denmark during a shopping spree
Well the saga continues, we had intended putting up the decorations on Christmas Eve, as I mentioned in last week's blog and my traditional day for putting up the tree, but as it was a Monday I decided my blog came first and got that done and dusted, then the problems started. As I mentioned before our electric supply has had one or two issues just lately and this day was another such day. I had just started to finish off making some croissants from the dough I had started during the day when the electric went off and I ended up finishing them off by candlelight and putting the ones I wanted to freeze outside on the balcony under a box as we didn't want to open the freezer while the electric was off. At least there wasn't a huge amount of difference in temperatures to a freezer at the time. It took a little longer than anticipated as it is not easy working in candlelight and there was no way we were going to be able to sort the tree out in the dark and so abandoned the job and went to bed a bit earlier. On Christmas morning we gave each other our presents and when I gave Ian his, he opened it and said "Oh a toaster!" My first thought was, "oh he doesn't seem to appreciate it as much as I thought he would" and I was a little disappointed. He continued to open the box and he exclaimed "Oh it really is a toaster!" and then the penny dropped. He thought I had done a common trick in our household of wrapping something small up in a lots of wrapping inside another box. Not sure if he was secretly disappointed that it wasn't a Tupla bar (chocolate bar) though. At least when we get electricity out on the land, he can have some warm toast to eat. Still waiting for that, but it is Christmas after all.

No Christmas is complete without a nativity scene is it,
with of course a few onlookers like Dally Llama, some
rather oversized fluffy sheep and Bagpuss
We also had a poorly pussy cat! Mind you she deserved it entirely. She is in the habit of eating too fast, if you put something down it hardly even touches her lips as she hoovers it up. We resorted to giving her the largest dried cat food we could find in order that she doesn't wolf it down in three scoops and actually has to crunch at least some of it. Well she got in the kitchen and wolfed down half a small margarine tub of turkey fat. A little later she was a bit antsy and then proceeded to do a projectile vomit, narrowly missing the embroidery I have been working on, on and off, for the last year for my parents. It was all cleared up but the sofa cushions needed a wash as she puked on one of them and then walked through the greasy patches and onto the furniture - or she had it on her feet anyway not sure which. It wouldn't come out with sponging and so I had to resort to putting the covers through the washing machine with the worst cushion taking two attempts to wash it out. The floor needed two further washes as I could see little greasy marks all over it! Not what I planned to do with my day. Question is, will she learn her lesson? I doubt it, although she didn't eat anything in the morning - guess she didn't need any extra calories after all that. Whilst cleaning the furniture though I also managed to spill half a pint of cleaning fluid over the area with Ian's computer on and to say I was panicking would be putting it mildly. Fortunately nothing actually got to the essential components and it was fine, but not my heart I think! Oh boy! I can do without shocks like that.

The embroidery that the cat narrowly missed. This includes
all sorts of textile memories from grandmothers. There is
even an unfinished bit of hairpin lace, still on the hairpin
I mentioned last week that the post office was shut for longer than I anticipated but finally this week some books I had ordered had finally turned up, but the one ordered at the end of November didn't. We are still waiting for for my Mum's present to us as well, although that might have turned up Friday but guess what! The post office is shut until Wednesday. One of the books that turned up and was ordered from The Book Depository was not in perfect condition when it arrived. It had four loose pages in it and yet no other obvious signs of damage. I decided to email them right away and see what they would do and, to give credit where credit is due, within hours we had an apology and promise of refund. Pity I can't say the same for the book ordered from Eurospan, I haven't had a reply from them as to where the book is from my November order, despite sending two emails now. I have tried again today using a different way of contacting them, so hopefully I will get a response soon.

This close up shows the hairpin lace (top right), a crinoline
lady, one of many to grace tablecloths and mats as well as
a reminder of the crinoline lady cakes my Nan used to make.
There are also some bits of embroidery done by me at the
age of 16 and some of the multitudes of lace crocheted by
my Gran (or at least I think they were done by my Gran)
We did get a little Christmas present from the wild boar again, fortunately not as bad as the last time and the hunters have been notified but since the wild boar haven't been back and it is Christmas we haven't hassled them. We weren't really wanting to receive presents from the wild boar but I don't think the melting snow has helped. Deep snow keeps them in the forest but the receding snow due to the increasing temperatures tempts them out. We went from  a nice but chilly -15C during the day on Christmas Eve to a rather horrid wet rain hovering up and down around zero for Christmas Day. Not nice at all and that has been the pattern for the week and means we now have some rather slick conditions.

A gift winging its way to the UK for the arrival of a
grandchild due ever so soon!
Well our Christmas was quiet and wasn't without incident, but really it wasn't too bad at all and we can laugh about it. In fact it went rather well, not only was our Christmas meal rather tasty and mostly local grown from the free range turkey from one of our good friends, to the sprouts we unearthed from under the snow during our extreme gardening expedition last week, to the parsnips, carrots and potatoes from our stores. All went down rather well with our Yorkshire puddings followed by a sticky toffee pudding. We got to talk to friends and family over the Christmas period too, thanks to the wonders of Skype but best of all we got to hear of our youngest's engagement to his lovely partner.

With a teddy in a knitted cocoon. Well every child should
have a teddy
So what do I hope for in the next year? One of the issues I picked up on this week on the internet was the issue of healthy farms. The answer is not necessarily to go to a meat free diet, although a reduction on the amount might not be a bad thing, but to get back to grass fed meat, where the animals are part of an integrated system on the farm. Animals are an important part of the ecosystem on a farm and reduce the need for bought in fertilisers that then pollute the water table. Animals in large industrial units lead to their own problems of waste, which would be far better utilised if they were spreading the waste themselves evenly over the grass land they were feeding on. A study by Iowa State University has shown the value of a more integrated system, not necessarily a return to old fashioned farming, but close. Farming that integrates animals is not a step back if used intelligently
The results were stunning: The longer rotations produced better yields of both corn and soy, reduced the need for nitrogen fertilizer and herbicides by up to 88 percent, reduced the amounts of toxins in groundwater 200-fold and didn’t reduce profits by a single cent.
Another blog argues that animals are needed not just for our emotional well being, but also our spiritual well being. Well we have introduced animals into our ecosystem this last year and it has meant some huge changes, but not the sort of changes that we would want to do without as we have observed and laughed at their antics. Hopefully our animals will also improve the fertility of the land with their waste as well as the chickens providing us with meat and eggs and the alpacas with wool. We are already planning on increasing our chicken stock for next year and seeing where we are going to go with the alpacas. We have much to think and plan for next year, that's for sure. At least we had progress on the egg front, we got another egg this week, the first since our debacle of managing to cull the only productive hen we had.

Close up of teddy made from an old
woolly scarf
What else do I see in the year ahead generally? Well I see more things coming to light that people have tried to keep hidden, but beyond that - not much! We have made life too complicated, something that seems to be a recurring theme amongst a few bloggers (Paul, Liz, Diane and here, Steve). We have looked to celebrity pastors/prophets etc., we have looked to them for words for us, looked to them for guidance. Jesus came to break down the divide between us and God, not institute a new hierarchy. If I have one word for any of you it is this, seek the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind and love others as yourself. Unpack that and listen to the voice within. God has given us his Holy Spirit to listen to, he is closer than anything we will ever know, we don't need constant words from others to know what God wants us to do, although he may use others to speak to us, and sometimes he surprises us by the people he uses. Just as Elijah was surprised that God would feed him using crows to carry his food, don't despise the way God chooses to speak to us, it may not be as glamourous as we would wish but it will sustain us.

So on that note I wish you all a very Happy New Year, and my God bless you richly in love, and peace.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Happy Blooming Christmas to all of you!

Huddled together for warmth
Spent lots of money again this week and it was nothing to do with Christmas, but with -23C predicted and Ian out there in the cold, without electric then he needed some warm clothes. We managed to find some thermal wellies rated down to ...... get this ........ -70C. Can't even imagine what that would be like, -32C last year was bad enough. He also got some warm underwear, not sure they are rated down to those temperatures though. Unfortunately we didn't find any good gloves that will take the hammering of handling wood though and so he has had to make do with some cheapies for the time being. Previous years it wasn't too bad as we didn't have any animals out on the land, but this year has meant a change in routine and this early winter has meant our animals are having to put up with some pretty low temperatures rather early in the winter. Our alpacas are putting on quite a bit of fleece now in response and are sensible enough to stay inside their stable when the temperatures are really bad or when it is blowing hard. This week it was the chicken's turn to look a bit miserable, especially the males with their fine tails, which kind of looked sad when they are shivering - mind you it was -17C outside and not much warmer in the greenhouse.

Turn the heat up will you! Our alpacas, expectantly
waiting to see if Ian has brought some more food for them.
The good news is that on the electric front we are close to getting connected, they just have to get a counter in and then we are good to go. Mind you today's weather might not help as it has been blowing. If it blows the snow off the laden trees it might be okay but if it is just the last straw for trees hanging over wires then it will mean the electric guys will be busy again. I'm sure they will be looking forward to a Christmas rest if the weather will let them.

Frankenfeeder 2. Have you noticed how
people have latched onto the Franken concept?
There is now Frankenfish
I was a bit naffed off today as I had made my way twice to the post office this last week to collect a parcel that had arrived on Thursday and the post office was shut. We decided not to rush to get the parcel on the Friday when we got back from our shopping spree as there wasn't long before closing time and I thought that I could collect it on the Saturday instead, wrong! The post office shuts on Saturday, not sure when that happened, could have been a while ago as I haven't tried to go to the post office on Saturday for a long time. I had hoped that it would be open Christmas Eve too but not the case. I wouldn't have tried if I had realised that it was shut but didn't see any sign in the window. I have now been informed that all Latvian calendars give the government days off in red and they usually have the 24th, 25th and the 26th off and the post office follow the government holidays. Hmmph! I will not know until the 27th if the parcel is a present from my Mum, a book for my studies or a book for extending our gardening year or a surprise. So it will be a bit like the 12 days of Christmas in our house I think.

A Russian orthodox church in Jekabpils
Mind you I did get one present through by email, one from Oxfam unwrapped. When our daughter asked what we wanted for Christmas I said that they could take us out for a meal when we visit in April but she sent us a present as well, well a donation on our behalf to the farmers in Timor to learn more sustainable farming practices. It made me smile! Even if our presents haven't got through by post, one got through.

Driving in a winter wonderland
It has been a bit of a mixed week this week. I have just finished a present for our first grandchild due in January (sorry no pictures until they have seen it though). I am still finishing my parents' present. I thought I had nearly finished it, but it didn't look finished and so it needed more work doing on it. So once again the present will be late - not very good at getting presents to people on time any more. I have also still been doing more international trade negotiations. It means I am finding out lots of interesting facts like there isn't that much Ash in Latvia (not that there will be much Ash in other countries with that new disease), probably due to the colder climate. I have also been working on increasing understanding between the two parties of how each group works - that can always be a source of tension when trading partners don't understand the restraints or cultural differences and so just trying to smooth the path for both of them is interesting.

A winter wonderland walk to the shops
We have had more snow this week and so there have been plenty of snow clearing duties, keeps me fit anyway. I have also been doing some extreme gardening! Ian found a box with some garlic bulbs in and garlic seeds in the caravan- I had wondered what I had done with them. Anyway they needed planting now or there would be no point at all. In England it is said that garlic is planted on the shortest day of the year and harvested on the longest, so still time, the only problem was to find the ground to plant them in. Fortunately I knew where the other garlic bulbs were that I had put in earlier, as there was one of our A frame hay ricks standing over the top of them and so it was easy to work out where the bed was and where the paths were. So after digging down about a foot through snow we found the ground, which wasn't too frozen and so with frozen fingers I planted the bulbs and scattered the seed about. We also saw some leftover brussel sprout plants and so pulled them up as the chickens will enjoy them and we even managed to harvest enough for Christmas dinner. Who'd have thought we would be gardening at -15C, not recommended though.

A sunrise winter wonderland outside our home.
Taking apart a large hay bale in these kinds of temperatures is interesting, especially when the hay bale has been sitting around outside for two years. The inner bit is fine, but getting to it is challenging. We prised frozen outer bits off using a fork and a machete. It worked anyway and when we got down to a small enough core we were able to roll it directly into the greenhouse and just used a hay fork for all the loose stuff. At least we have plenty of hay for bedding inside now. We don't want to use the ones we've baled this year for bedding, at least not yet as we don't know how many we are going to get through yet and so we want to save it for food for the alpacas. I suppose we should be grateful that we didn't quite get the -23C forecast, otherwise it would have been even more challenging. At least the weather has been good enough to do some showshoeing around the land and we were able to check to see if there had been any recent damage from wild boar and I'm glad to report we didn't see any. We did see some other interesting tracks though and not too sure what they were. The problem is that the snow is powdery and so doesn't show footprints very well, but it did show an animal that could run and it wasn't a deer and certainly not a boar. It is possible it was a hunting animal of some kind which is a bit worrying now. Obviously we will have to continue to monitor the situation.

Nice of the wind to blow around the stable where the
alpacas sleep and not up against the door. The rest of the
field is knee deep in snow
Our car was in for testing this week too, as it hasn't been starting too well even at -15C. Ian has been taking the precaution of bringing in the battery at night so that at least it is warm. We found out that it was the two of the glow plugs that have stopped working. This is not good news in low temperatures. The glow plugs are heating devices used to aid starting of the diesel engines in cold weather. Not necessary in summer but crucial in winter. The car is running a little better since Ian changed the oil but still not happy in these temperatures first thing. Of course being Christmas it won't get sorted until the new year as they need to order in the parts. Good job the forecast is for warmer temperatures.

A windswept road
I forgot to mention last week that the tower on top of Gaizinkalns, the highest mountain (sorry hill, Latvia doesn't have mountains really) was blown up last week. It was built in the Soviet era to make the hill higher than the rival hill in Estonia which was 6m taller at 318m. The tower was badly built and never really finished and has been unsafe for many years. It does make me wonder though what other tall towers in Latvian life will come down? You can see the action here on this link. There are certainly some towers that need to come down in the area, particularly where people dominate others as if they still lived in the 1990s, just after the Soviet era, before the rule of law really got better established.

The site for our extreme gardening
A comment by someone this week led to one of those weeks where I feel compelled to ask "who am I?" and "what drives and motivates me?" I am a researcher, almost obsessive I guess, the desire to know and understand is deeply ingrained in me. My motive and desire is for truth and justice. I am passionate about truth, I don't mind stories, but I don't like it where a story is dressed up as truth, if it is a story say it is a story, if it is not then fine. Some emails and facebook posts are nothing worse than the old chain letters and should be treated in the same way, binned. There is no excuse for manipulating people to get a message out, it should stand or fall by its own merits and I know that means that some will fail, not because they don't contain truth, but just they get missed somehow. I get sick and tired of lies and half truths passed along with no one questioning of their validity. Why are people content to do this? Why do people not check? It doesn't take long, once you get the hang of it - 5 minutes perhaps!

The bridge across to the forest over the stream
My other passion is justice. I hate to see people labelled, ostracised, picked on. I have been described as a terrier before, a little dog with a fierce loyalty that won't leg go - I suppose they could be right. There are times I won't let go, not because I am always right, but I want to be sure I'm right at the end. I don't mind changing my mind, but convince me to do it first. Prove it to me, that is why I ask questions and lots of them. Asking the awkward questions makes people feel uncomfortable, and sometimes I make no apologies for that. I guess it just makes me the way I am!

One tree down due to the winter weather. Next year's firewood
My friend Mavis was musing on Christmas traditions recently and this week she commented on the tradition of Santa Claus. It reminded me that when one of my children was 5 he asked me if Santa Claus was real, so I asked him what he thought and he really didn't answer. Two weeks later, clearly having thought it through, his answer was "no." I don't believe in telling lies to children in answer to genuine questions and so I admitted the truth, but warned him not to tell anyone at school as it might upset some of them. He managed to upset one of the dinner ladies instead, who thought it was awful that a child of that age didn't believe in Santa Claus. I was somewhat amused. The dinner lady created the myth of Santa Claus to keep her child believing in it for years, even to the extent of putting "reindeer tracks"on the roof one year. It was almost as if her whole Christmas was dependent on her child believing in Santa Claus. No idea what happened when he finally worked it out, poor guy.

A little too large to take home for Christmas! The tale
of the Christmas tree will wait until next week
On the subject of Christmas I have to admit it, we as Christians can be grumpy, particularly around Christmas time, we don't like it if you say holiday and not Christmas, despite the fact that holiday is actually a shortened version of holy day, we don't like leaving the Christ out of Christmas despite the fact that it still leaves the cross, as in Xmas, and don't you dare mess with our nativity, that embellished story of our Lord's birth. We are also touchy on numerous other subjects and believe that we are in the right all the time, of course, well we have God on our side don't we? We want to pray when and where we like, even if it offends you and insist that you pray, even if you in all honesty don't believe. Yep I admit it, we Christians can be pretty bad news to many around us, unwilling to spread peace and goodwill to all men, irrespective of belief, irrespective of culture, irrespective of whether you are being honest enough to say what you do or don't believe. Sorry! So why do I still believe when seeing such grumpy behaviour and animosity to others because of the season? Why do I cling to those old stories as you might call them? Well it is because I look around at an awesome planet that we are in the business of trashing and still see the awesome creative God breaking though, I have walked a path where I have known my God and my Saviour walking by my side and whether I feel it or not, I know he is there and at the end of the day I still trust God to work his way through a lot of horror, evil, stupidity, ignorance and greed to weave a story that speaks of, to quote an old hymn, a guilty world being kissed in love and using a lot of broken people to weave that story.

On that note I, in the words of the immortal Raymond Brigg's Father Christmas, wish you all a Happy Blooming Christmas and on that note I shall now go and put up some Christmas decorations.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Cold times

Weird snow sculptures or one large snowdrift - that was a
road past our orchard once
Sundays don't seem to be a day of rest at the moment. Last week it was a burst water pipe and it meant Ian was busy even on a down day. The burst pipe was not due to ice though, but a pipe that punctured some how. I went to read the meter and as the meter is kind of propped up on some other pipes and so it has to be moved to read it, as I moved it a pipe ruptured and I had to put a finger over the now spurting pipe. I had to shout for Ian to come and do something, so that was him busy for the next few hours while he fixed it. Would have been an easier job if all his tools for the job had been in the house and not out on the land. This week it was drifting snow and having to do the kinds of jobs that just have to be done when you have animals and need to keep on top of the snow to keep them fed and watered. After shifting snow and changing bedding we decided to go and see if it was possible to get two large bales of 2 year old hay from the field to use as bedding in the greenhouse for if the weather gets worse. Can't be too much worse than it was this weekend with drifting snow, but you never know. Well first of all we managed to get the car stuck in a snow drift, then it took Ian a bit of time to sort the tractor out, and just as he arrived the grader clearing the roads pulled up. I think he waited to see if the tractor would get the car out, which fortunately it did and at least it meant we didn't have to try and hold a conversation in Latvian. We then spent the next half hour in the increasing gloom and horizontal snow, shifting the bales one at a time, it is a good job we don't have many more of that size left. We are keeping this years hay back for feed as we don't know yet how far it will go.
Outside our other apartment

Ian on snow clearing duties
It sure has been bitterly cold here, we have had colder temperatures before and that we can cope with, but it's the wind that is making it worse. On one day all of our alpacas were shivering in the morning but we think that is because the wind just happened to be blowing at an angle that was able to blow snow through the smallest of crevices. Fortunately after a good feed they warmed up and looked fine, even Turbjörn, this time though they were all head for the shed in between feeds to get out of the wind. We were also pleased to note that their fleece is definitely thickening up. I wonder if the sudden drop in temperatures has been one of the problems and it just means they haven't had time to grow their fleece thick enough, quickly enough. Our chickens have been fine though and those are the ones that everyone asks about. They are in the greenhouse and their arks are on deep beds, which basically means putting a deep layer of straw down and leaving it in there and then just adding layers on top. The composting manure then serves to increase the heat in the area, apparently it is quite healthy for them. They also go into their wooden boxes at night and they are packed in their with plenty of straw and so keep each other warm.
The windy day tore the protective blue tarpaulin off the side
of the accommodation block for the local school which is
undergoing renovation. I think they were trying to protect
it from the severe cold. 

Disappearing objects, well they would
be if the snow hadn't whorled around them
We are still having problems with the electric and it has been off again this last week. I really feel sorry for the electric guys, especially as we have got to know one of them quite well. The poor guy hasn't had a weekend at home for three weeks and being working many a night too. Part of the problem has been the amount of ice built up and now snow on top of that and many trees have been gradually getting lower and lower which is not so good on top of the ice encrusted wires. It looks very pretty, but just not what we want. The good news is that the papers for our electric has finally come through and means we can get connected up out on the land though. That will be a relief for Ian as it is not much fun at lunchtime as the caravan is just too cold but he needs the energy to keep going and so stopping for lunch is a must. He could come home but that is a lot of fuel in the car and means he can't keep an eye on the alpacas to make sure they are doing okay. It will be so much better when we have a house out there.

I cleared down there!
And there! Not so clear but it was a lot of work you know!
I have been having fun again this week helping to set up international trade links again. It is much easier ringing up on behalf of someone to set up the links than it is to do it for myself. It is also much easier for me to phone an English company than it would be for our neighbour to be talking on the phone in English. Our conversations are full of pauses and arm waving and periods of trying to work out what is meant or what the word is that we are trying to translate and that doesn't quite work by phone. It all sounds grand but really it is just nothing more than chatting to someone on the phone that has previously emailed and just trying to work out what is needed to happen. It's looking a positive link up anyway.

A lot of snow! Could be worse. Heard in Sweden it was
5m high in places.
People keep talking about Christmas and getting ready for it, I can't quite get in the mood somehow. It was nice to hear some choral singing from some church in England on the Latvian classical station as we drove home on that snowy day over the weekend, that felt a bit Christmassy. There are some lights and things out for Christmas but nothing like in England - thank goodness, where Christmas seems to start in September. We did get a Christmas card from our son and his family - that's a first, it was a cute card taken from a painting done by our adopted grandchild, our son's girlfriend's little one of a snowman on a red background. Very sweet. I have also been trying to finish off an embroidery for my parents for their Christmas present, but the nearer I get to the finish, the further away the finish seems. I have more work to do on it to make it look complete. I somehow think it is going to be late. The other preparation for Christmas is to decide what to eat on the day, we are actually spoilt for choice now. I told you that we have some wild boar meat, so we could have that, we could have one of our chickens we culled recently or now we even have the choice of a free range turkey too, which one of our friends blessed us with. Hmmm decisions, decisions!

I think the seeds sprouted inside the squash! Whoops
they were meant for next years plants and it is a bit early
to pot them up.
I also think I ought to get cracking on the knitting front, especially after the little scare this weekend. Our son text us to say he was with his wife in hospital and the baby might be on its way. I must say that if it had been it did not take after his father, who had to be threatened with eviction to get his act together to enter the world. It is still a bit early though as the baby is only due 9th January and fortunately the contractions all died down and she was able to go home, much to our son's relief too as he doesn't do well in hospitals.

Arrrhh! Some sunshine
Will Self had an interesting perspective this week, we have had the slow food movement, the slow travel movement, is now the right time for the slow news movement?
How perverse, therefore, that the contemporary news media keeps to an entirely different beat, an ever-accelerating tempo. The news cycle has been 24-hour since the early 1980s, but the number of updates within each of those hours has steadily grown. Now the letters of the threads that run continuously beneath the live reporting look to me like the cogs of a virtual flywheel, one that spins ever faster as it tries to provide our inertial present with motive force. More events, more comments on those events, still more events provoked by those comments, and in turn, comments on those comment-induced events. The actual is sliced, diced and winched forward, only to tumble off time's assembly-line into the great slag-heap of now.
Ian once had a picture where he saw a giant flywheel where God just put his finger on a switch to stop the frantic turning round. It didn't stop immediately but like a fly wheel when you flip the switch it gradually started to slow down, perhaps God will do that soon for life itself. Wonder what that would look like? All life in the slow lane, time to breathe again.

Disappearing under a blanket of white
Of course it is not really possible to finish off an item like the above without mentioning the horrible events last week where a young gunman entered a school and killed many little children in the US. Certainly an item, sliced, diced and winched forward. I did consider doing what some other bloggers did and not post out of respect, after all what is news about our weather compared to the avalanche of grief the parents, friends and families of those murdered children must be feeling. I can't even start to comprehend what it must be like for them. I decided not to in the end, not out of a lack of respect for them, but out of respect for many other children that are murdered in our violent societies around the world, many of whom will never be mentioned in news bulletins, some of whom will never even be mourned by people in this world. It is a horrible, horrible thing to happen and the grief and the shock is very real and the reason behind it will have to be addressed, but they are not the only ones and so I decided to go ahead and post anyway, my heart still goes out to the parents and families of those little ones and to all those who have lost their children. May we all work towards a better future for our children.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Hog roast

Damage right up to our alpaca fence this week
Eventually this last week we managed to get hold of a hunter to come and hunt on our land. The number we had, was for a hunter who had left the hunting organisation we have a contract with and it took a few texts to eventually get another number. It was sorted in the end and the hunter went out on three nights to our land, with increasing damage being done, but eventually he shot one. If we have the story straight, then it was one of a group of 20-30 individuals, so it was no wonder the place was a mess. It is possible that they had also decided that our land would make an ideal breeding ground. Not good for us, but at least the hunters have committed to continuing the hunt this week too, although of course there hasn't been any damage since one was shot. I remember one of our neighbours telling us that a hunt usually meant that the wild boar would not be back for a fortnight, so at least we get a bit of a reprieve. The snow has continued to fall and it is steadily building up and this restricts the wild boar with their little legs to the forests, so hopefully by the time the boar have forgotten about the killing the snow will be too deep for them.
Ian makes the best use of the barn by hoisting the
trailer up and leaving more floor space. One pulley
a couple of chains and the jobs a goodun'

Our share of the boar meat, bagged up and ready for the
The great thing is with having hunters out on the land, is that we get a share of the boar meat too and so we ended up with a bucketful of meat. I like the idea that I haven't had to butcher it too, so it seems a fair exchange. It was a fat pig though, with a layer of fat on it over an inch thick, if not thicker. That was one well fed pig! Normally I would be wary of meat with too much fat, but the fat will be good for our chickens, they could do with the extra calories now the temperatures are dropping quite sharply. I will let you know what it tastes like once I have got around to cooking it, I will tell you though that we will enjoy every morsel of it.

A frosty morning
Talking of chickens, we must have killed the wrong one. We have not had a single egg this week. I know it is cold but the light levels have gone up with the snow and so I would have thought we might have had one or two eggs, but no! The cold has been bad for the alpacas, well one in particular, Turbjörn. We are still not sure if the others are being mean to him or he just prefers to stay outside, but he is often shivering during the day. He is fine in the mornings as they have plenty of hay that has been built up quite a bit in the shed and we also have spent one day this week shifting rubbish bales of hay and stacking them against the shed to act as insulation and then put fleece around the outside on the other sides to reduce the draughts. It seems to have made it a better environment overnight despite the continued drop in temperatures. Two guys came around from the nearby sheep farm this week and helped Ian to cut the alpaca toe nails. They were quite excited about helping with the alpacas, being only three of them and not hundreds of sheep was something a little different. One had a bit of a bleed, but nothing serious and the lads had a spray to help, one also had a bit of a limp afterwards but that got better over the next two days. It might have just twisted it a bit as it was having the nails cut, or it might have just been a bit strange after having the nails cut. Anyway it is better now.
Hay bales stacked up against the side - a bit snow encrusted now

Double fleece layers around the sides too
We actually saw the sun one day this week. Not sure when
the last time we saw it. Ian and I just stood by the window
and gazed at the sun coming up, it was such a welcome sight
Sometimes in winter we have a problem with the electric, although we don't have as many power cuts as we used to now, it has gone off twice this week. The first time I was surprised that I didn't have a text from the power company to say that the electric was off. It seems a bit stupid getting a text to say "your power is off" but at least it means I know, they know about it and hopefully working on it. What was even more surprising was that it was off for an hour and a half and it wasn't even snowing at the time. All I can assume is that it might have been due to an ice build up that got worse as the temperatures dropped. The second time the electric went off we got a text, only I wasn't impressed as we had gone to bed early at our other apartment and had only just dropped off. We had also just topped up our fire to last all night and so we then spent an uneasy time wondering if our fire would cause the water to boil and possibly explode - we haven't got around to sorting out the battery for our UPS system (Uninterrupted power supply) which switches to battery power when the electric goes off. Our batteries have been used to charge the electric fence and probably need replacing now. Sigh!
Franken-shifter. A patented snow remover
Snow shifted off the greenhouse with franken-shifter

A frosty tree
Usually I don't mind the snow, but this year I just feel caught out by it. I guess it is partly because we have the animals now and we know that if the snow stays then this will be it until at least March and Ian has been having to spend all day out on the land, without electric, so that he can keep an eye on the animals. The chickens seem happy enough fortunately but due to our shivering alpaca, Ian has upped their feed of concentrate by feeding them midday and making sure that Turbjörn gets his full share. At least it means that Turbjörn, the most reluctant of the alpacas will eat out of a bowl Ian holds, not out of his hand but close. Looking out over the scene from our apartment window though I noticed once again how it hides so much, covering the footprints and on our land I knew it would be covering the hideous mess from the pigs in a white fluffy blanket, that was falling ever so gently from the sky. It made me think that sometimes we need our past covered over like that, hiding the marks we made, rather like grace really.
A golden sunrise

Crystal fairy lights, or ice lit by the sun!