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

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The ballet

Saturday afternoon Garry and I went to the ballet- we had to be in the city later in the afternoon to help with oral English tests for our friend Tatiana's students. Garry had asked her if there was anything on in the city and it turned out there was a matinee performance by the Dnepropetroesk ballet company.

There was a 50 person orchestra playing during the production- we arrived early since we were buying our tickets at the door- so we got to listen to them tune and warm-up. The house was at least half full- quite a few children in the audience, some small girls sitting on their mother's lap-I think they get in free that way. We were in row 14, right where the auditorium has a dividing aisle- Garry liked the legroom.

I'm told it was a traditional Ukrainian ballet- but I don't know the name of the ballet. It was a romance with star-crossed lovers, a controlling mother (played by a man I think) for the girl who wanted her to marry a rich man instead. The girl spends most of her time dancing with her friends and avoiding chores like churning butter, spinning wool, sweeping to spend time with her beau.

Then just before the intermission there was a big harvest scene which ended with a pouring rain- it got dark and they used lights on sometime that was falling to look like a huge storm. Really cool, but I didn't get a good photo, since I was snapping without a flash.

There was a slight miscue in the second half in front of the lovers curtain when the little girls tried to enter too early and the other dancers shooed them back.
Of course at the finale they are married with about 70 dancers on stage including a large number of young male and female ballet students. It's amazing how much of the story you can understand even though you can't read the storyline in the program.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Dnepro Farm Show

Yesterday Garry found out the Dnepropetroesk Farm Show was on- in fact today was the last day. Garry, Maxim and I drove in around ten o'clock, the wind was whipping the loose snow around- the temperature may be -8 C but it feels like Manitoba wind chill out there today! Last night Maxim was in bed around 11:30 when Yana called to say there was a heifer calving- (her first time) he pulled the calf- no problems, but of course it was the second bull calf of the day!
In case you are wondering, Maxim's name is pronounced Max-e-um- but I thought Maxime would look feminine to North Americans- interestingly, most of our boys' names sound feminine to Ukrainians- Joshua, Micah, Noah, and Jonah- all end in -ah, like all good female names in Russian.

We met Victor there at Meteor- the auditorium where the show was held- after the guys checked out some of the equipment outside (no one was looking for long out there) It cost ten grivina to get in- just about a dollar forty US or Canadian- and Garry enjoyed walking around with Victor to ask the questions he wanted to know the answers to. Check out the sunflower balloon sculpture hanging overhead, and Maxim with the motorcycle on display.

Many of the exhibitors were local, so we can actually buy things from them. We even found a supplier of dairy minerals imported from the Netherlands. Garry has been wanting to find trace minerals to balance the ration for the cows. The most popular exhibitors seemed to be the guys with walnuts- one booth had walnuts almost as big as tennis balls.

The deal of the day was when Garry talked the ladies at one of the corn seed booths into selling some of the bags they had on display (the company was from a city halfway to Kiev) at their regular price we picked up four bags after we walked through the show- it was supposed to close at two o'clock but most of the booths were packing up before/at one. Garry put one on his shoulder, Max carried two, and when I asked how many more there were (they had 6 on display- but didn't eant to sell Garry the other two) I carried out the last one, when they said they'd come back for it. Weighed less than a bag of calf feed. By the way, they cost thirty dollars a bag. Garry said we'll buy some more expensive seed, but he just had to try some of this really cheap kind (compared to North American prices).
We headed out to put it in the car as the crane started loading up the equipment outside.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

New arrival

Thursday after lunch, Maxim went out to help someone buying milk and ran in to say that the cow was finally calving- so Garry and Victor ran out to pull the calf- using the shiney calf pulling chains I brought back from Canada. By the time I found boots and got to the barn with the camera, the calf was lying behind the cow- another bull calf, of course (bull calves are normally bigger than heifers.) Garry is tickling the inside of his nose with a piece of straw- sometimes it helps the calf get rid of any muscous in the airway, so they breathe easier. Maxim pulled him in front of his mother who happily licked him off- the guys tell me he was standing up about 5 minutes later, and his mother was "milking herself" according to Victor- the cow was leaking milk from her teats.

This was in the middle of the afternoon milking, both Yana (pictured) and Luba were busy milking. Yana is going to buy this bull calf from us to raise also. She traded one of her bulls to someone for a heifer calf- I think it's the little Hereford-looking one at the far end of the row of calves in the photo. The big black one at the front is our biggest heifer calf, born while we were in Canada.

The waterbowls are finally working again, Garry got it going this morning while Maxim was feeding the cows, which should bring milk production back up. The cows were down a little in milk since they had been watered with the hose and bucket method twice a day for the last two days. Hopefully, it will soon be warm enough to keep the water pipes from freezing at night, and they will have all they can drink. Its minus 7 and windy, so it really doesn't feel any warmer outside, today.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Another cold Monday

This morning Garry told me he thought there would be a cow calving today, so I went outside to take some photos at 4 o'clock. Here is the cow- but she hasn't had her calf yet. Maybe tomorrow. She looks pretty nice, beautiful udder.

No sign of that warm weather yet- in fact the wind has been blowing since Sunday evening making it even colder outside and in the barn. Even feels cool in the house as I sit here writing at 8 pm, listening to the wind howl past the windows. The guys continue to fight with frozen waterlines and waterbowls in the barn, even watering some animals with the hose and bucket method like before we had waterbowls. Thursday the warmer weather is due to arrive then everything should start to thaw out, hopefully before the weekend.

There's a lot of milk sitting in the milkhouse- none of the "big" milk buyers have been here since yesterday. Oleg is supposed to come tonight, but he picks up milk in an old Lada so he can only take 300 liters at a time.

I took a picture of the top cow- the one that had 32 liters when the ladies measured milk last week. She is a big wide cow, and has lost weight already because she gives lots of milk. Garry says he's going to try to buy the bigger Holstein-looking cows in the village, because they are turning out to be the best milkers.

Of course the one he brought home today isn't all that big- he thinks she is 3rd calf, and due in 3 weeks. One of the younger heifers joined the two tied below, so she could have the stall at the end of the barn. A lady in the village came by last week wanting to sell a cow- she even spoke a few words of English, apparently she attended university in Zaporosia when she was younger. She is married to the butcher.

Garry has decided to start feeding grain again- Maxim picked up some at the mill yesterday- I think they got soybean meal this time, instead of sunflower. The cows' milk production didn't go down when they cut out the extra grain- in addition to the brewers' grains, but it stopped going up like it had since Garry came back from Canada. Maxim is feeding the extra grain- the higher producing cows get some- in the photo from this afternoon.

On Sunday Garry found out why people don't like to feed brewers' grains to cows here- they think it couses liver damage. We are wondering if they think it has alcohol in it- since drinking alcohol can cause liver damage in people.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Tserkov is church in Russian- to my ears it sounds like cirkov- closer to circus than church! The ts is one Cyrillic letter or sound thatis pronounced like the end of English words like cats or boots- it's a letter in Hebrew also (see studying Biblical Hebrew was useful for trying to learn Russian!) So yesterday was Sunday and we were off to church a little late- we had to leave Maxim home to try to finish thawing out water pipes, because -20 C with wind makes the barn really cold overnight. The road in the village is a sheet of ice, and Maxim drove out first thing in the morning with the tractor to pull out a car that had gone off the road where the bend in the road is up our street- Centralna.

Then while Maxim was loading up the morning silage he caught this hawk that knocked itself out by flying into the fence- and Garry brought it inside to show us- it managed to set its talons really tight on his fingers while we were taking photos- but didn't draw blood. Then Garry let him go- he flew off feeling fine. By the time they had gotten the milk loaded into the big plastic jugs with the spigots filled for the churches, Garry had to hurry to get going- the boys and I were ready to leave at 9, but it was 9:20 when he came in from loading up. The temperature on the highway sign proclaimed 9:34 am -16 air temp and -11 road temp when we drove under it.

Jonah helped Garry unload three jugs- two sixty liter ones and a forty at Victor's church, then the gates were open at the military truck driving school where Morningstar meets so Garry drove in so we didn't have to carry the two 50 liter jugs as far. The boys were moving one, and another late church arrival offered to help me carry the other in- I think he regreted his offer- we carried it all the way in and he was a little out of breath and told me (it was an English-speaking man) said he was surprised how heavy it was- and he was surprised I could carry it. All those muscles from farming before we had big boys to do things like bale lifting!
Church was over around one and then we had to wait for the milk to be sold so we could take the empty jugs home- we need all of them with the cows giving so much milk. We don't actually sell milk at Morningstar- now that we are making more milk we bring a hundred liter donation that the church sells after the service.
We had lunch at Puzata Hata at 2 and drove home- just before 3 pm the sign told us the air temp was -11 and the road was up to -2! The bright sun was warming up the asphalt anyway.

The thing we didn't notice when we drove into the yard was the lid was up on the cistern- the voda- water truck had made a delivery and sometime in the cold Sunday night the water line to the pump froze. Around 4 am I realized there was a problem with the water when I went into the bathroom. I woke up Garry who woke up Maxim to say that there is no water- and Max said- "no there's water- the truck came yesterday"- so no one turned off the pump (the problem is the pump needs to be turned off inside the summer kitchen- where the milker ladies live) Garry figured out the problem when he went out in the morning, so around ten they showed up with another load of water Maxim ordered- that almost got the water up to the level of the pipe. Then Garry tied a rope to Maxim's little electric heater (Maxim likes his room about 25 C- I swear it's 80 F in there) and hung it in the cistern.

After lunch they got the water flowing to the house again- thankfully the pump hadn't burned out the motor this time- we have replaced it several times since arriving in Ukraine- so I was able to do the dishes and start a load of laundry.

Good news- the cold air is supposed to move out of here with the temperatures back to highs of -1 on Thursday and Friday! Of course it's already -15 at 8 pm Monday evening.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The circus

When we came back to Ukraine a month ago I promised you a list of cool things you can see in Ukraine- I've been trying to get some input from the boys on this (they had to write a speech for English and I assigned the topic.) The one thing that is near the top of their lists is the circus. The first fall we were in Ukraine we went to the circus in Dnepropetroesk twice- once for Jonah's birthday, and twice in the spring - once with the building team from Steinbach. We never managed to get there this fall- not even for Jonah's birthday as we'd hoped, so yesterday we were off to the city for the circus- the early show at 12:30. We saw a different circus every time, they tour around the country (maybe other countries- they like to claim being the Moscow circus on their posters.) Dnepro has a circus building near the river downtown- it's circular and has a tent-shaped roof. Every circus is a little different, but you can count on dancing girls, comedy, animal acts and acrobats for sure. We've seen magic acts- with disappearing girls, stacking chairs- twelve high with guys doing handstands on top, lions, bears riding bikes (and chimps riding bikes), trained house cats and dogs- and porcupines. Girls twisting up and down ribbons, tightrope walkers, and flying trapeze acts- and troupes of earthbound acrobats that stand on each other's shoulders- three guys high.

Lots of sequins and glitter, spotlights and a real band playing (although some acts have recorded music.) The crowd is normally younger kids and parents or grandparents -not many teens, but the boys love it- easy to understand even when you don't know the language- you can figure out what the clown's doing when he heads into the audience after a reluctant adult "volunteer." Plus you don't see anything like it at home. After we saw the trained house cat act Jonah was trying to get Moosha to climb around things for treats. There are a variety of things to buy- balloon animals and flowers, light up swords and whirring things, pink wigs seemed very popular with little girls yesterday, plus popcorn and cotton candy to eat. Last year the parents were paying for the the kids to have a "flying trapeze ride" in a seat across the ring before the show and during intermission.

Yesterday there were three different activities- camel rides around the ring- with photo on the camel, parachute ride- in the background of the photo you can see the colorful parachute- they would strap the child in, pull them up maybe twenty feet and then they would glide down to the starting position- or you could have your picture taken with a snake around your neck, or with an alligator from the show in front of you (or the whole family)in front of the curtain the acts enter the ring through.
We discovered an upgraded lighting system (we'll have to go back next month for the Tibetian circus to see if it was for this circus or the circus building) with a laser-looking light show to start things off- before the dancing girls and the snake act. Then we had acrobat clowns jumping rope, followed by the camel act- two two-hump camels.

There was an American cowboy horse riding act- lots of sidestepping and rearing with the girl, the guy performed more tricks- like the horse lying down with him on it during the second act. Between acts the clown was out doing his thing, interacting with the audience while the guys changed sets. He had a big act with a female partner- with a lot of costume changes and dancing before intermission- they were in Inuit, Spanish, Japanese plus three other outfits and the final instant costume change- to a wedding-like dress for her was done in a cloud of tinsel glitter. After intermission- we got some cotton candy and watched kids fly up and down on the parachute, and another lazer light show, the featured on the posters- alligator act was up.

First the dancing girls- in harem outfits- danced among some little crocs or gators- not sure which- then the alligator guy came out and pulled them around and wrestled them- with the big finale being putting his face in one's mouth as seen in the photo. There was a monkey act with the usual ring tossing, handwalking, comedy- the monkey got the kisses- not the guy from the beautiful assistant- and then a trained white cat- black dog act- the cat jumped three dogs- one at a time in a line for the finale. Then we had the bear act which got the biggest applause when introduced- the bears looked shiney and walked up the steps to do rollovers on the bars, or walk on a ball, one rode a scooter, another walked on a rolling drum. The inbetween-act clown was all over the crowd- even got the section next to us wet while having a waterfight with the crew. Then he gave fake flowers away and the ushers got the kids to return them when he was going off sad with no flowers.

Then came my favorite act- after the dancing girls and "smoke" intro you see in the photo- the flying girl and guy acrobats- (look carefully- or click to make it bigger-you can see them up in the smoke)I know what gymnasts do when they retire- they join the circus- he looked like he was working the rings, and then hung her- doing the spilts- from a strap around his neck while flying thorough the air. Then they did some crazy bungee moves, separately and together. They got huge applause.
The four guy acrobatic clowns were back with the fat one dressed as a girl, riding a "bike" with huge tires- looked like they were made from monster truck intertubes- and bounced off the tires, chased each other, ran each other over, got a guy from the audience on the bike- afterwards the "girl" kissed him- they even did flips off the tires and hung by their feet off the handlebars- the boys thought it was hilarious. After the cowboy it was the grand finale...and we headed home to the vllage.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Test Day

Yesterday the ladies weighted the cows' milk individually so we could find out how much each cows is giving. Most of the fresh (recently calved) cows had 25 liters or more- ten cows were at 25 or better (if you are American and think in pounds of milk- multiply by 2.2 I think) and 3 cows were over 30 liters - Garry's says the bigger cows- with the high cow having 32 liters- the most Holstein-looking cow in the barn. Garry says she steals as much feed as she can reach from the cows next to her before eating her own feed.

Friday, February 18, 2011

new internet and...Mint

Today they finally came to install the different internet- not sure if it will be any faster than Kievstar- we've been expectingthem all week. A lady and an older guy came out, and mostly talked to Maxim- she knew a little English and Garry was off to Dnepro with Victor looking at milking machines and milktanks and trying to do a deal with the Delaval dealer there (the one we found while at the farm show in Kiev.) Hopefully he will come home with good news about the milking equipment.
So she did install it on all three computers, we discovered that it would work on Seth's computer without the antenna in his room but this computer needs to have the antenna hooked up (sadly my computer is having problems hooking up- no dial tone- Noah did we forget to reinstall the modem or something?-- maybe you can fly over for a service call- Noah is our computer-fixing son.) All while Polo played with the cat (they wrestle in slow motion) then Polo wrestled with "mint" the milker ladies' puppy- his name is slang for policeman because he turns everything upside down. He followed Maxim back in after the antenna went out the window in an attempt to get it to work.

Strangely the "temporary fix" that I called Garry and Victor about is still in place- the window is open a crack in the living room, I had to hide the screen they removed from the window from the cat, you can see that there is a bag of minerals holding the window shut so the cord can get out to the pole the guy and Maxim put the antenna up on! I was worried when Maxim paid them and they left with it like that. I made the boys some hot dogs for lunch after they left.
Apparently someone- not them- needs to drill a hole through the wall for the final hookup- of course in my mind temporary is 10 minutes not until someone gets around to it! Since it is 4:30 and the temperature outside is -10 C- I think I may throw it out the window and close it tonight. After I upload the blog- we'll see if the photos load better- I am not optimistic that we'll be doing any live video chats on this service- seems only slightly faster.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

a photo visit of the barn

Minus 22 C this morning- so still waterbowls freezing and thawing - becoming part of the daily routine- it's supposed to stay this cold for four more days- I hear it was above zero in Steinbach, Manitoba, Canada- and I told everyone it was warmer here in Ukraine(on average I guess !)
We had company for lunch- Victor brought out Doreen who's visiting - having a rest in Dnepro this week from her English teaching in Kramatroesk- she wanted to see the barn again. So I had to make a good dinner- we bought a crepe pan at Metro this week so Corn Chowder, followed by chicken and mushroom filled crepes, with some salsa and applesauce on the side (thawed from the freezer- I made them last summer) and for dessert- crepes filled with vanilla ice cream with warm cherry sauce on top. Everyone was stuffed- Maxim was too full for tea after!

After Doreen and Victor left to go back to the city (with bottles of milk), Garry went out to the barn, and the boys went back to doing schoolwork (Seth had helped Doreen with some computer program questions) and then the power went out for about 15 minutes (better than yesterday afternoon- it was out for an hour.) After it came back on to stay (one false start) I noticed Maxim go past the house with the tractor- he had been moving manure again- so I found my coat and somebody's boots that fit and headed out with the camera.
He had just parked the tractor by the barn and was over by the corn silage pile forking a bucket full of silage to feed the cows.

You can see the brewers' grain pile is slowly shrinking (and very frozen!) in front of the milkhouse.
You can also see that there is lots of milk sitting in the milkhouse!

Garry was brushing the cows when I went inside- using his currycomb to get them cleaned up.

The barn is full- 45 animals counting baby heifers (plus there are three bulls with Yana's two and Swishlik- future dinner born in October) all the stalls are full and two big heifers are tied in one of the heifer pens behind the hay pile, the calves are tied along the wall on one side of the barn, and a couple are along the divider in front of the hay in the "heifer pens". One third of the barn was designed as heifer pens, but was filled this fall with the loose dry alfalfa hay Garry bought.

The spotted red and white cow is the new fresh heifer and the black and white calf the duck is checking out is her baby bull, it seems there was only one red and white one in the bull calves that Yana is raising. Of course as it often happens- the red one is out of a black cow.

Maxim came with the bucket full of silage and Garry opened the doors so he could back the tractor in- they don't leave the doors open long in the cold- it was -12 C when I went outside. The sun was starting to set at 5 pm as you can see in the photo I took of the snowman as I went inside.