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

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Busy, busy

Garry and Maxim Rudei  in the wheat field this week
While I continue to keep busy here in Manitoba, Garry has been busy in Ukraine, trying to get lots done before he flies out of Dnepropetroesk on Friday afternoon. He won't get to Winnipeg until after midnight Saturday night/ Sunday morning, so don't start phoning yet.
Garry throwing bales up from the wagon to the hay mow

They are hoping to finish baling hay today, Garry said that there were a lot of bales breaking at first, but the mystery was solved when he found out that the guys had set it for a lower speed (540 instead of 1000) because they thought it would be easier on the machinery. He said it was quite hot loading them into the mow and that he had a couple guys that plan to attend the trade school helping out.

Tuesday they chased about 30 big heifers over the to the corral that is finished by the trade school barn. The pens in our barn were overfilled with animals for the last two years, since Garry had started buying heifers so they would be ready when the trade school barn was... and then it took much longer to do than hoped!

They made these nice gates for the corral

These are pregnant heifers that will live in the new barn

Sunday, May 25, 2014

He doesn't need me anymore...

Two of Garry's five pizzas
This week I have told Garry that he must not need me anymore because he posted a of photo of the homemade pizza he made for pizza night on Friday on facebook. He had people (I believe some guys helping out on the farm and Maria) in to eat it and watch Wonder Woman (the pace of the show is good for English learners and if you don't understand the English Maria does some translating, and the action is easy to understand anyway!)

This morning he phoned here at 6:30 am to ask where the Certo was....he had bought strawberries after church (it's almost 3 pm there) and was trying with Maria's help to make jam. He called back because he had not found it yet, and where were the jars? No phone call again yet, so hopefully he found it now, and the jars I had stashed under his dresser (wait until that new cupboard is moved into the house- then I'll have a place to put things like that, Garry)

Lucky for me, I am needed here to get our house ready for the wedding and to plan the pre-wedding BBQ at our house, somehow rehearsal dinners in our family have morphed into outdoor farm parties with me making the food. I do like to cook for a crowd...planning to make some Ukrainian salads this time.

Yesterday I was finally getting started on my other pre-wedding project, tiling Micah and Crystal's bathroom shower. I am the tiler at our house, and I do bathroom floors, and kitchen back splashes for the kid's houses when they are remodeling. I need to pick up a couple things in Winnipeg after church so I can finish it though, and then it can be grouted in the middle of the week. They have painted the walls and redone most of the floors in the house they will be moving into, which is on the property of the "buffalo farm" the boys bought last year. Garry always said someday we would raise heifers over there.

By the way Garry says he does need me, he had to make his own pizza! Looking forward to his arrival  next week, although time will fly in the two weeks we are home, as the last weekend we are in Chicago for another family wedding

Friday, May 23, 2014

Crop update

Garry Verhoog

Garry's facebook status on Friday! A summary of spring planting and field work:

Garry Verhoog
400 acres of corn planted and 200 acres of sunflowers, 50 acres of alfalfa, 25 acres of sudan grass and 25 acres of forage sorghum, 130 acres of wheat out in head, 25 acres of alfalfa mowed.. Now back to work on the milkhouse and barn

He plans to sell the grain wheat, bale straw, and bale hay of course. Hopefully there will be enough rain this summer to keep the corn growing for silage and grain corn to feed the cows for the next year, and sell some too.

Garry says the farmers tell him that out of ten years in our area, you will get as many, if not more, (drought) total disaster crops as bountiful crop years, so they're happy to get one of the seven years of average crops when there are a couple thundershowers in June or July to keep the crops growing. Two years ago we had the disaster year, you might remember.

I remember him saying this spring that the forage sorghum seed was very expensive for two tiny bags, they chopped some last year for a farmer to make into silage... it was a very thick crop. The sudan grass will be for green-chopping to feed to the cows this summer, since it grows even when there isn't much rain, like the summer normally is in our area. It really grows when it does rain; even if the plants look dead, as we saw during the drought year. We would drive past a brown field of sudan grass on the highway that summer on the highway and when the rains came in the fall, it turned green and grew like crazy, so Garry planted some last year (and this year!)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

One more day

Talked to Garry on Monday evening there, he was getting ready for overnight company. Steve and Jo are Canadians who work in Zaporosia with New Hope, they have two young sons who had not visited the farm before, so I hope that they are having a good time. I actually met them for the fist time in December, in a mall in Winnipeg while we were home for Christmas, but Garry had met them earlier in Ukraine.

Today is my last day in New Jersey, Thursday I fly back to Manitoba. It has been a more difficult visit this time as my mother's loss of mobility has put her in a wheelchair as ALS continues to steal her life from her. When I was here in late November she was still walking with her cane around the house, but at least she is still able to write notes to talk to us now. She was helping me locate a store so I could buy the wedding bubbles yesterday.

Crystal and Micah opening presents at the shower

Lots of fun and lots to eat, too
It is two and a half weeks until the wedding of (number three son) Micah and his lovely bride Crystal. Garry flies home a week before the wedding, I arrived in time for the bridal shower on May 10th, which our daughter Jess did a great job of organizing, it was a BBQ for guys and girls at our son Matt's house (special thanks to Kari and girls who got the house ready for company!)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Haying time in the village

 Garry has not started haying yet, he told me yesterday that he told the guys that Tuesday will be the last day they plant crops. the corn seed is nearly all planted, however they are still discing fields because they keep getting more land to rent!

However, haying is happening in the village as you can see in this photo he took. He wrote " notice only the lady is working!" Most families it is the lady of the house who milks the cows, and makes the curds cheese and cream if they sell it that way. You can tell that it has gotten hotter in Ukraine, too.

Many people in the area cut roadside grass, bring it home, spread it out on the front lawn to dry it for their cows for later use. They will pile it into hay stacks and cover it with some kind of plastic, or put it into some kind of shed. Some have small alfalfa plots in their gardens, also.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Election campaign

With the election coming up on May 25th, I thought I'd show you some of the billboards we have seen in Zaporosia and Dnepropetroesk for candidates running for president. According to polls, the leading contender is the man who makes the best candy in Ukraine, which was banned from being imported into Russia a year ago, making people there sad. If you ever see Roshen candy, buy some, it is delicious. The last article I read, Poroshenko was at about 40% of the vote- roshen is in the middle of his name, if you are confused. We have never seen an advertisement for him for president, however.

No ads up for Yulia either, but about 10 days ago, before I left,when we were in Zaporosia,  I spotted this booth across the street from the city mall, so there must be campaigning for her by the party- the Fatherland (or Motherland) party. I guess she is too well known to need billboards.

The next political party is well known, the Party of Regions, which was the party of the last president, Viktor Yanukovych. He has a lot of billboards in both cities, but this guy is not expected to win, as you can see, someone in Zap is not voting for him.

There are some other independent candidates with billboards up, but they are not expected to get much of the vote in the election. The first ones we saw were the ones that seem to promise to get back Crimea for Ukraine.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Update from Garry

John seems to be relaxing 
Garry emailed me some photos of what has been happening this week. There doesn't seem to be any of the inside of the bathrooms, however, I understand that he and his brother finished tiling in the bathrooms.
 John flew out of Dnepro on Sunday afternoon, as scheduled I assume, however I have not talked to Garry in a few days.
They did have one excursion on Thursday, sailing on the Dniper River in Zaporosia with Maria, who had contacted some sailing clubs to find a boat to rent. She uploaded some photos to facebook. John and Garry both enjoy sailing, He told me it was fun, with lots of wind (when we sailed with her in Egypt there was no wind.) Maria seemed to think that made it a it scary, so I assume the guys had fun.

I got this message from Garry-
"Here are some photos of the septic system, well drilling, and the alfalfa; we are over half done planting with around 300 acres of corn and 100 acres of sunflowers planted.  If it stays dry we should finish next week and get started on the hay."

The well drillers

Digging the septic tank

The guys he hired to help with the barn and field work started digging a septic system (with shovels)for the barn this week, and the well drillers came. He decided it would be easier and less expensive to drill one near the barn than to hook up to the old system near the pond., which was used to get water to the barns in their previous life as collective farm. He told me that their equipment looked similar to what is used in the well drilling projects in Bolivia.

You can see how fast the alfalfa is growing with all the rain this spring, here is a photo I took last Sunday morning before I left, and one John took later in the week. Looks like plenty of hay for the first cut, anyway.

Sunday May 4th

less than a week later!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Ukrainian checkpoint

Since the problems began in Eastern Ukraine a few weeks ago, we pass though checkpoints manned by the National Guard guys going to both Dnepropetroesk and Zaporosia. Both of them are set up at the regular traffic police checkpoints, so there are two policemen standing there also. Going in toward Zaporosia from our side, you have to stop at a stop sign, before the traffic circle, after zigzagging through the cement barricades set up on the four lane highway, but not on the way out of the city, then you just maneuver around the blocks of cement.

They do pull people over, but maybe just for traffic violations

zigzagging near Zaporosia

A traffic policeman wears a yellow vest

We have never been stopped while I have been in the car, possibly because most of the traffic police know who we are. Our visitors got pulled over at the regular traffic stop following us to church in Dnepro the first week they were living with us, the day of the Crimean referendum. The police asked where they lived and he said Crimea, but they had to leave so they were staying with Garry. His wife tried to explain who Garry was, but the policeman said that he knew. There are only so many Canadians driving around here, he wished them well and sent them on their way.

they painted the sandbags outside Dnepro in the village of Bratski 

 They are looking for possible pro-Russian agitators entering the cities, we assume. Victor drops off a free 6 liter jug of milk on Thursdays for the guys at the checkpoint when he returns to Dnepropetroesk with milk for sale.

Leaving Dnepro you can still use both lanes

So far all the problems have been to the east of us, nothing happens in our areas, other than pro-Ukraine demonstrations, on Saturdays or Sundays you see people out waving the flag. In Zap one Saturday the police had all the lights flashing yellow on main street for a couple hundred motorcycles with blue and yellow flags followed by a couple dozen cars with flags to bring up the rear of the parade.

So Garry is hoping to finish planting corn and sunflowers, make hay and even find some students for next fall's new class at the trade school before he joins me in Manitoba for our son's wedding in June. We even have shirts with our current slogan (thanks to the Manitoba Milk board)- it really fits our current situation in Ukraine.

An Ocean Between Us

I am in Manitoba, while Garry is still in Ukraine. He is still hanging out with his brother and they are hoping to go sailing on the Dniper River on Thursday, but now they are busy tiling the showers and bathroom walls. Tuesday while I was just trying to function on no sleep (I arrived at 1 am and slept from 3 when we got to the farm until 5:30 am) they were trying to get tiles to stick to the walls behind the toilets and sinks, grouting the shower floors, today they were going to do the shower walls Apparently the tile adhesive is a little thin, they have to hold them there for a couple minutes so they stay on. They bought white tile after dropping me off at the airport on Sunday afternoon.

Garry bailing milk out of the car
Sunday morning was exciting as we had another milk flood in the van when a valve opened on one of the jugs on the way to church. The only time it has happened before in the new vehicle, I had milk over my feet in the front seat, this time it was Garry who got wet. Sadly it was about 15 litres of milk, Garry cleaned the car out some after we dropped the milk off at Victor's church and then washed it when they got home. Lucky for me, my suitcases were up on the middle seat next to John!

Doreen with Pastor Andrei saying she is his "mother in Christ"
One of the highlights of my last church service in Ukraine was a special prayertime to send off Doreen Bauman, who is retiring from missions at the age of 72. She had returned to the mission field four years ago and was working in Kramatorsk (yes the city in the news) teaching English through Bible study, she had to leave the city a week before her classes were scheduled to end, so she missed saying goodbye to all her students there. However, she began working in Ukraine in Dnepropetroesk in 1994, and many people in the church attended the English Bible studies in her apartment and came to the Lord through her. She was flying out yesterday and will be returning to the Vancouver area.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Garry has kept his brother working

Thursday and Friday were the May Day holidays in Ukraine, but Garry and his brother John, who arrived for a visit on Sunday (he will stay 2 weeks) have not been taking any days off. Thursday our long term visitors left us to move into an apartment about two hours away. They have been here on and off, since the troubles started in Crimea, and we had a good time sharing our home with them for about a month.

Here are a few photos of the progress they have been making this week.

See our tiny flag on the roof?

one door equipment room, two bathrooms with showers

no electricity yet, see John's headlamp?

Garry has put one of the windows in the classroom

working in the shower, they got some seams plastered now

Corn on Matt's birthday

Today our oldest son Matthew is 33 years old. For most of his life, Garry has been trying to plant corn on Matt's birthday. Today they finally finished planting a field of sunflowers, that they tried to finish yesterday, when we got some rain from a passing thunderstorm. Most of the field was planted early in the week, but then we had a couple of rainy days. They plan to plant another corn field on Monday, unless it is too wet, because there is more rain in the forecast! We have never had such a wet spring in the four years we have been farming here in Ukraine.

The first 260 acres of corn is up and growing, I took a photo on Tuesday when it was poking up out of the wet ground. Today I went out to take some more and you can "row" the corn easily even in the photos.

I am sure that the boys in Manitoba are not ready to plant corn yet, since the weather is still on the cold side. I will find out when I land there on Monday night.

 Garry will be staying here in Ukraine until May 30th, but I am heading home for next Saturday's bridal shower and will stay until after the wedding on June 8th (our Micah is getting married.)

Friday, May 2, 2014

Wednesday English Club

the city entrance sign
Garry has been doing two English club meetings this year, one in Dnepropetroesk on Friday nights that finished a couple weeks ago, and one in Dneprodzertjisk (another nearby city, try pronouncing that) which finished this Wednesday, April 30th.

It is another industrial city like many our region. There is a fertilizer plant, which is not as big as it used to be according to the locals, some parts of the plant are being dismantled.

Three years ago they built a new highway that makes it much faster for us to drive to Dneprodzerjisk because we don't have to drive to (and through) Dnepropetroesk first.

the new highway

See the kid sitting on the 3 (z or zh sound) The sign is for a  factory

All the girls got ribbons to wear for the party

We enjoyed all the food and games
 There are three English teachers in the city who organized the meetings and encourage their students to come hear a native English speaker. All these ladies attend the Summer English Institute in Dnepropetroesk every summer in July. They were very excited when they asked and he agreed to come to them to do it, because we have never had a follow-up group there. He started last fall on every second Wednesday at 6:30 pm, and some evenings there were 20 people there to practice English- and hear Garry tell stories.  He was using the book How to Win Friends and Influence People for both groups. This week they had prepared a farewell banquet of Ukrainian treats that we all enjoyed before Garry got to talk about the highlights of the last chapter, .
They always ask Garry to bring milk to buy after class

driving past the fertilizer plant
We were later than normal driving home, it was 8:20 when we left the city and it was starting to get dark. We drop a few people off after every meeting as we leave the city because it is on our way to the highway.  We got home to a wonderful aroma- pulled pork that our guests had made, so Garry had to try some even though we had filled up on lots of delicious Ukrainian treats.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Last weekend

Saturday morning going through the checkpoint near Zaporosia 
 The weekend after Easter is when many Ukrainian families visit the graves of their relatives. They bring flowers to place on the grave, usually imitation ones or a memorial wreath and bring some food to eat with them, some food or drink will often be placed on the grave for the deceased to share in the meal.

We always see more cars on the road on this Sunday than any other drive to Dnepropetroesk for church, with many people traveling to the villages their families used to live from where they love now. We realized this year when we drove to Zaporosia on both Saturday and Monday that many people go on other days this weekend. Some families will clean up the gravesite at the same time, but many do this a week or two before. Often as we drive out of the village in the spring we see people walking out with a hoe or other tool in hand to the cemetery.


Cars parked along the road near a big cemetery near the railroad tracks 

More people going to a different cemetery  in Zaporosia

Flowers for sale outside the gates of that cemetery 

 Sunday morning

People from the village walking out to the graveyard

The village graveyard on the road to the highway

Many old cars have 4- 5 adults in   to go to their village

So many cars on the highway

Near a big graveyard entering Dnepro Sunday morning

same place, parking can be hard to find there this Sunday

Many families use their Easter basket to carry the food

The chestnut trees are starting to bloom in the city