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

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ain't she cute?

Last night this cute little red heifer calf was born. Her mother is the nice red heifer Garry bought last fall near the river. She was afraid of all the other heifers, even though she was bigger than the rest when she came in the matrushka van - there were photos in September or October I think.

Garry was off to look at another pregnant heifer someone wanted to sell this morning. He thinks he will buy her, since one of the cows has aborted for a second time and is only giving a few liters of milk now, so he could sell her to make room for a new one. There are four cows in the herd that are supposed to calve in the next two weeks.

This morning the guys cleaned up the manure pile behind the barn, Max and Andree drove the tractors and wagons out to one of the fields to pile it there until it can be spread. Serosia loaded like three scoops of manure into each wagonload, with his loader tractor. They just finished the reno on the loader, rebuilding the bucket among other things, because they plan to use it when they start to remodel the old collective barn in March.

Garry and I walked over there this afternoon, he wanted to check something out in the barn they will be using, I'll put some photos I took up tomorrow. I looked outside at 9 pm, and the muddy ground is now covered with snow. There was a few little flakes falling at four when we were walking back, but I was pretty surprized to see that it was collecting out there, since it was above freezing most of the day.

We walked because the Lada is getting fixed, we will be carless for a couple days, it is getting the brakes done and the shocks again- it had shocks put in last spring.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Vacationing in Sharm El Sheikh

There were many British people there,(one gentleman took this photo for us) and we met some Germans, Dutch and even Danes. Many of the people at the resort were from Ukraine and Russia(and a few from other former Soviet countries, it is one of the places that they can go to without applying for a visa. That's how we got a package tour, and as one Ukrainian told us it is wonderful because it is all-inclusive. You can get visas when you arrive at the airport for 15 US dollars, we bought them, because you need them if you take a tour. However we ended up staying at the resort, except for a walk down the street a few times to use the internet, once I was going to post the following but the internet cafe would only open Microsoft word in Arabic, so I couldn't cut and paste it in so all you got to see that day was my bird photos.

Here's Garry with a cool tree with flowers that looked like bottle brushes!

Well Garry played so much volleyball and water polo the first week he had to take it easy for a couple days to start week two because his knees were swollen and sore. I guess we should have stayed for just one week! We are enjoying the snorkeling; there is a great reef with lots of different fish to see right off the docks in the photo. Since I just float on the top of the water and look I have only gone from one dock to the other, but have seen as many fish as when we took the boat snorkeling tour two years ago. Garry went for a couple long morning swims, but the water is pretty cold, not like it was the first time we went to Sharm El Sheikh with Seth and Jonah in May 2010.

Garry and I have been reading some Michener books, we both read Caravan and I am re-reading Hawaii. I have been working on a new crochet project and doing some watercolor sketching, and have done aqua-aerobics some mornings. We have gone to the internet café down the street four times, it is 6 dollars for a half hour. The hotel has wireless, but charges about five times that with a half hour minimum, so we haven’t used it. We have CNN for news (we know all about Jeremy Lin and Whitney Houston- but I am wondering about the Flyers and Sixers) and a couple English channels that mostly show movies when we are indoors.

Getting ready to have the pretty girls stand on top of the nails on his stomach with the broken glass under his back.

We have had a couple unusual things happen- during the fakour show (the guy with the nails) I told you about last post, it sprinkled giant raindrops for a couple minutes, which doesn’t happen often here. We have only seen 3 shows, since some nights we fall asleep before 9:30 when they start.

Saturday night we saw the Oriental (or Egyptian) show with dancers and a guy who spin around for at least 5 minutes while doing things that were rather like juggling while spinning. Garry said he got dizzy just watching him. We also had a very nice meal at the Egyptian style restaurant at the beach front that night, and are looking forward to eating there again Thursday night. The rest of the time we eat at the main buffet restaurant or at the beach café for lunch (hamburgers, hotdogs and french-fries.)

Tuesday Garry was suffering with tummy troubles- strange because on last trip to Egypt he was fine, the boys and I were sick. Anyway we were sitting out on the balcony around 4:30 enjoying the warmer weather – it is back to highs of 26 C after a few days where it barely hit 20 (about 68 F) when there was a huge explosion with stuff blowing high up into the air off toward the beach- it must have been hundreds of feet from our room- we are one of two top floor rooms, there are five rooms in our villa. We were told it was one of the rooftop water heaters that blew up, and some debris drifted into the pool below us. They made everyone get out so they could clean it up-it was mostly yellow insulation. Hopefully no one was hurt.

We never did see where the explosion happened...

Monday, February 27, 2012

Back in the village

I have one last post to put up about our trip to Egypt, but it will have wait for tomorrow. Meanwhile, we are back in the village, and Garry is busy planning for his barn reno again. We came home from Kiev on the express train as planned, it spite of the change in times flying back- the carrier was changed in the two weeks we were gone. No problem, it was a nicer plane with better food, and we got through customs quickly and caught a bus to the train station, and got there with 35 minutes to spare. Garry ran over to Mc Donalds for some dinner, so we ate hamburgers after boarding the train.

Even met someone I know- a summer English Institute student and friend who happened to be in the same car or wagon, as they say here, we were in number four. I was pretty out of it by that point(feeling tired and sick), I think I finally caught what Garry had last week at the resort. Victor drove us home after the train got to Dnepro just after 11:30, say a bad accident on the highway, but we had no problems. Victor said it rained on Saturday.

The driveway is quite muddy, we drove to Metro this afternoon for groceries- the cats and boys had about run out while we were gone. It was so warm today that some of the village poultry were out this afternoon, I saw some geese and ducks along the main street and a rooster and couple hens at the edge of the village. I could see that lots of snow has melted already, the fields are looking bare, even muddy, with some snowbanks left in spots. The winter wheat fields are looking wet and brownish with a little green, the half-drowned look of spring. There was some snow flurries on the way to Dnepro and as we got back to the village, giant snowflakes were drifting down and sticking on top of the mud.

Garry walked down to the store before lunch to buy bread and something to drink- there wasn't a bottle of anything left in the house (and no milk they sold it all in the morning- the tank was empty.) He told me it was a good thing he had bought the kind of bread that comes in a plastic bag instead of the unwrapped kind today when he came in the house and changed his clothes and put the ones he was wearing into the washer. He was on his way home and thought he'd wash his boots off in a puddle, but when he stepped in it, he slipped on the ice hiding under the water and fell in. Must have been quite the splash, since the inside of his grocery bag was wet. He told Maxim that swimming was better in Egypt, because the water was warmer.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

More Egypt

After a couple cooler days on the weekend we are back at 26 C and lying on the beach- well I was Garry was playing volleyball. I have done some aquasize in the pool, and some drawing and reading. I have got some interesting photos of some birds. We have seen a number of the little ones, but just this one big white bird hanging out near the pool in the hedges near our building. As you can see he caught a lizard while I was taking pictures.
We don't have a bird book, anyone know what kind of birds they are?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Hello from Egypt

That's right we went from minus 20 to plus 27 last Sunday. Garry is enjoying snorkling, playing beach volleyball and water polo- mostly with Russians and Ukrainians.

Its a nice resort- we have checked out some evening shows at the hotel. One had a guy who walked on braken glass- and then laid on top of it - and a bed of nails with four Ukrainian girls from the audience standing on him. We are going to be very brown in another week.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Nine months later...calves

As you know Garry bred a lot of cows in the village last spring, and he was delighted to go to a house in the village last week to breed a cow - a little early he told the lady, because the cow was only fresh 40 days, he is trying to get them to call him after 60 days. Next to the cow was her heifer calf from the AI Canadian bull Garry was using last year, born on Christmas day. The lady was ready to have another next year, because the calf is growing so fast.

On Friday Garry was called to Pervey Mai (first of May)a nearby village where he bred a number of cows last year. A lady wanted him to check her first calf heifer that had been milking for a few months, because she had not noticed her in heat (ready to breed) As far as Garry could tell, all is well with her, so maybe he or Max will be back there soon to breed the cow.

The lady was excited to show him the big bull calf and set of twin heifer calves that her two cows he bred last year had. She has the twins in a little room heated by a wood fireplace, since it as been so cold. It seems like everyone wants to have him breed their cows again, because the calves are so big and grow so fast. Yana was showing me in our barn in December how the AI bred ones grow so much faster than the regular ones.

Oh no!

What do you not want to see when you arrive at the airport? Flight delayed 3 hours!
We are flying a small Ukrainian airline to Sharm El Sheik UT air I think, and I was not hoping to see this- we were thinking when we arrived at 12:15 we'd be heading through check-in soon.

We left home at 3 pm with Maxim, our suitcases, all the church milk for Sunday morning, and a guy from the village who had asked Max for a ride to Dnepro. Max handed Kolia a breathmint when he got into the front seat- Max and I were sitting the back with a crate of smetana and the carry-on wedged between us. It didn't help the alcohol-cigarette breath, but he was happy for a ride and chatted for a while.

We dropped off Kolia at the outskirts of the city and brought the milk, cheese and smetana at Victor's house where the guys unloaded it- milk will easily stay cold until morning in this weather. Unfortunately Victor's German shepherd escaped from the yard and Garry and Max had to help Dan catch her before we left. We still got to the train station with time to spare.

We left Dnepro at 5:11 on schedule and Garry remarked as the train got going that it felt like we had a flat tire. Normally the train has a rocking sensation as it goes down the track, we were pretty tired of the shake and rattle by the time we got to Kiev at 11pm. Around six a mother and grandmother got on with a 3 year old and sat behind us- that child sang loudly until 9:30 with a few breaks for air. No one seemed upset about it. Garry got hungry - I had packed some brownies, since we were in the dining car (back half of our car)he bought a sandwich and chips and brought me a warm Coke.

Ukrainians would never drink cold pop in the winter- you would be sure to get sick. Ice cream will give you a sore throat in winter also. At the Metro grocery store last summer they put in little coolers by the checkouts. I bought one a couple weeks ago and realized they had turned them off - who'd buy cold drinks in the winter? last week I discovered one of ten was still turned on and got a cold drink.

Many people slept or watched the old Soviet movies they show on the televisions - they got the one working facing us around the time the little kid got on- one movie seemed to have the Russian Julie Andrews in, it had a big musical number with whistling truck drivers, and she was either in overalls - I think she pumped gas or a fancy dress going down the stairs in Odessa at the end, I think.

We pulled the luggage over to McDonalds from the train station - which was colder than normal inside- had some burgers and cold french fries and then pulled them back through the train station, down the stairs- escalator wasn't working and found a van to the airport for 30 grivna a person, he was full at 10 before 12 and took 25 minutes to get here, only stopped for 2 maybe three lights. Went through some yellow ones fast. Seats are packed - Garry is reading a book across from me and people are getting their luggage encased in plastic for 30 grivna. It's very popular for flying here- maybe no one will open your luggage?...

The people flying the other airline to Sharm El Sheik who were supposed to leave after us are going through check in now...nothing to do but wait and hope we get there sometime on Sunday morning.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Saturday morning

There are little fine snow flurries drifting down from time to time this morning. Must be warmer this morning, some snow came crashing off the metal roof so it must be warming up for the first time in weeks. Saw one of the Saturday customers going out the gate pulling a little sled with two bags of brewers grain and a tin bucket balanced on top of the sled.

Garry had a cow with an upset stomach yesterday, he gave her some baking soda to settle it down, but this morning he listened to her with his stethoscope and decided she had a twisted stomach or DA. So the vet came out around noon. At home in Canada this is a pretty simple and normally sucessful operation, where one of the cow's stomachs (the abomasum) is untwisted and stitched down but we were wondering what the vet would prescribe here.

Fortunately we didn't find out because went they checked her Garry couldn't hear the twist - you tap on the cow's belly and you hear a pinging sound through the stethoscope- the vet gave her a bunch of stuff and put her on antibiotics. He said it was a 100% cure, so hopefully he's right and the cow is fine when we get back in two weeks. Garry says she calved sometime in the last month. The milk fever cow is doing great now, back in her stall.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Packed and ready to fly

Saturday afternoon we take the train to Kiev, where we will get a bus over to the airport - it takes less than an hour at night to get to Borispol, the train arrives at 11 pm, and we fly out at 2:40 am. It is supposed to be 25 C in Sharm El Sheik on Sunday.

Garry tells me that school was cancelled for the kids in the village again this week because of the extreme cold weather. However the teachers, like Maxim's girlfriend Yulia still have to go to school. There are still a number kids walking down the street to the store, visit friends or go sledding. Sleds with metal runners are very popular- in the city parents use them to pull small children along the icy sidewalks and sidestreets. Very few sidewalks are cleared of snow in Ukraine, so the sidewalks are icy until the ice melts in the spring. It may be several weeks before we can walk without slipping. CNN is talking about predictions of extreme cold hitting Ukraine again in this morning's newscast- I hope we are on the plane to Egypt before it happens!

Of course even when its cold life goes on in Ukraine as you can see in these photos I took on Saturday afternoon of the art market in Zaporosia.

I have been packing the suitcases while Garry has been trying to get the water running out in the barn to the cows this morning, he had some problems, Max must have lent out the the 1/2 inch socket set and he needed to replace a frost plug in on of the water bowls before he could turn the water on. Max got back around 2 pm and went out to give him a hand.

Garry popped in for his wallet, he needs some supplies, the car has already been in and out the drive several times already. He says three frost plugs were busted in the waterbowls, and he figured out why- apparently while he was gone yesterday afternoon someone cleaned out the heifer pens and had the doors to the barn open for a couple hours! Opps it is minus 16 C out right now, and it wasn't warmer yesterday.

Well the kittens can jump on the windowsill to eat the food with the other cats so they are set while we are away, I am putting out a big bowl of water, and I am sure Max will give them some milk in their dish too, since Box has pretty much weaned them, they are so big now. They will miss sitting in my lap "helping" me crochet, they are getting better at not attacking the yarn.

Now I just need to make Friday night dinner pizza and make sure I remembered everything I want to bring for two weeks, the snorkeling fins take up some space, so we have one large and one medium suitcase to bring on the train- less than went we flew home in December, in case we have to drag everything up three flights of stairs and out to a bus.

Dnepropetroesk in Winter

The buses are full

I have taken some photos in Dnepro lately- for those of you who have been here in July for the Summer English Institute you can check out how different it is from the summer.
Looking across one of the valleys of Dnepro- it's a city of hills

Heading downhill on the road toward the factories

Heroes of Stalingrad - one of the five main streets- was rebuilt this summer

Driving down the hill toward Karl Marx boulevard

Downtown along the tram tracks

Most city centre (mall) has a parking garage- here's one of us going down- you drive around in tight circles to the top where there are two levels of parking- I took some on the rooftop

Crossing the bridge over the icy Dniper River

On the left bank

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Looking out the front window

I wanted to get a picture of the bigger bird pecking away on the apple tree in the front yard, but he flew away by the time I got the camera. I took some of his smaller friend that came along after him. The big guy headed out to the willow trees by the street and I couldn't get him even with the new camera. The zoom is great for these guys. Even the kids going down the street with their sled.

Delivery again

The feed truck showed up before dark on Tuesday. Unfortunately, it left more than an hour later, still full of feed. Maxim and Andrei spent more than an hour trying to help the driver unload it, Garry spent an hour out there in the cold also, after he got done talking to our son who had called from Canada. They filled the truck with feed without checking the auger that unloads it- which was full of something frozen at the bottom of the truck. The driver asked if they could just shovel it out and upstairs into the feed bin, but Garry rejected that plan! The driver wanted to leave the full truck here, but Garry told them they had to find a warm place to put it until it thawed.

It was supposed to come before lunch today (Thursday) but it was about three when it pulled into the drive- hopefully it is actually getting unloaded this time. Even Ukrainian dinner (lunch) time is around two. The guys ran out of grain this morning, so Maxim was ready to go pick some up today, but Victor called this morning to say they had called him to say it was coming.

Garry took off at one o'clock with 400 liters of milk in the car, plus the smetana -sour cream and cottage cheese, if he managed to pick it up at the neighbor's house- he came back for his phone he forgot because the gate was locked and the big dog was inside. Victor sells the milk on Thursday for 8 grivna (about a dollar) a liter, which is better than Canadian price. Of course, in the summer the price here in Ukraine drops to half that or less! Hopefully it is warmer next week Thursday so Victor can get his van started to come out for milk (it's a diesel engine) or Max will have to take it in.

Garry had to drive to Zaporosia first to pick up our plane tickets (Victor already has our train tickets to Kiev) because they weren't there when he went in Tuesday.
Then he was meeting Victor in Dnepro, they need to get a power of attorney done so Victor can take care of signing for the house down the street we have in the process of buying for about two years. Garry was going to sign the papers today, but the lady needed one more official's stamp or paper to sell it, so it has to be done while we are gone. Then Garry is playing basketball tonight, luckily I reminded him to carry his gym bag with his shoes out the door!

The feed unloading must not be going well, its been an hour and Max has not come in to money to pay them yet. Hopefully they are getting something out of the old truck, I can hear it running out there. Just stopped, maybe it's done... Max came in smiling, it's in the bin. He took some water out for the boys (the guys working) and found 3000 grivna to pay for the grain. Now we have feed for a month or more!

Today seems to be warmer than it has been, Garry and Maxim got the water running to the cows for the day instead of watering them with buckets, like they did on the really cold days. The cows should be able to drink all day today. I did ask if the reason was also because Max's brother returned home yesterday so they'd have to carry it all themselves. Garry laughed.

Yesterday we went into Dnepro in the afternoon to meet some people, and then went bowling at 5:30 at Most City mall (its near one of the bridges - most is bridge) and it was really cold walking in. When we left at seven the wind had died down it seemed warmer (only -12 C) outside. Looks like the forecast is calling for warmer weather with snow next week.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Back in the deep freeze

The cats are having a great time running and chasing each other around the living room, Needles is enjoying his second kittenhood playing (and napping) with Box's kittens. The little guys will be as big as she is soon, she is such a small cat to begin with and is really skinny now.

We enjoyed a two day break from the extreme cold, but it was back this morning with a howling wind to make it feel like -33 C (that's about where it is in degrees F if I remember where the scales converge correctly) This morning the guys just carried buckets of water out for the cows to drink, because it was so cold in the barn that the knew the waterpipes and bowls would freeze back up as soon as they got the water running to them. The wind really makes a big difference to how cold the barn is. The plastic canvas sides are fine as long as the wind doesn't blow!

Garry tells me that the sick cow is still in the pen with the calves. She hurt one of her legs a little when she was down, and is limping a bit, so he will keep her in the pen a few more days so she can heal up. The ladies just milk her in the pen by hand into a pail. I think the calves may be getting a little extra milk with her there.

This morning we ran out of water in the house- it wasn't frozen, the cistern was empty! I was making bagels this morning when we discovered the water had run out, Garry had used it to make coffee when he got up. So I had flour-covered hands and had to try cleaning up with antiseptic hand cleaner, which doesn't work really well, I can tell you.

If you remember, the town water truck has broken down, and so Maxim was delivering water last week. Right now- 3 pm - I am watching someone trying to back the tractor/watertank into the right driveway- I know the tractor wan't fit under the gas line there, so this should be interesting. Too bad I am recharging the camera, and can't take a photo of it trying to back in the narrow slippery driveway- looks like it stopped, hopefully before hitting the line!

Looks like the top of the tractor fit under the gasline- not sure how, Garry always told me it wouldn't fit under there, guess we can wash up the dishes soon. Garry just got back from Zaporosia (picking up the plane tickets) and is assisting the effort- he just came in for a stocking cap (toque for Canadians) because he was wearing his farmer's hat (baseball type) and his ears were freezing with his new haircut.

He tells me the tractor isn't under the line, but they are going to lift it up somehow to get the tractor past it, Max says people in the village do it all the time. The water in the hose from the tank keeps freezing solid when they try to snake it over to the cistern.

They got it backed up right after I took the photos (battery was a little charged) of them lifting the line up, and started the water running into the cistern. You can see the deceptive bright sunshine in to the pictures, since I was taking them out of a west-facing window, the afternoon sun is getting lower, but it has been shining all day. Garry says they raised it by sticking a couple bricks under the line on top of the posts it sits on going over the driveway.

Garry is waiting for the load of compicorn- ground feed- that was supposed to come yesterday, then today, to arrive. It is hard to get the old truck backed up and get the feed blown into the bin upstairs, so it better arrove before dark. Victor called around four to say that they had called him to say that they had the truck loaded with the feed now. It is mostly corn, and little wheat, with salt and limestone added for minerals. It is really cold so they had trouble with the truck. of course. We have enough feed for tonight but we'll need it for Wednesday.

I can hear water- I'm off to flush the toilet!

Monday, February 6, 2012


We drove to Zaporosia on Saturday or Zaporizhizhia - it's pronounced more like the first, but normally spelled with the extra z's in English. We live closer to Zaporosia than Dnepro, but it takes longer to drive downtown because you have to drive across the dam. The dam was built a long time ago, because it was rebuilt after WWII, it was sabotaged during the Nazi occupation. It is a long winding road over the dam toward the city's downtown. Right now the high side of the river is covered with ice, after all the cold weather we have had lately, here is the low side, a little hard to see through the railing. The dam was once considered one of the seven wonders of the modern world, the rapids protecting the Chorista Island were dangerous.

Zaporosia is famous for a number of things, it was the home of the Zaporosian cossacks, the same island in the river that was home to their sich, or fort,
was one of the first places settled by the German Mennonite in the time of Catherine the Great. In Soviet times it became a steel and manufacturing center, with a nearby nuclear plant. There are about as many people living there as in Winnipeg, maybe more- but they have less malls.

At the end of the main street of the city, overlooking the river is a large Lenin statue, I noticed this summer his upraised arm seems to point toward the dam.
Zaporosia has a beautiful wide main street, named Leninia of course, with some lovely buildings built at the height of Soviet decorative design, as you can see in the photos I took of the building we parked in front of. The store advertising van shoes is a bike shop- bicycle in Russian is "veloceped" so it's name is basically velo-city - remember what looks like a capital B is pronounced closer to an English V. Leninia is lined with stores, many with high-priced name brand clothing and restaurants, including the Chinese restaurant we discovered this fall.

I did some people watching, there were a fair number of people going about their business on foot or on the buses and marshukas which were packed. Older women seem to prefer the really long fur coats, while a number of younger ladies seemed to be more concerned with fashion- I saw one holding hands with her guy, whose stacking-clad knees were peeking out between her tall boots and skirts.

I also spotted two older ladies who seemed to be outside for a smoke break, I assumed they worked inside the building, it seemed the door next to them was very busy with people coming and going. Many places allow smoking inside, but some do not. Since I am sensitive to cigarette smoke, it bothers me more than Garry. Reminds me of the old days when I used to make him shower as soon as he got home from working the Bingo in Zurich, Ontario for either the hockey or figure skating fundraiser, I couldn't stand to be in that room, it would even ooze off his hair when he got home.

The reason we went to Zaporosia was not just to go through the Mc Donalds drive thru for lunch (the inside tends to be really crowded in the winter) was to try and find a travel agency Garry remembered seeing there- and we did. There was a girl that was pretty good in English and we booked a two week trip to Sharm El Sheik Egypt on the Red Sea. We left a deposit and she photocopied our passports to start things off- she was worried that the price might be different for non-Ukrainians, but we have our temp resident stamps now, so no problems. Monday she called to confirm the price, and Garry drove in with the rest of the grivna to pay for it. Tuesday we can go back and get the tickets. We have to take the train to Kiev Saturday evening (flying out at 2 am) to get the plane- no tickets from Dnepro until almost the end of February!

Here's Garry with his new haircut for our trip (he got it cut today in the village) and the document he got at the travel place saying we have purchased an all- inclusive trip to Egypt. Tickets and vouchers tomorrow.