Monday, 16 September 2019

Home again!

It almost looks like the alps with snow covered mountains
in the background. 
Well it's been a hard couple of weeks with a lot of intensive work. I managed to get a some chapters finished on my thesis, which is a start at least, but there is still a way to go. There are also plenty of tasks to do on the EU project I'm working on, so it is going to be pretty tricky fitting it all in. It was kind of odd this week meeting my colleagues who all congratulated me on finishing. I know that it is now a formality to complete my PhD because I have got the required number of published papers, but I still have to write my thesis and defend it before I am given the title of doctor, so it all feels a bit premature.
Early morning wake up call. I know the feeling

It's too early!
I daren't even think about the garden, especially after the wind and rain yesterday and today. My garden is pretty battered with pole beans, sweetcorn and Jerusalem artichokes all either on the floor or at crazy angles. It is going to need some intensive care and attention to get it straight in time for winter. Before I left for a trip up to Estonia last week, I had to get started on collecting some beans and get them in the freezer, as well as start on digging up the potatoes. It is annoying that the beans have only just really got into production. Still at least there are some packs of beans for the freezer with more to come if I can get them up off the floor. We also have some squashes and pumpkins that have suddenly started appearing, just in time for a forecast of a frost. Sigh!
Nice to see the mud pack the other week has washed off.
Seems to have done the trick, Herk is looking pretty youthful

Herk even looks like he has a smile on his face and a spring
in his step. Nice to see him up and about instead of slumped
on the ground avoiding the flies like he does over summer
I also managed to get to see the visiting gynaecologist before my Estonian trip. I thought it would just be a routine appointment but she said she wanted to send me for an ultrasound. No idea what for but my local doctor made an appointment at the hospital and then had to unmake it because I was going to be in Estonia. I wish she had asked first. I did hear today though that I have an appointment for next Monday so we will see what they have to say after that. I have been feeling really good just lately, especially since the menopausal brain fog has lifted and so I have no intention of doing anything unnecessary.
Sunrise on the farm

Rain on its way!
Visitors have still been popping along to our farm and I might hang around for some of it, but most of the time I leave it to Ian, so I can get on with my work. I shall be so pleased when I finally do finish my PhD. Maybe I will have more time, at least for the garden and maybe the visitors from time to time, or maybe I won't! I guess that all depends on whether I get more work with uni or not when my contract runs out.
Mr. P. I don't know why, but her reminds me of Guy Martin.
I think its the sideburns and dark hair.

Hello you down there!
This last week marked the start of travelling season. I started with a face to face meeting in Tartu for the EU project I'm working on. Our Estonian team were hosting our colleagues from Finland, Sweden and Germany. Because I joined the project part way through, I hadn't met any of the others before, so it was nice to be able to meet them in person and not just on Skype. The idea was to have a couple of intensive days and get a lot of work done which we did and each evening we went to a different restaurant to eat. The weather was so warm that we sat outside. That might not sound remarkable to many folks, since this is only September but we have known frosts on the first of September before.
Heads down eating. A serious business at this time of year

Jakobs is looking very fluffy already
One of my Estonian colleagues guided some of the our international colleagues on the bus and I guided those who wanted to walk to our evening meal. Tartu is such a walkable city (or large town really, it is smaller than the population of Chesterfield, which was the nearest town to where I used to live in the UK). It is also a very green city, which reminds me a bit of Sheffield, where I did my bachelor degree many moons ago. I found the Tartu Struve Geodetic point as we trundled about, it is the next point to the north of a point situated near our farm here in Latvia. It is weird to think there are two points that connect my life here in the Baltics that were marked in the 1800s to measure the meridian of the earth.
Freddie looking his usual sweet self

Just too much! It's a hard life being an
alpaca. At least it is for Josefs.
The meetings went well and I think everyone went home happy that we had made progress. After that meeting I got to see some of my Landscape Architect colleagues as we had a PhD seminar. This is where one of the students presents their work. I don't go to many of them, but since I was at the university all week and those meetings had finished I managed to slot it in. I was invited back to one of their homes for a quick cup of tea and a catch up, which was nice. I also got offered a room to stay in when I go up to Helsinki as my colleague's wife was at home who actually lives there, so that works. I have another place to stay on the way back too, so a time for meeting lots of people.
George finds it amusing though

Josefs demonstrating delinquent behaviour. Escaping, yet
again through the fence. 
We've been in Latvia now for nearly 12 years and in all that time we've not really had any issues with crime. We did have a wheelbarrow go missing one winter. We wondered if it had got buried in the snow because it was outside, but when the snow melted it was nowhere to be seen. Still it was not a major catastrophe. This last week though we found out that someone must have got into our woodstore and stole the two bikes we had in there. The door was still locked but Ian noticed that the window was not as secure as he thought it was and only held in by a bent nail. I wouldn't mind so much but I was just thinking of getting my bike out to get the milk in the mornings rather than taking the car to our neighbours. It's a bit awkward to carry back 4 litres of milk in glass jars and a bit awkward to get to our neighbours now they have dug ditches on the side of the road, so my bike would have been ideal and it had a basket on the front. Neither of the bikes were exactly expensive bikes, just Walmart specials but irritating to lose them nonetheless. Let's hope that is the last of the issues we have.
Little Ilvija is growing well and looking like her Mum
more and more each day

Chanel is keeping her condition pretty well so far. The new
food is obviously helping.

Aggie scratching her ear

Now chewing her toes

And she can still walk away nonchalantly. I wouldn't be able
to walk after such contortions.
Amanda! What is amazing is that Ian got this close. Slowly,
slowly he is gaining their trust.

Vanessa looking more and more like
her mother, Lady V. We'll have to start
calling Veronica, Dame V as she strikes
a regal pose.

Ilvija chewing on grass. A bit big that piece!

Lady V trying to hide in the long grass. Hasn't she read the
books? Alpacas do not like long grass

Oooh! I've been discovered!

Monday, 9 September 2019


The blog will be late this week, if it is done at all. I'm away in meetings most of the week while Ian takes care of the farm.

Monday, 2 September 2019

Something new

I think Ian managed to capture my water lily beautifully this
This week has been defined by one exciting event and the rest of the time I have been stuck to my computer writing up my PhD thesis or answering emails. The nights are drawing in and so by the time I've finished working, made our evening meal and put the animals away its dark. The garden is finally getting into glut season, just as it should be winding down - the warm autumn days are prolonging the season. Even the chickens are back to full production and I'm desperately trying to think of ways of incorporating eggs into everything. My next experiment will be a low fat rowan berry curd. Basically rowan berry jam with eggs really. If it doesn't work it will get incorporated into a cake, so it won't go to waste.
These girls have got into the daily routine of heading up the
hill to feed all together.

A peaceful sunrise
Our land is peaceful. I have a reminder on my computer to switch off from time to time. One suggestion is "Close your eyes, what do you hear?" Errmmmm! I hear nothing or mostly nothing. Perhaps the guys working with the chainsaws in the distance, or a plane flies over head, sometimes a fly buzzes past, sometimes the wind in the trees, but most often - nothing! We had visitors this weekend who remarked on how peaceful it was on our land. Even our animals are quiet most of the time, not like noisy sheep or goats. Okay my hearing is not great, but I'm not deaf either. Even now when I'm not typing it is so quiet.
Aggie in the zone.

You argued? How could you with such a cutie like me
Most of the time we are peaceful too. We are not ones to argue much but occasionally I blow up and this week was one of them. I have a lot to think about and I was getting frustrated with Ian not getting on with something that I felt he should be doing. Ian himself will admit that he sometimes takes a lot of motivating to get something done. He's better than he used to be. When we were first married, if I didn't organise him, nothing got done - well maybe that's a slight exaggeration but not entirely untrue. I had to do a lot of consciously standing back and letting go. I try not to jump in and try to hold my tongue but sometimes it all gets a bit too much. The point was made anyway. Resolved? Maybe not, but for now we are back on a more peaceful footing.
An early morning feed. Ilvija is growing well and Chanel
is definitely a more relaxed mum this time around.

A foggy morning on our land
This week's politics has not had the flow of peace through it. Well more specifically in the UK. I would rather not follow the ins and outs of UK politics now that I have left, but Brexit changed that. Its tendrils creep across the waters, poisoning the atmosphere. Challenging our identity, our security, our home. On the whole, we are fairly confident we can stay in Latvia. There is no reason to remove us, but then I hear of those EU nationals denied settled status in the UK. People who have invested their lives into UK society. Not benefit scroungers, but people who have worked hard, paid their taxes, raised children and so on. They thought they had invested into a secure country, not envisioning this tainted environment that sucks the joy and replaces it with fear. A doubt then drops into my head, will the Latvian government do the same to us? Will our investment of time, money and above all love of the country crumble into ashes? How can we be sure. We thought we only had to worry about Putin, not the UK. It's embarrassing.
The damp mornings have given an extra curl to Mari's eye make up

Writing my placard
With all that in mind a call from a fellow Brit in the Latvian ex-pat Facebook group to ask if anyone would be willing to join him in protesting outside the British Embassy had me thinking. In the grand scheme of things, Riga is not far - an hour and a half by car or 2 1/2 by bus. But I have so much work to do, there's the garden too. There are so many jobs stacked up right now and I'm away next week for a meeting. How can I fit it all in? I dithered. In the end though I decided that I could not live with myself if I did not join the protest. Even Ian nearly came with me, but someone had booked to visit us at the last minute, just before he was going to announce we were closed for the day. So I took the early bus into Riga and worked on the bus and in a cafe in Riga before joining the protest.
Can you believe I actually won a bottle of
gin for the most appropriate placard for
encapsulating what this is about. It's about
families and freedom.

A bee on the echinacea flowers
I also had time to wander around Riga. It was quiet early on. Many who live in Riga head out of town on the weekends and it was the last glorious weekend before schools start back, so many obviously were making the most of it. I wandered along the park pathways and saw a waterfall catching the sunlight and producing a dancing rainbow. I also saw a little kid in a pushchair taking no notice of his surroundings as he was absorbed in his Peppa Pig magazine. He reminded me of a little old man and his newspaper.
We are definitely seeing some strange mushrooms this year. I
couldn't find out what this one is
Chanterelle mushrooms amongst the wood sorrel


Not sure but I haven't looked them up yet anyway
A chewed boletes

These I have definitely never seen before. Such a vivid colour
and deserving of their name of verdigris agaric. Some books
say poisonous, my Latvian one says edible. We'll pass on
these though, even though they are growing by the side of
our greenhouse

Our small but significant protest outside the British Embassy in Riga
It wasn't a huge protest and the policeman that attended were not really taxed too much. The one in charge did insist we didn't block the pathway - despite the fact there was plenty of room on one side of the pavement, but no there had to be two gangways. We were so few in number it didn't really matter and once he had got us to move the picnic blanket he left us alone. We held our placards for the photographers who had come, I suppose it did help that one of our group did work for national media. Even so we were the most westerly protest and the nearest protests to us were in Copenhagen about 900km and Berlin, over 1200km away. We weren't the most northerly protest though, that honour goes to Lerwick. We did at least get a mention in many of the major UK news outlets.
Cranberries in our forest

Ian has been working on clearing a path around the edge
of our land in the forest. It means we can walk along not
battle our way through with a machete.
After that we stood around and chatted for an hour. I chatted with an Argentinian sculptor most of the time and we found much in common. People living together peacefully from different countries was one of them. He had been to the UK a few times and liked being there, so he thought he would come and support us to demonstrate his concern about the polluted politics of the UK. Standing in solidarity with us. Two people from nations that were once at war, within my lifetime. That didn't matter though, it was of no interest to either of us, what mattered now is that we could stand around chatting and enjoying each other's company. Maybe our paths will cross again, maybe not. Again that does not matter, it does matter that we committed ourselves to a peaceful demonstration.
Maybe a bit big and too old to move, so Ian cut through it

We still find it hard to believe we own this, well, technically
Ian does.
It was all very polite and enjoyable as we enjoyed our tea and biscuits. Maybe you would not understand the rage that we actually feel, but some of us were out there doing something we have never done before - publicly demonstrating our rage and embarrassment at British politics. Making a case that we were concerned. Even though we had chosen to live in another country, we still had ties to the UK in family but also nationality. To change our nationality is not something we would do lightly but will there come a time when we have to make that decision? It is not something I had ever really wanted to contemplate. Nationality does not bother me, but I am who I am. Why should I have to choose? Or even think about it.
Forest canopy

Some chainsaw work
So why did I demonstrate? Above all I want to be able to look my grandchildren in the eye in years to come and tell them I tried. That I was not so far away that I didn't care what happened to the country they live in. That I fought for them to have the same freedoms I enjoy now, the freedom to live in another country, to travel to many others. To live in a peaceful Europe. I know I mentioned I didn't keep up with the ins and outs of politics until Brexit, but I did still care about the country that it is becoming. I wanted to be part of a Europe that will make a difference, a reformed Europe yes, but one that still does at least pass laws for the benefit of the ordinary person on the street. On that note I will finish.
A tomato plant on the manure heap

It has even got tomatoes growing on it

Brencis trying to pretend to be a tree

Herkules with his mud facepack

Ilvija's half brother, Freddie. They both seem to have a sweet
nature anyway and neither do they seem to be as spitty as
her mum can be - although their mum has calmed down a bit

This was once a bird box, but the wasps
seem to have other ideas.