Thursday, July 21, 2011

And we're off,,,in a shower of camel dung and small stones.

Sitting in the boarding lounge by Gate 5, waiting for a bus to haul us out in the rain to the 737 sitting somewhere on the tarmac.  The Canadian Embassy has been very very helpful in lining up meetings, recommending translation services and finding a driver.  The LogoGuy has put together a decent logo for our new venture.  Tomorow I arrive at 6:20 am, get picked up along with four other Canadians who arrive at 6:05 am and go to the hotel.  Sleep will be short as I have two meetings possibly three or four that day/evening. 

Sat and Sun are taken up with the Crop Conference where I will learn what is going on in grain farming in Kazakhstan.  Mon to Thurs noon meetings with interested parties.  Then turn myself over to the organizers of the Exhibition and Livestock Forum until the morning of August 1.

My visa is EXACTLY for July 21 to August 1.  Makes a person feel welcome.  Like Ukraine and Russia, there is a wide gulf between the Politics and the people.

Loading call.  Bye.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Organization? What organization?

Got my airline ticket to Kazakhstan today, much to our relief.  Tanya insisted we phone the event organizing agency so we did.  Thank you, skype.  The had been purchased but why didn't I have it?  They would check and call back.  Three hours later we called back.  Still checking.  An hour later the ticket arrived attached to an email.  Bought on July 14. 

The email with the ticket attached also informed me they were changing my presentation topic again, back to the one I had done first and sent them two weeks ago.  The Kazakhstan Ministry of Agriculture is the organizer and paying the bills so they call the tune, I guess.  The research and preparation time on the second topic wasn't wasted as it brought me up to speed on another aspect of the Canadian cattle industry.  (Ken, when you read this, I still need your comments).

As I was saying about organizing a drunken party at a brewery...

Biscuit Recipe for Dana

Everyone has their own biscuit recipe but basically there isn't any difference between the recipes. The lightness of the biscuits, like the flakiness of pie crust, is in the flour and the skill of the cook. On a bad day mine double as pale hockey pucks. Two weeks ago, I was baking on autopilot, which is to say, half asleep.  I threw the first pan in the oven and instead of turning on the timer, turned off the oven.  They rose nicely when I checked in 10 minutes.  Turned the oven back on and they were still edible.

This is the family recipe, from a Robin Hood Cookbook that my Aunt Eva gave Ella and I as a wedding gift more than 37 years ago.  Best cookbook ever and out of print.  I contacted Robin Hood a few years back but they said no plans to reprint it.  It was WELL used, while every one of her other two dozen cook books gathered dust somewhere in the house.

Tanya doesn't use recipes, in the grand tradition of Ukrainian cooks everywhere. But she does experiment.

Baking Powder Biscuits

3 1/2 cups flour.
2 tbs baking powder
2 tsp salt 
1/2 cup shortening (I use cooking oil or butter)
1 1/2 cup milk (preferably sour).

Spoon or pour flour into dry measuring cup. Level off and pour into mixing bowl. Add baking powder and salt. (I add a hand full of sugar so the biscuits brown nicely). Stir well to blend. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender (I use a fork) until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add milk all at once and stir with fork until all ingredients are moistened. Turn out onto lightly floured surface. Round up and knead gently about 20 times. (It is nice to be kneaded). Roll out dough (the rest of the paragraph is missing or illegible).

Bake at 450 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

sunday Biscuit Brunch

Sunday morning Victor delivers three liter jar of fresh farm milk.  The left over milk from last Sunday is pretty sour but perfect for baking-powder biscuits so I usually throw a couple pans in the oven for brunch. That is when I miss Roger's Golden Syrup (sugar cane syrup).

Today's biscuits were pretty good so I took some to Lena and Roman. Lena's eyes lit up when she saw them.  Once their kitchen is renovated and she gets an oven, she wants to learn how to make them.  Tanya's Babushka used to make them when Tanya was young and she would eat them with fresh cream.

Since we have fresh green beans from our garden, Tanya stir fried green beans and onions (also from our garden) and then threw in a couple of eggs and scrambled the works.  It is good and can be doctored up any way you like.  If we have mushrooms they go into the pan.  I suppose if we had rice we could make bean friend rice (I don't care if it has BEEN fried rice, what is it NOW?... but I digress).

The revised presentation is finished and emailed to all and sundry.  Including a friend of mine in Canada who will read it for accuracy.  I called Ken to warn him.  He was on his way back from the North American Livestock Auctioneer Championships in Calgary where he finished a respectable "in the top two-thirds". I understood that perfectly and congratulated him for taking a run at it.  Next year...

Tanya sorted through all my clothes today and we decided what I needed or don't need to take.  My suitcase is semi-packed packed and I still don't have my air ticket.  Good thing they aren't organizing a drunken brawl at a brewery or we'd be in real trouble.

Now I can get caught up on all the other stuff that has been left undone.  Like read a few blogs from other people.  If I haven't left a comment lately on your blog, Don't worry (or worry, whichever) I will catch up eventually.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A(nother) Day in the Life of Ivan Awfulich

Five days left until I leave for Kazakhstan.  The organizers still have not sent my air ticket.  This is not comforting.

They changed my presentation topic while I was in Kyiv earlier this week.  Since the whole purpose of the trip is to knock on doors and meet with prospective clients, doing a good job on this new topic is critical.  Since I got home Tuesday night, I have been wrestling with the new computer (1 day), wrestling with the new computer and researching the topic (1 day) and researching the topic (1 day).  Haven't been outside the house more than 10 minutes.  Days like this are why they tell you that the office chair is THE most important investment for small consulting business like mine.

Tanya has had to take taxi to town as I have not had time to drive her.  Round trip is $5.00.  She wants to learn to drive but not on a standard transmission.  A few more days of taxi and she might brave even that.

A ten to fifteen minute presentation on a subject new to the country is no easy task. My approach is to start with a one hour presentation and then edit, edit, edit.  Each word must be not only essential but translatable and understandable.  When I say COWS I want it translated COWS, not CATTLE.  When I say FORAGE, I want it understood as grass and legumes for grazing or hay or crops grown for grazing, silage or green feed.  Took me 12 years to learn that the Russian noun "forage" means feed/food of all kinds, which it can also mean in English.

They wanted a 500 word abstract yesterday.  I can't even write an outline until after the paper is written, regardless of what I was taught in school.  The outline in my head gets shuffled so often as the presentation progresses that putting it on paper is a waste of time.  At least, thanks to word processing, when I am done writing the first draft, it is 99% finished.

They will get the paper and the abstract Monday.

I really like Windows 7.   One new feature allows me to change wallpaper every few minutes.  I have it set on a folder of Tanya's flowers so am looking at her garden all the time.  I do miss the old XP search feature and will have to learn how to use the new version.  I used the XP search to look for files when I knew part of the title and Google desktop to look when I knew only words inside the file.  Is there some way to refine the search to file names only?  Anyone?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A few observations on life in general

The other day I wore a faded red T-shirt and ragged black cutoffs to the grocery store.  I looked like an old upside down barn.

In this hot weather the dogs' big water tub grows algae even with fresh water every day or two.  Yesterday I scrubbed out much of the algae growing on the sides and then scrubbed it again with a bottle of bleach to kill what was left.  I rinsed the tub several times and filled it.  Both dogs came, sniffed the dish and then peed in it.  Rinsed it several more times and they finally condescended to drink from it.

Never try to learn a new computer (Dell Inspiron N5110 i7), new operating system (XP to 7) and new software (office 2003 to 2010) all at the same time when you have deadlines crashing around you.  I finally scrubbed 2010 for now and reinstalled my old 2003.  I will likely keep Outlook 2003 as Outlook 2010 does nothing that I need and many things I do NOT need or want.

I survived the 24 hour round trip to Kyiv.  It gave me time to think about public transportation.  The critical factor is you need LOTS of public to make it worthwhile.  Ukraine has 45 million people living in an area the size of Saskatchewan.  Saskatchewan has 1 million people mostly living in the lower half of the province.  If we had 25 million people living where we now have 1 million, there might be a hope for more public transportation.  There are other issues, like standards, expectations and costs that play a serious part but mostly you need people. 

Tanya bought my ticket to Kyiv for July 20 today.  Night train, open sleeping car, bottom bunk but the short one under the window was all that was left.  The trains and buses are packed with people on holidays.

We are now eating tomatoes from our garden.  And carrots and tomorrow beans will be ready, Tanya says.  The gladiolas are all bursting into bloom (I love that phrase, as you may have noticed).  Pictures when I get time.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

P'yatikhatki Railway Station

I am going to two conferences in Kazakhstan the last week in July.  I need to drop my visa application off at the Kazakhstan consulate early next week so I can pick up my visa the following week.Yesterday we set out to buy tickets for me to go to Kyiv Monday night, return Tuesday evening.  One of those 24 hour round trips I dread. It being Saturday the ticket office here in Zhovti Vody was closed so we made a flying trip to P' the railway station is open 24/7. Good thing we did as the trains are full in summer with people traveling on holidays.

For whatever reason, I had my camera along so got some good pictures of the rail yard.  P'yatikhatki is a railway town, with many rail lines meeting there and much switching of cars, engines and crews.  There are about 24 tracks at the main station in town and I don't know how many at the sub-station "P'yatikhatki-Stikova" 5 km west of town. I'm never there except at night.

The main station (and ticket office) is not user friendly, it having been designed and built during previous times when customer service was not a priority, shall we say.  Up 50 steps to a 75 meter long catwalk, down 50 steps, then 250 meters to the far end of the platform. Tough on an old fat man. Just glad I am not in a  wheelchair.

The catwalk joins the two sides of town which is split by the rail yard
It is a long way up if you are lugging suitcases.  Or are old and fat. Or both
Looking east towards Dnipropetrovs'k

Looking west from the same spot

The station and ticket office is at the far end of the platform

Looking east, you can see how far the passenger platforms run
 Most of the trains only stop for two minutes so you need to know your car number and roughly where it will be on the platform so you can be right close when the train stops.
There are five tracks dedicated to passenger trains, the rest of the tracks are for freight trains

The night train to Kyiv comes in on the right hand of the two tracks and loads from the narrow platform
Another train comes in a few minutes before on the left hand track. Since you have to cross the tracks to get to the second platform, you better have it done BEFORE the first train gets in or you aren't going to get there.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Marichka - Our Favourite Tea and Bake Shop

Marichka (soft form of Maria) is a locally owned cafe and bake shop.  The cafe makes good pizza and salads, serves dozens of different kinds of teas and wonderful desserts from the bake shop side of things.  It also has free Wi-Fi and was where I went sometimes to use Skype  before we got decent wireless service at our home. The bakery makes everything but bread.  Most importantly (for me) it makes panchiki (donuts) and sausage rolls and stuff like that.  As well as cakes, perogie (pies) and many different kinds of pastry. 

The owner is a friend of Andrei's (of course).  He believes in the future of Zhovti Vody and has invested in his business.  The area including the building and the surrounding land is about 1/4 of a city block.  He has landscaped it, beautifully.  Tanya is envious.  The parking area and the area in front of the store is all paving blocks.  the deck is loaded with stuff to entertain small kids and attracts many mothers of pre-schoolers for lunch and afternoon tea.  Tanya and I go there for lunch at least once a month.

Marichka.  The bakery is upstairs, cafe to the left, bake shop to the right

Looking east from the edge of the property along the front of the store

This part of the deck is a little kids' playground

The deck, looking north

Landscaping to die for along the east side of the lot

Looking north the length of the lot.  Note kids sandbox in the "park"

Go ahead and guess

Anyone care to hazard a guess as to which large nameless organization is responsible for this gem contained in a 97 page document?  They kill entire forests every year to produce such documents.  Or did, until the advent of digital storage and distribution.

In a similar manner, the CAADP framework and the sector investment program, METASIP, call for multi-MDA coordination and private sector involvement to ensure delivery. The METASIP governance structure provides a management, research (SAKSS), and dialogue mechanism compatible with the continental CAADP framework. The CAADP Country Team’s Steering Committee in ______ is named the METASIP Steering Committee, representing an expanded group of CAADP Compact signatories as sector stakeholders, and will oversee and manage the METASIP implementation process. The establishment of the CAADP governance structure is a prior action and has been met. The METASIP Steering Committee was inaugurated during the quarterly Agricultural Sector Working Group meeting held on 16 February 2011 in ____. Support through the NEPAD CAADP structure is forthcoming in the form of assistance to SAKSS (through IFPRI) and an agriculture sector PER exercise.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Dnipropetrovsk trip and crop report

We went to Dnipropetrovsk today for no good reason other than it was a warm sunny day and we needed to get out of the house farther than the grocery store.  Left at 8:00 am and took Roman with us.  Hit the city about 10:00 and stopped at a new mall, just to explore.  Lots of expensive plastic happiness. 

Tanya bought two light summer dresses and a large book about flowers with garden design and growing tips.  I saw some kinds she doesn't have - we'll need a bigger lot soon. Went to Cilentano's for lunch.  A franchised Italian Pizza place.  Not bad pizza but I would kill for a Houstons or Pizza Hut.  Then Tanya went to the flower garden market and  bought a bunch more flowers she hadn't seen before.  Perennials, of course. We were home by 4:00.  The flowers were planted by 7:00.

Once we got 50 km east of here, the combines were starting to roll and on the way home grain trucks slowed traffic.  The wheat crop looks very good in spite of the dry spell earlier this year.  The corn and sunflowers looked amazing, again considering the dry spell.  Several sunflower fields in bloom.  Corn 2 meters high (7-8 ft) and some tasseling out already.  Some very good crops all in all.  Now we need a month of hot weather for harvest.

News is that agricultural land sales will begin January 2012. I will try to get details on that.  My understanding is that foreign buyers are excluded, which is not unreasonable in my books.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

More Flowers

Tanya was out with the camera again this evening dodging rain showers.  She said post 'em so here they are.  She is pretty proud of her garden this year and I am pretty proud of her.

At least we haven't had the torrential rainfall that other parts of Ukraine have had.  Last evening we were looking at videos of cars floating down the streets in Kyiv; piling up agains an underpass and tropical storm like wind and rain with accompanying flooding in Kharkiv. A week ago Cherkassy got flooded.  We just get rain every night.  Tomorrow is supposed to be hot and no rain.  Hope so.

This picture is for Mel.  Tanya's first Calla lilies

I know what it is but can't spell it

These blooms are HUGE

White Snap Dragons (Russian: Lion's Mouth) with a huge bumble bee.

Kuchma, felled by a sudden nap attack

Drinking to our health

I knew a guy once who would take a drink from time to time to steady himself.  Sometimes he got so steady he couldn't move.

When Tatiana (the Advokat) was here for supper the other evening, she recommended we try Becherovka an herbal bitters made in Czech Republic from a secret recipe which only two people know.  According to Wiki, it is to be drunk cold as an aid to digestion, favoured by Central and Eastern Europeans.  Russian language websites that Tanya found say that the blend of herbs are suspended in pure spirits for three months or something like that.
So we have been nipping at a bottle at supper times.  One ounce is lots for me and 1/3 of that for Tanya.  "It do warm the innards".  There is an English language website here. Don't know if it is available in Saskatchewan or not (or anywhere else in North America for that matter).  Any of my readers know about it?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Bull-etin Board

Our old farmhouse has been empty of humans for about 45 years but still contained much of the Junque the folks left behind when they moved across the yard to the "new" house.  Last week, my three siblings set about cleaning it out, mostly to see what they could find.

 The kitchen table was 3 ft wide by 4 ft long and the six of us crowded around three sides of it.  Dad got one end all to himself.  Mom and the two "little kids" sat along the side and Ross and I along the other end.
 Ev's doll cradle made by Grandpa Johnson.  Not sure which year it was her Christmas gift.
 The old toy crane of mine was expensive and complicated as it imitated the real cable run McCoy.  Metal construction with rubber wheels and tracks and run by hand crank.  Broken and unfixable.
 Mom and Dad's love letters.  My sister took them home, planning to read them to learn about family life back in the 30's and early 40's.  If there is even a hint of erotica in them she will curl up in a ball and die but I think she is likely safe.  Mom said what she liked about Dad, and this was in their early teens, was that he didn't write mushy but talked about his rabbits and real things.
 When I started university in 1965, Dad and my brothers made me this bull-etin board for Christmas.  Plywood backed with 1/2" tintest glued onto it.  I had forgotten about it until Stan sent me this picture.
 This was the pattern they cut the bull-etin board from; a Hereford bull in a beet pulp ad from Canadian Cattlemen magazine January 1965.  They blew up the picture using Ross's Magnajector and traced around the outline.
Magnajectors were a wonderful invention.  A 60w bulb and you could project onto a wall, anything you could set the projector on top of.  You can still buy the old ones - eBay has a few and, joy of joys, new ones are available from Amazon here. If you got kids, it is a great investment.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


If any of my readers also read LIFE IS GOOD or are friends with Dana Wyzard on FaceBook, you ought to know she has been hacked and what you are reading is posted by someone pretending to be her.  All her accounts including two email accounts, one gmail and one yahoo, were taken over a few days ago.  A simple, and if you knew Dana, easy to guess password was her undoing.

She has been playing silly beggars with her yahoo account and the hacker for several days.  She would get her account back, change the password and immediately it would be wrested from her again.  That means she could have a key-stroke reader installed on her machine.  I have no idea if that can be done from a remote location or not.

Once  you have been hacked, getting your accounts back from Google is no easy matter.  There are no humans at the other end.  They send you a questionnaire and you fill it out.  Wrong answers?  Bounce; fill it out again.  They want ALL the Google accounts/apps or whatever they are called that you access and the exact date you started them, examples of email addresses you send to on gmail.  And a bunch of other stuff.

There is a Blogger Help Forum Dana said she tried and it took her right back to the gmail questionnaire as that was what she was registered under.

She and Joe are taking the computer in for forensic scanning today.  They have a pretty good idea who is the scumbag that has done this.  What they hope to learn is how it was done and how to stop it.  Preferable to also get her blog back.  She has reluctantly started a new one which you can find here.

I contacted Coffee, brilliant computer-savvy husband of Violet of Miserable Bliss. for advice.  He is a Linux man but suggested a few things that I am acting on to tighten security on my own machine.  I have downloaded, installed, tried out and purchased a new anti-malware software package from .  It has been working steadily all day blocking "outbound" attempts to connect with a "potentially seriously bad" IP address  I may have a problem on my own machine and will run another deep scan again tonight.  Obviously AdAware (free) and Avast (paid) are not sufficient.  Or it may be just Avast trying to check for updates and being smacked by the competition.

I have also changed my serious passwords to something that is harder to crack.  I have a mickey mouse password I use for stuff like e-zines and such that one has to register for.  But it is not used for anything important.  For that I went to combination upper and lower case letters interspersed with numbers.

How do I remember them all?  I have them written down on a piece of paper which I have hidden at the bottom of my underwear drawer on the left side.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Three stories from the weekend

If you look at the first picture in the previous post, the shot of the front garden, you can see at the back right a huge tree with a concrete power pole running up through it and a yellow natural gas pipe disappearing into it.  The tree is now gone.  Both gas and electric companies said the tree had to go so Saturday it went. It wasn't our tree; it was in the abandoned yard next door but we anteed up $15 and had it cut down before it did real damage. One of the men who cut the tree admired Tanya's flowers.  His daughter's birthday was Sunday, could he get a lily from Tanya to give her?  For sure.  So he was here bright and early Sunday and Tanya cut one of the lilies for him.

One of our neighbours across the back from us runs a small greenhouse operation with his family.  He specializes in early off season cut and potted flowers, (tulips and daffodils) and sells bedding plants as well.  They plant a huge area to tulips and daffodils each fall, then when the flowers bloom, lop the heads off to force growth in the bulbs.  Then in early June they dig up the bulbs, dry them off for the summer and plant them in pots in the greenhouse to bloom in February. They must be adding lilies this year as there is a big patch of lilies blooming now in his yard.  He dropped over to visit Tanya yesterday afternoon, to admire her garden. Tanya was very glad as she got to pick his brain about a great many things.  He knows his stuff.  In return, she had to promise him one of the huge pink and white lilies in the fall as he had never seen anything like it before.

We had dinner guests last evening.  Lena was here and one of my Tanya's friends, another Tatiana, whom I had met before.  Tatiana is a lawyer here in Zhovti Vody, (an advokat as opposed to a notarius).  She is quite attractive, doesn't look her 50 years, and was, I thought divorced. In the course of dinner, I mentioned my friend John in Saskatchewan (who has been alone some 7 years now and apparently needs a push to rectify the situation) should be invited over to meet Tatiana.  My Tanya said "But Tatiana has a husband".  I was sooo embarrassed.  Tatiana said very enthusiastically, "No problem.  I'll check him out".  We all just howled with laughter.  Tatiana lives here because there is more work here for an advokat.  Her husband lives in Dnipropetrovs'k because that is where his work is. They see each other on weekends only.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Flowers After the Rain

Tanya's flowers enjoyed our rainy week and have responded rather well.  Tanya is quit proud of them and is taking pictures every day of new blossoms. The lilies just don't quit, with new ones opening every day.  They are  a surprise to her when they bloom as most of them are ones she acquired last fall or this spring.  The front flower bed is a mass of colour as everything is filling in.  The vegetable garden was so soft after all the rain, Tanya was afraid she would sink to her knees in the mud.  so she "used my slippers as snowshoes".

Front flower garden

Raindrops on roses

Portulaca blooms

Red and orange lilies still blooming

Huge yellow lilies

Newest addition to the lily patch

Beautiful pale peach lilies

These are at least 25 cm (10 inches) across

Zhabba's Hut
Tanya was less than thrilled to find a large toad (zhabba) had taken up residence in her rubber garden shoes.

The gladiolas will be next.  She planted over 100 last year.  Not sure how many this year.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Thank you, Readers

Three years ago I started tracking hits on The Blog Fodder.  This blog, which started because I was too lazy to write the same stuff in letters to my kids/relatives/friends seems to have taken on a life of its own.  People from all over the world are clicking on it for reasons only they must know.  Some leave comments and that helps.  I got one in Spanish yesterday.  Awesome.

So having nothing better to do this rainy Canada Day, I pulled together some statisitcs and drew a chart.  I like charts.  They look impressive and give the feeling that the chartist actually has done real research and knows something useful.  Hah!

This is from ClustrMaps.  I recently signed up for Google Analytics and sometime in the (distant) future will look at it and see what I can learn. 

At any rate, thanks all for checking in on me from time to time.