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Last checks before winter sets in

  • 2013-11-28
  • By Mike Parr

ALUKSNE - I don’t know if you have noticed, but I think Winter has arrived, a good reason for throwing a few extra logs on the fire and enjoying a comfortable night in. Earlier this week I woke to the first of the season’s frost, and the fact that it lasted until well after lunchtime was, I think, nature’s way of reminding me to collect in the last of my crops, weatherproof the animal shelters and, maybe, just top up my log pile.

My root cellar is well stocked, both with food for myself and the dogs, but also with feed for the goats, chickens and rabbits. I’ve enjoyed making use of one of my newly acquired skills: canning. I now have rows of jars of pie filling, pickled vegetables, chutneys, jams and sauces. Needless to say that one corner of the cellar is devoted to my wine and beer making experiments and, with the coming cold dark nights, I will enjoy performing ‘quality control tests’ on the results.
Certainly winter in rural areas has a different feel to the damp, dismal days that you endure in the city. With the shorter daylight hours you have to make one last push to ensure that everything is completed before the snow comes; it is important that you are as prepared as you can be because you can’t just pop out to the shops when you realize that you have run out of coffee and there is two feet of snow covering the track to the main road.

Walking through the forest, now that the vegetation has died away, I can better see what nature is giving me. A stroll down to investigate one of the many fallen trees over the stream has yielded wild hops, a necessary ingredient in British beer making; I have spent the afternoon picking what I can with the intention of picking up a jar of malt next time I am in Riga and having a go at making a good old-fashioned beer.

The goats are still enjoying their daily ‘picnics’ in the forest and, although a lot of the trees have shed their leaves, there is still plenty of greenery springing up for the gang to nibble on. They do seem to have a thing for pine bark and quite a few times I have had them come back from the forest with their faces covered with pine resin, much like the results of giving a baby a chocolate bar. Still, if it keeps them happy and off my remaining field of vegetables then good for them.

The end to my week brought a sort of good news, bad news scenario. I have just taken delivery of nine new rabbit kits... well, more like one of my rabbits has given birth to nine kits. They will be a good supplement toward the end of winter when, no doubt, my jars of whatever will be dwindling. Sadly, the day that the kits arrived, my male rabbit, a Flemish Giant (and father of the kits) suddenly took ill and died. It happened very quickly and I haven’t been able to find a cause for his death but, just to be safe, I spent most of yesterday clearing and disinfecting the rabbit quarters.

I have to say that I am looking forward to the coming winter, and if it is anything like last year then I can see that I won’t be doing much traveling. Of course there are plenty of jobs to do around the house; after nearly 20 years of disuse it needs a little more that a lick of paint or some light dusting, but, at the same time that is part of the charm of the place. Needless to say I will relocate into just the one room, much easier to keep it warmer and cosier.
So I’m down to my final winter preparations: food – done, firewood – done, animal shelters – done... I just need to find myself a nice big comfortable armchair to relax in... any offers?

/goto/lightningtreefarm.blogspot.com

Stock up on farm fresh organic produce throughout the winter at Bergs Bazaar Farmers Market in Riga
Local fruits, vegetables dairy, meat, breads, arts and crafts.
Every other Saturday from 10:00-16:00
Dzirnavu str. 84, www.bergabazars.lv