Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Pfft you were gone

Blame this on Juno.  He started it.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Business as Usual in Ukraine...or not

Someone chided me for not updating the Ukraine situation in a long while.  I guess it is time.  There is a great deal of change or none depending on what you look at. There are likely more than 50 articles per day across my Facebook news feed or my email.  some days I read them all and some days I can't face any of them.

Minsk II calls for "special recognition" in a new Ukrainian constitution of the Russian controlled Donbas.  This is Russia's attempt to bury the Donbas inside Ukraine in such a way that it will render the country ungovernable and totally under Kremlin control.

Europe and America continue to put a great deal of stress on Ukraine unilaterally living up the the Minsk agreement whether or not Russia does.  Russia, of course, says it has no responsibility to the Minsk agreements as it is not involved in the conflict.

A new constitution has gone to the Rada for first or second reading (I forget which).  It does devolve certain powers to the Oblasts but falls far short of making Ukraine a Federation as Russia demands.  It contains a clause that says to the effect that special status for the Donbas will be determined in a separate law.

Proroshenko says there will be no further discussion of special recognition until all foreign troops and equipment is removed from Donbas and Ukraine is back in full control of the Russian border.  Like that will happen.  Ukraine's best bet is a frozen conflict that leaves Russia holding the bag.  Whether Putin will allow that to happen or not is open to debate.

Putin has opened another front in his hybrid war with the west, this time in Syria.  Russia has a naval base in Syria and has openly supported Assad against all comers.  Russia is moving troops, planes and ground equipment into Syria and offering to "cooperate" with America against ISIS.  This puts America in the awkward position of either refusing help against ISIS or helping Russia to support Assad, whom America has been opposing through support of certain rebel groups.  There is also suspicion Putin will try to trade this for a freer hand against Ukraine.

At the same time the ceasefire is suddenly holding.  There have been no shelling, no rocket attacks, no infiltration of rebel troops, no one killed or injured for the first time in 18 months.  This is likely part of Putin's strategy to sow more discord in Europe relating to non-renewal of sanctions. The Russian economy is in the tank and Putin needs to get at least EU sanctions lifted so he can in return lift the bans on imported food, medicine and whatever.  The Kremlin's response to Western sanctions has always been to make the Russian people suffer.

The new constitution is not without its detractors.  Three far right nationalist parties, led by Svoboda, held a mass rally in front of the Rada during the reading and voting demanding that all devolution of powers away from the central government be removed.  A grenade was thrown and three National Guard were killed and several people injured. Russian agents may have been involved in stirring the pot as Russia uses both the far right and left to its advantage.

Adding insult to injury, I just saw this today.  Russia has of course been hauling coal across the line from Donbas to Russia since day 1 and their "humanitarian convoys" have loaded high tech equipment from Donbas factories for their backhaul.  Now armed Russians have entered Donbas with combine harvesters and threshed the sunflower crop, hauling it back to Russia, leaving the farmers with bare fields.

More some other day.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Remembering the Farm - Cows III

Milk is not my favourite beverage.  In terms of volume consumption, coffee ranks first, tea second, water and juice third. Milk is about 257th. I enjoy chocolate milk or on corn flakes and other cereals and any kind of dairy product that doesn't taste like milk.  Natural yogurt is out as is buttermilk or kefir. I love cheese of all kinds, ice cream and milk shakes, flavoured yogurt.  Anything but liquid drinkable milk. I have drunk kumis (fermented mare's milk, bluish, 6% alcohol) and shubat (fermented camel's milk, thick, no alcohol) just for bragging rights.

It is a learned behaviour going back to the days of my youth when milk was forced upon me. If you put a bag of mothballs up to a cow's nose, the taste and smell will be in the milk within minutes. Our milk cows feasted on stink weed laden stubble fields in spring and fall, crested wheat grass pasture in summer and absorbed the flavours of 10 to 15 animals, bovine and equine, kept in a small barn during the winter.

Until my dad got a job driving school bus in the fall of 1960, we depended on the cream check for cash money.  Not sure how many cows dad milked but likely 5 or 6 maximum.  Our cream separator was driven by a small electric motor after 1953 when we got power. Skim milk went to the calves who were stunted for lack of energy.  Cream was kept cool down the well in long slim cans hung from chains.  Not sure how often we shipped.  We had two five gallon cream cans and one three gallon.

Our separator was rigged with a pulley and electric motor after 1953

Typical cream can, though some were painted around the top
The cream was taken to the railway station in Cavell and sent to the creamery in Biggar 40 miles away.  The empty cans came back two days later.  The cans were tagged with a cardboard tag fastened with thin silver wire. Tag wire served as the duct tape of its day as it was useful for fastening anything.

Mom would wash the separator, cream cans and milk pails and scald them with boiling water.  Milk was strained into the bowl on top of the separator through a cloth.  Especially in winter it "took the lumps out". Shelf life of unrefrigerated milk was about 15 minutes.  If I drank today what I drank as a kid, I would be so sick as I would have no tolerance for the bacteria. There are other dangers as well.  Two of my friends spent a year in a sanitorium with TB from drinking unpasteurized milk.  My late wife did not get TB but her blood titre was so high that all the scratch tests for TB were positive and so it was X-rays all the way. To this day, I am fanatical about people drinking only homogenized milk.

Eventually I was old enough to milk cows, though Dad always did the morning milking. Unless a cow is an easy milker, a young kid with not enough strength in their hands to milk quickly and smoothly can ruin a good cow by making her hard to milk.  Some of our cows were killers to milk.  One cow, Jane was her name, part Jersey from her horns but quiet enough to milk in the yard untied, was so hard to milk.  I hated milking her and was glad when she was old enough to retire to hamburger and roasts.

Ollie tried to slip the ring on Leena's finger while she was milking.
 For 20 minutes he was engaged to Bessie the cow
Her teats* were a bit on the large size for small hands.  But she was apparently nothing like my grandfather's cow named Turnip Teats. Another cow I recall was called Brenda, after the neighbour's daughter from whom we bought her.  She was a good milker and easy to milk, (the cow, not the daughter).  Other cows were Ramona and Beauty, purebred Red Poll.  Good cows but a bit spooky.  More than one bucket got kicked over.  Worse case scenario, a cow would get her foot in the bucket, necessitating a trip back to the house for a clean pail.

Once the school bus checks started coming we were down to one cow milked for home use.  She would be milked at night for just how much we needed and then her calf turned loose until next morning.  I have always been in favour of letting calves do the milking

*Note: it is teats, not tits.  A tit is a bird. Though I suppose that if someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture and not think of The Lone Ranger is a dedicated music lover, then a dedicated bird watcher would be someone who can see a pair of Great Tits and not think of Dolly Parton.

Cows I and Cows II are here and here.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Remembering the Farm - Beets, turnips and jacknives

We dug the last of the beets today, to go down in the root cellar.  Tanya and I were sitting in +33C shade cutting the tops off when I remembered an incident from my distant past.

At age 10, I had saved enough money to buy a Stockman's knife.  A real knife, not one of those $2 toys that some of the boys took to school, so dull they wouldn't cut butter.  It was $10 at the Leipzig Coop and I had been watching it for months hoping it would still be there when I had the money.

Early October I bought the knife and proudly carried it home in my jeans pocket.  It was very sharp and Dad warned me to be careful.  If I cut myself the knife would sit on the window over the sink for a month to remind me to be more careful.

The day I brought it home we dug the turnips. I was topping turnips with my new knife and, of course, sliced my thumb. Dad was so upset.  He put my knife up on the window as he said he would but because I had been working, not fooling around, all I had to do was ask any time I wanted to use it.

Over time, the point broke off the long blade (don't ask) and the bone handles broke but unless someone threw it out it should still be in a treasure box someplace.

This is exactly what my knife looked like

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I am so loved. My own workshop!

Tanya is never idle, as those of you who read my blog may have gathered.  She has a huge flower garden, a big kitchen garden which take a lot of her time.  She is also chief cook (I an chief bottle washer).  Only she can maneuver our way through the endless bureaucracy that is life in Ukraine.  Yesterday she was two hours in P'yatikhatki, dropping off my passport.  They had forgotten to tell her she needed to make a second payment at the bank which took an hour in line, then another hour to persuade them to give her a document indicating that they had my passport.

Yet she is never too busy to get or to give a kiss or a hug or a pat on the arm.  And at night when she snuggles up to me and puts her arm over me and hugs me, I feel so very loved.

Tanya has also been busy since May 2014 with contractors doing work on our house and yard. I posted a few days ago about our new fence. She enjoys this so much, she should have been in house construction.  Seriously.  I call her Генерална Контрактовна, General Contractor (pun intended). Our garage was filled with stuff with no where to put it.  The walls and ceiling were black with exhaust smoke from the old Lada and the single bulb hanging from a cord in the middle of the ceiling illuminated nothing. This spring she had Zhenia clean it up and paint the walls white, install a ceiling and real lights.  He with another man helping (he doesn't try to do everything by himself since his heart attack) just built me a workbench and shelving so now I have a real workshop.

Tanya bought the wood to build it.  I knew she bought it but thought she would just buy the rough cut green lumber from the little mill two blocks away.  The stuff I built Volk's doghouse from last fall - which now has a half inch gap between all the boards.  I could have lived with that easy enough. But no, she wanted it nice for me and bought kiln-dried dimension lumber for framing and planed tongue and groove 30 mm or 1 1/4"  flooring for shelves and bench top. Flooring is the only planed lumber available in Zhovti Vody.  I nearly cried when I realized what she had done.  I am so loved.

And you have no idea how much I love her.

Four meters of shelving and bench

Workbench and shelving for tools and small stuff

Shelving for big stuff

Ceiling with lights

Looking out the garage door

Breaker panel. We have 1 km of wiring in our home

Door into the house

Thursday, August 20, 2015

I had one once, but the wheels fell off

Tanya and I went to Dnipropetrovsk today.  We had a number of things to do so bought tickets for the 6:00 am bus.  Tanya made arrangements for a taxi for 5:30 so we would have enough time. The taxi was 15 minutes late.  Tanya had already chewed Dispatch a new one and lit into the young driver on the way.  He was breaking every speed law trying to get us there on time and taking "shortcuts".  In a 90 degree world, there are no shortcuts.  There are routes with fewer holes but he wasn't taking those.  About two blocks from the bus depot, his back wheel came off and passed us on the road.

We paid him off and started walking.  Tanya phoned Dispatch to phone the bus depot to hold the bus.  She did and they did.  We left at 6:05. Lina had been in Dnipro since Monday so we met her for late breakfast at about 10:00.  Then we had a long coffee with our friend Natalia whom we had not seen for quite some time.  She travels the world on business and has a daughter in University between Warsaw and Amsterdam so we were fortunate to find her in the city.

We met Lina for lunch at an Azeri restaurant about 1:00 pm.  The food was Ukrainian but the desserts were Azeri, Turkish, Iranian and Arabic.  We brought home a bag of Baklava. I wanted 3 kilograms but no such luck.

At 3:00 we went to the Police Station to get my clearance certificate saying I had been a good boy since moving to Ukraine.  My two almost speeding tickets from years back didn't show up.  The officers had settled out of court for small unmarked bills, thanks to Tanya's negotiating skills.  We will take this new document to P'yatikhatki on Tuesday.  That will allow them to complete the document set I need to take to Immigration in Dnipro to get a stamp on the back page of my passport to match my Permanent Residency card.

Poor Sveta walked to our place (she LOVES to walk anyhow) to look after our critters only to find Tanya had forgotten to leave her a house key.  She got lucky actually.  Tanya spent all yesterday afternoon cooking and the sink was full of dirty dishes and pots.  They are my morning job while coffee brews and Sveta does not have to do them but if there is work to be done she cannot leave it alone.

Bonya was not so lucky.  He wanted into the house as we were leaving.  We thought fine, Sveta can let him out when she gets there.  He was all day in the house with no litter box. When he heard us at the door at 6:30 pm, he was down the stairs in a flash and went by us at the speed of light out into the garden.  How he could run so fast with his legs crossed is beyond me.

We always made fun of Grandma L for stuff in her medicine cupboard that was YEARS past the expiry date.  I posted on Facebook a while back that my Vicks Vap-o-Rub was 16 (now 17) years past expiry which beat Grandma's record.  My Desenex foot powder must be 20 years out of date as the active ingredient quit working finally this week. Tanya bought me some new stuff called Lamikon.  The active ingredient is turbinafine 1%.  This is just so I can work in a line about Miss Grey Cup with athlete's fetus in case there is someone living who hasn't heard the  joke before.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Gallipoli Campaign – April 25, 1915 to January 9, 1916

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign.  What you know of Gallipoli, or if you have even heard of it, will depend more on where you are from than anything else. If Canada became a nation under the baptism of fire on Vimy Ridge in April 1917, Australia and New Zealand came of age on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915 and Turkish, as opposed to Ottoman, nationalism was given a huge boost.

Mostly when we think of WWI, we think of trench warfare in Belgium and France.  But it was truly fought all over Europe on several fronts.  The Ottoman Empire, reeling and bankrupt from disastrous wars in the Balkans from 1911 to 1913, was neutral.  The navy was initially pro-British and the army, under Minister of War Enver Pasha, was pro-German, dreaming of restoring lost territory and lost glory. 

Britain had seized two British-built battleships, which had been bought and paid for by Turkey.  The Germans, anxious to have an ally in Eastern Europe and the Middle East offered two ships in return.  The Goeben and the Breslau eluded a ham-fisted British naval attempt to intercept them (a great story in itself) and reached Constantinople.  They were “turned over” to the Ottoman navy but kept their German crews and commanders. In November 1914, they entered the Black Sea under Turkish flags and shelled Odessa, Sevastopol, and Nikolayev.  Russia promptly declared war on Turkey and the Black Sea was closed to Allied ships trying to supply the Russian Army.

In February and March 1915, the British and French navies tried to force their way through the Dardanelles to Constantinople.  The narrow channel was well defended by shore batteries and “The Narrows” was heavily mined, causing the loss of three British ships.  Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, put forward a scheme to land Allied troops on the Gallipoli Peninsula and wrest control of the shore batteries and The Narrows, which would effectively take Turkey out of the war. 

A basic map of the Gallipoli Peninsula, showing landing areas 

The links on the maps below take you to pages which will blow up quite large on your screen and provide a pretty good idea of the action timelines and the terrain.


The campaign was doomed from the start.  British military intelligence, that oxymoron to end all oxymorons, was thin on the ground.  They did not know the geography of the area and badly underestimated the fighting abilities of the Turkish Army.  Like a great deal of Turkey, the area was mountainous and the Turks held the high ground. They were ably led by Mustafa Kemal who is better known to the world today as Kemal Ataturk, the Father of all Turks.

The landings took place beginning April 25th. The British and French landed on Cape Hellas, the southern tip of the peninsula, under heavy fire.  The ANZACs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) landed farther up the western coast at Gaba Tepe (in what is now referred to as ANZAC Cove), with the intent of catching the Turkish Army between the two forces.  Except they landed two miles off from where they were supposed to, in impossibly difficult terrain and were slaughtered as they came ashore.  Both armies fought to establish beachheads and held on under constant bombardment.

In spite of best efforts on both sides, neither could dislodge the other.  Stalemate and trench warfare developed similar to that in France.  An August offensive gained some ground at great cost in casualties on both sides. On September 20th, another offensive was launched, this time with British Troops, including 1074 members of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment landing in Suvla Bay to assist the ANZACS. This offensive, which was Newfoundland’s introduction to the war, also failed.

The decision was made to withdraw and on December 7 the troops began to be taken off and by January 9, 1916 the last one embarked for home.  Of 480,000 Allied troops, there were 250,000 casualties including 48,000 killed. This does not count those struck down by dysentery from the heat and unsanitary conditions.  The Turks also counted 250,000 casualties of which 65,000 were killed.

Churchill, whose brainchild this was, resigned and took a commission on the battlefield in France. 

Australia and New Zealand celebrate ANZAC Day April 25 as we celebrate Armastice Day Nov 11th. 

In 1934 Atatürk wrote a tribute to the Anzacs killed at Gallipoli:
Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives ... You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours ... You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.
Kemal Atatürk Memorial, Anzac Parade, Canberra, Australia
A detailed write up of the campaign can be found on Wikipedia here and on History.com here. The Australian story can be found here, here and here. The New Zealand Story can be found here. The Turkish side of the story here.

The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, the ballad of an Australian soldier at Gallipoli is one of the saddest anti-war songs ever written.