Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Family Photos

 Yesterday we had a BBQ/Shashlik with all of our Zhovti Vody family here except Lena's Mom.  We finished supper and then were driven inside by wind and rain so at least it held off that long.  Problem with photos is people shooting the pics who are unfamiliar with the camera.  For the entire group, Ky set her camera up on a high stool so that pic turned out the best.

The whole family including Baba Galya (Masha's Great Grandmother) and Baba Natasha (Masha's other Grandmother) and Maxim, of course who is where ever Masha is whenever possible
Ky, Tanya, Lena and Bronwyn and of course Masha
Ky, Roman, Andrei, Bronwyn

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Party Time

We are having a BBQ/Shashlik party today for the whole family from Zhovti Vody.  Tanya and the girls are busy getting the food ready.  The girls are making hamburgers and Tanya shashlik.  Roman will be in charge of cooking, starting about 3:00.  Masha's Baba Natasha and Baba Galya will come too and I hope, Lena's mom.  Bronwyn has not met Roman and Lena yet but Tanya and Masha came with Andrei to pick us up at the station on Saturday night which was really nice. 

The girls have been playing with the dogs.  Ky has trained them both to sit on command.  The other day we were walking them and came across an abandoned two month old puppy who "followed us home".  Lucia's dog is so old, we persuaded her that she needed a new dog and of course her grandson Maxim fell in love with the puppy immediately. I hope when Zhenia gets home from his holiday that he likes the puppy too. (Yes, they take separate holidays.  When you have garden and animals - chickens, pigs, turkeys - someone has to be home.)

Yesterday we went to Dnipropetrovsk to shop.  Bronwyn has her international licence so she could drive most of the way there and back, with Tanya coaching.  Both enjoyed that but I enjoyed it more than they did. The girls bought souvenirs, clothes and handbags.  I "looked" for summer runners and a hat but couldn't find anything that fit.

Right now I am working on two consulting projects - one to finish and a new one in Siberia pending.  We may get to see Tanya's family this year after all.  Good thing Luda is putting in water, sewer and an indoor bathroom because I warned Valerie that if they didn't, the next time I came I was setting fire to their outhouse to force the issue. He is never home (trucking coal 400 km across the mountains to Tuva) and Luda is a good general contractor like her sister, so it is actually getting done.

Now I better get busy so I am finished something when it is time for people to arrive.

Friday, June 18, 2010

It's the Rules

I bought Roman a new keyboard yesterday for his birthday as his old one had a broken wire.  He took it home and it didn't work so today we took it back to the big electronics shop where we bought it.  The same girl was at the till and knew who we were.  We had the receipt and the MC slip.  They needed a passport.  Mine or Roman's.  Didn't matter but to return it they needed a passport with positive identification.  We went and got Roman's passport and got the amount credited to my MC.  I was so proud.  I had mastered enough Russian to tell them their service was terrible and that I will not buy anything from them again.

We went to a little computer shop "Mir" and got excellent service, a 5% discount card and the knowledge that problems would be dealt with immediately with no red tape.  I like small shops.

This afternoon Tanya, Ky and I drove to Krivii Rih to get the 75,000 km oil change done on the Kia.  That cost us about $120.  For an oil change.  The next one is due at 90,000 km and our warranty runs out at 100,000.  I can get it done locally by a mechanic I trust for about 1/3 that so I think we will skip the last oil change at KIA Motors.

We had a couple hours to kill while we waited for the oil change, so took a taxi to our favourite store to shop and have tea.  We got in line at a till and Tanya told Ky and I to go ahead to the on-site restaurant and wait for her.  We slipped past the other customers in the line and we hauled up sharply by the sales clerk who informed us we could NOT exit there, we had to go back to the place marked EXIT.  I thought Ky would hurt herself laughing.  She is learning about Ukraine.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sofiyivka Park

Sofiyivka Park is located just outside of the town of Uman (ooman) which is two hours (200 km)  south of Kyiv on four lane but 5 hours (324 km) from Zhovti Vody on something a little less.  We consider it a day trip and left at 6:00 am to prove it. Lena went with us as she had never been.  Lovely day, no more than 20 to 23C all day.

The park was built 200 years ago by a Polish noble in honour of his wife Sofia, one of THE most beautiful women of her time, well known in the courts of Europe and very much a character in her own right.  There is a full history on the official website linked above.

 The serpent fountain is the most recognizable symbol of the park.  
There is no pump involved, the water comes from the upper lake.

Gazebo on the "Island of Love" in the upper lake.

One of the waterfalls from the upper lake cools this grotto.

The three story house on the right is the original mansion.  
Greenhouses were added to each side

Everything is so green.

 A family of swans

 We enjoyed the huge trees and the cool shade. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Eau de Poo

The heat has been really hard on the dogs.  We have been currying them every day for the last while trying to get their fine insulating winter hair off of them.  There seemed to be no end of it, day after day of combing. 

Tanya felt that after gaining experience cutting my hair she was prepared to tackle the dogs, so with Ky's help they got a hair cut yesterday.  Between combed out hair and cut hair there was enough to start another two dogs.

Ky, Masha and I took the dogs for a walk last evening when it sort of cooled off to 30C.  They are very good on their leashes now.  We took a different route, a path on the east side of the marsh/river, angling up to a road which we double back on to go home. 

As we started up the path Bobik hit the ground in absolute ecstasy and began rolling.  Something smelled bad about this situation.  About 10 feet away were five or six wheelbarrow dumps of fresh wet pig manure.  Both dogs headed straight for it but thankfully they were on their leashes.

Bobik slipped his collar.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hotter'n the Hubs o' Hell

For the past several days it has been hot.  Thursday was hot.  Friday when Ky arrived it was hot.  Saturday when we set out to see some of Kyiv it was Gawdawful hot.  We had breakfast with our friend Natasha who is Lyn's age and the three of us set out to see the big botanical garden, arriving about 10:30.  The lilacs and peonies were done of course (the first two weeks in May are optimal for them) and we never did find the rose gardens because it was too hot to look. We would walk and rest in the shade, walk and rest.  And drink water. And sweat (or perspire if you were female).

We did climb the hill overlooking Vidyubetski monastery.  In this view you can see the Left Bank of the Dnipro River.  It is all high rise apartments, making morning and afternoon traffic on the bridges insane as businesses are on the Right Bank.

From there we went to Pecherske Lavra Monastery and went through a number of the buildings.  The two girls went into the caverns which were the original monastery 1000 years ago, to see the mummified monks.  I've been once and am afraid to go back as it is small and cramped.  I am afraid that I'll get stuck like Winnie the Poo at Rabbit's after eating honey..

We said goodbye to Natasha and caught the Express at 5:45, arriving in P'yatikhatki-Stikova at 10:00 pm.  Andrei met us at the train and said it had been 40C (104F).  Which might account for the number of liters of fluids we consumed.

We were at the house by 11:00 and Tanya had a big supper waiting. 

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I am a weary and a lonesome traveler

Ky arrived at Boryspil Airport dead tired but game to go.  I was so glad to see my girl, you wouldn't believe how good it was.

Our man Kostia couldn't meet us at the airport but his friend Sergei did and took us to our flat near the railway station.  Ky slept for three hours then we went for supper and walked around the City a bit.  She did "Walk-By Shootings" of The Golden Gate, St Sofia's Cathedral and St Micheal's Church, as of course nothing was open at that hour of the evening. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Plan B or I'm Going Anyway

Where ya goin'?
Ya got worms?
Yeah, but I'm goin' anyway.

So Ky's Victoria to Seattle flight was canceled.  Mechanical trouble.  She is coming a day later.  Too late to change my train ticket.  It is summer and the trains are full unless you book weeks in advance. So I am going to Kyiv tomorrow morning anyhow.  I'm leaving my computer home and taking my Russian to study during my day of rest. (As you said, Demeur, the best laid plans of . . .)

I haven't blogged much in the past couple of days as I have been super busy trying to finish a work project before the girls get here. Almost.  We'll see what the boss think of it.

Also helped put together a team for a bid on a sheep development project in an FSU republic.  I'm a good extension person.  I know a little about everything, not much about anything and I know the people who KNOW.  Got a call from a consulting firm about the project.  I knew one person.  She knew one person.  He knew one person.  He knew one person. So in under a week we had a four person team of exactly the right specialties and most importantly, in-country experience.  Now if we can just get a sheep development project in Ukraine. . .

Tanya and Lena have been gardening all week.  Peas, strawberries, sour cherries for jam and compote (fruit juice).  Lots of fresh garden salads.  Our lettuce is incredible this year. 

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Everything is comin' up roses

Anyone who hasn't figured out I am so very proud of Tanya's flower garden isn't paying attention.  And while there are many many beautiful flower gardens around our town, this one is close, so it is easy to take pictures.  (Lois, I hope you and Jerry come and visit us in summer as Tanya would love to learn your expertise and ideas about organizing the flower beds).

The warm weather after the rain is really bringing on the summer flowers.  And the kitchen gardens.  Lena and Tanya froze the first five packages of peas today.  And Victor's cow got a bucket of pea shells.

The girls better get here quick as Tanya's roses are going to peak in the next week or two!!

In a few more days this area will be filled with roses
This tea rose bush is just loaded with blossoms.  It was planted three years ago.
Tanya loves yellow roses.  Maybe she has Texas roots somewhere?
Her first Calla Lillies
Tanya's favourite flowers; she calls them "Grandmother's bells" in Russian

Friday, June 4, 2010

Teaching New Dogs Old Tricks

We cannot let Bobik and Volk run free anymore as they tend to romp through people's gardens and damage a few plants. Which doesn't bother me but tends to bother other people.  So the other day, we had to tie them up in order to have free passage between their yard and the back yard.  The two trees were just far enough apart they could touch noses but not tangle each other. 

Bobik figured out immediately what was up and sat in the shade and watched the world go by.  Volk wanted to fight the leash and spent most of his time wrapped around the tree.  First thing he did was dump his water dish.

In other news, the stray German Shepard female we found a home for had eight pups.  Our Post Lady was laughing with Tanya that they have no idea what they will do with them.  I am sure they will all find homes, though.

Kuchma has found a new girl friend, way down at the end of our street.  White and gray, pretty spooked of us, as when he brings her home for dinner, she runs if we come outside. 

We started buying milk from a neighbour down the street.  Three litre jar every Sunday morning.  We would as soon pay him as the grocery store and it has 4 or 5 inches of cream on top by Monday morning.  Kuchma thinks he has died and gone to heaven.  Roman too.  Tanya puts it in her coffee but the cat and the kid actually drink the stuff.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

June Garden Update

Part of the side flower garden
Front end of side flower garden
Another part of the side flower garden
Masha's Flower Garden and our "lawn".  
We are letting it go to seed to help thicken it up.  
What kind of grass it is I don't know.  Ideas anyone?
Strawberry Fields Forever.
The strawberries are just starting and there will be many.  That picture is just 2/3 of the patch.
To the left, just out of the picture are two cherry trees.  We are picking one now and the other will be ready in a week or less.
Corner shot of our kitchen garden.  It goes to the stake you can just see about centre of that building.  Peas will be ready next week.  

Nature are her best

Our fruit trees outdid themselves with blossoms this year, maybe to make up for the fact that there were none last year because of late frost.  This shot of two of our apple trees in early May.

We finally got the rain we've been needing and everything is growing green.  This shot from our upstairs balcony was taken late in May after an early evening thundershower.

Embrace Life - Buckle Up

This is the new "wear your seatbelt" ad the UK is doing - started by some guy not hired to do it, but because the cause is important to him, he came up with this idea, and now it's being hailed across the world as a beautiful' commercial. ...And now the video has become so popular with the general public that people are forwarding it to friends/family on their own so quickly that it has spread all over the world in a very short time.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What I did on my summer vacation

A "friend" made a snide remark about my exciting life.  Well!! Like I have nothing to do!!!  I wrote this report for an NGO to which I belong and though I have blogged about bits and pieces, when you add them all up it does look like I was actually busy these past five months. So there.

January – went  to Kazakhstan to “advise” a 150,000 ha farm on developing a beef cattle enterprise.  Their government is investing and the farm is wired in solid enough to get BIG dollars.  They had 1200 cows mostly in milk under typical FSU mis-management and wanted to hit 30,000 cows and 25,000 fed animals within 4 or 5 years, using sexed embryo transfer and getting 100% conception and 100% heifers .  They had 50,000 ha of grazing land 60 km from HQ where they intended to drylot the cows year round (including stabling them in winter) as the grass was “too far away”.  

Owner of the big farm company was a Kazakh who felt he was God and the world should revolve around him.  I don’t revolve well.  His 2IC was a Ukrainian named Victor with whom I could have worked and for whom I felt very badly that he was stuck with such a boss. I convinced them they should maybe go to Canada and see how beef cattle were raised.  They did spend five days and got a good education but it was apparently not what they wanted to here as they have since cut off all correspondence with the company  that contracted me.  

February and March –prepared PowerPoint Presentations for a three day beef school.  Scrapped most of my old presentations and started fresh, including new material from internet.  Slides were sent for translating and then fancied up and pictures added

March – visited  a large corporate farm in northern Ukraine which had been purchasing any and all purebred beef cattle they could find.  Want to be a pure breeder of Charolais, Simmental, Limousin and Angus and will consign the “composite” breeds (designed by Ukrainian researchers who seem to think they are useful) to his zoo-park.  His cattle were located on three sites.  About half the Simmentals were in dreadful condition, the other half not bad, some should have been put down.  Vitamin A deficiency and TM deficiency but mostly feed deficiency as they had not planned for so many cattle and were running out of feed. He had just put lick tubs of minerals out for the cattle so that was positive. 60 km away they had two more farms with lots of feed and could have been hauling all winter when the roads were good.  I have no idea what their livestock specialists and veterinarians learn in school or actually do on the job.  I’d have fired them both at the SM farm.

I gave him a raft of ideas (in English and he said he could find a translator).  He buys dairy semen from the company of our friend Volodya so I hope I get more involved with the guy. He is quick to learn but is getting consulting advice from a senior beef cattle research scientist from near Kyiv who doesn’t know a damn thing about raising beef cattle in my opinion.  Cattle in barns at night, calves in same pens as cows wintered.  Outside pens too small for calving cows. Lots of scours etc etc. But the farm is just starting and anxious to make changes and do it right and two of the farms were pretty good.  I can work with them.

March – presented a three day ‘beef school’ at Agro-Soyuz. They provided facilities and translated all my ‘000 of slides and provided an interpreter.  The head of the AS consulting arm is new and did a terrible job of advertising for the school.  He learned he needs to do more things himself such as follow up.  Five of the participants from Chita in eastern Siberia (where the Decembrists were exiled in 1825 for history buffs among you), east of Lake Baikal  They were awesome students.  Asked the right questions and tough ones to boot.
Their Economist (what we would call an accountant) was also very well read up on nutrition.  Shock.  That impressed me as much as anything.  Their vet wouldn’t know Copper from Calcium.  Four of them want to go to Canada and that is currently in the works.  

They raise beef cattle outside in weather that makes Sask seem like banana belt.  Seven months of winter and monthly mean temps from Nov-March are 10 degrees colder than Saskatoon with strong winds.  Summers about the same as Sask and rain mostly in June, July, August.  Like Mongolia.  Tanya and I are both hoping we get the nod to go there and work with them for a while but that will be up to AS.

April – made a presentation about how Canadian research supports the Canadian beef industry at a conference organized by the Institute of Animal Science at Kharkiv. My presentation was well received and I now have an in with the Ukrainian Academy of Agrarian Sciences.  The vice director took me on a tour of their labs and I was pleased not only to see a feed test lab that can do ADF, NDF, ADIN but also people who know what they mean.  They have done a pile of feed analysis across Ukraine and have compiled a book of nutritional values ON A DRY MATTER BASIS.  There is hope for the world.

The vice director also confirmed that Cobalt and Iodine are both dreadfully lacking in Ukrainian feedstuffs.  Which explains my observation of Cobalt deficiencies in cattle in many instances and my understanding that Iodine is in short supply in food and feed except near oceans.  (Confirmed o by a WHO report that says 70% of Ukrainians are low in iodine.  We are now finding iodized salt on store shelves but most people prefer good old rock salt because they have not the extra 20 cents).  

The Vice Director gave me a publication of their research centre in Russian and English which I read and I just shake my head at their research.  Much of it appears to be unconnected to anything living or dead. I plan on writing the director a long paper outlining my concerns and getting it professionally translated so they have no excuse to ignore it. If they ignore me I will copy it to the head of UAAS and the Minister of Agrarian Policy, like I did with a letter to the National Agricultural University in Kyiv in 2006.

April – article published in Animal Industry Today (How Canadian Beef Producers Lower Production Costs).  I got feedback from a Sumy farmer’s wife who thought they could adapt some of my ideas with their 18 cow herd. Made my day.  The paper I wrote for the Kharkiv conference will likely appear in the June or July issue. I plan on keeping one a month if I can find time to write and if they will still publish me.

May – went to a dairy seminar at Agro-Soyuz, sponsored by our friend Volodya and his American genetics company. The American company don’t have much doing in beef but I assured them that I could do dairy nutrition between 2,500 kg and 6,000 kg milk and stuff like quality feed production etc. They may have some work for me in future.  Also met Volodya’s counterpart from Belarus who said they were sure interested in beef cattle up there so I am going to chase that too.

Future – MAY have work in Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.  WILL have another beef school at Agro-Soyuz, dates unconfirmed.  

Just as an aside, Volodya called the president of the Ukrainian Beef Producer’s Association (he has been president for at least two decades, I met him 10 years ago) to tell him about the beef school.  He was furious that AS dared to hold a beef school when it should be HIS organization and no he wouldn’t tell anyone because he was “organizing a beef seminar for the same week”.

Next beef schools, Tanya will present with me. That makes me very happy.