A month of country living

I’ve been trying to write this blog for the last 6 days but country living combined with a job is putting a significant pressure on time. Should finish it tonight hopefully.

Despite being the new diet of Latvian flies, despite the 90 min commute to Riga every morning, despite the tap water smelling and tasting awful, despite the acres of weeding I have to do and despite the problems of trying to find reliable, sober tradesman, would I swap my life for anything else? Absolutely not!!!!

The pleasure of coming home in the evening, sitting outside (even in the rain), enjoying my evening meal with a glass of wine whilst listening to the sounds of the cranes and the storks in the background, what could beat that.

That’s not to say there haven’t been moments when I’ve cursed a lot. Particularly one Saturday afternoon when I decided to change the filters to our water supply. We have 2 sources of water. Our deep bore water hole, which I think is about 30 meters deep, and our well. The water hole supplies water direct to the house, but it smells and tastes awful. That’s another story. Our well we use for drinking, tastes fantastic. So I decided to change the filters in the hope the water quality would improve. I successfully managed to replace one filter and then disaster. The copper pipe leaving the pump decided to snap leaving water spraying around our cellar. I managed to stem the flow of water but we were now faced with having no water until Monday and having just spent a couple of hours with my favourite toy, the strimmer, my body odours left a lot to be desired. Fortunately the milk lady who uses our field for winter grass for her cows came to the rescue and recommended a plumber who was with us within 20 minutes. My fears regarding the plumber were quickly allayed as he fixed our problem very quickly and efficiently and even offered to come the next day to fix a few leaks we had. I was waiting for a catch, but there weren’t any. He was a normal professional, who didn’t smell of booze. My confidence in Latvian tradesman was improving. We even found out he was a heating engineer and could install our central heating system. We won’t be cold now hopefully.

Our three main tasks since arriving have been:-

  1. Reclaim the land from the weeds
  2. Collect all the berries on the bushes
  3. Plan for what I expect to be a very cold winter. (2 consecutive mild Latvian winters is a long shot)

With the help of my new toy, I think we are 70% there on task 1. Although we have a freezer and cellar full of berries and John/Džons from Jokas Winery helped himself to our surplus of gooseberries, there were many we didn’t manage to collect. Will have to do better next year and employ some help. Inta has been very busy making jams whilst I’ve made some blackcurrant and gooseberry wine and I’m going to attempt blackcurrant flavoured vodka. Delicious from all accounts.

Our main task is to get the house ready for what I expect to be a cold winter. The house has primarily in the past been used as a summer/country house so is probably not ready for living in during the winter. So I have discovered three things need to be done: A central heating system needs to be installed, double/triple glazing installed and a new roof with more insulation. The old roof is corrugated concrete asbestos, something that was very popular in Latvia during Soviet times.

Now in the UK, finding tradesman to do these jobs would be a piece of cake. A quick search on the internet would give me a list of recommended tradesman to call. I would phone a few, get some quotes and make a decision. Here, the competitive free market seems much  less developed and sophisticated and I can only assume that people use traders that friends or family recommend. The other thing I’ve noticed is that nothing is ever what it seems. We visited a local builders merchant to look at some sample types of roofing materials. When there, we asked did they know any roofers. There were very obliging and supplied a telephone number. I assume they expected that we would buy the roofing material from them and the roofer would do the job. To be honest that is what I expected. So Inta phoned the guy, who reliably turned up on time, appearing very knowledgeable and professional and took all the measurements. He phoned later, asking to meet him at his office. On arriving we found out that although he was a roofer, he thinks he is too old for all the physical  aspects of the job and now works as a administrator for a roofing manufacturer and he would find another roofer to do the job but was quite happy to supply us the roofing material. Well this is the system, so I’m just going to have to learn to live with it. At least I’ve found someone I think I can trust.

Double glazing has appeared to be a simpler job. Contacted 2 firms, received 2 quotes so just have to make a decision. Another infuriating feature of Latvian trades is that they still have not really grasped the concept that the customer is king. Customers pay the bills. We didn’t like how one of the window companies was going to finish off the job cosmetically and we asked could we have it done a different way. The immediate response was “we’ve always done it that way, why would you want it another way”. It was only when they could see they were about to loose a 4500 euro order, they started to think.

The other thing I’ve noticed here is that quotes are broken down into lots of different subsections and you have to add up all the sections to find out your total cost. I can only assume that there are lots of handyman in Latvia who like to do as much of the work on a job themselves if they can. I just want a price for the job, simple. Well if I can get all these jobs done before winter we should be warm.

Before I finish, I have a request. I have a mole infestation. They are ruining my lawn. Every day several fresh mountains appear in the lawn. Now some people tell me that there is nothing you can do about it. I’m a positive thinker so I don’t believe that. Someone told me to collect my urine and pour it down the holes. Not sure about that one. So any suggestions on how to get rid of my moles would be gratefully received

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34 Responses to A month of country living

  1. There are special traps for moles! An of course lime milions old fashioned triks and tips!!! ! Goodluck with them.

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  2. There are like special traps for the moles!!! And of course loads of old fashioned triks and tips, so good luck with that 🙂

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  3. andrisbb says:

    Typical way how people are buying roofs in Latvia is:
    1. You do measurements or have a roof plan (or hire somebody to do it for You)
    2. You go to shop and choose a roof
    3. Shop will contact manufacturer. Manufacturer will do calculations and return quote.
    3. If You are happy with that, You pay shop, manufacturer will deliver roof

    Then you can do roofing by Yourself or again contract somebody. But I think it will be almost impossible to find someone in middle of summer and 90 min drive from Riga for just one roof. People are simply bussy, for good ones You have to wait 2 – 3 months, unless you are not paying double price. That ir reality.

    You have to look for tradesman in Sigulda, Cesis or Valmiera.

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  4. Vents says:

    Well,
    re heating system, do you have any preferences, like what type of boiler you intend to use? what radiators / type of pipes? When do you want / need this to be installed?
    sure, to find the tradesman in Riga would be easier probably, but Limbazi area is not at the end of the world, few such people I know do travel for work further if needed.
    It’s hard to say will you have more luck w/tradesman from mentioned relatively nearby cities or Riga, at times prices in RIga can be lower dues to more competition, plus some of tradesman from Riga are somewhat more tech advanced, know latest products avail on the market, etc. if you want – I can suggest few names..

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    • aedoxsey says:

      Thanks Vents, After some investigation we have decided to go down the wood route. Not sure about the radiators yet, still investigating. If I loose confidence in our plumber/heating man I will get back to you.

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  5. It sounds as if you are, little by little, getting your home in shape. Good luck with the roof! I’ll be interested in hearing about the progress.

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  6. Vents says:

    re wood burner – 2 options, right?
    pellet burner imho is the best one can have, depending on setup it can be autonomous up to a week or two. you can buy pellets all the year around, although the best ones are produced during summertime – with least % of sand in it…
    if you go firewood burner route – oversize the burner and have a heat accumulator tank, well insulates, etc. plus fill the system w/antifreeze…
    if you would go for installing underfloor heating – I’d say pls consider supplementing your system w/air heat pump. that’s efficient up to freezing point or -5C. becomes really worthless around -10C – -15C.
    firewood burner calls for good dry wood, dried at least a year?

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    • aedoxsey says:

      Thanks. We were looking at going for a combination pellet/wood burner, so if we weren’t at home then pellets would be used, but we could use logs if we were at home. What’s a heat accumulator tank?

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      • Vents says:

        it’s supply – demand, right?
        on supply side you have some sort of heat source, burner/wood/pellets/gas/heat pump. with it’s characteristics, rarely any such is continuous cycle with wide range of output adjustment rate possible.

        demand side varies in time all the time. depending on temp you want in your rooms, outside temp, time of the day, etc.
        as a result it’s good to have a tank of water/antifreeze sitting in between (connected to both sides of system w/3 or 4way electrically controlled valves), suc accu is able to take excess heat from burner, for it to be operating at max efficiency w/o looking too much on demand at any particular moment.
        optimal mode of operation for each particular heat source is different.
        but imho most modern burners/etc have an option to add accumulator (being able to control valves)

        for example such an accu w/’regular’ wood burner allows one to burn it once a day, of course by having the burner powerfull enough to produce enough heat for 24 hours, you get the idea..
        accu is possible less needed with pellet burner, but still – pellet burner is not continuous cycle, so accu would smoothen the spikes in heat produced..

        any good heating system engineer will comment more (and more professionally)

        for some systems hot water tank can act as accumulator. ground heat pump at my home uses it like this..

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      • aedoxsey says:

        Thanks for the info. What’s a heat accumulator in Latvian?

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      • Kaija says:

        http://termini.lza.lv/term.php?term=heat%20accumulator&list=accumulator&lang=EN
        Heat accumulator would be siltumakumulators. You mentioned elsewhere that technical language is a problem — I would suggest using that page from now on (the entries are the official/approved terminology).

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      • aedoxsey says:

        Thanks, really useful page.

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  7. Vents says:

    re moles. well, I have to say I have been lucky so far, in not having them on my plot of land. (fingers crossed)
    what I have learned from other peoples experience is at least 2 successfull ways to fight (and many not so success full)
    1) there are ‘traps’ to be bought. not horribly humane ones, but efficient. if deployed properly..
    the device effectively is a set of spring loaded vertical spikes + 2 trap doors, triggering downwards push of spikes.
    one has to install such a device inline in mole hole.
    apparently there is an older man home building these and selling on various country markets?
    2) my neighbor told me recently she had a success getting rid of mole(s?) by using sort of smoke candle, showed down the mole hole. (w/smoke being heavier than air and filling hole system?)

    if you are interested in any of said mole fighting tools – let me know, I can ask for precise details how to locate to buy this or that.

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  8. Vents says:

    PS. re fantastic UK tradesman.
    pls forgive me, again, w/o a bit of practical experience in UK,
    just having watched Grand Designs and other property / renovation shows for a decade+ from Ch4/other TV TV channels – I haven’t exactly got the impression all the people have universally pleasant experience all the time, finding / dealing w/tradesman.. 🙂
    And I have yet to recall windows being delivered on time / w/o hickups on any of those shows..
    dare I say – there are always good apples and bad apples – everywhere you go?

    Ok, it’s market economy over here for 20 odd years now,
    apparently it is not enough time for customer facing supply to develop fully..
    our history is not and excuse, it is an explanation of sorts… :/
    oh well..

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  9. Vents says:

    re heat accumulator tank – 4 latvian it would be siltuma akumulators – not horribly inventive here I guess.

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  10. June says:

    I have to agree that country life is wonderful. I wouldn’t swap mine for all the tea in China. Loving what you’re doing with the berries. Vodka is a cinch. Just don’t overdo it on the sugar (if you use any at all) or it will turn into liqueur. Do try to get cracking on your roof and windows as much construction work shuts down once the snow starts. You don’t want to be left waiting til April! Enjoy it all, though – it sounds like a wonderful journey.

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  11. hugo says:

    Moles is no the worst thing that can happen, actually they are good at eating crabs and other insects that like to live in the ground and eating roots of all the useful growings.
    I dont have any moles in my garden and i can not grow anything, just the lawn. 🙂
    So, moles is the sign of healthy land.

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  12. Hi!
    I used various methods to fight moles. Traps are the best, and E-bay is full of them to buy.
    Last year I bought several like this:http://www.ebay.ie/itm/Mole-Claw-Tunnel-Trap-instant-kill-no-poison-/350482692112?pt=UK_Home_Garden_Garden_Plants_Weed_Pest_Control_CV&hash=item519a657810,
    catched 3 moles and my lawn was saved.
    Never buy traps looking like plastic tubes, those are rubish, I tried.
    Good luck!

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  13. Hakko says:

    You need to find “right” cat who kills moles – we had really nice cat she even lived for aprox 20 years and we still don’t have moles after she passed away 2 years ago.

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  14. We replaced our old concrete asbestos roof last summer. We hired local roofers to come to our village and do the job.

    It was nice in that we didn’t have to do all that work ourselves (and it got done in a week). On the other hand, they could have been a little more careful. We asked if they could change the gutters while they were at it. First they said sure. Then they told us that our gutters were fine–just needed a nice coat of paint.

    After they left we realized they bent up all the gutters by leaning their ladders on them. We’ve been dealing with a very rainy winter and, as a result, we perpetually have buckets catching leaks all around the perimeter of our house.

    It’s always best to just do the job right the first time. Lesson learned.

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  15. lawrence parramore says:

    Have to be careful with roofs, especially metal ones, the underside can be treated with a blanket material adhered to it to stop the condensation. A neighbour told us you need two layers of membrane fabric underneath as he knows local roofing companies that only use one which results in the frame of the roof needing replacing in 5-10 years, I didn’t believe him so checked it out and sure enough he was right! Also need at least 30cm of rock wool to overcome warm moist air condensing in it in this climate, rock wool is a nightmare to do right as it needs breather membrane on one side in winter and the other in summer and how can you do that! doing it both side just traps moisture! People in the countryside generally use the fibre cement roofing to fill potholes in the road or build the road, or basically dig a hole and bury it.

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