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

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Farm report

That's right, a topical blog post. Not tropical, although it is supposed to be 15 C tomorrow, Garry tells me. (Close to 60 F for American minds) I guess I can put away my flannel lined pants I broke out for wearing in the house when we arrived two weeks ago, when it was maybe less than that inside. The new house insulation helped the gas bill, so far it has been way less than last year, but we aren't wasting any money on gas by turning it up. Garry is already talking about being able to turn it off soon.

The bees may even venture out of the hives tomorrow, I'll look at them in the afternoon. Garry, after consulting with Victor and Max has decided that the cheese plant will be built here on this yard, instead of by the the new barn, for security purposes. He has added some separate space for honey processing to the building. Last year Victor did it in the summer kitchen, but Maria has moved into "the Little House", and a dedicated space with a lock and key would be ideal for honey too. This spring they plan to increase the number of hives from seven to twenty-five, I believe.

Milk production has risen steadily since Garry's return, he thought they would hit 800 liters yesterday- they did, 803, a new record- they have been in the 700 and up range for two weeks now. It sounds good, but it's only an average of about 12 liters a cow per day, since they are milking 70 cows now. Garry's adjustments to routine and feeding are working, and there have been a few fresh cows, with more getting ready to calve.
 He told me today that he thinks he has tractorist Sasha trained to adjust the feed ration by himself now- Sasha runs the TMR. (It stands for total mixed ration- think of it as a big mixer that stirs all the cows feed together and shoots it out on the feed alley- or plate for them so they eat all their "veggies" and have trouble sorting out and not eating the stuff they don't like that's good for them). Production should rise more as soon as we get a delivery of brewers grain, they haven't been able to buy any because the breweries all shut down over the holiday period (like every winter), but we heard that they started making beer again last week. As soon as all the regulars get their deliveries we should have some, it is the barley left over after the liquid is drawn off to make beer, and has easily digested protein for cows, so some will go into the TMR everyday for the milking cows and they should give more milk.

Garry's walking boot needs lots of cleaning, between walking
in the mud everywhere outside and the manure in the barn!
Yesterday Garry spent the morning cleaning the pipeline (the pipes the milk goes through between the cow's udder and the cooling tank). It had gotten really dirty inside, from improper washing while he was gone, and they have been trying to fix the reason it's not getting clean- it has to do with the way the water and air move though the pipes to hit all the surfaces with sufficient force. I had to wash his jeans when he came in, because he probably got some lye on them, which was what they were using as a super cleaner. Then he raced (limped?) off with a bowl of dinner, after scrubbing his walking boot because he had to drive the (second year) students to class in Dnepro.

Today Max had to go pay the last month's electric bill in Zaporozhye for the new barn. It almost 10,000 grivna, so they are trying to find some ways to save electricity. Garry has been trying to get the crews to milk the cows faster, by not wasting time while the vacuum pump is on, including chasing the cows in from the holding area into the milk parlor more efficiently. They have decided to put a timer on the water heaters so they are not working during "daytime hours" but just holding the heated water. There is an eight hour cheaper night rate from 11 pm to 7 am, so one milking takes place then, and hopefully two of the cleaning cycles, and the afternoon milking would be with the water waiting in the tanks. The difference between day and night electricity? It costs five times as much during the sixteen hours from 7 am am to 11 pm.

Styrofoam incubator

I can hear the neighbors' roosters crowing this morning. Garry has purchased an incubator to hatch eggs, Max brought it yesterday, and we were surprised to see that its made of Styrofoam. Its supposed to turn the eggs automatically. I am not sure if this means we will have chickens, since we only had the roaming ones from the neighbors in our yard for the last seven years. I am told that Max and Vova (group home parent from the boys house) have both lost some chickens over the winter and need replacements. I guess we'd need a chicken coop, since the one the ducks lived in (see summer of 2011) has fallen down, and it was where the cheese plant will be built anyway. Now he needs to find some fertilized eggs to buy to put in it.

Planning for spring planting is ongoing, with the fertilizer being delivered on Monday. It was an all day process, with Garry supervising moving stuff around to make room to store it in the morning. He says his foot is a good excuse to get other people to do the heavy lifting, but I think he may still be overdoing it at times.

The delivery truck was supposed to arrive between two and three, but was delayed when it was stopped at a checkpoint and was made to change two of its tires before proceeding to the village. It arrived around five pm.This year they got more small (100 pound? kilo?) bags than giant totes that you need a loader tractor to pick up. However, they couldn't get the totes out until they had unloaded the small bags by hand, which had been thrown in on top, willy-nilly. It was a tangled mess to unload, I'm told.

They must have finished around eight pm, because that's about when Max and the guy from the fertilizer came to our house to count money, (I am not sure if it was the truck driver, it may have been, but often a separate money collecting boss comes to collect the cash for things). I know it took about an hour, because they both have to count the stacks and decide if they agree on how much is there. This took place on my kitchen table, while I was crocheting and watching television. No one in Ukraine wants to hand their boss too little money, because the difference will come out off their salary. I think the count was off by a couple hundred grivna according to the guy, so Max got more out of the box to give him. Then he needed a bag, to put the pile in, so there went another one of my used grocery bags.

Garry arrived home just as they finished with the money, he was off in another village breeding a cow, It was his second out of the village insemination of the day, and it was in the village which is ten kilometers away through the field roads, but forty when its muddy and you have to take the highway. Of course it was very muddy, since the old snow and the Sunday snow was all melting, so the driver who picked him up had to take the long way around and he was slow (often Garry gets picked to breed cows, he charges less if he doesn't drive there and almost always it is a very old Lada or Zaz car, they find a place for Garry and the semen tank to ride.) Once Garry got to the village he realized that he had forgotten his breeding rod, so the guy had to drive all the way back to the new farm to get it and then back to his village to breed the cow and then take Garry home. It was 9:15 when he arrived home.

Lots of mud getting tracked into the house now!

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