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

Monday, March 26, 2012

Here and there

Talked with Garry on Saturday evening his time, he said they had the barn nearly cleaned out of cement over at the collective. Looks like they burned all that all hay they took out of the barn.

On Saturday they had a group of grad orphans working cleaning bricks, I think he said seven boys - about seventeen years old- he fed them lunch- three loaves of bread, 2 kilos of hotdogs, a big jar of pickles and 8 liters of soda pop, and a couple bags of potato chips- they ate the leftover bread with ketchup spread on it. He did get Box fixed- so no more kittens in the house!

Update- Garry tells me the boys even drank the pickle juice

Garry took Andrei to a basketball game in Zaporosia one evening (Max spends alot of time with his fiance and her family), and went bowling with him, both firsts for Andrei (he did very well, bowling over 100 Garry tells me), in fact they ate inside at McDonalds and he told Garry he'd only been through the drivethru with his brother Maxim!

This week I have done more cleaning than cow milking with my grandaughters, there parents and Seth and Jonah due to arrive for a week visit here for March break by plane (three pieces of luggaqge are car seats for the girls, they are renting a van)
My father started his chemo pills today.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Heloo- I have been in NJ for 4 days, and really have not talked to Garry (I have milked cows here, twice) Garry was supposed to get his new baler on Monday, the one that he and Maxim drove to Kirogard to see, they left at 6:30 in the morning and were back around 4! Funny thing is they almost bought the same baler from the dealer in Bratski. When they got home from the dealer in Bratski, they had a photo of a baler they could buy. They happened to check for balers for sale in Ukraine online, and saw the same photo of the same baler for less money. So they went and bought it pending approval on delivery! They were going to get them to prove it worked with the old hay they pulled out of the collective barn last week.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Farm Report

Well, posts might be a little slow in coming for the rest of the month, as I am flying to New Jersey to visit my parents. My father has been diagnosed with cancer, and I might even milk a few cows while I'm there. I am taking the bus to Kiev Saturday afternoon to catch the 5:35 am plane, so I thought I'd give you an update on how the farm is doing this year.

Of course Garry is starting his new project, cleaning out the collective barn today, he even took a couple photos this morning. He says it is going faster than he thought it would, they should finish it in two weeks. They removed some cement already today. Unfortunately, all the welding they did on the bucket fell apart when they started the heavy lifting, should have used better steel. It still works anyway. Garry has decided to bring a wagon over there everyday to put the old metal they find in the barn and bring it home, so it doesn't disappear overnight.

Our original little barn is getting pretty full, more than 70 cows, heifers and calves inside now. Garry put the bigger heifers outside for the day last week. The milking ladies blame all illnesses (including mastitis) on breezes or drafts, so they keep things shut up tight. Garry says he has only treated one heifer for pneumonia this month (which is caused by lack of fresh air) but the barn is pretty full, it will be good to have them outside more with spring coming. Still snow and mud outside, below freezing every night, so spring could come faster!

Here's Garry helping Victor sell milk on a Thursday afternoon!

The cows are milking well, we are making about 600 liters of milk a day now, and have been selling it for more than 4 grivna a liter so far. Last year at this time we were getting paid 3.7 with the price dropping to 4.3 by the end of March, Garry is sure that the buyers will be asking for a price drop soon.

Right now our best milking cow is little Zera, the first heifer we bought in Ukraine, she calved for the second time in the fall and is really working hard. Garry told me that they dried off (stopped milking) four cows after the first of the month. The ladies weigh each cows milk on the first of the month and record it so we can estimate how much they give for their lactation. Two of the cows are going to have calves in the summer, they are getting a long vacation because they were only making three liters of milk a day now. Garry checked them and they are still pregnant. He also checked another one, because she is supposed to calve in six weeks but was still giving 17 liters of milk a day. Quite a lot for one of our little Ukrainian cows, which might mean she had lost the calf, but all is well, and she will be taking the normal dry cow dry period.

The hutches that Garry built last summer have had three bull calves Maxim is raising to pay for his wedding - or maybe they will be eaten at the dinner, I'm not sure which! Maxim insulated the top, and they have been there since December, and have no place to move to, so the heifer calves ended up being raised inside the barn like last winter. They are growing really well on whole corn (and a little protein I think) Max and Andrei shell off cobs.

If you are wondering the cats- Mooska and her kittens from last spring- are happy outside, here are a couple sunning themselves in the machine shed this morning. I saw Mooska in the barn last week, looking fat and happy- I am not sure what the ladies feed her, she is much fatter since moving out of our house!

The kittens are nearly as big as Box and have been weaned for a couple weeks, they may move outside soon. Hopefully no one let's Box out until she gets a trip to a vet in the city to get fixed. It will be less crazy in here.

Car Market

Yesterday morning (yes it was women's day and I got another lovely plant from Andrei -and Maxim I think, Garry had bought me one on Wednesday, and a candle from Victor, who was out to pick up milk to sell) Garry and Maxim went to Zaporosia for the weekly car market to buy the final parts to fix the neighbor's payloader tractor. Here's some photos early in the fixing project, they welded all new teeth on bucket over the last week.

They actually went over to start cleaning out the barn this morning, since the payloader's remont is finally finished. Andrei came racing back on foot, Garry got stopped by the police in the car in the village, he was driving the car about a km, I think, and he had not taken his wallet, Andrei huffed and puffed in asking me for Garry's documents about 5 or 10 minutes after they left.

Anyway Garry took a camera, and here are some photos of the car market, where you can buy any kind of part to fix your car or tractor, and even used cars. You can see they even took a picture of their purchases as they loaded them in the back of the Lada.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Factory tour

Tuesday morning Garry and Maxim were talking with men from a company that makes freestalls in Zaporosia, and they invited them to come for a tour. That same afternoon I tagged along and we went for a tour of the factory where they make the freestalls.

We found the building following the directions Max had gotten from the guys. We went past the Novi Leni (building supply store) that burned dow a year and a half ago, it looks like the bones of a new store is up on the site, maybe it will be rebuilt this summer. This factory once has 3000 employees making radios, there are maybe 300 working there now.

We waited in the lobby for a while, Max phoned the guy in his office upstairs a few times and someone came down to log us into the building, past the revolving gate, and guard. We took the elevator to the fourth floor with him, and he ushered us into the boss's office.

Garry and Max sat at the extension to his desk and he got them tea (I sat in a padded chair and sort of got ignored) and showed them photos from barns they had built equipment for.

Then I followed them as he took them downstairs to see the manufactoring facilities, we took the stairs, since the elevator was not coming right away, down to the second floor, and followed him through a long series of hallways to where they make the freestalls.

He showed us a foot trimming stall they make (crank- no hydraulics) and a big stack of freestalls, along with the machine they use to bend the steel to make them.

Then we stepped outside- the back of the building must be higher than the front- to see the demo headlocks and stalls. A few snowflakes were drifting down, it would be another thing we could buy from them to equipt the new barn. The prices for the free stalls seem reasonable.

We went back inside, to a room off the big room where he showed us a waterer they sell, and then we headed back out the long hallway, down one more flight of stairs to the front of the building, where he showed us back out the revolving gate.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Getting places in Ukraine

People in Ukraine walk where they are going, or take public transportation more often than not. This tram stop is in the center of the boulevard, some main streets in Dnepro have nice tree lined walkways with the tram tracks on either side. As you can see there are pigeons living in the city.

Of course we usually travel in our trusty Lada, but we have taken other forms of transportation here in Ukraine, like the train back from Kiev last week, which is one of the most popular ways people move around Ukraine. You can take the express, with seats or the overnight with fold-down bunks.

As you can tell in this photo of the highway, Garry is starting to dodge potholes as he drives down the road. Soon he will be swerving all over to save the tires and rims from constant repairs, since it's spring. Maxim told Garry a joke last year, The policeman in Ukraine pulls over the car going straight down the road to check if he's drunk, instead of the car that is swerving down the road like in North America. That's because a sober driver would try to miss the holes!

In the village, people travel on foot, by bicycle, motor scooter or motorcycle. If they don't have a car, they go to the city by marshutka, or bus. There is a bus that goes through the village three times a day that goes to Zaporosia. People catch the marshutka out at the highway, walking the 2 kms in and out, carrying whatever bags they are taking with them, unless they get a ride from someone. You see bikes being used as one way rides and carrying packages back with the person getting off the marshutka.

You may remember that Maxim's brother took a marshutka to go home to their village near the city of Kherson. Marshutkas are vans that travel set routes for set fees, some go from one city to another, but many travel routes inside cities. When I teach at Summer English Institute in July I have taken them. Sometimes they get very crowded, often you have to stand, instead of sitting in a seat (often guys will give older people and children their seat, as on trams and buses.) Once I nearly fell in the driver's lap when he turned the corner, some people are on the steps, and when someone wants to get off they yell to the driver and squeeze through to the front to get off, if they had a seat, then someone sits down.

The trams and aufto-buses are cheaper to ride, but have less routes that they go on, as they only travel the rails, or on the electric overhead wires in the city of Dnepro, and stop in scheduled places. The regular buses travel between cities, and I have taken them from Dnepro to the airport in Kiev, which is better than the train, because it drops you off in the parking lot at the airport. You get on at the bus station downtown and you get an assigned seat, just like on the train. People take the bus to places that the trains don't run, like smaller cities.

Of course when you are driving there are the other drivers to watch out for, like the black SUVs who seem to think they own the road! There are many more cars on the road than ten or fifteen years ago, but maybe half of the cars are vintage Ladas, Moskvieches, or classic Volgas (they were the cars that the top Soviets drove.)

What are the highheel stickers on the back of this car telling you? Caution: female driver! Honest, I know women who are proud to have these on their cars. This summer I was driving some Canadian teachers home after class, and one of the three guys in the car laughed and said- "look at that guy over there- he's thinking, three men in the car, why is the woman driving?"

and finally, look at the licence plate on this range rover...that's right, Illinois, maybe it got lost somewhere in Chicago and somehow was parked across from the Most-City Center Mall in Dnepropetroesk, Ukraine on Saturday afternoon!

Going places

Been going to work on a post for days, but keep getting busy with other things, like cleaning the house, cooking dinner, crocheting my cow afghan, and going places.

Saturday morning we headed to Dnepro and I took some photos as we drove so there's a little peek at transportation in Ukraine, in the second post. As you can see the around freezing with some snow weather has stuck with us this week, Centralna (our street in the village) was snow covered for the weekend. Yes, that is a motorcycle with a sidecar coming up the street toward us.

We went bowling, I have to say I beat Garry in the first game, 134 to 130, picking up a spare in the last frame to go ahead, but of course he won the rest of the games! We bowl so often that the guy put our names up on the screen in Russian before we got to our lane. We also picked up some welding rods for Maxim, he has had to do a lot of welding on the bucket of the neighbor's payloader, not just weld on the new part they got but fill in around them where there is a gap of an inch or so! Mostly we had to go to pick up the empty milk jugs from Victor's house, from the Thursday milk sales, so we could bring them back full the next day.

Sunday it was foggy as we drove out, but sunny before we got to Dnepro. After church we stopped at the Dafi mall to have lunch and pick up a few groceries and it was packed. There was some kind of craft sale upstairs and a lot of children and adults checking out a large rubbery moving and roaring dinosaur stuffed in the space next to the escalator downstairs, two more were at either end of the movie theatre area upstairs, they were maybe five feet tall and 8 feet long, and people were taking photos with them.

Monday Garry and Maxim did not start work on the barn- Maxim has pointed out its like a no work week anyway with all the holidays, Thursday is International Womens Day which is like the biggest holiday of the year here in Ukraine- there are billboards all over the city with politicians congratulating women on the 8th of March or ads for stuff to buy them for the 8th of March, we bought big boxes of candy for the ladies that milk while shopping on Sunday. Its like crossing Valentines and Mothers Day at home. They actually had classes at the village school on Saturday so everyone can have a four day weekend this week, taking this Friday off after the Thursday holiday.

Instead the guys drove to Vilinus to look at a cultivator for sale in the morning. This is a city south of us, it takes maybe an hour and half to get there, we always drive through it on the way to Crimea, it's most memorable landmark is a police station in a traffic circle that looks like a spaceship has landed there. Anyway, they finally got there, phoned the guy to ask exactly where he was located, and found out he was in Vilinus in the the Kharcov oblast (region) while they were in the city of the same name in the Zaporhosia oblast. They did check out some other cultivators and we need to purchase a new baler this spring also, so they didn't waste the whole morning.

The guy in Vilinus is emailing them photos of his cultivator for sale. This morning - Tuesday- they are off to check out equipment at the dealer in Bratski (its on the way to Dnepro.) Last year they borrowed a cultivator to work up the fields, spend a lot of time and a couple hundred dollars fixing it, so this year they are looking to buy at used one, so at least when they are done fixing it they will have something good to use.

Yesterday afternoon we drove to Dnepro again to Tanya's class to be the examiner's for two of her classes oral tests, we get to ask the students a set of questions, and answer ones from them in English and write down what level ability they have, it's a tough job. Of course we got lovely presents, a yummy cake and I got three lovely tulips for women's day. They are in the vase now, the roses had hung their heads down over the weekend.

Garry and Max were back before 11 am this morning as they had a meeting with two men from a company about producing the free stalls for the new barn, they met in the living room discussing sizes types and materials in a mixture of English and Russian. I had put dinner in the oven before they arrived, since I was unsure how thawed my "eggplant casserole" was, I had got it out of the freezer while making yesterday's dinner. We are eating from the garden still, I sliced, dipped in egg and flour and fried the pieces (it's actually squash, not eggplant) last summer when we had a bounty of it, then packed four plastic boxes full with layers of cheese and tomato sauce, now there's only one more left in the freezer. It's a little tough, I think we'll grow less squash this summer. We are also having a bag of frozen corn, I still have lots of beans, salsa and jam in the freezer, since I had put vegetables from the garden in the freezer thinking that Seth and Jonah would be eating them in the fall, anyway.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Trading up

Yesterday Garry came in and asked for the camera- unfortunately I had forgotten to plug it in to charge it after the battery died during our walk Tuesday, so he couldn't get a photo of the new heifer coming home in the trailer. Garry said she seemed fine with her new friends in the pen when he put her in with them. I am sure they have the pecking order settled by now. Garry had bred this heifer a few months ago, so he refunded the lady's 150 grivna breeding fee. She lives in a nearby village, Garry charges extra to drive to other villages, since many people hire someone with a car to come pick him up.

Maxim was excited on Wednesday evening because he was able to sell the open cow for the same amount as the new heifer would cost. Astra had aborted twice, she just didn't seem to be able to carry a calf, she was one of the three fresh heifers Garry bought in the fall of 2010 after buying the herd of cows. The butcher couldn't believe how much the cow weighed, because she wasn't very tall.

Yesterday afternoon Garry was off to Zaporosia with Victor to meet with someone, when someone banged on the door. Max was in the house since he had gone to his room after eating dinner- he had missed eating with us because he had taken Andrei on his scooter (the car was still getting fixed) to the highway to catch the marshutka. Max answered the door, and the man wanted a cow bred - I could hear inseminate corova Inseminate sounds almost the same in Russian and English, and corova (cow) was one of the first words we learned in Russian. Garry tells me that Maxim is much more confident about going to breed people's cows since some of the ones he bred in our barn are pregnant, so he will go breed them instead of getting Garry to go if he's busy.

The other day Andrei came up to Garry to say that there was a cow to breed in the barn before we went on our walk. He said Corova hachoo bic which is cow wants bull so Garry bred her before we went to the collective barn. Garry told me she calved about 75 days ago, right when you want to breed a cow for the first time.

It is around freezing again today, with a few snowflakes falling again, the yard is still covered with snow, but the roads have stayed clear, just wet. Garry was hunting for his wallet this morning, he finally found it in his gymbag. He lost his phone and is using his old one from the summer. The last place he had it was on the train on Sunday when his brother called, so it may be really gone.

Maxim was excited about a phone call from Andrei this morning, apparently the welder was broken and they will fix it under warranty. Max bought it in the city of Kherson, near his hometown, so he sent it home with Andrei yesterday to get fixed. I knew that Max was telling Garry something about welding because I heard the word spark-ka which is welding, and that something was getting fixed. He was excited that it would be covered under warranty, probabally because every thing you buy in Ukraine has a warranty but if it breaks they tell you it isn't covered, like the lawn mower Garry bought last spring, apparently actually cutting grass with it was abusing it.

Garry brought me roses when he came home from Zaporosia yesterday afternoon, five yellow roses, yellow because that's the color of my wedding roses, and five because
no Ukrainian flower seller sells an even number of flowers except for funerals.

Garry says that his stomach is finally back to normal after getting sick at the resort last week so he will be ready for pizza night tonight. Now I just have to make the pizza.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Welcome spring!

Maxim tells Garry it is a holiday today, March first is the beginning of spring. Unfortunately, like yesterday it wasn't very nice out. Wednesday was cold and snowy, and everytime Garry came in today, he said "it was not very nice outside." So maybe more like March coming in like a lion, but no big snowstorm. I still have vivid memerios of a March first storm when I was a child in New Jersey, when there was a loud bang in the middle of the night as the wind howled, the snow piled up and the power went out. We got to stay up at the farmhouse for a couple days, I think. I remember making blueberry muffins with my grandmother.

Before the snow came back, the people in the village started letting their chickens, ducks and geese out during the day. The babushka next door came over early in the week to complain to Maxim that Mint and the new puppy was chasing her chickens. Polo runs over to show off the fact that he's special and free to the two, since they are tied up now next to the summer kitchen. Mint has the dog house Seth built, and the puppy has a rope that can get to the shed door. The puppy is unhappy about the whole idea, the neighbor lady told Max last summer that she loves to hear Mint whine, then she knows he is tied up, and her chickens are safe when she goes to the store.

Polo came along on our walk, he sticks close if there are any big dogs nearby, and was torn when Garry turned to go to the store and I headed home when we got back to our street (the collective barns are across the pond from our place) but he followed me home with a few looks back to see whether Garry was coming yet.

Maxim's brother Andrei took a marsustka (mini-bus-van)again today to go home to visit before the start of the big project next Monday. I promised photos of our Tuesday afternoon walk over to the collective barn (which is Garry's new project) so I'll try to explain what he's up to this spring.

Garry has been working with the Mennonite Brethren missionary that works with orphanges on a project to start a trade school in our village. One of the things this school would teach is agriculture, and they would like to have a dairy barn as both a teaching place and way to raise funds to keep the project going. So Garry is going to manage the dairy project.

The group has been able to purchase certificates from collective members in the village and buy one of the old collective barns, water towers and other small items there,(although the paperwork may need a few signatures yet from the government.) The first thing they will do is clean it out- someone piled some hay at some time inside the barn, then they will start the reno to turn the old tie stall barn into a
free stall barn. This morning Garry had the man we bought cement from for our barn two years ago out to talk about contracting for the cement for this barn.

The car is back, so Garry went to play basketball tonight, it was supposed to be ready last night, but one of the parts turned out to be for the wrong model of Lada, so the guy fixing it had to go back to Zaporosia to trade it for the right one before putting the new shocks on.