Monday, 28 January 2013

And it's a ......

A set of candlesticks
No not another new grandchild, the next one is due March, so not long now. I mentioned last week that Ian was getting into the woodworking lark with his pole lathe and so each night last week he would come home and show me what he had been making during the day and so far he has presented me with a candlestick or two most nights. The lack of tools has been restricting what he can make, so no beautifully turned bowls yet, as he doesn't have the right kind of chisel for that (isn't that always the case?), I must admit though there are some very nice, original examples, but how many candlesticks does one need? Looks like he could have quite a career ahead of him as a candlestick maker then! At least the activity keeps him warm and he is enjoying the creative process, he is now even eyeing up the very sorry looking oak tree that lost a large branch a few years ago for it's potential for candlesticks. He could make a set of similar candlesticks but there is one guarantee, no two will ever be the same, so not much good for a matching pair. The only other problem we now have is how to dry them without them splitting. He doesn't have enough to kiln dry them, it seems a bit much to boil them for hours and then air dry for three months, treating them with alcohol can't be cheap either and so there is the last alternative air drying them for six months. So don't rush to order them just yet.

Oh look! It's a candlestick made from
oak. I actually quite like this one. I also
thought that Ian could do some wooden
beads for me. I bought an e-book
Wee Felt Folk
 that uses wooden beads for heads of the wee folk. Perfect!
Over the years of living in Latvia, and Colorado before that, means that we have begun to get more used to extreme winter preparations and we get better prepared each year. When I mean extreme winter preparations, I don't mean the arrival of a snowflake or below freezing weather for more than two days. I am talking about below minus 20C (-4F). These temperatures cause us particular problems at the moment as I have said in previous weeks the car still needs new glow plugs. We are getting there, the garage now have three out of four and hopefully this week they get a full set! When the temperatures are set to get very low we decamp up to our other apartment since it is a ground floor place; Ian takes the battery out of the car and brings it inside, he covers the engine with a blanket and puts a heater in the place where the battery was. The previous weekend we saw temperatures of -25C and the car started like a dream using this preparation. Quite remarkable as the car has been struggling to start at -15C and when there are animals to feed it is necessary to make sure the car works.

Leaking into the walls above the window, it then trickled
along the window top and down both sides of the window.
A bit worrying when the weather gets so cold. We need to
make sure the water is out of the walls before we let the
apartment cool down
This weekend was a little more exciting that having to prepare for -25C though. Our doorbell rang and thinking it was one of my female neighbours who comes around quite a bit, I opened the door still dressed in my thankfully thick and fluffy dressing gown. Outside stood our neighbour from our other apartment to tell us we had a leak. Ian was nearly ready to go out to the land and so he hurried up and went around. Our neighbour who told us about the leak followed Ian into the apartment and they both looked at puddle on the floor in the toilet. We know we have a slight leak from some of the joints - a problem with poor componentry in this country at times - but it wasn't that that was causing the problem. Ian then noticed the water coming down the wall and raising his head upwards he noticed it was coming instead from our neighbours apartment upstairs, he turned to him pointed upwards and said "Jūs" (pronounced yoos and means "you"). Our poor neighbours face fell, he thought it was us that was leaking into his basement where he keeps his wood. He dashed upstairs to turn off their stopcock and by gently turning it on again found the leak was from the pipe leading to the meter. There was no sign of the water upstairs, it had all been trickling down under their floor and into our apartment.

This was the worse part that kept
dripping all day. There is a hole
that the pipe obscures that Ian
made to make it easier to drain
Well the rest of my day was spent keeping a fire going to warm the place through to dry it out, and using our vacuum cleaner to suck up the water that carried on pouring through the holes and down walls for much of the day. It wasn't gushing but dripping from many points meaning we had a swimming pool in the bathroom, a puddle that stretched out of that room into a pantry area, water coming in over the fire area and forming a puddle across the laminate in the kitchen. Fortunately it missed the electrical points - narrowly, but at least it did miss. It is also fortunate we had the vacuum cleaner and a dehumidifier to help dry the place out. We can't say for sure what the damage is yet, definitely repainting needs doing but the kitchen needed a fresh coat of paint anyway, which is always a problem with a wood burner and then there is the toilet ceiling that needs sorting out. Apart from that, so far the laminate looks like it escaped damage, but we don't know how much got wet and if it will start to buckle later. We are going to pop up and set the fire going a few more days and run the dehumidifier for the week and see what happens.

Yes! You've guessed it! Another
candlestick, this time made from alder. Mind you I think this is
my favourite
I suppose it has been quite an exciting time all in all, thank goodness not all the excitement was bad news, in fact some of it was very good news. I heard last week that my PhD proposal has been accepted by Tartu University in Estonia. I feel like this is going to be the start of a whole new adventure and I've no idea where this might lead. It does mean I will have to spend some time up in Estonia, but Tartu is a lovely place to be, so that's okay. At least for much of the time my research can be online hunting through journals for literature and speaking to people about participatory development and what they understand about that and since my research centres on the Latvian rural environment then that will be fine. It is one of the joys of the type of research I do, it means I get to talk to lots of interesting folks about subjects I really enjoy.

The sun beginning to rise
I have been acting like an unpaid company secretary again, I'm even getting to the stage where I don't even need to ask my neighbour for some of the information as I already know it. So what do you want to know about the Latvian wood trade? It's interesting and quite informative really, it helps me to understand business better in a rural area and shows me how things can work together, which is all useful stuff when I need to know how the rural environment functions, especially since wood products are some of the biggest exports from Latvia. At least hopefully one load of wood where I helped to negotiate the deal should be arriving this evening at its destination. Unfortunately there was a delay at the port and so it is a little late, but that's what happens in winter. And don't worry, I am not being taken advantage of, one good turn deserves another and my neighbour helps us out in many ways and it is nice to facilitate a fledgling company to get off the ground.

A frosty scene
Talking of wood products we also had to declare how much wood we cut from our forest to the State Forest Service this week. The system is not really set up for the local person just caring for the forest. It would be okay to just clean the forest of small diameter wood i.e. less than 12cm as long as enough is left to be classified as a forest, but we have some bigger trees that need cleared out to make room for other trees and some larger trees that are on our fields and need removing. To clear the larger trees means we need special permission to do that, it is easy to get, sort of, as long as you travel thirty miles to get a certificate to allow you to do it, but then every year you have to declare how much you have cut; well not a lot really! The expectation is that well over 10m3 of wood is cleared a year for this certificate, but we clear less than that, but we still have to go through the procedure. To put it in perspective, in Denmark we bought  2 x 2m3 crates to run our woodstove that heated our large living room every evening in the heating season. We still had wood leftover from that after the winter. Now of course we have a wood fired oven now that we run every weekend and a woodstove occasionally and so we need some wood but not 10m3. Even so it is only the large pieces of wood that need to be tallied, in reality there is more because we don't include the smaller trees. Complicated heh! I can understand having the checks and balances, because it stops people clear felling when they feel like it, it has to be approved and the forest has to be of a sufficient age to do that, then there are regulations that means you have to make sure the forest is rejuvenated properly and not just grows into an untidy mess. A healthy forest will give plenty of wood in its lifetime as weaker growth is removed to make room for the larger trees. Hopefully one day it will all be online, or at the very least we can post the information. As for all of that wood we cut out, we won't waste it, I mean there are candlesticks to make, but also fences, woodstores, alpaca accommodation for when we increase the flock and ......... oodles of projects to do. Now where is that paper to start writing the list?

A recipe from one of my friends. Equal
parts of grated ginger, lemon cut up
small and honey. Add to tea!
Makes a nice warming cup of tea,
great for beating off the colds this time
of year. Not that I get many of those!
Last week Martin made the comment on the birth of our new grandson:-
"You deserve a cuddle... then a few more years and he will be ready to work the land with the rest of you!!!"
Obviously the arrival of babies sets our minds to the future and we were wondering what our grandchildren's reaction would be to coming to see us. Will it be oh great we are going to see grandma and pops, because there are animals to feed, land to kick around on, loads of insects to observe and fight off, a pond to study, a forest to walk in, a chance to eat fresh eggs , animal tracks to look at and in winter a chance to ski as often as you like, or snowboard down an old Soviet ski hill for free and ride a sleigh with a neighbour's horse? Or will it be, oh no do we have to go there, there is nothing to do? It's miles from anywhere? No decent shops? We would love to think that maybe one day a grandson would come and share with us working on the land, but neither would we want that to be an expectation on such a young one. A child of reconciliation though would be good out here.

Not a candlestick! Are you shocked? This is for the pull on
a blind and is made from Aspen.
A book I had been waiting for since November finally arrived this week, but it would appear that one of the reasons for waiting so long is the fact that the post lady keeps making mistakes and putting the slips in the wrong box. Now she wasn't responsible for it being out of stock in the first place, but it might account for some of the delay. We are beginning to wonder if she cannot afford a pair of glasses - a very real issue here when wages are so low.

Updated labels to the post - in other words I forgot to add them first time around

Monday, 21 January 2013

It's a .......

A baby sleeping bag in process for another new grandchild.
This one is made from a recycled picture I was making for one
of our children that never got finished. It was going to have
velcro dinosaurs to stick on the fleecy fabric. The picture
was completed but the dinosaurs never materialised.
Boy! Yes our first grandson was born on Wednesday, carrying on the family tradition of being born on that day of the week. I was born on a Wednesday as were all three of our children, one only scraping in by 10 minutes, having been born at ten minutes past midnight. Ian is the odd one out, as he was born on Friday. It was meant to be a home birth but ended up a hospital birth at the last minute due to a minor scare, nothing serious and mother and baby are now doing fine. What was scary was to discover that he is one lucky little boy, as there was a knot in his cord, which does not seem to have caused him a problem in the end. I knew about the impending delivery in the morning and was on tenterhooks all day and in the end had to stay up quite late, knowing nothing of the transfer to hospital until after the event. It was a little nerve wracking as I didn't want to intrude too much, but I was also obviously concerned about what was happening. At one point during the day I had to go out to the shops and as I was walking the name Calum came into my head. When I got home I looked the name up and it is a Celtic name for dove, a peace bringer. His name is not Calum, but his name has a similar meaning (sorry no names here) and he is already spreading some peace and reconciliation, as a neighbour of the young family, who they were not getting on well with for one reason and another has given them gifts for the arrival of the new baby, obviously an opportunity for reconciliation.

Delivered safe and sound
It was not the only delivery this week our microwave finally arrived, a day late but at least it arrived. I said last week it was late and so the following morning I phoned to ask what happened and within two hours it apperaed delivered by an older couple, not the normal delivery type of guy. We live on the second floor (UK), third floor (Europe and US) and so deliveries of heavy goods is never easy, the poor guy looked rather puffed out as he stood at the top of the stairs, he wasn't a sprightly chap shall we say. Our next challenge was the instructions, they are in Polish, Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian, not in English nor Danish or Swedish - languages I might have managed with a bit of checking. I now have to polish up my technical Latvian to understand the finer details of the cooking programmes. I have managed to work out though how to microwave, microwave with grill, microwave with fan oven and use the fan oven. Not bad for guesswork! The crisp function and steaming function are new to me and so I'm not sure how they work yet.

One of our better roads. The sides of the roads
are starting to get rather high. Another good
load of snow and it is likely that they will be
looking for places to dump it.
Ian is spending a lot of time out on the land on his own and I do try to get out with him occasionally. The problem for me is there is nothing I can do, except ski that is, and so Ian has made a trail for us to try out. It wasn't too bad, but not quite flat and no grooves for cross country skiing and so I ended up doing a little bit of skate skiing which I'm not terribly comfortable with. Ian meanwhile powered himself round, virtually by upper body strength with parallel skis - I did give that approach a little try but gave up after a minute, I haven't got his strength that's for sure. The track obviously needs a little working on, but it's a start. One of the interesting things about the snow this year is it is soft and powdery, nothing too unusual about that as that is the type of snow you get at this time of year in these temperatures; what we found out one day though as the sun came up is how easy it slides off the roof. We were stood at one end of the greenhouse, just chatting about this and that, when suddenly the snow started sliding off starting at one end and working its way systematically section by section to the opposite end, it was like we had shutters and someone had pressed the switch to open them in perfect order. Obviously the sun had set off a chain reaction, but it was so weird to observe.

My new rolling pin
Ian hasn't much to do either. Working in the forest is difficult with the snow clinging to trees from previous wetter snowfalls and getting quite deep now as bit by bit the snow builds up and so he doesn't do that. There is no land work, apart from clearing snow from time to time as it builds up a bit too much. The alpacas aren't cleared out, we let the bedding build up as that is supposed to keep them warmer and also you cannot move frozen bedding, so layering the dry bedding on top works just as well. Clearing that out will be a spring time job, that we are both looking forward to (well if you believe that you'll believe anything). The chickens likewise don't need much clearing as anything that is liquid freezes solid and cannot be a health hazard at that temperature, anything solid sinks to the bottom of the bedding, so again it gets layered up in the ark. Their sleeping compartments get cleared out on a regular basis and that is about it. Which all goes to mean that Ian still needs to find things to do and as mentioned last week, he is really getting into the woodworking lark.

A toasting fork. The copper wires works but they are soft, Ian
is hoping to find some stronger but thin wire and he is
going to soften the rather abrupt edge as well. 
Up until now, Ian has been what you could call a functional woodworker. His work has been solid but not exactly aesthetic, although I guess aesthetics is in the eye of the beholder. His work this last week though, has been developing quite nicely with some quite artistic pieces being created. He has been finding out what it is like to work on different kinds of wood, alder and oak mainly. Alder has a lovely way of turning from a pale wood, to a wood with an orangey hue as it oxidises. The oak though has a lovely grain to it. So this week he has made two dibbers, one for us and one for a neighbour (a dibber is a handy gadget for making holes in the ground for planting young seedlings), a rolling pin just the right size for a tray I have, that I make my pastry on, and a toasting fork. The handle really is beautiful, but the wire for the fork needs a little working on.

Instead of a sloping side, Ian has straightened
the side to create a nesting area.
Ian did get back to the more functional woodwork in the week though as he made an extension for one of our chicken arks. The accommodation area for the first ark he made now seems a little small for the number of chickens to be cooped up in at night since they have grown quite big and so Ian added on a little chamber for nesting and removed the hardboard separator where the previous nesting area was. This has opened up the main area and made it more comfortable for the birds at night - at least we hope so, without actually hooking up a camera we can't tell for sure, but at least the chickens are using the new nesting area. We had a record number of eggs today, four, two from each ark, which at least means that some of the hens in the other ark are now coming into lay. We are still waiting for the day when we have nine eggs, then we will know they are all in production.
Here you see the access area to the nesting area
so we can get to all those lovely eggs. The string,
by the way is not to hold it on, it is the string to
raise and lower the door for getting into the
accommodation block

A dibber
We had a lovely unexpected chat this last week with the kind of friends who you can pick up and chat with as if it was only yesterday you last chatted. We haven't actually chatted for at least a year I think, maybe even more. They have a new Kindle and unbeknown to me, one of the things you can use them for is for Skype and so they were trying it out and I happened to be on. They are two people I really respect for growing in wisdom, not from book learning but from listening to God. People not defined by their education but by their faith. They have always been folks who sought to walk with Jesus from the start, even though they have been a bit isolated at times due to the fact they lived further away than most and to be honest not your usual church going backgrounds. It makes them more real at times than some folks I have known and their faith more immediate and it shines out of them. Love 'em! Skype is wonderful for keeping up with our new grandson too, we had a lovely chat today while he was awake - clever kid you see! Okay! I'll be honest, he cooed a bit, and I chatted to him and his dad, but he was listening, you could tell. Will be fantastic when we can interact more, looking forward to it, although I am looking forward more to when we get the chance of a cuddle.

Monday, 14 January 2013

We have a horse!

A shaving horse, no not for beards, for shaving bits of wood
Ian walked in one evening and said "We have a horse!" My first thought was that a neighbour's horse had got onto our land or something, the next thought, albeit fleeting, was "What has he done!" Fortunately all was revealed, when he explained that it was a shaving horse. I bought Ian some books on Roundwood Timber Framing and Coppice crafts and together with a book bought many moons ago called Green Woodwork he finally got around to making a contraption that helps him to make various wooden objects. It's quite impressive really and made solely from wood from our forest. Neither is it nailed together, but uses wooden pegs. All it took was some time. For those who don't know what it is, a shaving horse was described as the Black and Decker work bench of its day in "Tales from the Green Valley" (the DVD I was talking about last week).

Now that's what I call a hammer!
Ian has been busy all week making things. Added to the shaving horse is a pole lathe, or rather an adaptation of a pole lathe. The problem with a pole lathe is that it uses a pole which would mean going into the forest to look for a pole, not so easy with the snow and then the pole needs anchoring into the ground - not easy now it is frozen and so that aspect will be used in summer. Ian has been experimenting with different set ups to make the lathe work, using bicycle inner tubes, bungee straps and different ropes and string to experiment with. Each day he has come back with something different to show me, a mug rack - which unfortunately split in the warm house, a spoon and a rudimentary turned piece of wood. He promised me an oak table and high back chairs but I haven't seen them yet. I think they may take a little time to materialise. 
A treadle lathe

Oooh the stress we've had this week! Not only walking on sheet ice to post a letter, but trying to decide on a combination microwave. Now buying a microwave could be quite easy, just look it up on a Which report, see what's available and what suits us and buy it! No chance! The models available in different countries are well..... distinctly different. One microwave we looked at only had information in Russian, another one was available elsewhere and so wasn't too bad to look up. At least the Which report gave two companies that we can find here in Latvia gave the thumbs up for the ability of their microwaves to actually cook- a useful feature I find and so it was narrowed down to a Whirlpool and a Panasonic. In the end we went for a Whirlpool, because its bigger, unfortunately it did not arrive today as expected. Heh ho! Delivery companies! Don't you just love them! I suppose I shall have to ring tomorrow and find out what has happened to my microwave.
The blue rope turned out to be better
than the traditional hemp rope. We
must have the wrong sort as it kept
matting up. You can also see Ian has
started on turning the wood. Not perfect
yet and I think we have a way to go
before I get that table and chairs

Our seed order is completed this year and I managed to narrow that down to just two seed companies this time, instead of four like last year - mainly because I have saved many of our own seeds and I still have seeds leftover from last year. I did a grand stocktake to make sure I knew what I had, which kept me busy on a winter's day. I couldn't purchase solely from one company, MoreVeg, that I have used for a few years now, as they didn't have Sweet Meat squashes, which I am reliably informed can last a whole year and so something we want to try, as it is something to fill in the hungry gap when other things are past their best and before the salady things start coming through. I have used MoreVeg for a few years now, because they are excellent for small packets - I mean who wants 100 cauliflowers? The small packets are often around 50p which means it is possible to try out many different vegetables at relatively little cost and since we are still finding out what works for us, that is very useful. Someone emailed me this week via a post I had made on another blog, because they were struggling to source Sweet Meat pumpkin seeds within Europe, so 
I am making sure I give out the link and for the Styrian pumpkin (which has seeds without the hard coat) as they are a bit scarce too. If you know of anywhere else please feel free to post a link at at the bottom.  Anyway the link for the Chiltern Seeds is as follows 

Sweet Meat -
Styrian Pumpkin -
Their veg catalogue is a lot of fun too, with some interesting illustrations, their website is quite boring by comparison, but still it does what it has to do and that is provide information about seeds.
Even a three legged stool

We thought we were on a roll with the eggs, as we were getting two a day for a little while but we are mainly down to one a day - from 9 females! Actually coming from one ark only. Not stupendous really, but it is still early in the year and it has gone chilly again, so hopefully soon they will start to produce more soon. It turns out our suspicions were right with one of the birds we weren't sure about, it is a male and he reliably informed Ian of that fact with a cockle-doodle-doo, well kind of, give the guy a break he is a novice at it. Mind you, he just signed his own death warrant with that noise, we have nowhere to keep a single male in these temperatures and he is starting to flex his muscle, which will only lead to fights in the ark eventually. For the time being we will leave him as he adds extra heat, but any fights and he is out of there. The other bird we weren't too sure about has laid the eggs and so we are pleased we were right with her, as she is a lovely looking bird and obviously a good layer as she is the only one to be consistently laying eggs at the moment. So all in all, we didn't do too badly when we separated the chickens out, we were only wrong with one of them. Still miffed at that! It would have been the best layer of the lot.
Just to prove I really did get the skis out

I finally got the skis out this week and made my own track for cross country type skiing out on the land. That way there is no one to watch when I fall down, which fortunately was only once this time. It was only a small track and only took about a minute to get around, but at least I could practice the movements, which is what I was most bothered about. I now have to sweet talk Ian into making me a track maker to make the tracks a little easier to make and then I can make an even bigger track out on the land.
Enjoying the sun

I must be getting emotional in my old age, or it's my hormones at this time of life, but the new song by David Bowie made me cry. It just spoke to me of a world weary from crisis and I just wanted to put my arms around the singer and say "It's going to be okay, there is hope." His singing reminded me of Solomon in Ecclesiastes, a man full of wisdom who explored life to the maximum and yet at the end of it all opted for the simple life.
The Final Word. Besides being wise himself, the Quester also taught others knowledge. He weighed, examined, and arranged many proverbs. The Quester did his best to find the right words and write the plain truth.                           The words of the wise prod us to live well.They’re like nails hammered home, holding life together.                           They are given by God, the one Shepherd.But regarding anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy. There’s no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you’re no good for anything else. The last and final word is this:                                          Fear God.                                                                                                         Do what he tells you.                                                                                     And that’s it.                                                                                         Eventually God will bring everything that we do out into the open and judge it according to its hidden intent, whether it’s good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:9-14 The Message) 
The alpacas are much more confident with Ian now. Here is
Hercules eating straw from Ian's hand
David Bowie has lived a life full of variety, never conforming to the norm, an intelligent man who experimented with life, which echoes Solomon's quest for deeper meaning. At the end of the day, it seems both have found some kind of answer in simplicity. Being wise, being the great experimenter, living life to the full for both men was never the answer, both seem weary towards the end of their lives.

Sunday was such a beautiful day
A song came back to me this week from the dim and distant past "Through the barricades" by Spandau Ballet, that talks of love through the barricades in Northern Ireland. On the 13th January 1991 the Latvians built barricades to protect various sites in Riga, a sign to the Russians, "this far and no further". There are times to build those kinds of barricades, to declare "this far and no further!" And there are times to love through those barricades. For many people here in Latvia, they have barricades in their hearts, built through years of suspicion and corruption, barricades of mistrust. No one can blame them for they have been much abused in the past, but I feel it's time for those barricades to come down now and for people to love each other through those barricades. So that is both my prayer and my goal, to help bring down those barricades.
The frost was an inch thick on trees and wires. It's difficult
to select the best pictures of the day

Monday, 7 January 2013

Such fun.....

Do you see that! Blue sky! Shame it
arrived too late to actually see the sun.
Cold tonight I guess
We had a great New Year's Eve singing carols. We should have been doing that on the Saturday but the two daughters or our host were rather sick the night before and so it got delayed a few days. We don't often sing carols now, especially in English and certainly not ones we are particularly familiar with. Although we sang carols in English in America, they weren't the ones we used to sing regularly. There were only 7 adults and various children, but we all sang with gusto and it wasn't bad at all. It did help that one of our number has a particularly good singing voice with which she could belt out the melodies to keep us all in line. The greatest fun though was trying to explain some of the weird and wonderful lyrics we sing. Carols sung with a Latvian really makes you question the wordings of some of them though, trying explaining "deck the halls with boughs of holly" to someone who may have never have seen holly and why is it pronounced"bow" and not "buff" and what is a bough anyway? "Don the gay apparel" - my how language has changed, it even needed explaining to one of the younger English speaking participants (just in case you are wondering and it doesn't translate well in google translate don= put on, gay = bright, cheerful and apparel = clothes). We also never realised that you have to sing parts of that particular carol with a southern English accent and some with a northern English accent. I mean you can't sing "Fast away the old year passes" with northern tones, it just doesn't fit and "lads and lassies," has definitely got to be sung with a northern twang don't you think? I'm not quite sure the young man got the banter between the southern English and the northern English at times. And finally as for Good King Wenseleslas "tidings of great joy," oh boy the explanations went on and on but it was so much fun fa la la la la.

A common sight here, a logging lorry. These double trailer
vehicles are quite scary at times, especially if you meet
them on a narrow snowy road
Our presents have been arriving in dribs and drabs, we were still receiving presents and cards this week. My Mum sent me the full Victorian Farm collection, part of which is the series "Tales from the Green Valley" which was a series where archaeologists and historians recreated life in 1620s. It was fascinating and funny at the same time. It was funny how they had to explain that chickens don't produce all the year round, and in September the number of eggs reduces as they start to moult. So much knowledge is getting lost with time, as just about everyone would have known this at one time. We also laughed when they spoke about life being weather dependent. For all the mod cons we have now, life on a farm is still weather dependent to some degree, admittedly not as weather dependent as it was in the 1620s, but you can't hold back the seasons, you have to work with it. In our case, over the weekend the thaw finally finished and we were faced with icy, slippy conditions again, but it did mean that Ian could get the trailer off the land and as they had ploughed a lane through the snow down to our woodshed at last, we took the opportunity to shift some wood about. Ian brought a trailer load of wet wood from the land to put in the woodstore and we took a trailer load up from the woodstore to put in the cellar. Something that can't be done when there is mud on the ground or the snow too deep, in other words we are still very weather dependent.

Our shyest alpaca, Turbjørn. Well
when I say shy, I mean to humans,
anything else and he is first to
have a look

Our alpacas are getting bolder, at least with Ian who feeds them, even the shyest of them comes up close for feed time now. I think it has something to do with the fact that Ian holds the bowl for him, so the others can't nick his food. They are also animals with a lot of curiosity. Ian was chipping away at the ice outside their abode as the snow has been melting all week and he was using the mattock to chip away at it and all three alpacas stood around watching what he was doing. They often come to have a look when he is working nearby, I think they must be afraid of missing out on something. Rather like our cats who used to follow us on our walks, just in case there was something to see of interest, almost like a dog.

The road around the back of our apartment block, sheer ice
With the slippy conditions this week the local workmen have been out gritting roads Latvian style. The main roads are now gritted with a real gritting lorry and sand, the side roads are a different matter though. They are often gritted with ash, from the local heating company presumably, fair enough! However, to save the poor souls from walking the slippy roads and manually spreading the ash, which is obviously very dangerous, they sit in the back of a van with the doors open and spread it from there, with the van slowly driving up and down the road. Elf and Safety?

My task today, to tidy this room, it
is tidy honest! Well tidier than it was
Eurospan finally got around to replying I'm glad to say. Still waiting for the book to be in stock though, wish they had put that rather than processing on the original email. And the Book Depository have already reimbursed me for the book with loose pages - how's that for service! I do use them a lot though as they deliver free worldwide and so it works out cheaper than dealing with Amazon directly, despite it being the same company now anyway. It is quite a dilemma really dealing with Amazon, on the one hand it has a good reputation and enables some smaller companies to increase their trade but it also dominates the market which is never ultimately very healthy.

One of our cockerels. He didn't develop as quickly as the
other one, but still looking a fine handsome bird.
There has been some rather interesting articles and quotes on the internet this week. After reading one article I wondered if I am called to be a fungus. Not many people aspire to be a fungus, but it is not a bad calling really.
“There’s a particular type of fungus, known as mycorrhizae, that is one of the most extraordinary living things on this planet.  It forms in undisturbed soils and builds vast networks between the various elements that make up a forest, holding the soils together, increasing the plants’ abilities to scavenge nutrients, hold onto water, recycle debris, restore degraded soils.  It allows the various plants to send messages to each other, such as to warn about the arrival of pests and diseases." (Rob Hopkins: Transition Culture)
In other words this humble organism brings nourishment and deals with the bad things in life bringing restoration, it also communicates important messages. So are you called to be a fungus? It is a pretty important role if you are.

One of our egg layers. Yes we have at least two layers now,
as we have been having two eggs a day for the past three
This week the papers and internet news sites finally seemed to have got the message, that the pain in Latvia over the crisis was too much. The unemployment rate is not necessarily down because of a string of new jobs, it is that people continue to emigrate. Declaring that the crisis is over is premature, the pain still reverberates around the country and people only quietly moan, or at least don't moan much to foreign newspapers. We now live in a more unequal society than ever before - hardly progress! And as Rob Hopkins also said in a talk about the next 10 years said, there is no cavalry to come to the rescue which seems a rather bleak start for a talk. Fortunately he then went onto list several uplifting scenarios of things that were happening now, and I know there are now two transition groups working in Latvia to help build resilience in the local community. Something very badly needed here, so let's hope that transformation is about to happen.

Ian has been letting out the chickens an ark at a time, to
roam around the greenhouse and peck at the weeds growing
there and scratch through the soil and straw. When let out
the first thing, or nearly the first thing the ladies did was
to have a long dust bath
Ian passed on a link to me this week from Spain about the Pamplona locksmiths who have voted not to work with the banks to change locks on foreclosed homes. A brave move as it affects 10% of their earnings, but they did not feel they could continue to be on the side of the banks and how they dealt with their reckless lending practices in the cases where it had gone wrong. They could not face being part of the cause of putting any more people out on the streets. As they pointed out, they may have lost some income, but they have recovered their honour and dignity. I have great admiration for their decision and the brave move by the locksmith that initiated the vote.

And just to see how funny they look, here
is a video of the chickens bathing

Another inspiring internet link comes from a talk by Sir Ken Robinson, an international leader in the development of education, creativity and innovation. He is an entertaining speaker but he also has some radical things to say on education. He blames the current model for stifling many people, rather than releasing them. He also says how sad it is that so many people endure their lives rather than love what they do, such wasted talent, such wasted creativity and he blames that on their educational upbringing. It would be interesting to see what could change if people were truly educated in the way that releases them, instead of instilling them with a list of things they cannot do or don't enjoy. Maybe if the education of our children really could draw out of them their talents and gifts they would fully understand the statement by the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard "My message is there's only one you. Everything else in life, at the end of the day, no matter how precious, can be replaced." This was said in response to the wild fires in Tasmania as she urged people to take safety seriously, but it applies to many aspects of life. You are precious, you are unique, there's only one of you, you cannot be replaced and the world would be a poorer place without you, the world needs your gifts and talents. Stay safe and take care of yourself, but also live life to the full.