Monday, 29 December 2014

Unequivocally a white Christmas here

A brooding scene
It was one of those weeks of "Is it, isn't it going to be a white Christmas?" the snow came and went, came and went again. Some mornings we would wake up to a snowy white world and the next it would be green again. Eventually though we had snow on the 23rd and it has been white ever since. Mind you, we haven't got as much snow as some of our friends in Sheffield in the UK, which is rather unusual. Still it does mean that skiing season has begun here as I spotted some folks walking around with skis in hand today. It also means that the snow clearing season has begun and the snow blower actually made it out of the barn for the first time this season, which is about as many times as it made it out of the barn all of last winter.

Ian is there somewhere
We didn't plan much for Christmas itself, apart from what we were going to eat. We decided to go for free-range pork for the dinner, aka wild boar! You can't get more free range than that! It was rather tasty done in plum juice, sage and lovage, all from the garden, with just a little balsamic vinegar, mustard and worcestershire sauce. I also roasted other vegetables from the garden, like carrots, turnips, onions, beetroot and potatoes. It was rather satisfying to sit down to our Christmas Dinner knowing that so much of it had come from either our own garden or from the local area. I followed it up with a type of tiramasu, made from home-made chocolate cake soaked in squash and raisin rum, (which we have just decanted off from last year's brewing) and coffee, layered with home-made custard and blackcurrants. We ate Christmas Dinner on Christmas Eve as we were visiting neighbours on Christmas Day itself.
Beautifully labelled! Not! Quite a few bottles of squash or
squash and raisin rum and it all tastes rather nice.
When I go out to the land, I usually feed the chickens and
as Ian went out the door, he called "Don't forget to check
for eggs." I do forget sometimes! As I checked I found a
package with five twix bars in the egg laying compartment.
The clever chickens had double wrapped them and written
a lovely little note for me. Isn't that sweet!
The croissants were made once again for Christmas Day breakfast. This is an annual ritual for many years. I'm not quite sure how it all started, but it makes a change from porridge anyway. I have baked them in the morning of Christmas Day for the past two years and then we've taken them out to the land to eat. As I've already mentioned we were visiting neighbours this year. We usually collect milk on a Thursday and weren't sure if we should go up, but since most Latvians have their main celebration on Christmas Eve it wasn't a big deal to be going to pay a visit on Christmas Day itself. Our neighbours daughter was home from university too and so it was an ideal time to catch up on some news of how it had all gone. What we weren't sure about before we went though, is whether we would end up eating there, as it has been known for us to turn up and a meal prepared when we weren't expecting to be fed.  As it turned out snacks were provided and we had pīrāgs (which is a kind of bread roll filled with ham and onion usually) and apple cake, just right after a large meal the previous day. We also came away with a bag of apples and more apple cake, so that will keep Ian in cake for a few days. As for the young lady at university, it was nice to find out that she is doing very well and really enjoying the work, as well as adapting well to the city.
I said he was there somewhere
Still in captivity! At least they haven't escaped just lately
We have more exciting news to announce this week, grandchild number five is on the way next year, this time around the beginning of July. It doesn't seem that long ago since we were announcing the arrival of our first two grandchildren or telling you about our adoption as grandparents by our son's fiancée's little girl. It has seemed such a rapid transition to life as a grandparent, albeit from rather a long distance. Thank goodness for Skype. It not only keeps us in touch with our grandchildren, it has helped Ian keep in touch with his elderly mother, who has not been very well just lately. It is a pity that she is afraid of computers, otherwise he could talk face to face, but she is happy enough hearing his voice. Just in case you are wondering, Ian still has brothers nearby to his mother and so we know she is well looked after by them. It is still a worry though, not quite knowing how she is. She ended up with a trip into hospital this week and we are not quite sure if she is out yet or not at the moment.
The snow might be a nuisance for Ian and adds to his chores,
 but it sure looks pretty.
Looking for seeds in the sheep's hay bedding
There is no denying that I am at a certain stage of life where hot flushes are a periodic reminder of how old I am. They have been both a curse and a blessing this last week as they seem to have returned with great regularity. In some ways they are quite nice for warming up freezing toes, but as I have discovered they can be quite dangerous too at below freezing temperatures. I was out on the land with Ian and although we have the caravan, it has a lot of warming up to do before it reaches a good temperature of about 6C. When a hot flush ensues I have to start whipping off hat, gloves, scarf and opening my coat up before I start to sweat as the last thing I need when it is -8C outside is sweat freezing. I then have to wait for the flush to subside and try and judge the best time to fasten up my coat and put all the other things back on to keep me warm and toasty. So far I seem to have judged it right and I've not frozen afterwards.
This little chap seems to be spending a lot of time around

And seems rather bold

Playing with my camera again. The alpacas in the snow
using the sketch setting
In the UK a rather well know supermarket used the Christmas truce of 1914 in their advertising. It is quite remarkable that in the middle of a war, men stopped firing at each other and played football, or sang Christmas hymns to one another. It makes you wonder whose war it was? For a brief period of time, men stopped seeing each other as enemies and made connections with each other. One of the soldiers of time, Louis Barthas, said this
"Shared suffering brings hearts together, dissolves hatred and prompts sympathy among indifferent people and even enemies. Those who deny this understand nothing of human psychology. French and German soldiers looked at one another and saw that they were all equal as men."
You can read a fuller version of the story on the BBC here. It makes me wonder what could have happened if the soldiers had then decided to call a complete halt to the war. Was it possible? It is sad that not long afterwards they were shooting at each other again, after orders from above and the moment was lost. Something wondrous happens when we stop seeing people as enemies or the other. It means we can see them as people, with hopes and dreams. It is hard to see some people in that way, especially when they have carried out heinous acts. But what happens when we do see them as young men and women with distorted dreams? Dreams of a pure life with a certainty, but bought in blood? What happens when we see them as people who have grown to hate our world with its inequalities and all consuming greed? Will it help us to sit down and try our hardest to try and work out why our society spawns such hatred and try to do something about it? I hope so.
Turbjørn looking handsome in the snow

Tellus in sketch mode

Aggie and Estelle looking inquisitive.
Looking upwards into a snow covered canopy of aspens
Well New Year is nearly upon us. What will this New Year bring? People are certainly filled with uncertainty and are worried what it will bring. It is hard to hold onto hope at times, but I cannot and will not let go of it. I still have my dreams, I still have my faith. I still believe that God is into renewing this planet that he made and I will work to the best of my ability alongside him. I cannot take any certainties into the New Year, but I can take hope and that is enough. Many years ago, as I looked forward into what appeared to be an unknown future, I took encouragement from a song called "Beyond these shores" by Iona. It gave me the courage to take risks and to step out of my comfort zone. I'm not in my comfort zone at the moment, but I can still keep going based on the hope this song inspires.

Another photo playing around with my
camera. This reminds me of the song 
- a song to take us into the New Year
Beyond these shores Into the darkness
Beyond these shores
This boat may sail
And if this is the way
Then there will be
A path across this sea

And if I sail beyond
The farthest ocean
Or lose myself in depths below
Wherever I may go
Your love surrounds me
For you have been before
Beyond these shores

Beyond these shores
Into the darkness 

To hear it on YouTube, here is the link 

I've been busy dyeing today. This pink
fleece is sat in a shallow layer of blue

This will be Ian's mother's Christmas
present. I still have time, Christmas is not
over yet!
Because it's Christmas here are a couple of videos, first our alpacas in the snow. Herkules loves to sit in the snow or even roll around in it. Unfortunately Aggie likes to roll in the hay, just look at her fleece and all the bits in it when you see our youngest alpaca. She is meant to be white and I am finding out how hard it is to clean the fleece once it is spun. Can you imagine how hard this will be.

This one is a panorama of our winter wonderland

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Merry Christmas

It is that time of the year once again! How time seems to fly by. It must mean I'm getting old. Anyway in the words of Greg Lake in "I believe in Father Christmas"

I wish you a hopeful christmas
I wish you a brave new year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear 
I've been playing with my camera settings. This is the sketch mode. I like it! 

Monday, 22 December 2014

It's greening up... or maybe not!

A particularly dark day. This photo was taken at 10:36am
The snow finally departed this week .......for a day or two. Hovering around zero is not pleasant, it is neither winter nor autumn and the days are dark, never mind the nights. Yesterday we had snow flurries on and off and then today it snowed gently most of the day, so once again we are back to the monotone white of winter again. I usually try and get out to the land at least once a week and try to pick the best day weather wise to go, normally I pick the wrong day though. If the weather forecast is good one day and not the next, you can guarantee that they have it wrong if I opt to go out to the land. I have been known to spend the day in the caravan knitting because of the dreich weather, when the day before had been relatively pleasant. Admittedly it is better than stopping at home all day.
Oh look! The technical school and accommodation block.
How long have they been there? And all that green stuff

It didn't last long though. This was taken today
Not that happy to see me. Actually I was stood in the
doorway of their side of the alpaca house and were waiting
for me to move.
The animals are not fond of me turning up. They think I will be doing something. I did take the chance to have a look at Herk and Aggie's feet to see how they are getting on after their problems earlier on this year. Aggie's are not brilliant, but they are not as bad as they were, same with Herk. We are trying to leave them alone, because putting oil on when it is cold is not always the best move, Aggie's would just provide a nice moist environment for bacteria and Herk's would probably freeze his skin. There is fine line between stressing the animal and not allowing it to get worse, so we will continue to keep an eye on them and try and catch any deterioration before it gets too bad.
Veronica is more nervous of me than all the others. Not
sure why though as she is rarely the one that needs
attention these days. She moans all the time I'm in the
alpaca house though.

This is Bella, although she is not looking quite
so grumpy in this picture
Our cat Bella has disappeared. She has done this before in winter time, but not for so long. We think the last time she found a willing person to take her in, because someone had cut a chunk of fur off - that sounds bad, but actually with their long fur and propensity for going into the sort of vegetation that clings, they often end up with matted fur and sometimes it is just easier to cut it away than try to comb it out. She has been away that long now that we will need to ask our neighbour to contact others to see if they have seen her. At least she is quite a distinctive cat - think multi-coloured grumpy puss.

Ian put up feeders in the youngsters section of the alpaca
house. It should stop them eating off the floor - in theory
We went off to school again this week. This time we were talking to an older group and so could add in a few more details and up the pace a little. It was funny that the teacher sitting in for the four lessons we took, would chip in and remind us of little details we missed from the first run through the talk. I also got to tell them a little of the research I am doing and explained the reason I was doing it was because we both felt that there was great potential in Latvia but people needed to be able to grasp it and collaborate to get there. Some of the students seemed to really connect with the comments, which was inspiring.
A dusting of snow for a change! 
It isn't just because I see great potential in Latvia I am doing the kinds of research into people led development, but also because I have a faith in a good God who will bring about a renewal of this earth. I also believe we have a part to play in that. In the Lord's Prayer it says "May your kingdom come, may your will be done, on earth, as it is in Heaven." God's kingdom here on earth, now! Today! Not some airy fairy time in the future. I don't believe in the earth burning up or Christians disappearing off and leaving everyone else in a mess. How horrid is that! I'll be honest and say that was an important concept to me once but not now. What is the point of doing the research I am doing if it is all going to burn up in an end time holocaust? What is the point in seeking long-term solutions to society's problems if it is all going to end soon? None at all. But what if we are meant to be part of the solution, part of the process of renewal? Then there is a point. The Left Behind Series has a lot to answer for and I don't think it portrays a loving God who sent his son to die for a world to be redeemed.
Diamonds in the trees. Yes I did actually
see some sunshine, in between the snow
When I got to the land, there was no
snow and I managed to dig over the
new Jerusalem artichoke bed. Then it
snowed and I wasn't sure what to dig
over after that. I knew there were a few
spaces that needed a bed of straw on
them, so Ian and I did that, but I
couldn't do any more.
Whilst in school we also got into a chat about a hot topic, immigration! I find it odd that some Latvians find the issue of asian people in the UK a problem, why do they seem to care so much about it? It is not their country after all. There is obviously a fear of the unknown, as Latvian society is not a particularly diverse one, although there are a mix of nationalities from ex-Soviet countries, just not further than that (although the Soviet sphere did extend to quite a few countries, which is difficult to remember sometimes). It is almost as if they forget that many of their compatriots are regarded as unwanted immigrants too, by some people in the UK. There seemed to be more to their objections though and I didn't understand it, until this week. One lady described the feeling in Heathrow as "like an occupation." So while I had been viewing the issue as a historical one from the UK's connection with primarily Commonwealth countries, i.e. ones that were ruled by Britain in former years, she was viewing it through the lens of the Russification of the Baltic countries during the Soviet era.

Our errant sheep have not escaped this week. Then again,
they've been penned up in there all week. No escaping from
that then.
There is a big difference though between the Russification by the Soviets and people coming from the Commonwealth, for a start Russification was imposed, but many of those from the Commonwealth were originally invited. The roots of British Asians also goes back further in time than when people were encouraged to come to fill roles left vacant by fallen soldiers in the Second World War and to staff the new NHS service. In fact the first Indian restaurant opened in London in 1810 and seamen from asia were settling in the UK in the 1600s after they were marooned there when they were refused passage back to their homelands by the East India Company. They had filled in vacancies in the crews sailing from India, but were not expected to travel back. Wikipedia has a whole section on British Asians and it is quite a fascinating read.

I love the colours in this photo of the grass  just covered in
snow and the dark clouds.
The topic did remind me though how we view many issues through different lenses. I understand quite a few of the issues that have stemmed from the Soviet times, for instance the coping mechanisms that means that people do not always deal with issues well, because to deal with issues in Soviet times could be dangerous, but obviously I still get caught out at times. The fact is that I haven't lived through the Soviet era, I have only studied it, so I cannot possibly understand all that it means to everyday people. I wonder though, how many times the Latvian youngsters fail to understand their elders, because they haven't lived through the Soviet era either. What tensions does this create! Something else to look out for too.

Monday, 15 December 2014

It's Christmas time......

The proof! Christmas decorations up early with Santa
looking on.
Now that you all have that tune well and truly fixed in your head, I shall begin. First of all I have to warn my boys to sit down while reading this, because there was a momentous event in our household this week. Are you ready boys? .............. The decorations went up this week! Now I know that most of my readers will be wondering what on earth is the big deal as many people put there's up around mid-December if not before, but it is a virtually unheard of event in our home for the decorations to be put up more than one day before Christmas Eve. In fact when our children were small they used to be put on the night of Christmas Eve after they went to bed, then it became on Christmas Eve to keep the little darlings entertained and eventually the day before Christmas Eve when we went to Denmark as it fitted in easier with going to Christmas services. The reason for this extraordinary event was the fact our daughter and granddaughter were visiting, as I mentioned last week and so we decided to hold Christmas early.

I love this pensive look
The Christmas tree we collected, that I also mentioned in last week's blog, was propped up in the shower overnight to melt off the ice so as not to flood the floor and the next day my daughter and I set it up. We both ended up with a bit of a rash from the needles, some of my spots turned a little nasty, so note to self - next year wear gloves! Our granddaughter helped to decorate the tree and so this year, all the ornaments that could possibly break, ended up at the top of the tree, with all my non-breakable ones down below. She was very good though and the most she did was to poke a finger at some of the ornaments quite gently. We followed up a day of decorating the tree with a trip out to see our friends on the goat farm. The wee one, loved the goats but wasn't enthralled by the noisy chickens, ducks and turkeys or the very quiet rabbits. She did like the goat's cheese though, in fact she likes cheese no matter what. If all else failed some cheese would work for a quick lunch.

All kitted up and ready to go
Our daughter then treated us by making Christmas dinner. It was lovely, both the taste of it all, but also the fact I didn't have to cook it myself. She was very happy that for once the Yorkshire puddings came up to her grandma's standards, Ian's mother that is. One of the joys of visiting his parents were grandma's Yorkshire puddings on a Sunday afternoon and she set such a high standard. We often felt a little disappointed if ours didn't work out quite as well. For some reason, our oldest son seemed to have the knack of consistently making good Yorkshires, for the rest of us it was a bit hit and miss. We obviously don't have all the ingredients for a proper English Christmas dinner here in rural Latvia and so we had pork rather than turkey. The pork was done in a spiced up apple juice with some fermented apple juice that was meant to be vinegar, but tasted more like a weak wine, but it worked really well anyway and gave it a cidery taste. Our brussel sprouts suffered with the heavy frosts and not worth picking, so there were none of them, but there were carrots and squash, potatoes both roasted and mashed, a sausage stuffing and all followed by a baked cheesecake with a strawberry topping.

One little girl with a very red nose.
All too soon it was time for me to take a trip up to Tartu and leave Ian some time to get a word in edgeways. I had a meeting to present my research to my fellow doctoral candidate colleagues. I didn't set off at the crack of dawn this time though, we all took a trip to Sigulda for a bit of a day out, but it was so bitter and there is not much time when the days are so short that we only had time for our granddaughter to have a bit of a play in a large playground and time to have a meal. At least it was a few extra hours.

This reminds me why my daughter rarely had her hair up. I
was never very good at putting in pony tails
My presentation went well. I harked back a little to my children's worker days and took along some fabric and threads borrowed from my host to act as an object lesson to the way I work. I explained that the fabrics were like communities, some fabrics are more harmonious than others and like in an art quilt where the fabrics are linked by threads that bind them together, so there are common threads that bind communities together. I explained that I look for those relationships of harmony and linkages that are already there in communities and I am looking for ways that might help link them together better, in much the same ways as I use embroidery to alter the fabrics to tone in, or stand out. It did surprise them a little, but my supervisors seemed to relate to the metaphor.

Grandma and granddaughter time
I have found the internet on the train very useful for working and managed to send off a few emails that needed to be dealt with, as well as look up some details about some academics who I needed to make contact with. One of the trains I take even has plug in power
points, but I have to remember they don't work when the train is stationary. It all feels very productive. Not sure if that is a good thing or not, as it means no time for just staring out of the window and taking in the view. I think I will have to do that sometimes just to make sure I give my brain space just to be. The conductors are usually quite pleasant on the trains, they may not smile like some would expect in say America, but they are not surly. In fact the conductor on the train I was on going to Riga on Saturday was lovely to one of the sleeping passengers, as he very, very gently woke him as we were approaching the main station. I thought that showed a good deal of care and concern. I guess it also makes sure that no one is left on the train at the final destination, but at least that sense of responsibility was taken gently.

Melting ice
I had arranged with Ian and our daughter to meet them in a shopping centre in Riga, but when I got there it was chock-a-block with traffic and not a car parking space to be seen. It was not heaving with folks as I know it can be in England, and there were no queues of cars to get in on the road, but it was still quite full. Fortunately I had arrived a while before they could as Ian had had to put the animals away first and by the time I had finished a pot of tea, people were starting to leave and car-parking spaces beginning to appear and not be instantly replaced with another car. We went for a meal and I got the chance for a few more hours with the wee one. Of course waiting for food is far too long for a little one and so I kept taking her off for a walk while we waited. It was great fun to look in all the shop windows and look at the small round tiles on the pillars. We also stared down at the people on the floor below us. All the sorts of things you can do when you are wandering around with a little one, but looks a little strange to do it yourself.
From this angle it looks like an agate slice. That takes me
back to the days I used to help my parents sell gemstone
jewellery at the agricultural shows around the north of

A little cold on the toes I think
So now our home is quiet again and normality returns - whatever that is! The new normality seems to be our sheep making a bid for freedom on a rather regular basis at the moment. Ian has had to pen them up in the corral which now has a line of string along the top to dissuade them from jumping out. The blue string makes them tilt their head too far back to climb out and I do mean climb. Ian even put a brand new fresh bale of hay into the paddock area and they still went walkabouts. The problem is that electric fencing run off batteries doesn't work well in the cold, as it drains the batteries too quickly and so the fence hasn't been electrified and besides if they chose to they can jump it, as we have seen them do. The snow would also short out the apparatus. Although much of the snow has gone, there is still some, so in the corral they have to stop for the time being until a new paddock area can be sorted.
We had an ash tree that looked pretty sick and it finally
came down in the overnight storm over the weekend. Ian
had to clear the road of the tip of the tree before going home

Still snowy, but less than there was

I put the half done picture of this box for business cards up
on the blog previously. Well it is now finished with a little
copper colour added to highlight the surface detail.

Monday, 8 December 2014

All grown up!

Our granddaughter enjoying
creamy porridge with
strawberries and grapes from the
freezer. Or should I say enjoying
the strawberries first and then the
Our little granddaughter is visiting at the moment with her Mum. It might only be a few months since she last visited, but she is now chatting away and saying distinct words. She has also developed quite an imagination. So much growing up in so little time. The snow is still on the ground here and so our little Ozzie granddaughter has got to see it for the first time , she wasn't very impressed. She must have picked up an Ozzie gene for the heat somewhere along the line, despite having two northern British parents. Her Mum and I took her outside to see the snow and she found it really difficult to walk in it, which she didn't like. She also got very upset when I tried to start moving snow about to make a snowman. Eventually she got the hang of walking about and then let me make snowcastles with buckets from the sandpit, which she then enjoyed demolishing. Today she had her first ride on a sledge, that was much more fun - at least at first. We went to look for a Christmas tree and she got a bit bored and fed up, maybe a little cold too and on the way back she complained about being in the sledge, then started crying as we tried to get back as fast as possible. In the process we freaked the sheep out with the noise of the sledge on the snow and our crying granddaughter, so they charged their fence, broke it and ran off.
Making snowcastles

Amazingly the old sheep shelter is still standing, although
they don't use it these days
Our granddaughter and her Mum disappeared into the caravan to warm up and the sheep spotted Ian at the greenhouse and so trotted over and followed him back as good as gold to their pen. He didn't even have to entice them with food. The problem is that tomorrow we were going to get a ram to put in with them and now Ian is not happy about doing that in case the ram got out. Our sheep know to follow Ian back to the pen, but would they do that with a ram about and would a ram be quite so obedient? It doesn't look like we will be having lambs any time soon then, as that plan has now been shelved.

Frosty backdrop to the girls alpaca hut
Our granddaughter isn't the only one growing up. Agnese is getting quite big now. She and Estelle still have a run around from time to time like young alpacas and Ian enjoyed standing in the middle whilst they raced around him. Other days they fall out and spit at each other, as alpacas do. We started with the vitamin injections for all the alpacas for the winter months today. That will be a regular monthly chore until about March time now. It is definitely getting easier to do these jobs as they get more and more used to us.
Amazing cloud formations

I love winter sunrises. Not only do I not have to be up
rather early, they are the most intense colours
The last chore we tackled with the alpacas was cutting toe nails at the end of November. Ian had to wear his glasses for that, something that is coming a bit hard for someone who had far better than average sight in his younger days. This last week he came home and asked if I had seen his glasses as he had been looking all over for them. Nope! Not I! The last time I saw them was, yes you've guessed it, when we were cutting toe nails. The next day I got a text, "Found the glasses! They were in the alpaca hut, those boys do think it's funny to hide things." They were actually just on the bit of shelf where he had left them. Shows he doesn't need them that often then.

Just because you can never have enough frosty winter
scenes. They are so bright after the dark autumn days
Our chickens are also growing up. The boys we moved into new arks proved to us that we were right in thinking that they were getting close to being grown up cockerels by Cock-a-doodle-doing. It is strange to hear cockerels again as we get out of the car in the mornings. It has been quiet around the place since we lost the older cockerels to a fox. Fortunately the hens have settled down now and are laying again, after only the briefest of stoppages due to the stress of the male interloper. It is nice to have a regular supply of eggs again after the rather sparse number over the autumn period.

I love the splash of colour of the playground equipment
We've had other visitors this week. Not long ago one of us commented on the fact that it seems strange we haven't had a visit from the immigration department for a long time. Lo and behold two ladies turned up at the door this week with a paper in one hand and the immigration insignia on their jackets. They asked if we had seen some American neighbours of ours, but I hadn't as they had left about two years ago, which I told them. They asked about another family and I was able to tell them they were still around, but I knew that was okay to say that. They never even asked for my passport or registration documents. They just seemed happy enough with the information and left. The funny thing about these visits by the immigration people, is that Ian has only ever seen them in passing on the stairs and never had to prove his existence to them, although I have shown them his registration documents. He is never actually at home when they show up.

A truly glorious winterscape of frosted trees and deep blue
On the same day, as my visit from the immigration officers, Ian had a visit out on the land by some guys from a government mapping department. I presume they were just checking up to see what the changes were that were showing up on their newly updated maps, such as our greenhouse and barn. They left Ian a leaflet explaining what they do, but of course it was in Latvian, so that wasn't much help. What was of help though was the website that was listed on the leaflet. Ian checked it out and is delighted to find that they have maps that can be overlaid and by changing the transparency of the top layer, it is possible to see the transition from one map to the other. This shows the landscape changes over time and helps us to see how much the weed trees have grown over the years. When I say weed trees, I just mean the trees that are growing up in areas where they aren't really supposed to be growing. The trees are being gradually thinned out though, so that there is adequate room for the alpacas to graze and a chance of shelter from wind, rain and sun.

Our frosted oak tree
And my thought for the week? What is truth? It seems such a relative term and I don't think the lack of truth is worse now than it ever was, it is just a different expression of it. I find that too often the posts that are reposted on facebook that purports to tell us about particular people portrayed in a negative way are untrue. Recent examples are suppsosedly how many MPs were in the British Parliament to debate their pay and their expenses compared to other deemed more worthy topics or the photoshopped manipulated image of someone holding up a poster outside the fire station in Ferguson supposedly saying  "No mother should have to fear for her son's life every time he robs a store." Factually they are not true (you can read the truth behind the photos here and here), but there is a truth in both of them though. Whilst the picture does not tell us the truth as it actually happened, I think it does tell the truth of what is in our hearts. We often want to think the worse of our "enemies" or at least the people on the other side of the debate. Sometimes the truth is downright inconvenient. The picture of the MPs may not be factually true, but the output from their debates in the policies signed into law would suggest that it paints a sort of truth and I must admit to being sorely tempted to repost this one. More often than not though the picture paints the ugly truth of our own hearts, that we want to demonise the "other." What does it mean to "love your enemies?" Whether that enemy is a single individual or an amorphous group, we are called by Jesus to love them. Even telling the truth about our enemies is not always enough either, we have to question our motives in revealing ugly truths, is it calling the person to a greater accountability or just gossip?

Competition time! And the winner is..... actually no one got the whole answer, but some of you did get part of the answer. The picture shows our cat Sofie, curled up on top of the caravan skylight window for warmth.