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

Monday, May 30, 2011

Almost home

It's ten pm Garry is now on the train on his way back- he landed in Kiev at 11 am (early by half an hour even) He tells me Kiev to Toronto took 11 1/2 hours but coming back it was 9 1/2. He says he was through passport control and had his baggage in ten minutes (everytime I land by myself it takes me an hour!)The only problem he had was his cell phone wouldn't work when he turned it on. He ended up buying a new simcard for it- since it wanted him to put in a code he didn't have with him. His baggage is all coming back in Victor's van (the Bellamys ended up returning today also. Garry should be back in the village before 1 am (about 24 hours after taking off from Toronto).

It's now 12:40 and the photos just don't want to load tonight- and I was only trying two- then one- if it doesn't load before Garry arrives, I'll publish and add the pictures in the morning. Got one done just before he came in at one am so now there's two this morning- Garry is off to check if the weeds are dying in the corn fields with Maxim- after installing the water pump he bought on the way home- Metro is open 00-24 (that's the way it says 24 hours here.)

Maxim has had a few problems- yesterday the motor that stirs the milk in the milk tank broke (every hour it mixes for 5 minutes, plus when it is cooling.) The DeLaval guys were out to fix it today but won't have the part to fix it until Tuesday. Max tells me that he is stirring it up every hour.

This afternoon around four o'clock I was out weeding in the garden. I have found some tiny beets and other plants by removing weeds from the rows (hopefully more come up- there are very few in the rows- the green beans are up nice now.

I ran back in the house for the camera when the milk truck came- this is the new milk buyer that I was talking about from Friday. That's Maxim (with the hat) and the driver sitting on top of the truck talking. This is a pretty nice looking Ukrainian milk truck- there is a company name instead of just moloko painted on the tank! If you don't know the colors on the flag are the same blue and yellow (my first summer teaching English the students explained that the colors are blue for the sky, and yellow for the wheat fields- although there are also yellow canola (rapeseed) and sunflower fields. If they like the milk a lot they will pay more but even if we don't get the bonus it is more than the other truck that paid 1.8 grivina- over 3 anyway.

Seth and Jonah continue on their quest to finish their schoolwork so they can head to Canada for the summer- this is what they produced for splint making around 6 pm before they helping with getting the dry cows and heifers in from the village herd. They came in to show me so I can grade it on the computer. They splinted each other's legs. Health is one of the three courses they are doing from SOS Alpha Omega's computer courses- right now Jonah has finished English but has 2 sections of Bible to do, while Seth is the opposite. They knocked off another chemistry test today- three sections to go, and another dozen math lessons (this is the only class they are different in-- Jonah is Algebra 1 and Seth is completing 2 - Seth is grade 11 and Jonah 10 this year (they started school a year apart even though they are two years apart in age, so it is easier to use the same materials for most classes.)

While we were going over the answers to the chemistry review, (before doing the test) Jonah jumped up and yelled at Polo and put him outside- apparently Polo thought he would mark his territory indoors- he was lifting his leg on my vaccuum, mistaking it for a car tire, I guess. I thought Polo was housebroken now- he normally comes in a few times a day and collaspes somewhere on the rug for a nap.

This evening Max had a new problem after the heifers and cows were back- no water in the house, he tried putting water into the cistern with the hose from the barn well- but he tells me no water until tomorrow becuse the pump is toast - he says there was smoke so that may be literal. So no showers ... or dish washing (good thing I had washed those this afternoon!) or floor washing- which I was planning on doing before Garry arrived....good excuse anyway!

Happy Birthday to Garry's father - he actually turns 80 today, even though the party was this weekend- I hear that his parents were watching Wheel of Fortune when Garry walked into the house last Tuesaday evening....and they were really surprised to see him!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Getting hot

It was up to 30 Centigrade as they say here (getting really close to 90 for Americans) You could tell how hot it was outside because Maxim was wearing shorts. Maxim is our hired man- he has worked for us for a year now, and we have discovered that like most Ukrainians - it has to get really hot before they think its hot- You can see in this photo I took ten days ago, Maxim was welding the wagon- Garry was wearing shorts when Max was wearing his coveralls still.

Maxim has been a very busy guy with Garry gone to Ontario this week for his Dad's 80th birthday party. He has been getting some of his friends in the village to help feed the cows, and he has hired them to work on digging a septic system for the house he is buying up the street (across from the second store- near the road to the highway for people who have been to see us.) It will be a while before its ready to move in- and I assume Max will still be eating here once or twice a day.

Maxim and Garry have their own language- a mixture of Russian and English they use to communicate. Even people who know both languages have trouble understanding them, but I think that has to do with all the farming terms they use! Max did not know any English when he came to work on the barn last year. He was a welder with the crew that built the barn last spring, and got his friend to teach him to say "I want to work for you." Of course Garry knew just a little Russian then, and used to mix up his ya (I) and ti (you) because it just seemed right, he doesn't do it as much now, but Max got to know which he meant quickly. Garry says they are teaching each other theier language and both havve made a lot of progress. Max was 20 when he came to work- he is the middle son is a large family for Ukraine- he has two older and two younger brothers. His family lives in village about 2 hours away from here.

Yesterday morning I took a couple pictures in the barn- the cows were resting as you can see, and so were the ducks (momma duck is still setting on that pile of eggs.)Then I was pulling a few weeds out in the garden - things are coming up even with the lack of rain- when I noticed a cow on the loose- she had gotten off her snap on her chain in the barn and went exploring. I got Seth and Jonah from the house to help put her back inside -they were working away on schoolwork- they hope to finish in the next two weeks. Jonah is even working on something right now (its midnight.)

Today I even found some tiny carrots up while I was weeding, seemed like the little rain on Tuesday got more stuff up- some just planted and some that was in weeks ago! and I think I'll water the garden a little on Sunday- the forecast is for 30 and no rain for the next 5 days. The water is high in minerals- leaves a white residue on top of the ground, but they will be

Today is the big party in Exeter Ontario, and I am sure Garry is having a great time with his family- I haven't even recieved an "I miss you" email today. We will all be glad to see him when he gets back to the village sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Too much circus?

Seth came in this afternoon..well about quarter to seven while they were outside waiting for the cows, and asked for the camera. Then he decided that I should come out to take the picture, saying that he and Jonah were working on something to show me. When I stepped out the door, they chased down little Serososka (age 5) who was in the yard with his brother and a couple of Maxim's friends- once he noticed I had the camera he was all smiles as Seth put him on his shoulders then Jonah went under Seth and stood up....


watch out they will be looking for someone for the top of this act this summer in Canada! Maybe we have been to the circus too many times in Ukraine!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Everything is fine...

You may have noticed that I did three posts yesterday- I have a confession- I was staying up late waiting to see when Garry's plane landed in Toronto. When I finished the third one I saw that the Aerosvit flight from Kiev and landed almost an hour late in Toronto. I have not heard from him, but my sister-in-law meessaged me that he had arrived in Exeter. He took the overnight bus (it was good enough for me) to the airport Monday night, and it was top secret- his parents did not know he was coming. They are celebrating his Dad's birthday this weekend and most of his family will be there- he has four sisters and four brothers.

Today Victor registered the name of our co-op, it is Franzfeld. Victor choose it because originally Nikolipolia (Mikolipolia in Ukrainian) was two Mennonite villages side by side- one was Nickolifeld (Nicolas'field in German)and this side of the village was Franzfeld.

After that he drove into Dnepro with us for the boys' dentist appointment- the bottom braces came off and they got fixed retainers on the bottom behind the teeth, and next week the rest come off and they get the other kind of retainers for the top- and we pay the rest of the bill plus an extra 35 grivina for the boxes they go in when not being worn.

Yes, everything is going fine with Garry gone...except the candydish at the dentist's office which broke into many pieces- Jonah's was right it was an accident waiting to happen with the rearrangement of the seating with the glass topped-end elephant table into the middle of the benches- he was trying to squeeze in next to me when more people came in- he did catch the glass mug before it hit the tile floor.

The corn did get sprayed for weeds today - Victor went home after they finished the field across the highway at 8:30 tonight- the big dairy farmer did it for Garry since Garry chopped his haylage. They spent a half-hour trying to get the brakes unlocked on the water truck when moving from one field to the other. The rain is holding off- there is some in the forecast for tonight. It only needs two hours to set before it rains.

Maxim was busy when the dry cows and heifers came home with a truck buying brewers' grain, and the boys went out to help, Max and his friend counted quick and saw 9 had turned into the yard and chased after the group heading down the street. Meanwhile Seth and Jonah decided that they should chase the ones standing there into the barn. A few minutes later Jonah came around the front of the house with the two missing heifers - they had snuck over to the wrong side of the yard. Max was relieved to find out there were 11 in the barn when he got back from running up the street.

So everything is going fine with Garry gone ---even a new milk buyer today- coming for milk next week on Monday. I am hoping for more sleep tonight- Oxana's guys showed up to buy milk and banged on the window at 5 am this morning, which woke me up after a couple hours sleep. The milk truck took the rest before seven when the cows went out to the field (with our 11 heifers and dry cows) so the milk tank was empty and washed this morning!

Garry flies out of Toronto Sunday evening (with the time change he gets back to Kiev around noon Monday) and plans to bring parts for the chopper, and some bucket milkers as luggage.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

mice in the fridge and other stories from 2009

I now know why it's raining today- Jonah just took a small toad away from Box the cat- in the living room- he says last night he got up and turned on the lights and she was playing with one that he caught and also put outside. Maxim told us once that there is a saying- Frogs in the house means rain!

In September 2009 I put together the Top Ten Noisy Things in a Ukrainian Village one of my favorites. Since we were doing all our internet on free wifi at the malls before we got the cellphone stick internet we posted about once a week back then.

If you'd like to check out what life was like the first summer/fall we were in Ukraine check out A Typical Day part 1 and 2 in November 2009, which summarizes what we were doing during the first months here.

Here's a pic from back then to go with those back blog posts- Garry and the boys playing futball with some of the kids on the street - that's how they learned machina was car! Like playing ball hockey in the street.

To expand the story of the mice in the fridge in Typical Day-

When we first arrived we slept in the main house but the bathroom and kitchen were in the summer kitchen- which is why we ate outside most of the time! One day when I was cooking (the first three weeks I was teaching English in Dnepro and mostly in the village on weekends) I noticed that there seemed to be signs of mice--droppings on the counter. I promptly put all the food that wasn't in the fridge in one of the blue rubbermaid boxes we had used as luggage, and most of the dishes, pots and utensils in another, along with a cabinet over the sink.It seemed to work well, if a little unorganized.

I was a little disturbed to find out Victor had realized there were mice the week before I did and set traps that he was checking and put the cat in the summer kitchen to catch them---Victor he thought the mice couldn't get in the cupboards. There were a large number of mice from what I could tell all summer, happily living there on what fell on the floor, I guess, once I sealed up the goodies.

He must have thought I'd freak out - guess he'd never heard the story of our first farmhouse in NJ and the dozens of rats we were living with with two toddlers- Garry thought I was imagining noises in the night until the night I turned on the light in the kitchen and rats ran everywhere! Explained the disappearing loaf of bread that the dog was blamed for! Garry ended up poisoning the things after the rat that ran around my feet while cooking dinner one night, the trap was too slow, you could only get one a night. This may explain why our daughter still freaks about mice- she was three.

You had to keep a close eye on that cat while cooking- one day I mixed up the batter for corn fritters in the bowl( a had one plastic bowl at the time- it was a little like camping) on the table, turned around to heat the oil in the pan, and glanced back and there was the stupid cat gobbling down my batter! I really did not think he ever caught a mouse, in spite of Victor's assuring me of his abilities- the cat was underfoot because the door was open because it was so hot with a fly net curtain drawn across the door- which might keep out some bugs but any animals could walk right in!

Garry thought the plastic bins overkill on my part since there weren't many mice in the traps. That is until the end of September or so when I discovered the tiny teeth marks on the butter in the wrapper inside the fridge (it was an old-style Ukrainian fridge.) The first time I chopped off a big piece and tossed it to the cat - thinking that it must have been left on the counter by someone, not wanting to toss it all. The next day I clued in when there were new bite marks. Further investigation found droppings in the bottom of the fridge. They were coming in through the insulation and seal in the bottom of the thing.

I washed out the fridge, threw away more food, put everything in plastic food storage boxes- it was a good thing we had bought some before we needed them. We started looking for a new fridge that would go in the big house and the new kitchen which was coming along by October. Until we flew home in December I carried every I needed for cooking out to the summer kitchen from the shiny new holodilnik (fridge).The kitchen was done by November but we couldn't use the nice new electric stove until we returned in January- the new 3 phase 10 amp service wasn't hooked up yet _ we had limited power before then, so I had to keep cooking on the gas stove and bringing dinner and the ingredients back into the house, unless I used the microwave or crockpot since it got too cool and rainy to eat outside by November!

Let’s go shopping…for food

Now we rarely buy something we didn’t want but when we first got here… there were many things that got tossed when they really weren’t what we wanted! There was the liver (and potato) filled vereniki (pierogy to North Americans) that was fed to Jack the dog that hung around the yard that first summer, and the tuna that got fed to Victor's cat- now we know to always buy the blue cans, which are water packed. If there is a photo of other stuff on the can it’s not a serving suggestion- Mexican-style has as much corn as tuna in the can. Now we stock the freezer with our favorites- plain potato (kar-toesh-ka)– although the ones with potato and mushroom are good too- and the cherry (which are 31 grivina a bag, almost twice the potato ones- they’re 17.) I like this brand- they have photos, but we realized you had to look closely at what was next to the potatoes on the bag that first summer (we learned by fall that the brown bag meant plain potato ones.)

The first two weeks we were here it took a couple tries to find vinegar….since we were guessing based on clear liquid in a bottle. Since packaging usually has both Russian and Ukrainian on sometimes the words are quite different: here are two bottles of vinegar – the white vinegar is in Ukrainian (we use a lot for chemistry experiments now) and the pink is in Russian. What's in the bag? Sounding out your Russian letters sometimes gives you a word that is similar to an English one…. P=R the upside down N is one of the sounds our e makes- long e- and C=S (there are no silent e’s at the end of Russian words- if you see it you say it- and yes, this bag contains rice.

Here are the condiments – like many European countries you can buy them in squeeze bags with caps (most are available in jars also, we actually have mayonnaise- it is pronounced almost the same- in both, since Garry likes the familiar jar to spread on his bread for sandwiches, and I find the bag convenient for salad making.) We tried several kinds of ketchup but ended up buying the more expensive Heinz – which as the boys say tastes like ketchup from home! Mustard is the spicy brown type- I actually bring a bottle of (yellow) French’s from home, because Jonah and I like it on hotdogs. It took all the first summer to find hotdogs that were tasty- some while hotdog-shaped were more like spam-dogs or turned the water pink if you boiled them. I finally found a brand everyone liked- it has lots of medals on the label so we buy those. Most came with individual plastic wrappers to peel off (for some brands I think it is what keeps them shaped like hotdogs.)

Mooka is flour- but as you can see, turn it around and it is very different in the other language! Soda is pretty much the same- that is a different d than you normally see in Russian- but some packaging and billboard use handwriting script and that alphabet is very different from the printed one. Baking soda was one item I got right on the first guess. It is much more common than baking powder, which is sold mostly in tiny packets with about a tablespoon in- I finally bought the giant one liter container at Metro because I use so much for baking. Since I knew it was sold in small packs, I got this one right the first time- although I was unsure until I used it, even though there was English on the label! Some items have a little British flag with an English translation- but I wasn’t sure if dough loosener was baking powder.

Here’s some Jelly – that strange looking letter with eight legs is the jha- which we have been making lots of for Jonah since he has been plagued by diarrhea about every ten days for the last couple months. Sadly, Garry’s plan did not work- we got him a parasite treatment from the drugstore, but its ten days later and I’m making gelatin again. Store brand Jell-O helps him get over every bout – this package is kiwi flavor I guess, he liked cherry better than lemon, I know. Two years ago I had trouble with the amount of water to use because the directions were only in the two official languages (you’d think it would work- numbers look the same and it’s in milliliters. Recently they got a little British flag among others on the bags, although the translation could use a little work, I think.

Jelly cherry Dry concoction. Way of preparation: pure the contents of packing into the 400 ml of boiling water and stir constantly till it fully dissolves. Then pure into the forms and leave in cool place until it congeals.

Here are the staples- salt – this is my favorite white fine salt – the traditional is chunky- like rock salt in little bowls – sort of like the antique salt cellars my grandmother collected, but I have only seen little ceramic ones here- no cut glass. Some is gray and granulated, but it looks dirty to me! Next to it is the black pepper – interestingly pearets in Russian is like pepper in English- same word for the green one in your salad and the black kind on your eggs.

The generic word for butter is maslo – it can also refer to oil, even for your car. Officially margarine is supposed to be called spread on packaging now- when we arrived it was also maslo. My favorite is the lightly salted French butter or beurre- after all it is French! When we first came here I thought everything tasted off- but it turned out I just missed salted butter on my bread.

And here is a carton of the real Ukrainian staple- Smetana or sour cream- you can buy it in small or large plastic bags also- just cut the corner off and squeeze a dollop into your borsht.

Sun and the same time

Yesterday we had a strange rain shower- it rained hard for a couple minutes while the sun was shining bright. It did it again this afternoon, in-between two thundershowers that had me unplugging the computers. Not a lot of rain, but the ground is wet on top now. We could use a couple days of good rain, but every little bit helps!

Yesterday the forecast for the week had 20% chance of rain- now today, tonight and Wednesday are at 50%, but it seems to change hourly- everytime we check the internet!

Garry ended up almost finishing chopping the farmer's hay yesterday- it turned out the Canadian- Ukrainian dairy commission guys decided we could keep the chopper because they had another they could use. He had a few problems- I think it was the metal detector, and the belts are a little worn- but Maxim ended up finishing today in a couple hours- with no problems.

So far no storm-related power outages- knock on wood- Garry is going to buy a generator for the barn just in case. Last night I thought there was some kind of power fluctation when I opened the fridge and it was off- it is plugged into a protector that shuts down when the electricity in the line is too high or too low- sometimes when Maxim is welding outside it shuts off because its low- it happened a lot last summer. I was wondering if I should unplug something else, when I looked behind the fridge- the little kittens had knocked the plug out while playing.

The mechanical instead of hand milking will be happening before long. Victor tried out the motor he got to run the vacuum pump, so we just need some shut off valves and the milking machines – the bucket kind. Then we’ll find out how the cows and the milking ladies like them. I understand that the last cow Garry bought from a lady in the village may be sold- they can’t milk her because she kicks too much. No wonder that lady was smiling.

Some of the neighbors are interested in joining the milk co-op. Victor had a meeting with some of them last week and they are getting the paperwork done to get it started- we only need five farmers to start it up. I'll keep you posted!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Busy weekend

Garry finally got to get out with the chopper to do the haylage for the big dairy farmer (this is the guy he was consulting for about changes to make in the dairy barn/ration in the winter, but after Garry made his recommendations, he mostly ignored them.) Garry was hoping to start first thing Saturday morning but here's a quote from an email he sent yesterday morning:

Just got finished chopping 40 acres of alfalfa for a neighbor.
He normally would green chop it all summer and the quality would get really bad so now he should have some excellent feed for his cows. He is milking 140 and averaging 8 liters a day. I am trying to convince him to feed separate rations for his groups, maybe with the silage he will. At the present all cows and heifers get the same ration around 80% corn silage and 20% brewers grain. I would bet that his calving interval is over 18 months. He has 50 cows milking less than 200 days and 90 over with 40-50 dry cows. I have a lot of opprotunity to help here. But what is really neat is that I and Victor spent 2 hours talking about Christ with him and his manager before we started chopping yesterday

Garry also said it was not easy to chop because it had been cut with a swather, which made for a very tangled swath to pick up with the chopper, and it was wetter than he'd like. Of course they cut more on Saturday/Sunday? they hoped Garry could do this morning so that's where he is now-- but time is limited since the chopper gets sent off to the Canadian-Ukrainian dairy commission people later this morning.

Garry left the tractor and chopper over in Molosahorina (village where that farm is)Saturday night, and Sunday morning after he loaded up milk for church he was trying to find his wallet, so we drove over in the car to look for it (and found it, and his cell phone that he knew he'd left in it) before driving to Dnepropetroesk.

It was good thing we drove through Mc Donalds for some breakfast before dropping off the milk at the Baptist church and going to Morningstar. We ended up not eating lunch until 2:30 in the afternoon! Those Fresh Mc Muffins were good too- if you are wondering its a sausage Mc Muffin (no egg) with mayo, lettuce and a slice of tomato with the cheese, a Ukrainian-styled special.

After church we went over to the history museum for a special crafts sale featuring clay items with some English-speaking friends who had told us about it last week. Seth and Jonah had decided to opt out by going with Maxim to church on Saturday night- but I think they were sorry when we told them about the sword-fighting tournament going on there. Unfortunately I forgot the camera, because there was a lot of people in native costumes, children dancing and the guys in armor fighting. However we did buy this cool traditional mens hat- really light, I wore it all afternoon, since it was hot in the sun.

Maxim has been busy welding up his fancy wagon since he got back last week, and its finally finished- and it can dump not just one way but either side or the back. Everyone wants to use it to pick up the hay that was mowed on Tuesday - Maxim got ours into the barn- a good thing since the last of the corn silage was fed yesterday morning. Maxim also cut more little half acre plots of alfalfa for people in the village yesterday.

Last night Garry and the boys came in after getting the heifers and dry cows into the barn around 7:20 ready to watch the two hour finale of the The Mentalist Jonah had downloaded the day before- it is one of Garry's favorite shows. The new internet has made the downloading of a few favorite shows possible. Shortly after they got it going- the boys hook Seth's computer to the television- there was a knock on the door and we hit pause while Garry went to artificially breed a cow in the village. He says he keeps getting more people wanting cows breed and not many repeats on the same cows, so it must be working. He came back in 15 or 20 minutes, and we resumed watching the show. Just as it got to a pivotal point in the plot, there was another knock on the door, and another cow to go breed. This time he was gone so long Jonah put on the satellite to watch the replay of the Tampa Bay hockey game- we watched to entire 2nd period before Garry returned. Jonah was wondering if the cows was in Zaporosia, by the time Garry got back- it turned out the cow was in a village ten miles away, although Garry recognized the girl who came to the door as being from the village, it was her aunt's cow. We did watch the rest of the show without pausing again.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Two years ago...

Two years ago we we living in St Labre,(it's french- pronounced Saint Lob -like the tennis shot) Manitoba- in a village much smaller than Nikoliopola -you can find it on a map of Manitoba look southeast of Steinbach, (where we went to church) just north of the Canada-US border, near a small lake (Whitemouth Lake will be a blue dot on the map)- there will be an unpaved road loop off of Highway 210 south of La Broquerie (where the boys went to elementary school and played hockey) which returns to the highway around Woodridge (small town where our post office is.)

Jonah's hockey season was over for the last time (42 km one way for every practice and home game and they finished by losing in the playoffs- the opposition was more than two hours away- I had to pick him up at school for those games- since it was an hour long bus drive home, and you were supposed to arrive really early to dress for games. Thirteen-year-old Jonah was finishing his last year at Arborgate school K-8- and was a little dissappointed to be missing going to high school with his friends. Fifteen-year-old Seth had a great time that last year taking the longer bus ride to Ste Anne with Luke who was getting ready to graduate from high school in June. Seth had enjoyed making new friends and playing on the jv volleyball and basketball teams and had even made the honor roll. Sports at school is what he misses most about being in Ukraine.

As you can see the photo on the blog where it says about me- they were still little boys waiting for that puberty growth spurt which in most of their older siblings, occured around grade 10, they are late bloomers who turn into tall people by the time high school is over (all our boys are six feet plus and our daughter was 5'2" starting high school and 5'10" when she finished.)

I was busy deciding what needed to go into the 8 suitcases/plastic storage boxes that were coming with us to Ukraine. I had selected material for homeschooling for the fall, some drugs and basic first aid supplies, a selection of paperback books, clothes for all seasons (since we were returning to Canada in December)some sheets and blankets and to set up house- a basic set of picnic-style plastic dishes, basic utensils, a big frying pan and a 3 liter pot, a few ingredients I knew weren't availiable here and a small cookbook. We had bought an under cabinet water filter system thsat was on the list of what to bring to live in Ukraine. We were also bringing some DVDs and two laptops, and the boys had gotten nintendo DS's for their birthdays in November.

I also was busy preparing to teach English at the Summer Institute in Dnepropetroesk – just a few days after we were landing in Kiev. I had taught at it the summer before- while Garry was checking out Ukraine as the place for his mission. Of course I was teaching a entirely new class (wait this will be the fourth year and again I have another new class material to prep.) It is a three week school to help people improve their English skills, held every July with Canadian teachers, most who come for a month-long mission trip.

We had a crazy May and June in Canada, applying for visas to Ukraine, last minute details for leaving the big boys in charge of the farm – and trying to get the crops planted- it was a wet spring. Then there was a long series of goodbyes……with the finale being Luke's graduation (that's him stacking cups) on June 30th and the two of us arriving home at the farm from the dinner in Winnipeg around 1 am.

We decided on a nap before heading toward Pennsylvania with Seth and Jonah (the van had been packed with the suitcases and boxes to go Ukraine- so we could leave as soon as we got back.) Garry’s family (he has 4 sisters and 4 brothers) had planned a camping week in a state park there- unfortunately we couldn’t make the whole week- since Luke’s graduation from high school was later than the Americans realized, but were planning on getting there for noon picture taking, and would take over the cabin for a few days that one of his brothers was vacating as his family couldn’t stay all week . Then we had less camping stuff to bring, but got to enjoy a few days of sun, water, picnics and campfires with family and see the crazy carp in the lake by the dam-( they pile up on top of each other- a duck ran across the top of them to grab the bread). Our son Matthew his wife and daughters spent the entire week sharing a cottage with his cousin (who had 3 little boys at the time.) So we got to say goodbye to most of his family, and a sad one to our little granddaughters- Xaris was 3 and Havilah had her first birthday two weeks earlier (our last whole family event before leaving.)

Then we drove to NJ where we would leave the van with my parents until flying back into Newark in December. Garry and the boys (and cousin Melissa) helped bale hay, and Jonah burnt his foot by stepping on a hot sparkler wire on the Fourth of July, while he was enjoying fireworks with his cousins. When we left on the plane two days later we had a lot of antibiotic cream with pain killer for the rather deep wound across the bottom of his big toe, luckily it healed nicely after a couple weeks.

The boys enjoyed their first plane flight and we arrived in Kiev with 7 out of 8 pieces of luggage- Garry filed a report before we went through customs and found Victor, who was driving us from Kiev to our new home. After a long drive in the van, we got here at one in the morning and went to sleep. The next day Victor took us shopping at Metro for the first time, and we got our missing Rubbermaid tub- it came to the Dnepro airport and Victor picked it up with the Summer Institute team. I was going to start teaching in a couple days, and the guys would be on their own for a few weeks, except weekends. Here are the boys in July with Velcro the kitten they brought home from this picnic as their first pet in Ukraine.

You can see more about our first weeks in Ukraine if you click on July 2009.

Cheap milk

Thursday when the guys talked to the milk tank driver in the morning, he didn't want to take the milk- he said they'd have to be regular customers. Garry was ready to dump it in the field, the tank had not been empty since Monday -remember all the milk in the tank tastes as old (and has the same quality) as the oldest milk in the tank, no matter how much new milk goes in. In Canada or the US, milk is picked up by trucks every other day (sometimes once a day.) Maxim (and or Victor) managed to broker a deal where the truck would come back on Friday morning for 1000 liters of milk. Victor took a bunch of milk, sour cream and 50 kilos of the cheese (in photo) that was made on Wednesday back to Dnepro to sell Thursday evening.

The lady milk buyer's van showed up early Friday morning and left without any milk- Max refused to sell them any because he had promised the other truck 1000 liters and there wasn't any extra to sell in the tank. So we ended up with 1.8 grivina a liter for a thousand liters. Garry washed out the milk tank (cooler) and then poured in the morning milking to cool for his new buyer Vasili, who is selling on Friday mornings. Oxana (the lady buyer) phoned Maxim and arranged to come this (Sat) morning, but one of the Oleg's beat her guys here this morning and bought milk first, so her guys took about 120 liters back to sell. So either the buyers step up or we will call the plant in Dnepro because they will make a trip out to empty the tank of a 1000 liters next week. At least they pay in cash, even if its not much.

Garry promptly took the cash and Maxim off to buy 2 tonnes of grain for the cows. I asked what happened to not feeding any more grain- which Garry had declared the day before (what was the point of buying expensive grain to get maximum production from the cows if he couldn't sell the milk?) But now that the milk was sold, they came back with all this grain in bags that will last for a couple months, so back to the cows setting records. Since December the compicorn (any kind of ground grain) had come from a mill with a truck to blow it upstairs, but they do not have any left to sell. This new mill only has grain in bags so this little truck brought it out and Max piled it in the bucket of the tractor and unloaded it upstairs since the grain bin is in the second story.

The garden plants looked taller after the little rain on Thursday evening, but by mid-day it was dry. The ground didn't get wet under the clods when I pulled some weeds, but a few more seeds have sprouted, more beans, peas spinach and even some cucumbers are up. if we are lucky we'll catch another shower this week, there are no fronts coming through. Seemed like last year there was two weeks of rain when the vilage farmers were making hay, so we'll see if that happens again this year. After lunch Garry is going to be chopping hay for the big farmer hopefully - it needs to be done before Tuesday, when the chopper is going away with the Canadian-Ukrainian dairy commission people- they are going to demo a silage bagger they have imported.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

a little rain

As I sit typing on the computer Box the cat is leaping up on the window in front of me. Since its dark outside the moths are fluttering on the outside of the window tricking her into thinking she can get one. She has caught and eaten a few bugs in the house, so she’s sure she can do it. She's bouncing off the window three feet up right now- Needles is coming over to see what the excitment is.

All day today it felt like it could rain, it was a wonderful day-not too hot – but you could almost smell rain coming. We had a thunderstorm this evening right after the cows came home at seven pm, not a good soaking but enough to get the ground wet anyway. Still warm out, with a chance more thundershowers tonight- maybe we'll get more.

Yesterday at the dentist we found out the boys’ braces are ready to come off- they will have retainers for their trip home for the summer in June. They removed most of the metal at the back of their mouths – the rest will go next week. They are excited to have no more elastics keeping their mouths closed at night- lots of midnight snacking going on now! You can see in the photo that Jonah's teeth on the top now are over his lower ones, instead of the way it looked when we started 15 months ago- then the lower teeth were further out.

Crop report

For all you farmers who check your fields once a week (or more) here's a look at the crops Garry is growing this year- I took these yesterday. All these crops would look so much better if we get any amount of rain soon- and a significant amount would be better. It's starting to warm up- 26 C yesterday (getting up to 80F- soon it will be in the 90's everyday!)

You remember the field of peas and barley that was planted just before we had our last real rain back at the end of April- it was the cover crop for the alfalfa that was going to be seeded in that field. The peas and barley were already coming up when the alfalfa finally got seeded when it was dry enough. You can see the baby alfalfa plants hiding with the weeds under the peas/barley. In the photo where you can see Garry's Ukrainian workshoes (plastic sandals) you can see an unusual weed- there was a crop of pumpkins on this field last year (not the big orange kind -but a squash-like pumpkin grown commercially for seed - like the kind of pumpkin seed you eat roasted.)If you are wondering what is in Garry's MP3 player, since he's got his headphones on, its a learning Russian program he's been listening too (and talking to himself with) since last year.

The field looks OK but a good rain this week will make a lot more silage when its cut in a couple weeks. Garry is thinking that will happen when the barley is in boot stage- to make a feed similiar to corn silage since that pile will be gone soon. That way it can replace the corn silage in the feed ration which is a high-energy rather than a protein-rich feed (like hay) for the cows.

The corn is coming up in the field you get to by winding through a "road" past the pond-check out the pair of pheasants crossing the road- there are some bare spots but it looks like they are coming- just planted a little deeper as the planter bounced across the field. This corn silage will likely have some sunflowers in it when it is chopped for silage, since they are coming up from the crop that was grown there last year. This the field that we were given to work that was not plowed up last fall- all those sunflower stalks were a challenge to work up this spring. You may remember that we have control (mostly by renting) different shares, but since some are landlocked, the big crop farmer trades us equal pieces that are near a road through the fields.
Garry is looking to buy or borrow a sprayer because the corn fields need to have some weed control soon. Of course this field would appreciate the rain too, but there is only small chances of scattered thundershowers in the forecast. On Tuesday three times rain fell- the kind of rain where you can see where the drops loaded in the dust. The corn field across the highway got a more significant amount of rain two weeks ago than we had in the village during the only shower lately, so it is maybe up better than this field.

Our tiny alfalfa field is cut- on Tuesday Serosia (the neighbor with the payloader) borrowed a tractor and mover to cut hay, so Garry told him to mow ours too (I think he was trying to invite the rain to fall) So he ended up mowing down a number of small pieces of alfalfa for people in the village.

Yesterday Maxim was out with the tractor and disc in the morning- to help someone enlarge their garden that borders the pond. He said it when well- except he got stuck when he ended up with the wheels in the pond- he couldn't tell where it was due to the tall grass. Serosjai came and got the loader tractor to pull him out. I was teasing him about taking the tractor swimming at lunch- but he said it wasn't in deep enough to swim- it was wading I guess. Anyway we like to help people in the village whenever we can.

Many people who have cows to feed are busy making hay, on Sunday when we came home from church we saw several Ladas with trailers parked along the highway, cutting grass with sickles/scythes and gathering it up. They bring it home and spread it across the yard to dry before making it into haystacks. Yesterday we passed this Lada on the way home from Dnepropetroesk- I guess he doesn't have a trailer-those bags are full of grass ready to become hay- because the back seat was stacked full of loose hay!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

what goes around......

Yesterday I mentioned that many people in the village who have milk for sale are boycotting the milk truck that comes through buying milk since it is only paying 1.5 grivina a liter for milk. I bet you are wondering what they are doing with the milk instead. They are processing it in their kitchens into sour cream and cottage cheese (and then feeding the whey to the pigs.) Then they are going into the city to sell it at the market (or on the side of the road.) The neighbors across the street are doing this, she makes product twice a week, sticks it in the fridge and he sells it in the market in the city on Saturday. Most of the people doing this have only one or two cows, but multiply it by many families in many villages and the market becomes flooded with product.

This means that the small processors who buy our milk (at 3 grivina now) are having trouble selling their sour cream and cottage cheese at the market like they do all year, so they are coming to buy less milk from us. Yesterday the cows set a new production record for our little farm with 723 liters of milk (from 34 cows milking now- Micah the cow is now dry.) However, we sold only 60 liters of milk from the tank yesterday. Garry also had a bunch of cans of milk he filled from the tank on Monday morning sitting in the milkhouse (he sold about half of this milk on Monday).

This morning half the cans went over to the other neighbor’s wife who made some cream and cheese for us a couple months ago (she became ill, and was unable to do it on a regular basis, so Victor had been buying from the milk buyers when he had orders from his church customers.)This couple lives next door to us (as I sit here typing they are on the right and the angry babushka's house is to the left.) Sasha's wife said it was at the perfect stage to process into cheese _ see milk in can photo- the fat rises up in a crusty layer while the milk sat since Monday. This meant she was able to process the rest this afternoon. Garry says the first batch of cheese was hanging in bags draining when they brought the second batch of milk cans over to her. He was unsure if it was "fat cheese" which has the cream still in. So we’ll have lots of cheese for Victor to sell this week I guess.

tThis morning Garry and Maxim sat on the bench by the road waiting for that milk truck to come by after the cows went out to the field for the day. Max had talked to a babushka down the street who sells milk to the truck- which apparently comes three times a week. Garry has decided that 1.5 grivina in cash and a hopefully empty tank would be a better deal than selling milk to the buyers on credit when they do come- the lady buyers van did not show this morning as expected- so they were ready to flag the truck down. However it turns out that the milk truck does not come until Thursday, so in the morning they hope to sell that milk- the tank is at least half full. And Victor is working on” getting all the ducks in a row” to set up that milk co-op that I wrote about yesterday, to hopefully solve the problem of selling milk.

Yesterday the DeLaval people were back to fix the valve on the milk tank- they said they couldn't find the right fitting for the one on the tank, so they cut it off and welded a new one one so we can pump milk from the bottom now. They were also expecting the final payment for the tank installation, which Garry had in cash, because the brewers' grain delivery was set for Thursday (we had cash on hand for one thing but not both). While the guys were here working on the tank, in drives the delivery truck (without calling ahead.) So Garry had to go to the bank for money and drop it off at the DeLaval office in Dnepro (he had already been to the city in the morning to look at a sprayer to buy to apply herbicide on the cornfields- he would have gone to the bank then if he'd known.) He was home after eight I think-- long after the boys helped Maxim get the cows/heifers in at 7 pm when the village herd comes back. It seems that no matter how carefully you plan, some days you just can't win (he did bring us cheeseburgers.)