As for me and my house we will serve the Lord....

Monday, December 27, 2010

Birthday week is over

The rest of the world may have just celebrated the Christmas holidays but in our house we don't just celebrate Jesus' birth but three of our birthdays in the same week- this year our daughter Jessica was still teaching on her birthday December 20th so we went over early and played games and watched her blow out the candles on Saturday the 18th.
On Wednesday December 22nd the whole family and some of the neighbours were here to watch Garry blow out all 54 candles on the giant black forest cake I made. (sorry no photos- we are having trouble recharging the camera in Canada)
The guys did the fast morning milking/feeding of the herd traditional for breakfast/present opening- which was delayed slightly when our daughter-in-law and the girls arrived at 9 am instead of the 8:30 we were aiming for breakfast time. Seth, Jonah and Luke (next in line at 19) slept in until 9 am since they were stuck helping him with the late night milking when some of the employees didn't show up- they finished around 1:30 am, and checked out their stockings then.
Breakfast was followed by the marathon four hours of present opening. The little girls ate more candy than they got (other people's stockings were raided by the preschoolers) and went home at 7 pm after the turkey dinner. Jonah is very excited- his brothers bought him an ebook reader to take back to Ukraine. Remote controlled helicopters were a big hit- the big boys should have gotten them too, as they flew them more than Seth and Jonah did.
Yesterday Garry and I were off to Steinbach early where we did 4 minutes following the announcements about our mission- with the powerpoint which operated just fine (although I forget to pick up my new flash drive afterwards) Afterwards Garry took me out for lunch and was surprised at the check- someone had paid our bill already (thanks!) Then we returned home for dinner and birthday cake (Luke made it and covered it with mini m&ms to the delight of Xaris and Havi) and I managed to get all 52 candles in one try.
No one had checked how much milk was shipped on Sunday morning, so Matt couldn't stand the suspense and went to check after dinner was over (with the early milking the morning before there is more milk the next day) and was excited to report a new record- just over 19,000 liters for one day (yes in Ukraine we are making about 260 liters a day.) Matt and family left after we watched the original Grinch on bluray so the girls could get to bed on time- the scheduled entertainment - the Eagles game is postponed until Tuesday because of snow- my parents say about 20 inches and it's blowing like crazy today- big drifts in New Jersey.

Garry's hoped for departure for Ukraine did not happen today---our passports and visa renewal are still at the embassy after the next day priority mail took.... not the planned mail on Friday there on Monday...but according to Canada Post tracking it was delivered on Wednesday the 15th at noon. It is 2 weeks (plus holidays and weekends) for processing so it is not coming back yet- it looks like Garry will certainly miss out on seeing in the New Year in Ukraine. The kids are planning a new tradition cook-off.
Victor says all is well- except they are running out of brewers grain to feed the cows and can't get more until after the brewery reopening in January. Garry has him looking to buy some sunflower meal to help tide the the cows over the loss of their favorite protein source.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sunday--the outdoor nativity program in Manitoba

Sunday December 19th- it’s a different world here in Manitoba- the boys were dealing with the birth of 5 heifer calves overnight (as many calves as we will have in a month in Ukraine) Garry drove to Gimli Manitoba to speak at the Free church there. He also met with the adult Sunday school class and went with a half dozen people for lunch after. He left at 7:30 am got back at 4:15 pm- too late to get to Matt’s for the Sunday school outdoor nativity program. I had finished a new display board for him (the old seemed to disappear this year) and put a 10 minute powerpoint on a flash drive for him. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get it to work, so it’s good thing he’s an interesting speaker! Garry gave out some of the new prayer cards- version one- they didn’t come out as well as we hoped so I plan to print more of a newer version on Monday.
Meanwhile I went to church in Piney where Matt’s sermon was on the Christmas story from the book of John. Havilah our 2 year old granddaughter walked up and said” hi Grandma” and put her arms up for me to pick her up. I showed the 4 minute set of slides before prayer time, and answered questions for 10 minutes. Then I watched Havi and baby Keziah (after her nap) as the practice for the program happened about 2 pm.
Havilah informed me she did not need mitts on as the sun was shining and would warm her hands as she held them up. The animals showed up – pairs of miniature ponies, goats and sheep. The guys had hoped to have some of our calves or a cow there but our farm's trailer had lost a bearing on one wheel and it wasn't fixed yet. Luckily the owner of the animals could bring his in his own trailer.

While some of the older girls made comments about needing air fresheners (outdoors and –10 C no less) Havilah tried petting the ponies and was thrilled to feed the sheep some straw in their manger after filling the manger for baby Jesus and lying down in the straw in front of it, while the starry backdrop and various lights were lit (extension cords found) and the angel choir practiced singing hymns. Four-year-old Xaris is the angel on the right, bottom row with the dark pink hat with strings.
A teenaged wise man was missing and Seth beat Jonah at rock, paper, scissors to get the part. Seth’s was in the actual performance at 4:30 (the guy was still missing) as the sun was setting and the temperature was dropping (I got a couple pictures before my camera needed to be charged- I am having some problems with getting it to charge well- the plug is 220 since we bought it in Ukraine, it is a USB but doesn’t always charge on the computer).

After the short performance, everyone was invited back to the church for hot soup and cookies. Luckily it was not as cold as last weekend when it got down in the –33 Celsius range- that’s well below zero in the Fahrenheit scale too. A number of visitors came to the performance and sat on the bales of straw Matt had made for seating. Jonah helped direct traffic; Matt had cleared snow for parking with the big front end loader. There was a thudding of mitted hands after the first song and Blueberry the cat, who had come close to check out what was happening, took off across the yard like a shot. He watched from the nearby barn window after that.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The farm in Manitoba

Victor called yesterday morning- late afternoon Ukrainian time (it's 7 hours ahead of us in the central time zone) to say hello from Maxim and himself and ask about buying a heifer for sale in Nikolipolia- I think they are getting her- she is about 2 months pregnant (cows- like people- have a a 9 month gestation period) The fresh cow that calved last week is milking 15 liters a day already, they said.

To prove that exciting things happen on larger farms in North America, while we are here in Manitoba, I'll post if there is some interesting news (with photos.) At 6 am yesterday morning I woke up and heard a strange sound- at first I thought it was the cats- there are three in the house- but then I decided to get up and check it out. I went down to the basement and found that Wiggles was having puppies in one of Micah's blue reclining theater-style reclining chairs. To give you some context when we got home last we we commented on the fact that she looked huge. The boys replied that she had done it in the summer and there were no puppies then so she must be doing the same thing again. We got Wiggles about 4 years ago, she was about a year old and she has never had puppies, so everyone assumed she was sterile. So she had 7 puppies by the time I found a box and we got her settled in an empty bedroom. After I washed the the chair up (it was very wet- luckily not bloody) later in the day we realized she'd had 8 live pups, mostly black but a few with white under the chin or belly and a couple brindled ones with brown striping.

I took some photos outside as Matthew was engaged in an interesting project. He is a part-time pastor for a small area church and they are going to do a nativity Christmas program Sunday afternoon, with live animals and Sunday school children, outdoors in Matt's barn- he lives across the road from the church- I'll try to post some photos afterwards- it should be interesting. Anyway, for the program they wanted some small square bales for the audience to sit on. They had not baled any on the farm here this summer, and there were none left. He had searched for some for sale and was now desperate enough to try opening a big round bale and using the square baler in the snow to make some- he got 11 bales finished in during several hours of struggling with mouse-chewed strings and broken shear bolts. I was teasing him that there were no bales- large or small) in Bethlehem anyway- maybe a haystack.

You can see that the snow is here to stay for the winter- it has been rather balmy -10 to -18 this week, after the deep freeze on the weekend, but that doesn't melt snow. Micah and Noah were moving weaned calves from the barn where the babies are into the next barn. Noah had made a stack of bales to block the wind in front of the opening to this barn and they were trying to figure out how to get the first calf inside when I went by. The other photo is of the big cow barns on the other side of the road- the smaller calves live on the same side as the house.

The other excitement of the day was Josh decided to dump (throw away) 5000 liters of milk from one of the tanks, The night before while the guys were playing basketball in Winnipeg an employee decided to run the tank washer on the empty milk tank. Unfortunately, it was not empty- no one is quite sure how he managed to do it- but there was a lots of water some soap in the milk (which you could not taste or smell) and so the guys saved some for calf feeding and Garry made cheese curds to eat. The rest went down the drain. Poutine anyone?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Home and news from the farm - from Monday

While we are enjoying the cold (-33 C) Manitoba weather and hanging out with family, Garry had exciting news from Ukraine- another cow has calved- the one with horns about a foot and a half long- and gave birth to a heifer (female) calf. Our herd is getting bigger, they were waiting until Garry left, I guess.

Garry went out to the barn here on Friday morning and decided everything looked much bigger here than on the farm in Ukraine- the barns, machinery and even the cows! I was waiting until Monday to publish this story because Garry has been keeping a secret from the family at home- ever notice that all the photos lately never showed his face? That's because he has been growing a surprise beard (the last time he had a beard was 25 years ago) and all the kids had not seen it yet. Somehow this post got lost and didn't get published so here is Garry with his beard for all of you to see. He said he would shave it off after everyone saw it but it still exists as of December 18th!

It could be he was too busy- he has been driving and visiting everyday since we got home- he even flew to Calgary for a day and half for a meeting about a Mennonite Brethren project that

may happen in our village. We met with most of the members of the Steinbach building team on Friday night and an enjoyable time was had by all. Saturday we drove out to our daughter's house in Morden to celebrate her birthday early- Garry and the boys are playing basketball again on Monday, her actual birthday. They won the game on Wednesday night, after his Calgary trip, Garry even scored once. He got in a round at the Golfdome Friday afternoon in Winnipeg with one of the his golfing buddies and our son Josh.

Friday, December 10, 2010

All's well

We are home in Manitoba for Christmas now. All is well back in the village- Victor and Maxim were trying to negotiate the purchase of a 2nd calf cow due at the end of December this afternoon when Victor called this morning our time, before we headed into Steinbach for the annual mailing of the passports and visa forms to the Ukrainian embassy in Ottawa. Seth and Jonah needed photos for the form so they had to come along- you attach one photo so there is one left for the next year- Garry and I had our done last year - so we can get the photos done and mail it at Shoppers Drug Mart there.
We drove with Victor in our car to Kiev Wednesday night- the warm weather made it foggy, and the front driver's side tire required some fixing from a hole- they had to put air in and bang a dent out of the rim, but it went for about 100 km on it while we were looking for a place to get it fixed. We stopped at the McDonalds about a third of the way to Kiev for coffee for the guys and snacks- I tried one of the new year specials (Santa or Father Frost comes for New Years instead of Christmas in the Soviet Union) - it was a pie filled with apple, cream and raisins. The boys napped on top of each other- the three of us were in the back seat. This is when you really notice how much the boys have grown in the year and half since we came to Ukraine.
We arrived at the airport in Borispol around 1:30 am and our flight was due to leave at 5:35. Our plane was not listed on the departures board but Garry called the call centre- they said no problem and Garry disappeared to take a nap on a bench while the boys rested, drank pop, and watched the luggage with me. Jonah made friends with the airport cat- a black and white one I had seen while waiting in the airport in November- it looks very well-fed. Suddenly around three am I noticed that a cancellation noticed had come up on the board and when I walked over to check it was our flight. I was frantically looking for Garry, trying to phone him- I think he'd turned his phone off- when just as suddenly the line of people in front of the information booth disappeared along with the red word cancelled.
So I was hopeful that we would depart on time- which we did. We went through, checked our baggage and proceeded through security (body scan) and went to wait by the gate, where the boys played cards and enjoyed the birds that flew around, when they weren't sitting in the rafters- I tried to get a photo of one. Every once in a while a sparrow would swoop over the chairs down the building then head back up to chirp with its friends. There was a Santa or Father Frost in the middle of the room- Garry took my picture with it while we were waiting.

We arrived in Frankfurt on time with three hours until our connecting Air Canada flight. There was a huge line to go through another security check towards our gate. No problems until the announcement as it was time to board. Half-hour delay because of the late arrival of the flight crew (it was snowing in Germany- apparently they got up too late to get to the airport on time.)
Then it got worse- we sat on the tarmac about an hour after boarding so landed in Toronto about a half hour before our flight to Minneapolis was taking off. Matthew and Kari had driven 2 cars down to the city so we would drive one back when we arrived at 3:30- They would stay for her family's Christmas celbration. So when I called they were nearly there, driving thorough snow- and my news was that we were flying into Winnipeg, Garry had convinced Air Canada since the next flight to Minneapolis was leaving at 8:30 pm, we should get to go home sooner- it only took about 10 different counters to find someone to do it. We left Toronto at 6 on a full plane(just missed getting tickets for the one at 4 with all the running around), and Noah picked us up at the airport in Winnipeg in Josh's truck. Garry was home in bed befoe we would have landed in Minnesota with 6-7 hours to drive to St Labre. So except for Matt and kari taking two cars to Minneapolis, for nothing......all's well that ends well.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

a different view

Yesterday I wrote about how excited I am to be heading home to Manitoba Thursday morning. So today I wll mention that Garry, while excited to see the kids and grandkid, is a little reluctant to leave his little farm here in Ukraine. Two cows are looking like they will calve soon, more are due this month (two on his birthday, the 22nd)--- and so much could go wrong while he is not here to keep a watchful eye on those calving and recently fresh cows! The 17 cows milking had 276 liters in the last 24 hours- almost a 16 liter per cow average-they keep giving more(we are making about as much milk as in September when They first came, and there were 30 cows milking- amazing what good feed will do.)
That is why we are sending off our visa applications as soon as possible after landing- Garry wants to come back on the 27th of December if possible. The plan is that the boys and I will follow mid- January.

Anyway the grain finally arrived this morning- of course the ground was not frozen as Garry had hoped- remember I said it was warm at 2 am? - it's plus 9 C today, and the yard in front of the barn is a muddy mess. The driver could not back up the way Garry had hoped so they had to cut a "grain spout" door in the front of the barn so the compicorn could get blown into the bin- Maxim welded together a framework for a door to close the opening which they are putting up this afternoon before we leave. That's Maxim in the orange coveralls in the haymow door in the photo- the trucker is on top of the truck (Garry took that photo) Garry is happy the four ton of grain fit in the bin with room to spare (and the ceiling stayed up- I was teasing him it would collapse under all that weight.)

Garry was busy stapling plastic over the straw bales that are stacked against the wall in front of the cows and the end wall that faces north- except where the barnyard door is. Think of it as another layer of insulation- they are using the plastic that has been cut off the silage pile- white side to the inside of the barn. It should help keep the barn warmer when the cold air and snow comes back to Ukraine!

Hopefully Garry can enjoy his time at home while Maxim and the milker ladies and Victor take care of things for a few weeks. He has finished everything he wanted to.

I'm so excited

that apparently I can't sleep it's 1:20 am and I have been in bed for three hours trying to fall asleep unsucessfully in spite of the fact that the suitcases are packed, the last load of laundry is drying on the rack, the boys cleaned up their room, and dissected the cow eye for biology- it comes up for module#9 -we just finished 7 and plan to get three done while we are in Canada- after getting it into Ukraine in my luggage in September- it was a nice scientific preserved specimen I ordered from a homeschooling supply company- I was not bringing it back home again! As you can see Seth read the directions while Jonah did the cutting- when they do a microscope experiment, Jonah reads and Seth finds and they take turns drawing the required pictures (Seth's drawing, like his writing is neater than his brother's- Jonah has the disadvantage of being a lefty.)

Garry and I had an uneventful trip into the city later this afternoon, we went to one of Tanya Yatsenko's English classes- to listen to their presentations about Kiev. We now know what to see there if we ever get someplace other than the airport (which is acually in Borispol) and the train station! The students (older teens in photo) did a pretty good job, but they did have much of the same information to recite- except the final presenter- a guy who talked about the history of the football (soccer) team. I know a lot of info about culture, churches and the founding of Kiev- generally thought to be by three brothers, their sister- there is a monument in Kiev- which is named after the oldest brother.

We dropped by Victor first for tea and I took a picture of his new entry Garry helped build the day of the "car fire." When we got home it was cold in the house (except the boys rooms- the pipe was very hot there), the water was not pumping through the system properly- Garry added water, but it does not seem to have solved the problem yet. It's not that cold now, but it seemed warm outside when I tossed Mooshka out- I had missed doing it earlier- the reason she came to live in the village was she does not understand the use of litter pans. I then discovered that the door is unlocked and the key is missing - there were 2 keys but I haven't seen the other one in weeks. So now I have something to do in the morning- hunt for the keys if I ever get to sleep.

Garry's truck of ground grain is supposed to come then- after it didn't come today again- he says now he knows to order it a week before he wants it. They are getting extra brewers' grain and putting it in a pile as the beer factory is closing for a couple weeks on the 16th- no product- no by-product! They are feeding a lot of it to stretch the hay supply out - they hope to buy more hay in January.

The brewers grain has definitely helped production- the ladies are milking only 17 cows now with over 250 liters of milk a day. The ladies dried off four more cows yesterday(they must have given about 2 liter a day each- hardly worth washing them off). The guys are feeding the dry cows that old hay they harvested in November- along with a bit of corn silage and brewers grain. Maxim decided to mix the drycow feed together so they eat it as they were gobbling the "good stuff" and not eating the hay -so they are getting a hand-mixed TMR.

So its 2:30- guess I'll upload a couple pictures for you- let you know when we get to Canada- well maybe Friday. 3:20---I am going to get some sleep- i promise!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The real team meeting

Last night I actually did some more cooking for today. We left home around 9 am this morning with Maxim, first we went to Nadeeya- one village to the right on the highway to give the trucker for the brewers' grain money to get another load. Then we headed toward Dnepro with a detour to Salonya to drop Maxim off at the mill where the "compicorn" would be ground. All the time we were driving I was balancing this cake on my lap in the front seat, while Seth held the tree and Jonah the taco layer dip on his lap.

We try to get together- the efccm missionaries in Dnepro (and us) about once a month for team meeting- Novemeber was so busy we never got together, so we decided to have one for sure before we left for Canada this week. So this week Saturday Marina N, native Ukraianian missionary and part of our team is getting married to Zenya, who was a student at English Summer Institute two summers ago- last January when we booked our tickets with return date of this Thursday they were not even dating so we are missing the wedding.

Anyway the rest of the team decided to surprize Marina (and Zenya) with a -its all about you- pre-wedding party at team meeting. Marina did not even catch on to the theme for about 5 minutes until she noticed that all the tree ornaments on the tree in front of her were hearts! Zenya came in a few minutes later, and we had a good time- Orben and Trish had even gotten good wishes via email from some former team members. We had a special prayer time for them to ask God to bless their new life together (and to pray for safety on the honeymoon- they are going to Sharm-El Sheik in Egypt where the shark attacks took place in the last week!)

We always have a meal together, normally Trish Bellamy has us bring stuff for a shared lunch since we meet at their house most months and today we had lots of goodies- Olya had made little shells -some shaped like hearts with delicious fillings- like shrimp, or egg. I made a heart-shaped cake last night after our company left.

Afterwards Seth spent more than an hour in the chair at the dentist- all new braces and now he has rubberbands to stick on at night- no face mask like Jonah, but now he will be more sympathic to his brother I think.

We hurried home after the dentist- once we got out of the downtown traffic- so Garry would be there when the grain truck came. Turned out the compicorn will be delivered until Tuesday- Maxim came back by marshuska around noon. Wednesday we leave for Kiev so Tuesday will be packing and dissecting a cow eye for biology class for the the boys.

Sunday tour

Last Sunday Garry invited the whole church out to see the barn and lunch. Twenty people signed up right away, but by Thursday 42 were coming. We ended up with Victor's van, a marschuka (hired van) and a couple of cars driving out after the service (and communion- it was the first Sunday of the month.) We left ahead of them so I could set out all the salads and sandwiches and squares I've been making since Thursday evening. Yes -that's why I haven't posted in a couple days- been cooking like crazy.

Anyway- they arrived (I'm not really sure how many came but there must have been at least 10 kids), checked out the barn, the house, had lunch (around 2 pm) - there was some food left- so I made enough, I gave out recipes for brownies and pickled carrots. I got many thank yous and ochin koosnees ( very tasty- I learned it from Maxim) Garry says that he was told he was a lucky man with a wife who can cook like this.
Unfortunately it was muddy outside- It was 10 above (like 50ish F for Americans) on Saturday, the snow melted and even though the forecast had called for around freezing for Sunday it was foggy and warm- so mud, instead of the frozen ground Garry had hoped for! The milker ladies did extra cleanup in the barn for the visitors.

Seth was my photographer and got some of the children playing hide and seek in the haymow, and all these other pictures you can see. Moosha's former owners- Tanya and Olya came and enjoyed seeing their cat in her new home and her kitten. The kids really enjoyed playing with the kittens, and even tried playing hide and seek in the house!

The vans left around 4:30 and every empty pop bottle in the house left full of milk Garry sold to our visitors- I even put some of the ice tea I had made for drinking into other containers! The milker ladies even found some at their house. Most of the cleanup was throw away paper plates and cups with a few bowls to wash- the puppy got a big plate of stuff, and put the leftovers in the fridge- after Maxim finally got got to eat- he was so busy talking to people in the barn he never got in until they left.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The feed bin is finished!

Garry and Maxim finished the feed bin on Friday- they used the loader to pick up the chute as planned, and got it fastened to the ceiling with some lag bolts. Maxim worked on making the valve to turn it on and off so they can fill the wheelbarrows with ground grain- or compicorn as its known here. While he did that Garry cut the hole in the bottom of the bin (as in photo- Garry took these pictures for you) that they had lined with steel the morning before.

Garry noticed that the steel on the bottom of the bin was showing a little rust already while he was working inside it. The roof of the barn has a vent at the peak. The moist air coming up from the cows in the stable forms condensation on the inside of the barn roof, which freezes and then with the warm sun hitting it in the morning- it rains down. Not a huge amount of water, but enough to make the steel start to change after a day! The guys rigged up a roof over the bin with boards and some used plastic off the silage pile, which should keep most of the "rain" out of the bin. Not just the steel to worry about- wet grain will spoil too.

The main reason that Garry decided to build a feed bin before going home is- the mice have chewed so many holes in the bags of grain that they put downstairs that the guys have to run over to the steel barrel that they have been feeding out of as grain pours out everywhere. So this steel-lined bin will keep the mice looking for dinner from eating the grain. It will save the step of shoveling grain into the wheel barrel as it will fall neatly into it from the chute- then all the guys have to do is feed it to the cows.

We are going to get a delivery of grain that we bought from the lady a week or so ago, ground and delivered from the mill where it is stored, Maxim is going to go watch them do it on Monday so we don't get cheated (it's a Ukrainian thing- it seems no one is trustworthy in the former Soviet Union, because that is how things were always done.) I think that there is some beam reinforcing to do yet in the morning on Monday.

Milk production is up, even though cows are going dry- Friday afternoon to Saturday morning the cows had 260 liters I think- the most since November 11th according to Garry. Sunday morning (they give the most in the morning since it is 9 hours since evening milking, the other two milkings are 7 hours apart) they had 111 liters- averaging about 13 liters a cow. The fresh cow is milking good already, and drying off a couple cows that are giving a few liters a day is sure to help the average! She is Luba's cow to milk, and has gotten her cows' production up the the same level as Yana's now (the ladies have certain cows that each one milks, and are paid according to how much milk their cows give- this is the way they were paid at the other farm.) So that is a good thing, and hopefully they have the same number of cows freshening this month, so one lady is not making a lot more money than the other.
In the morning I'll post about what has been keeping me too busy to write this weekend, I need to sleep.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like....

It is beginning to look a lot like... Christmas....December 2nd and we woke up to snow outside this morning- a blanket of white covering the ground. Garry says it was cold outside feeding the cows this morning- he had me put warm gloves on the “what we need to bring back from Canada list”. They fork the corn silage into the bucket of the loader from the pile outside twice a day, they tried using the bucket to scoop it the first day, but got too much dirt in it.
It has been about -7 C all day, with a cold wind blowing. The snow made Seth decide that Polo could come in the house for the day- even though it was as cold or even colder yesterday. Jonah did decide to wear his shoes for their daily walk to the store to buy bread (and chocolate bars- too cold for their usual ice cream treats) he has been wearing his sandals until today. They even found hats and gloves to put on.
Garry bought a string of Christmas lights for indoor use, we have no tree for them, it looked like lots of work to put them up on the beams, so we ended up hanging them on the old hay rake (made by Victor’s father) that hangs on the living room wall. There are eight settings, so they blink or fade at various rates.
Today Victor brought Pastor Andrei (from our church in Dnepropetroesk) and his wife (they were married in August) out for dinner at one o’clock- and they arrived at 1:05- surprising me as I was just finishing the corn chowder (Victor normally runs behind schedule). The salads and taco casserole were already done for the second course, so I phoned Garry as he and Maxim were hard at work in the barn all morning. They were working on the feed bin and the straw wall.
Around three o’clock we finished talking (and tea) and they headed outside for a tour of the barn. I got a photo of them in the milkhouse as Victor was filling up a jug of milk for them to bring home. We are having people from the church out for lunch and a tour after church on Sunday- apparently the sign up list has grown from 20 to 40 people coming now (unless the weather keeps some home.)

Garry and I were planning to go to Marina’s tonight for a Christmas party- there will be students from Summer Institute there as Thursday is her English discussion group that they are invited to at the end of Institute each year. Unfortunately when we got into the car at 5:30 to leave it was drizzling- freezing rain. Garry got some water to clean off the windshield, but it was completely iced over from the rain falling before we even drove through the village. So we decided to turn around and stay home. Better not to chance driving on icy roads, and wrecking the car. The temperature outside still reads -6 but Garry says the wind is blowing out of the south tonight instead of the north like it was this morning. It is supposed to be 8 above on the weekend, so the warm air must be on its way.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Making the barn warmer...

So this morning it was 3 C (0 is freezing for non-metric Americans- don't worry more than twenty years and I'm still thinking in F) according to the thermometer Garry hung up inside the middle of the barn last night. It was 10 below zero outside and didn't change much all day, it got up to -7 and the puddles stayed firmly frozen- you can see them in the picture of the tractor by the barn.

The waterbowls were frozen at the ends of the barn this morning- but were thawed out by pouring in some hot water with no problems, since Garry turned off the water last night. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (does that saying have a metric version now, I wonder?) Garry went to work moving bales around to block air coming into the stable from the haymow- either the cracks in the floor, mostly the large spaces between the outside of the building and the ceiling of the stable/floor of the haymow as you can see in the photo looking up at the ceiling in the barn. Garry had moved some bales around to make a path when he was supposed to get the other straw bales,(which she may be willing to sell in the spring) so he had to put them back to cover the floor. Tonight he was wondering why his wrists were sore- they were scratched up from the straw, of course.

Maxim went to Zaporosia with the milker ladies this morning- since it's December first it was payday for Yana and Luba. He got back at 12:30, just as we were sitting down to dinner. After dinner they went back to work outside, I washed out the kitchen door mat and hung it outside- you can see the icicles hanging off it a couple hours later when I went outside to take pictures around 4 pm.

Victor had arrived by then with the steel for the feed bin. He and Garry were working in the haymow, they got one side piece on- you can see Garry (and his reflection) screwing in on in the photo. I climbed up the ladder and over the bales to get a picture of it- it's a simple design, basically a big box upstairs, then there will be chute to open downstairs to get the ground grain out. Garry hopes to finish it Thursday.
Maxim was working on the bale insulation wall downstairs by the cows (he's tying them into a string framework so they don't fall)- apparently the ducks think its safer on the other side of the barn now, as they were next to the ladder when I climbed up. When we climbed down around 4:30 the temperature was -4 in the barn, Garry climbed into the tractor to get the corn silage inside to feed the cows.
The good news is that the cold prevention measures must be working- Garry went out at 9 to check on things and he said it was 7 in the barn. It was -7 outside and the wind is blowing again. It would help if he is able to refill the far side with more loose hay- it's about a third gone now. Garry wanted to refill it before we left with that lower quality first-cut hay to feed the cows while we are gone to Canada, but the man he bought the hay from has not decided whether to sell us more now. It's a little cool in our bedroom tonight, better find some caulk for the window before we leave (heading to Kiev in one week for the flight to our Christmas holidays with the family!)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's cold outside

Today Garry spent most of the day in Dneprotroesk speaking to English classes at the Lyceum (high school) that Victor’s son Daniel attends. He says he spoke to two assemblies of about 100 students and one smaller class at the end of the day. Here we did math tests today along with our normal school work. Our Wednesday plans have changed- team meeting has been moved to next Monday due to a number of colds and illnesses in other families. So Victor is coming out- the steel is arriving and Garry hopes to get the feed bin made so it will be full of ground feed when we leave for Canada next week (and safe from mice.)
When I went outside to feed the puppy today he had a problem- a big brown hen from next door that hangs around the yard was stealing his dinner. Polo occasionally barked to chase her away but the chicken was defiantly sneaking back in for more- as you can see in the photo. It was nice outside-warm enough that I didn't need a coat this afternoon, so I shooed the hen away for a while so Polo could eat most of his dinner.

The sun was even shining today- the yard is pretty muddy from yesterday’s rain. Garry even got a load of slag for the driveway again this week- luckily before the rain.
Garry took a picture of the new calf when he went out to check on the barn- the wind is blowing hard out of the north tonight. In fact, before he went to bed at ten he decided to turn the water off in case it freezes the lines to the water bowls tonight (prevention-less to fix that way). He said that it is definitely warmer in the barn than outside but there is quite a bit of air blowing in even with the new improved glued-down seams (it’s a good thing that was done). It is about -4 C at 11 pm- the predicted low for Dnepro is -7. We’ll see how cold it gets in the barn by morning.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Rain and other surprises

Today Garry and I headed into Dnepropetroesk to pick up the fixed car- that's right, all is well on the car front. Turned out that a little rubber piece that was supposed to hold the wires where they went through the dash was missing and caused the short- and fire I wrote about in the last post. Garry ended up driving into Dnepro Saturday afternoon with the car- Maxim was unable to find someone to fix it in Zaporosia. So Victor's neighbor ended up fixing it (yes the same one who fixed the lights on Friday.)
We met up with Victor to trade cars- he had just ordered the metal for the feed bin Garry's going to make. We then headed downtown, parked and walked over to the Central Market to do a little Christmas shopping (I know the kids at home are excited now- sorry boys no CCCP boxer shorts like last year) as we headed inside the wind picked up and it seemed a little colder. Interesting fact- the meat section of the market smells a lot better in November than it does in July (I remarked on it and Garry said he had just thought the same thing) While we were wandering through the stalls in the back looking at toys I thought it sounded like it could be raining a little. Which seemed strange since it didn't really look like rain when we were driving.
Anyway it was sprinkling a little as we headed out to check if we could find some hand-knit mittens Garry had seen being sold out on the street another day. We gave up as the rain got heavier, and as we stopped to get Garry's favorite lunch- sharma- by the time the lady had finished piling the meat, veggies, french fries and sauces onto the wraps, rolled them like a burrito and put them in the hot press- it was really pouring. We ran inside the main building with our bags to eat our lunches and buy some fruits and vegetables, hoping the rain would let up. Of course it was still pouring as we headed up the hill a couple blocks to where we had left the car. It slowed a little as we got close to the car, but we were pretty wet, and my hands were red with cold.
We gave up on our planned trip to the art market- but hope to get there on Wednesday when we go across the river to the Bellamy's for team meeting. It would be a good chance that the cold downpour would have convinced the vendors to pack up- they do not have stalls with roofs there, they just set their creations out on folding tables and display boards between the sidewalk and the tram track.
We did go to Metro to pick up a few groceries, with the defroster running full-blast and on hot all the way home where I was glad to change out of my soaking wet socks and the jeans with the dripping cold wet bottoms!
The other surprise of the day happened when it was still dark- Maxim went out to deal with the milk buyer this morning and came back to get Garry. The milker ladies were concerned as the cow that was supposed to calve in two weeks had feet coming out of her. So they pulled the calf- it was a black one with a little white spot on it's forehead- the herd was bred with a Holstein bull. Unfortunately, in spite of smallish feet it turned out to be another bull calf. Every dairy farmer wants a heifer calf so it will grow up and make money- but in reality more than 50% are male. It looks like the cow is feeling good, and that will be one less cow for Garry to worry about calving while we are in Canada. Maybe a couple more will decide to calve in the next ten days, and we'll keep milk production at the current level (240 liters a day I think) when the ten cows due in January go dry soon.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Maybe it wasn't a good idea..........

Today Garry went off to Dnepro to help Victor build a mudroom-entry on the front of his house. Victor had poured cement for the floor a couple weeks ago. Garry took off after feeding the cows this morning (and laying out his feed bin project upstairs in the haymow, so he could order the metal to line it) while Maxim went out to finish plowing. The boys and I worked on the biology test review - they are memorizing the muscles in the human body for tommorrow's test.
So I talked to Garry around 4 pm and he said he was leaving soon, as the walls were up and the roof was made but Denis and Daniel had not come home to help lift it so they would finish on Saturday- the aspenite (chipboard) could get nailed on then.
So around 5 o'clock he called to say he would be on his way soon (Max had just come in to shower after doing the afternoon feeding) The delay was caused by fixing the lights on the car.
I have been bugging Garry to do something about the rear lights on the Lada- you know the ones on the back of your car so people can see you in the dark. We have been trying to avoid driving at night because we have no tailights-he noticed they quit working when he returned from taking his parents to Kiev last month- we do have an exceptionally bright light on our licence plate, and the four ways will work- Garry used them the night we drove in the fog- and the brake lights come on.
This is not unusual to have poorly lit tailights in Ukraine- you see tiny tailights on big trucks, most older Ladas and Moshvisches have tiny dim lights- which are sometimes white instead of red (is that car coming or going?) Garry even got stopped this week at night by the police for a document check- and they didn't say anything about the lights- he did admit he had his foot on the brake while he talked to the policeman. He was coming back alone from seeing the Ukrainian national basketball team beat the Lithuanian national team in Dnepro (he says they had more big Americans playing for Ukraine.)
Anyway Victor's neighbor fixed the lights once before when the brake lights weren't working- by making an unblowable fuse when it kept blowing fuses. Maybe this is the first indication that the rest of the story might occur, but...
Victor had said that they should get his neighbor to check the lights when he went with us to the dentist on Wednesday. So I guess that's what they did before Garry left for home. So he did some stuff, and got them were working, but went out after Garry drove 20 feet down the street.
So the guy decided to juryrig them instead, and Garry says (in hindsight) he wondered if it was a good idea to do this wire shifting before the fuses- but this guy is a mechanic of some kind (everyone in Ukraine is supposed to be able to fix a Lada- interchangable parts, and they get to do it a lot maybe). So Garry started home after telling me he'd be home in a hour. He walked in at 6:30- that's when I got to hear the rest of the story.
Just as he reached the outskirts of the city, the car started to fill with smoke fast. He pulled off the road, stopped the car, opened the dash to find a mess of melted wires. After it went out and the smoke cleared, he was surprized to find that the car would turn over so he drove home. When he got home he discovered that the car would not turn off- the lights would not turn off either after he stalled the car and put on the emergency brake so he pulled the battery cable off to kill the lights, and walked in the house to tell the tale to me and then explain it again to Maxim in Russian.
Maxim went out to see if he could find someone to fix it in the village on Saturday, as he is hoping to drive to his home village to visit his parents after we get home from church on Sunday. It started pouring rain around 7:15. (forecast says maybe snow next week)
So maybe fixing the lights ruined the car - at least a little. Hopefully we get to Dnepro on Sunday. Garry called Victor to say he wouldn't make it to help build in the morning.

Update- Max got the car running- he and Garry covered the bare wires with electrical tape, and Maxim drove it to Zaporosia Saurday morning to get fixed- hopefully it does not have any fries electronics to go with the wires.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

here's that milkhouse photo

Here's that missing photo from the last post - you can see Garry's breeding calendar (thanks to my little brother Ronnie- I brought it back from NJ) and Garry's semen tank he bought from someone in the village- the contents are thanks to the Canadian-Ukrainian dairy commission. We even have semen from Quebec I believe. that frozen stuff is some bull with a famous father who didn't get such a great proof (When they compare how good a bulls' daughters are). I' m sure he's heads and tails better that the little red bull in the village though.

You can see all the full milk cans- this was before the lady buyer that didn't make it yesterday and was coming in the morning (which was about noon today) came for the milk that went glop, glop.--see the earlier post for details. The plastic cans by the window are the ones that we fill for Victor on Sundays. Even the big round steel tubs by the table were full of milk- plus several cans were sitting in the water tub for the other buyers who comes twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. You can see that the window wall is still waiting for its coat of paint- it may have to wait until spring as it's getting colder now. Jackets were nice today. The window is cracked open to cool the milk of course, but we'll have to keep the water pipes from freezing before long.

Tying up loose ends

Here are some photos of some of the recent improvements made around here. While we were in Kramatoresk last week the tent guys came (we finally paid for their transportaion costs as the nearby job had not materialized yet.) Victor was here and Maxim worked with the guys all day fixing all those unsealed seams around the second floor that would flap in the wind everytime it blew. It sounded like a ship under sail, and with winter coming the wind coming through the barn was making it cold. They also finished the connection between the barn and the milkhouse. When the Steinbach team was here, the tent guys finished but there was a hole in the corner where the milkhouse was built the next week by the team. Since there was space between the metal milkhouse and the canvas barn, Garry had done some building to try to seal it it up. The tent guys did a great job of fastening the canvas to the milkhouse as you can see in the photos here. Garry and Maxim put some screws in this week to finish it up.

I took a few photos in the barn this morning- unfortunately Garry could not get the nice straw bales from the farm the cows came from, and the ones he got from the other farmer to make the insulating wall are not staying stacked as well as he had hoped- some fell over one night this week and one of the ducks was squashed. Maxim is spending his spare time making a net of used baler twine to keep them upright. You can see Garry doing his daily cow grooming in the photo on the right.

Garry and his currycomb

the Holstein first calver

The little Holstein heifer with the pretty udder in the photo was one of the three fresh cows he bought from the big farmer- you may have seen a photo of them in October when we bought them. She had a bad case of mastitis (coliform) last month but whatever the vet gave her worked- she is one of the top producers now with 14 liters a day. She is looking much better, they are all putting on weight - Garry hopes to breed them if they come in heat before we leave- if not they can wait until January when we return. You can see Garry's breeding calender and the semen tank he got in the photo of the milkhouse.(Which I seem to have lost- this is why I don't use the new editor!) He has breed all the open heifers but one now- she is pretty small so it will not be a problem if she waits until January too.

There are many full milk cans in that milkhouse photo-(that I can't find or reload in this editor) one of the buyers did not come on time- she picked up milk that was two and half days old. It is cold now so it may may go sour as fast, but another thing that a refrigerated milk tank does is stir the milk occasionally so it does not separate out into cream and skim milk. Garry says it went glop, glop as they poured it into her cans. She was making cottage cheese and sour cream from it. Apparently the milk from the cows feed brewers' grain works better for sour cream than the ones feed the beet pulp. We were able to get another load of brewers' grains yesterday and the pit outside is very full as you can see in one of the pictures.
the brewer's grain is overflowing
Luba had 18 steel cans to wash out before milking this afternoon- Yana is off this week doing her mother's job at the lady farmer's place (where the herd came from)so her mother could visit relatives. They raise mushrooms and have some pigs and heifers there still. We have about 10 more cows to go dry soon there are 6 already dry (not milking - ideally they get 6 weeks off before having a new calf) but Garry says one cow is starting to look like she may calve before we leave- she's due to have a calf on December 15th- the week after we go to Canada. Still one of the ladies can easily milk alone so the other can take time off. They will be much busier in January and February, but we may be getting some milking machines then.
Maxim started plowing that piece from the village today- we have gotten the go-ahead from the mayor -we are doing weed control, and hopefully that paperwork will be done by spring so we can plant it. Garry took some pictures when he took him back from lunchtime- we had a little American Thanksgiving dinner with chicken, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cornbread and baked apples.( I seem to have moved some photos to the bottom and can't get them to go where I want- we may be back to all on top next time!)