Tuesday, March 29, 2011
This morning when the sun rose there was a dusting of snow on the ground, which started disssappearing as the rain fell. The forecast had called for a high of ten degrees (C) so I went along on Garry and John's planned trip to the central market in Dnepropetroesk, since I was hoping to find some yarn. When we went under the road temperature sign on the highway it was two degrees. Surprisingly, the closer we got to Dnepro- the whiter the ground- some cars even had snow on them. If you are wondering what the billboard says - I think it's along the lines of Ukrainian sushi- Kielbasa (I could read the words for sushi and kolbasa- and the kolbasa on the plate has chopsticks next to it.)
The snow was gone downtown, and we parked and walked over to central market and headed through the meat section, and back to the rows of booths. Garry bought onion sets with John, while I wandered off to hunt for a stand with yarn. I got lucky and found yarn that matched the swaeter I have been working on (I have become concerned that there may not be enough yarn to do the sleeves.) Garry tried to find the hardware section but we gave up and bought sharma to eat on the way back to the car. I took a picture as she was making them- its like a giant tortilla shell filled with meat, french fries, dill pickles, shredded carrot, various sauces (plus we got the extra chunk of cheese) folded in a little plastic bag to catch the drips so they don't run down your arm. Mine could have used more salt on the fries.
Then we stopped at Victor's to pick up Mint (Yana's dog) Garry had sent him back to get checked at the vets because he looked awful. They gave him fluids, but were unsure if he was sick or ate poison. Garry brought him in the house when we got home, where he still looks sick and skinny, but ate some puppy chow. Then after John helped him inject him full of medicine, I let Polo in the house and Mint was so excited he ran around with him. Hopefully he pulls through and isn't contagious.
The temperature was at 4 degrees when we got back around three, but actually turned really nice an hour before sunset. We are heading off to Crimea in the morning with John and the boys (taking a break from schoolwork), so hopefully the weather is good and the holes in the road are small.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Turns out we can use 27 gigs in less than a month- so I've been offline until we got more money on the account. Guess we'll have to cut Jonah's TV downloading to two shows a week. So what have we done all weekend? On Friday morning Garry and Maxim took the forms down on the pit, and poured the floor. They made three loads of cement and put it in bucketloader and poured it in the bottom of the pit- much easier than wheelbarrows- they were done in an hour.
Seth and Jonah got to do their final chemistry experiment for the week- Garry found little plastic packets of drain cleaner on Friday afternoon after his dentist appointment. We had already bought the purple cabbage, and white vinegar for the experiment. The experiments are designed to be done with common household products- but sometimes what is easy to find at home in Canada is hard to find when you can't read the packaging! It called for lye- or powdered drain cleaner as a substitute. The boys boiled the cabbage leaves in water, poured in the vinegar- turning the purple/blue into bright pink liquid. Then they stirred in the teaspoon of drain cleaner (we knew it was drain cleaner because of the illustrations on the package)and watched as it turned greenish and then yellow (hurrah the right color.) They took the test for the module today.
Garry went to Kiev by train early Saturday to meet his brother John who is visiting us for about ten days, he met him at the airport and they came back on the express train to Dnepropetreosk. We called each other a few times- he phoned to tell me my crocus were blooming when he left in the morning. It was a short night- they got in about one am and when Garry got up at 7 am we discovered it was really 8- time changed! So he went out to the barn to gett the morning's milk ready to go to church. The milkers had started late- they didn't get the time change either, I guess. Yana left before Garry Saturday morning to help her parents get themselves and the cattle she bought settled in their new place (she arrived back today- Monday) Luba's son (who is a policeman) came to help milk this weekend (he's married to the daughter-in-law that came last week)
So we were late by the time we all got to church, after dropping off Victor's milk. It seemed like we weren't the only ones that had forgotten the time change. We went to Puzata Hata and bought groceries before heading home. Garry and John went out to help Max feed the cows. John and Garry played Rummicub before heading to bed early.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
This morning I discovered that it was not the funny-colored cow who calved on Tuesday that had milk fever, but one that calved more than a week ago. I was confused yesterday when Garry said that Luba told him it was the same cow who had milk fever on that Thanksgiving Sunday when we had gone to Victor's church- since I thought that was a Holstein-looking cow. Of course Garry had told me both cows' names in the last couple days- but except for Zera - Zerichka, and Rita, most of them start with and M and are some version of Mart (March) because that's when they were born.
So this morning she had stood up for an hour or so in the aisle, then had laid back down by 10:30 when I took this picture- the other fresh cow is standing in the stall in the background. The vet was supposed to come out around two to look at her again, but he actually arrived before noon. Paying cash makes for faster service, I guess. Garry had snuck some more calcium in her this morning, so she stood up when the vet arrived- so he said -see I fixed her yesterday! The good news is she's back in her stall standing and eating.
Garry and Max finished off the cement around 10 am- check out the heavy duty form construction (yesterday they used one side piece as the ramp to unload the heifers from that huge truck)and the bracing. They plan to make the walls higher on three sides yet. Then they worked on moving the haypile so they could section off a third heifer pen- for the three smaller ones that came yesterday, along with the two ones from the village- Garry dehorned those two when they came, he's going to do the the other three so they have equality- the red ones are having trouble getting much to eat with everyone else bigger than them and having horns to stab them to chase them out. He would cut the horns off the bigger heifers, but the dehorners aren't big enough. So everyone should be happy, and grow big and strong.
Cows are very social animals- like people they like to have someone to push around, and they have a social hierarchy with a top cow. Sometimes it is surprising who is boss cow- we once had a cow who was the shortest cow in our barn- Kiwi (she was a preemie and never grew well) until she was ten she thought she was the biggest, baddest cow in the barn, and all the other cows agreed or she'd knock them down a notch (fortunately for her she was heavy for her size- a really good milker too.)
Here is the sick cow at 6 pm- looking pretty good, back in her stall eating, it may take a few days for her to get back to normal.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Yesterday while we were gone on our trip, one of the cows calved, the one Garry says looks moldy (she is a weird grayish color and white- maybe she is the purple cow) The ladies say she has the best tasting milk- in fact their former boss, the lady farmer, used to always drink only her milk because it was the best. Who knew when we take all the cows’ milk and put it together we are missing out on the taste of individual cow’s milk? Victor took some of her milk home last fall and said it was delicious. Personally I don’t know- maybe it is the differing fat content of the milk, since we know some cows will have a higher percentage of fat in their milk- and that does taste good (compare whole to 1% and see- or taste.) Anyway, she had a lovely large Holstein-looking heifer calf, and looks ready to start producing that superior milk.
The remaining heifers from the farm where the herd of cows came from in September arrived today- Garry and Max went over to load them, and they arrived on a huge truck while they and Victor were working on the new pit. Garry and Max were banging away earlier in the morning (before 7 am), getting the forms built to pour the cement walls. Maxim had got the final 40 cm dug out yesterday. Garry said the lady insisted on 6000 grivna for the pregnant one, so he didn’t tell her the other was pregnant when he checked so he paid 5000 for her-- the price that they had agreed on two weeks ago for them. The smaller three he paid beef price for- about 2 dollars a kilo- about the same as the big heifers would have been by weight.
This afternoon the guys were busy after lunch along with one of the neighbors making concrete to fill the forms- they got them about 2/3rds full Garry tells me, although he got busy around 5 pm with a new problem. The fresh cow had milk fever - a common problem in high milking cows after calving, when the body has trouble adjusting to the calcium demands of milk production- in fact she had it shortly after the cows arrived in September- which is rare mid-lactation, but the new good feed must have affected her(she was fine in a day then). In Canada or North American we would run an IV of glucose with calcium and phosphorus in to gett her on her feet. The vet here did run an IV with phosphorus in, gave her an injection if calcium in the muscle. She was not up on her feet after this, Garry told him he would rather she was treated as we would at home. The vet said that IV calcium could kill her (perfectly true- if you adminiter it too fast as every farmer knows (at home even I have successfully run a bottle of cal-dex in a down cow and I have trouble getting it in the jugular vein.) Garry said muscle damage from being down too long could kill her too. The vet advised rubbing her down with vodka and covering her with a warm blanket- all you dairy farmers will have to try it out (Garry didn't.)
Tonight during pancakes and McGyver night there was a knock on the door- the ladies brought Mooshka over in a basket with her four kittens- their eyes are open- they are about 10 days old. Today Luba's daughter-in-law moved into the summer kitchen with her and Yana (she is going to help them milk for a while) along with her two children. Apparently the kittens were being played with too much so they brought Garry a present. We'll see how it works out- Mooshka is not an ideal house cat (she's really fat- and is turning her nose up at dry cat food), I'm not sure how they were coping with her in the little house, but with all of them it must be bursting at the seams, so Mooshka and her lastest litter are here now. Needles and Box are having problems with her hissing at them, we'll all have to get used to the new additions.
Update--cow stood up Thursday morning, so it's looking better. She didn't want to walk so ladies are going to milk her a bit in the aisle. Cats are still settling in.
Yesterday Garry and I went for a ride to visit the Nikkels, who work in orphanages in Kirvoy Rog. It's called the longest city in Europe or the world or something- 130 km of apartments/city strung like a necklace along the highway. But first we had to drive there- 2- 2 1/2 hours away, so Garry programmed the address into the GPS the night before and charged it up using the the computer- the external harddrive cables are the right size- (the car charger plug for it broke a month or so ago- Garry tried to fix it by cutting it off and putting one from a phone charger on, but it didn't connect well, especially driving down a bumpy road.) Before seven am we were off with 45 liters of milk, the camera, and a cheesecake I had made for lunch.
The boys had decided to stay home and work on schoolwork (they did get some done- not as much as I had hoped......but Jonah did write a 400 word essay) Anyway the GPS took us cross-country through villages, endangering the lives of a few chickens (the poultry are all on the loose during the day now, looking for dinner)down polehole filled roads- and few that have fallen apart so much you can't really call them paved, some wide enough to paint a dotted line down the middle, and some paved roads so narrow they don't bother (most of which the GPS called unnamed road.) We also saw a large number of milk cans waiting for the milk truck to come through the village to buy their milk and there's the truck stopped in one village- it has the yellow-painted tank in the back of a dumptruck-like truck (you see a few like this- I assume the tank truck broke so they retrofitted it.)
We did pick up a lady walking down one road leaving a village with her purse and a plastic bag, so asked to get out about ten kilometers down the road, in a village where they were having a market. About 80 km from our destination we picked up another older lady who was also going to Kirvoy Rog- she had us stop in another village so so could pick up more of the vitamin supplement stuff she was going to sell there, Garry but her big bag in the back of the car with the milk. She remembered a few words of English from school, but she threw in some German (she had worked in Germany at some time) Garry talked with both ladies a bit in Russian, telling them we were milk farmers. The second lady said she had bought a house for 1000 (US dollars) but it cost 3000 to get the documents for it done. She was on her cell phone telling someone she had gotten a ride all the way there with Canadians.
We were about 13 km from the destination in the GPS when trouble struck- the battery died in it so we drove into the city and pulled off at the first stoplight we found, where we thought someone was meeting us to pick up milk, according to Victor. The lady got out with her stuff since we were parked near a bus/marshshuka stop- I took her photo as she thanked us (bol-shoi spa-ce-ba -big thanks) and left.
No one came for the milk, we talked to Victor, turned around to see if we missed a light, then back around, turned on the street again and wandered for more than a hour looking for landmarks. We did see some mines-iron ore, and found the botanical gardens. We finally stopped at a Comfy (appliance/electronics store) we drove by, Garry went in with the damaged charger and showed it to a salesman, who handed hm one from a bin- three dollars and we were back in GPS business. Turned out the orphanage was 4.5 km from the Comfy (we had been heading back to where we entered the city- which we had decided at some point in our wandering must not be Kirvoy Rog- but was the right city, in fact we drove right past the turn to the street the orphanage was on like a hour and a half before while driving in.
So we met Adam, Curtis and two Ukrainian girls who work with them at the orphanage, the kids they were visiting were outside in the well-mantained gardens, and we played pick me up over your head with some of the boys until it was time to go. We went back to Curtis' apartment for lunch, the people came there for the milk, we ate bowls of veriniki (pierogy) with lovely fixings, and had tea and the cake. We sat around talking untill almost three, and then went with Adam to meet his wife out side the college where she teaches.
Then we headed home via Dnepropetroesk, which we hoped would make for better traveling, since it would be on highways (much of it four lanes) Sadly - not true- Garry was dodging pot holes- all the way, some could be called craters that would eat tires, but we we lucky- no flats.
We also got stopped by the police twice, but Garry sat and waited until they gave up on ticketing a foreigner- or for him to give them money. Once we were speeding in a village zone- the town line was out in the country- and there were the cops, and once they seemed to be trying to enforce the blue suggested speed sign (in Ukraine white signs are law, blue is suggested, when a village has a blue name sign, you can stay at 90, white- slow down to 60 Km.) So we are undecided about which way was better to drive, they took about the same amount of time (and the village roundabout way had no police) but we definitely are glad the GPS is fixed!
Anyway here are some photos to show spring is here (although there are still a few spots with snow under trees, and where the banks where high) Motorcycles and bicycles are on the move- and the dogs are chasing them- this fellow raced along barking as the motorcycle buzzed by while we were waiting for the lady to get her other bags. People are sweeping the streets along the curb into little dirt piles, which are shoveled into the bucket loader and carried away (there is a mechanical streetsweeper in Dnepro- but even there you see them at work) fires from spring yard cleanups, fires from people burning the road allowance off along the highway (I think this kills many of the trees along the highways- but it does get rid of the old grass and garbage next to the fields. Also along the highway, as it the city, people are selling their wares, mostly milk (in the pop bottles on top of the old Ladas- they were there in the morning and afternoon.) or potatoes and apples.
Monday, March 21, 2011
The snow has melted and the frost is (mostly) out of the ground, so Garry and Maxim have started one of those projects mapped out for springtime last winter. This morning they started digging a second pit to store brewers grains (the one they made in November can't hold all the truck brings) I took some photos around eleven am, just before Garry had to run into Dnepro for another dentist appointment. They were using the bucketloader to hold the dirt they were digging out of the hole (which is located right next to the first pit) which made it easy to get the dirt into wagon, and take it to dump somewhere (much easier than the pre-tractor days last year, when it was all moved by hand.)
This afternoon I took another photo around 4:30- for a while a couple of boys from the village helped dig, so of course Garry had to dig faster when they slowed down. Even with his three hour break, by the time they got done feeding the cows, he was feeling a little tired and sore. You can see they got a lot out of the hole, a few more inches and they will be done digging. That's one of the boys walking out the driveway as I was going in.
I took some photos of the new members of the farm, there's the new bull calf from Saturday with Polo and the all-red female calf Garry bought yesterday morning (he did say he would go look at the next one he buys first, but the ladies will have her fatter in no time.) The new pregnant heifer from the haircutting girl's family is the white one just outside the doors in the barnyard, she looks like she has a lot of Holstein in her. The fresh-a-month red skinny cow that also came on Monday is enjoying all the food variety here (instead of straw) she's already giving six liters more than she was at their house- up to 20 a day, after just a few days.
The cows set a new record yesterday 650 liters from the 30 cows. On Sreeda Wednesday the ladies are getting some help with milking- Luba's daughter-in-law (who visited last week with her young grandson) is going to come help milk to give the ladies a bit of a break.
Garry tells me that the milk truck that drives through town buying milk from the village cows is paying 2 grivna a liter, so he asked Maxim to ask a couple of people from the village who came to buy our milk while they were digging today why they pay 5 grivna a liter to buy our milk. They said that we always have milk when they come to buy, and it always tastes good.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
The gas station out on the highway close to the village has three people working inside, and two pumping gas, two days on, two off. Another gas station we stop at of the same brand has two inside and one pumping gas. The reason why? Each station gets the same amount of salary each month, but the one here pays 1200 grivna and month per worker, spreading the same money over more families (most have other income- two guys are the carpenters who did the drywall in the house we live in. An interesting fact- gas stations here are open 24 hours, but they close for inventory for a half hour twice and day, usually at 8:30- 9 am and again at 15 minutes before midnight. But sometimes they won’t sell you gas – the cash register is not working, they are getting a delivery, Garry has left the one with less workers four times in the last month without getting any gas. This morning Garry forgot to stop for gas in Nova Swit as we were going in to church, with the car full of milk, so he drove on toward Bratskiyea with a muttered I hope we don’t run out. Luckily we were at the top of the hill heading toward the station at the bottom of the hill on the edge of the town, and we coasted up to the pump, which was working!
Last week Garry got a delivery of feed (ground grain with added salt) for the cows. The normal procedure would be for him to drive over to the mill, and pay for it in cash the day before. Since we have done business with them a few times, and it takes more than an hour to get there and back, Garry decided we could do it an easier way- pay on delivery. The problem was- the driver was mad about it- he said his job was to drive the truck not be a manager and handle money. He called the office secretary, who told him he had to take the pile of grivina back to the office. He told Garry and Maxim that he had not been paid in two months so he should not have to do more than his job, which is the drive the truck. Maxim told him that he should put it in his pocket and then he’d be paid.
Maxim told Garry once that when he quit his job to come to work here, it was not the first time he quit. Every time they would promise him more money, pay him that amount the first month, and few months later, he’d get a third of the amount again. Most of the agricultural workers in the area are paid about 3000 grivna a month during the summer months, but during the winter they get 1000, which is not enough for a family to pay utilities and buy food. Which is one reason why Garry has been buying so many heifers- money gets short by February in a lot of homes. This morning just as we were backing out of the driveway, Garry saw a car at the other gate- and said- my calf must be here- so he drove back in to get the money and get Maxim the help the guys. It turned out the guy with the month old calf had changed his mind about selling it, but his friend had a ten day old heifer calf that he wanted to sell, so they had to agree on a new price before we left (now that I think about it the car was running all this time- we wouldn't have had to coast maybe.)
Interestingly, three of the four guys who quit working for us last spring when they wanted more money for helping pour cement, have become Garry’s friends in the village and he stops by their yards to talk and see how things are going (they are all small village farmers.) In fact two of the guys went back to work for us in August, when they dug the well for the barn. One day this week, Garry and Maxim had stopped by one guy’s yard, when he started yelling at a man carrying a bucket of compicorn (grain) down the street. Garry couldn’t quite figure out what was going on, so Max explained that it was the man’s uncle who was going to trade it for vodka to our babushka neighbour (she distills her own), and he was yelling that if he was going to drink away his grain- he would not get any from him when he ran out of grain for his pigs. Alcoholism is a big problem in Ukraine, and in our village. It is one of the reasons why men in Ukraine have a lower life expectation than other countries. When it was really cold last month a drunken man about 40 years old froze to death, outside- he didn’t make it home one night.
It was eight degrees above (50ish F) when we drove home this afternoon, I took some photos of people heading to the football stadium for the big game- Dnepro was playing Dyanmo Kiev. Many people were wearing the blue and white club scarves as they walked up to the stadium, lots of fans waiting outside the gates, music playing over the stadium speakers and vendors selling from booths or just sitting along the street. This is the first game I've seen advertised on the billboards this year and it turned out to be a great day for the most popular sport in Ukraine.