Thursday, April 30, 2009


One of my month end pension checks finally arrived, so yesterday we went for groceries and a whole bunch of other stuff. $200 worth of groceries. We were out of everything. The fridge was as empty as the inside of my head. Our next meal would have been bannock as we had oil, flour, water, salt and baking soda.

Plus put money on our phones, plus bought food for the dogs. They ate wheat porridge for two days. And chicken gizzards. They have to be bribed to go back in their pen after our walks so I buy cheap treats for them. Liver sausage, chicken necks, chicken gizzards and give them each about 4 little bits once they are safely back in the yard and the gate latched.

We had a good time at Truskavets but didn't keep enough money back to last the rest of the month. Holidays do that. At least the internet company, the filling station and the big grocery store take MasterCard.

FX (UAH/CAD) at the bank machine was 6.26 and on my MC 6.30. Not bad.

It is dry. We are watering everything and it takes time, with so much garden and flower beds. We have two taps for watering. One is inside the passageway/greenhouse, withthe hose running out the door. Hoses do not come with built on connections here. To attach to the tap, one screws on a connector and clamps the hose onto it. The connection was leaking. I fixed it. While Tanya was watering it blew off and before she got to it, flooded the room. I was not popular. She threatened to call Yuri. I redid the connection and tightened the clamps extra hard. So far it is holding. So far.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Finally Spring or even Summer?

Today hit 27C. Warmest day so far. I started water on the garden this evening using a sprinkler. It was a fight to keep Tanya from putting a nozzel on the hose and standing there for four hours hand watering. She gets the surface wet and moves on while i want a deep soaking so it lasts a few days.

The cows have been going to pasture again, starting last week. The green grass must be a welcome change to winter's meagre fare of poor quality feed. They go past our house early in the morning and come home about six or seven in the evening. The goats are also tethered out. The little ones run free. Last year the pups were frightened to death by a blat from a nanny, so this year they still treat goats with respect. I hope it sticks.

Tanya says the swallows are back. So we have to start leaving our window open to our passageway/greenhouse so they can access their nest. Last year two sets of them raised five little ones in one nest. I will post pictures of this year's babies too as things progress. It was fun watching them grow up and then fly out on their own. Kuchma the cat will be banned from there.

Speaking of Kuchma, his girl friend, the white cat from next door, has a litter of kittens somewhere. Lucia hasn't found them yet. She is threatening to give some of them to us for harbouring their deadbeat dad.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Free Lense PhotoGraphic

My friend Alf married a wonderful girl from Ukraine (for which he blames me). Svetlana followed him to Canada where he was gainfully employed which (unlike pensions) was not transferrable to Ukraine. Both are amazing photographers, with an eye for the unusual. Sveta (Pani Zumpanova) is an incredible portrait photographer, especially of children. They spent over a year traveling the world and are having an exhibition of their photos at Atlantis Coffee in Regina from May 4th to July 5th. As you can see, Sveta is also a marvel at Adobe Photoshop on her Mac notebook.

Free Lense PhotoGraphic is holding a new photo exhibit called 'Glimpses of the World' During a 14 month journey through 17 countries across Europe, India, Polynesia and the Far East. Svetlana and Alf saw and photographed the uniqueness of places, people, architecture and naturethat are a must to see. This exhibit displays the grandeur of Rome to the peaceful tranquility of the backwaters of southern India.Atlantis Coffee Victoria Ave. and Hamilton St. are host to this exhibit from May 4th to July 5th, so why not come and enjoy your favourite tea or coffee and feast your eyes on images that will inspire you to go out and see your own 'Glimpses of the World'.

Svetlana & Alf
Free Lense PhotoGraphic

PS - They are also doing May-B's wedding photos.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Clean up Time in the Cemetery

The dogs and I have been walking through the cemetery these past few days, a change from walking along the marsh. There is lots of activity as people are busy cleaning up gravesites in preparation for the day of remembrance which I think is the first Sunday in May. Piles of detritis from last summer's flowers and winter's deadfalls as well as last years plastic wreaths and bouquets are appearing in stratigic locations throughout the cemetery for removal and burning. The smell of fresh paint fills the air as the little iron fences get touched up.

The dogs love the cemetery at this time of year because they can usually find food. Left behind lunches or food offerings left on the gravesites. Haven't seen any vodka offerings yet but when the dogs start drinking liquids left in glasses... Not sure how the living or the dead take to the dogs racing around and doing cutting horse turns in fresh dirt. They do stop to smell the flowers, though. Especially the plastic ones. Then they mark them in true dog style.

If there are other dogs around (usually strays), Volk and Bobik will race after them if the other dogs run away. If they don't run, then my dogs will race back to me. If it runs, chase. If it chases, run. Simple rules of survival. Our neighbour breeds German Shepherds for the military and police market. She was out walking one of their males on a leash. The Shepherd was the size and colouring of a black bear. I saw it across the field and so did Bobik and Volk as their bodies stiffened right up. Then they "pretended they didn't see it" and continued on with romp and play. Some things are not worth investigating, I guess.

The mutts have been behaving extraordinarily well lately. After the first dust-up in October when we had to call the vet to patch them up, they spent the winter trying to kill each other at any opportunity. Volk got the worst of it from the first big fight on and by spring he was one whipped puppy. He would cower in a corner and wouldn't come to me as any attention from me would elicit a beating from Bobik. He used to run off and not come home after walks. I'd find him huddled in the yard several hours later.

The first part of March, a friend from Canada was visiting and we decided to put Volk on a leash so he wouldn't run off. We used a small soft rope to make a collar and lead and as we led him out of their yard, Bobik tried to kill him again. Too much attention for Volk. We got them separated and I left them apart for several hours, then didn't take them for a walk for two weeks.

When I finally took them for a walk again they were like two different dogs. Volk had his confidence back. He and Bobik play together, even wrestling in fun. Volk comes home after our walk and willingly goes into their yard. He even comes when I call him. Bobik accepts when I pay attention to Volk as long as I don't ignore him.

They must have figured tying a rope around Volk's neck was some kind of sign of respect from us humans? I can't figure them out.

The Trainee

Sheep gone...My bad.

Someone sent this picture as one of a number of great photographs. My demented mind immediately set to workk trying to fit a story to the picture. Tried to blog last night but couldn't log on for some reason.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Dog for Dawsyn

The title was lifted from Buggering Crap Monkies (formerly Reality Check) my daughter May-B's blog. Dawsyn is the daughter of her second-cousin.

Dawsyn suffers from a rare form of epilepsy called Dravet's Syndrome (Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy). for Dawsyn to Dawsyn has been approved to get a Seizure Alert Assistance dog. , but now it's about raising money for her. Her mom started a website to help raise money for the dog (US$13,000). Donating is a little complicated - you have to go to the 4Paws website and donate in Dawsyn's name (Dawsyn Harke).

Dawsyn is a real sweetie pie who has numerous seizures a day for some time now. She deserves to have anything to make life easier on herself and her family.

Dawsyn's mom sent this email with more information:

An update on how Dawsyn is doing is long overdue so I will quickly try to bring you up-to-date.

We have just received some exciting news. Dawsyn has been approved to receive a Seizure Assistance dog from 4 Paws for Ability. This dog will be trained specifically to meet Dawsyn’s needs. It will alert us when she has a seizure, it will be her companion and guardian and it will track her if she manages to escape our vigilant care!

4 Paws is a fabulous organization that trains dogs for children with many different needs (autism, ADHD, FASD, etc.) – most organizations will not provide service dogs for individuals younger than 16. Those that do provide them have extremely long waiting lists (2 to 5 years). 4 Paws has no waiting list because they allow the recipients of the dogs and their family to assist in fund raising that goes towards the training of the dog. We have just begun the process of raising US$13,000 towards the training of Dawsyn’s dog.

For more information about Dawsyn, you can now check out her very own personal website at

For more information about 4 Paws for Ability, please go to

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Who is your true friend?

My brother says to find out who your true friend is, put your spouse and your dog in the trunk of your car for an hour. When you let them out, which one is truly glad to see you?

Cold Spring

We have had two nights of -4C and tonight will be another cold one. Everything is late this spring. The dafodills are blooming, a few tulips and the dark blue mini-iris but the cherry trees are slow which may save them from frost damage. There are a few in bloom but they look pretty ragged. It will not be a good year for fruit, I am afraid.

Our poor old apricot tree which should be bursting with life is pretty well dried up and dead. There are a few branched way up high with a few blooms but other than that, no leaf buds. It is old, 20 years, which Tanya says is about its life span. Last year every branch was bowed down with fruit. The tree was loaded with wonderful juicy apricots. Did the final burst of fruit deplete its reserves so it couldn't recover? Or did it "know" and make one last valiant effort to leave behind the makings of many new trees?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Remembering the Farm - Storm of 1955 continued

My second cousin, Bryan (who lived two miles west of us) and his wife Joan sent me their stories of the Blizzard of '55 so I thought I'd post them for the benefit of anyone interested in the not-so-olden days.

Bryan said he remembers that his Mom drove the car to school that morning to Aroma Lake School (another one-room country school about 4 miles away). Bryan’s uncle, Mike Kump came early to pick up his children. Mike always was tracking storms and seemed to know exactly when they were coming! Bryan's dad, Henry could not get his horses from the Coulee so he borrowed neighbour John Ulrich's outfit. Henry came to school to pick his family up. Jordan Herle kids stayed at Albert Gerlinsky farm. Bert Dale (my uncle) and Jim Hingston (my Dad’s cousin) couldn't get out the drive way at Henry's to go to my Dad's place so they stayed overnight. They were installing a new furnace at Henry's place. Hwy 14 was blocked!

My (Joan’s) story is a little different. We had school bus service at Handel at the time. Our school bus driver came around 2 o'clock to pick the kids up. Instead of going the normal route he took his kids home first. Phone lines were down and some parents were scared because, we didn't arrive home. My dad Henry Loerzel walked, from Handel School, then to Stan Graver's place 2 1/2 miles north of our place, from there Stan and my dad, kept on walking, where the bus route should have been. They almost froze to death, going from farmer to farmer's place. (They had towels wrapped around their faces).

We were stuck in the ditch 1 1/2 miles from Handel (1/2 mile east of our farm.). Our driver walked to Handel for help, leaving my oldest sister in charge of the bus and kids. We ate all the left over school lunch's we had. We prayed the rosary at least 100 times! (We were all RC's on the bus). I remember when the boys took a pee out the bus door, my oldest sister had to hang on to them, the wind was so strong.

Hours later our driver came back and said the road is blocked at the crossing, so we would have to hold hands and walk the one mile. The older children on the bus that morning wore spring jackets, no gloves!!! Older kids in the middle, little one's on the ends. I think that's how crack the whip got its name! If you let go, you flew into the ditch!

We arrived at the Railway Crossing and Gillen’s flat deck truck was waiting for us! We were so thankful that our prayers were answered! We were all split up to different homes in Handel. My family stayed at Frank Schreich's, at the Train Station. We were lucky his wife was a nurse. We froze mainly our hands, feet and faces. Four days later Ange and I were taken by train to Wilkie. We stayed in the hospital awhile. Ange was worse as they peeled her feet and hands! They almost flew her to Saskatoon by air ambulance. We must have been in bad shape!

Our driver almost lost his job over it all, as he took his kids home first to be safe! Long story short, the neighbours said he needed the job.

I remember having lots of fun sliding off the roof tops with our flying saucer that winter and going to school and church all winter in the cutter. Then in spring we had to go with horses again in an open grain wagon, which was fun too.

They're Back! Those wonderful Church Bulletins!

They're Back! Those wonderful Church Bulletins! Thank God for church ladies* with typewriters. These sentences (with all the BLOOPERS)actually appeared in church bulletins or were announced in church services:
  • The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.
  • The sermon this morning: 'Jesus Walks on the Water.' The sermon tonight: 'Searching for Jesus.'
  • Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.
  • Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say 'Hell' to someone who doesn't care much about you.
  • Don't let worry kill you off - let the Church help.
  • Miss Charlene Mason sang 'I will not pass this way again,' giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.
  • For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
  • Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.
  • Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.
  • A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.
  • At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be 'What Is Hell?' Come early and listen to our choir practice.
  • Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.
  • Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles and other items to berecycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.
  • Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.
  • The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.
  • Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM - prayer and medication to follow.
  • The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.
  • This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the Church Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.
  • Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10 AM. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B. S. is done.
  • The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the Congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.
  • Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door.
  • The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.
  • Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.
  • The Associate Minister unveiled the church's new campaign slogan last Sunday: I Upped My Pledge - Up Yours.

*Alice, how many of these did you personally account for?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Христос Воскрес

Христос Воскрес! Christ has risen.

Somehow the traditional Orthodox greeting on Paskha Sunday goes much more to the heart of the matter than "Happy Easter" or even "Have a blessed Easter". Christ has risen! Rejoice in the hope of renewed life that His resurrection brings us.

And the answer? Воистину воскрес! Truly, He has risen. Confirmation that we believe, that we share that joy and hope.

Светлое Христово Воскресение-добрый праздник жизни возрождения. Сколько в жизни таинств и чудес! И во всех сердцах Христос Воскрес!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Do you want chopped nuts?

Today was baking and gardening day at 28 Naberezhni Lane. Tanya gardened and I baked.

Her flowerbeds are filling in rapidly as every day she plants more and more different kinds. I'm not sure what all she put in today. We went to the big central "Sunday" market today. it was held a day early as tomorrow being Paskha (Easter) everything will be closed. We filled two bags with vegetables and I went to the car while Tanya went to look for Paskha bread. I waited and I waited until she finally showed up with two bags, one of special loaves for Easter and one of flower bedding plants. Of course.

What did you buy? Some shit. (No kidding?) Ok, I ignored it then, after a smart ass answer like that. Turns out that was exactly what she had bought. самшит (Samsheet) a Boxwood tree. I have been teasing her about that all day.

I started the afternoon with banana bread. The recipe I have (from the internet) wants to dirty every bowl in the house. Mix little bits of things separately and then blend, fold (spindle and mutualate) all together at the end. I never know if the people who post the recipes are just showing off or if it is to get back at all the bureaucrats who give us VIP (Very Important Paper) and tell us do NOT blend, fold spindle or mutualate.

I try to follow recipes so far as ingredients are concerned but rarely follow the mixing directions. It is like keeping your peas and potatoes separate on your plate - they are all going to be mixed in the end anyhow. This batter turned out very stiff and not as big a batch as usual. The bananas were too small or too green or something. Like my Mom's brown bread, I could have fired the two loaves through the side of a wooden ship with a small cannon. But they tasted fine.

The last item on the ingredient list was chopped walnuts. Having progressed to that point in every batch I made, it always comes as a shock since I have to go to the passage way and get the walnuts (gathered from our tree last fall) and shell the damn things. I am moving that item to first on the ingredient list. Well, after smushing the bananas. It is called BANANA Bread after all.

Then I found a chocolate chip cookie recipe somewhere and decided to try it, since we had chips we brought from Canada. Did you know that 50% of all cookie recipes made in America are chocolate chip? This time I was smart and shelled and chopped the walnuts first.

The recipe said I was supposed to drop the cookie dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Drop? I couldn't pry it off the spoon. I added another egg so it would be a little malleable. Ungreased? The baked cookies stuck to the cookie sheet like poop to a blanket. Next batch, I jimmied them loose before they got cold.

Lastly I made my favourite cookie - oatmeal raisin. These I had made before but this time the dough was wetter than I remembered so I added some more flour. I also greased the cookie sheets - to no avail. Stuck tighter than a ... Pried loose, they resemble dry porridge with raisins.

If I can find wax paper, I am using it on my cookie sheets next time.

The pot of chicken soup I cooked for supper to surprise Tanya made up for less than eye-pleasing baking.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Spa'd but not neutered

"Truskavets water will relieve your allergies in only 5 days".
"I wish they wouldn't make rash promises".

Ky wondered if I had been cured. I said I thought not but perhaps lightly salted.

Meals were at 9:00 am, 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm. It was hard to tell one meal from another, never mind one day from another. No fresh vegetables or salads. Tanya finally stopped going for most meals, maybe one per day. She would go to the market and buy tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh dill and lettuce as well as sausage, cheese and juice. The people at our table would always ask where she was and it took all the power in me not to tell them she was too drunk to come to dinner. Tanya would have killed me if I had but just the thought of doing it made me laugh.

We arrived home at 12:00 noon. Two hours late. Somewhere in the darkness, the train lost two hours travel time. Why? Who knows. Just to prolong our agony? Stifling hot, no windows opened in our car. 20 young Polish construction guys got on in L'viv enroute to Dnipro, drinking vodka straight from the bottle and in general being rowdy. We got two in our compartment, Oh, Joyful!! Their boss and the train attendant from our car shut them all down hard about 10:00 pm but it took some doing. They started again about 7:00 except for those who were still sleeping it off.

We were so glad to be home. Tanya went straight to her flowers and garden, while I went to see Bobik and Volk. Then we had lunch, a shower and I hit the computer while Tanya hit the dirt. She spent all afternoon digging in 10 meters of shrub for a hedge and also 7 small evergreens all of which she bought in Truskavets for under $20. She also transplanted a bunch of bulbs she had rooting in shavings in our "greenhouse".

Tomorrow we have more transplanting and must water the entire garden areas. No rain while we were gone. Also we have to shop and cook for Paskha Sunday.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Procedures (Protsidoori) 3

Cleansing of the Lower Bowel – The notion that the body is full of “poisons” elicits little puppy wiggles and goose bumps of anticipation from the naturopathetic homeopathological granola-munching, fibre-obsessed herbivorous crowd. And they have positively organic orgasms at the word CLEANSING followed either by the words BLOOD or BOWEL. This in spite of the fact there is no sound scientific evidence of any “poisons” in a normal functioning human, that the cleansing actually removes anything measureable and that the process has any effect on health or longevity. I passed* this four day procedure. Besides with friends like mine, who needs enemas?

Mary had a little watch. She swallowed it one day. She took a dose of Epsom salts to pass the time away.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Procedures (Protsidoori) 2

Hydro-Massage - three procedures, taken in order, to stimulate blood circulation. This area is run by two very nice women with perpetually limp hair, damp lab coats and moss growing on their north sides.

In the first, I stand in a large cold drafty stall and get hosed off, much like a washrack at Agribition but without the blow driers and curry combs. The temperature and pressure are set to just under Hog Scald and Paint Peel. Olya directs the hose over each section of my carcass, with rapid movements to minimize skin damage. Then I go and stand for five minutes in a cage of vertical pipes with holes drilled to direct water spray all around me in little jets, much like a car wash. I kept an eye open for the rotating rags to appear and knock me senseless. This is not relaxing.

Second is a large tub of comfortably warm water, circulated back through a hose, which Yulia uses to massage the same muscles as Olya but this time underwater. The problem is I float like scum on a pond, and the volume and pressure of the hose are about the same as for hydraulic mining. I must keep submerged or suffer serious erosion. In my struggle to stay mostly under water, I get my foot in the water exit and the suction nearly takes my leg off. This is not relaxing.

Finally, relaxing! Ten minutes soaking in a tub of warm water treated with a couple of dollops of very black extract of pine needles to spruce up your skin. The first time, they had the tub full to the brim. I was instructed to get in and lie down.

The Tsunami devastated three villages and a goat shed.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Procedures (Protsidoori)

There must be hundreds of different “procedures” available at this spa, to which one can be assigned based on complaints (treatment) or general condition (maintenance). I will only deal with our procedures in the next few blogs.

Hot mud – Every two days Tanya soaked her hands and feet in hot mineralized mud for her arthritis. It seems to help as her knuckle is not so swollen today but we’ll see how long it lasts.

Massage – Every two days we got a massage from a beefy old lady with ahms like Ahnold. (What am I saying old, she was likely 60. Ok, fine, she was old). This was a very relaxing 20 minutes for me and one of the most enjoyable procedures.

Electro-Massage – By placing electrodes and running current through them, specific muscles can be forced to contract and relax. We called it the dead frog jump in Physiology class 40 years ago (as opposed to the dead cat bounce). Tanya had an electric comb run through her hair for 10 minutes to “massage” the veins in her head so they would not be so sensitive to weather changes. I expected her to return like someone from “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” after a couple of treatments but she said it was quite good.

Because my lower back has been playing havoc, I get a daily double dose at two different rhythms. Two electrodes on each side of my back, weighted down with sandbags, covered with a blanket. I was curious so stuck my hand under the sandbag and it snapped at me like an electric fencer. I didn’t do it again.

Monday, April 13, 2009

They may call the Wind Mariah...

But here they call the water Naftusia. Naftusia water is THE miracle water that brings tens of thousands of people to Truskavets every year. There is a central “pump house” (or maybe several?) where everyone goes to drink their assigned amount of water. It is dispensed in 50 ml doses from 100 mls to 250 mls by hundreds of electronic taps like Mcdonalds soft drinks. I was assigned 200 mls one hour before meals and 100 mls 30 minutes after. The water has a sulphurous smell and slight oily taste. My tummy has felt queasy since we got here.

It is a 15 minute walk downhill from Pivdennii to the water hole. We didn’t always have time to walk down so bought a thermos to bring a supply back to our room. The picture below gives all the claims for this wonderful aqua of which there is none like it anywhere else on earth, of course. My association with the purebred beef industry taught me to recognize hi-tech BS when I see or hear it and the jargon seemed somehow familiar.

Is there any sound scientific proof that this water does all this stuff? Not likely and none needed. One gets the same circular argument as from the Chinese when you ask why people believe in doing certain obviously ridiculous superstitious things. We do it because it works. How do you know it works? Well, it must work because we’ve been doing it for thousands of years. End of discussion.
The water from three other springs is also described. I was struck by the method of expressing the chemical formulae of the mineralization. My chemistry is a little rusty but the general idea was easily understood. I assume M is molarity?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Dr. Yuri Grigorovich

Day 1, right after lunch, we had our first appointment with the Spa Doctor. People come here for the good of their health and they get a thorough physical exam, with lab work as part of the package. Yuri Grigorovich is reputed to be the best urologist in Ukraine, (Hmmm…Yuri the Urologist met a gynecologist…has potential, need to work on it.)

This man is a drawing card for the spa and a God-send for 60 year old males with the usual 60 year old male plumbing problems. He asked all the right questions and then sent me for an ultra-sound (non-intrusive) which was totally modern and run by a retired doctor who also knew his stuff.

Yuri Grigorovich assigned us our daily intake of Truskavets water (more on that later), gave us five jars for urine samples at various times and told us to come back the next day when the analysis would be available. He also assigned our procedures (more on that later).

The sample jars reminded me of a sight gag on a Russian comedy show - a hapless football team with an incompetent but tyrannical coach. This skit had the players bringing urine samples for drug testing. The team files by the table and each drops off little jars of various sizes and shapes as expected except in the middle of it all one player sets down a three-litre jar full.

So the next day we are back in the doctor’s office. I sit. Yuri Grigorovich asks questions in Russian, Tanya answers. She knows me better than I do anyhow and we had been through all this a while back with our local doctor. Once in a while she would include me in the conversation or I would recognize a few words and ask what it was about.

Yuri Grigorovich (in Russian): I need a semen sample, a urine sample and a stool sample.
Al: What did he say?
Tanya: He said give him your underwear.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

3:10 to Truskavets

We left P’yatikhatki at about 3:30 pm on Sunday April 6th. The Dnipropetrovs'k - Truskavets passenger trains run twice daily and we took the later one. We arrived in Monday at about 12:30 pm or 21 hours later. We could have driven in the same time but it would have cost us a lot more for gas and a night’s lodging. The train wandered across western Ukraine stopping at 25 towns and cities. Someday I will make a map of the route.

In the background you can see the overhead walk which is 50 steps up and crosses 12 tracks on either side of the station area. There are three platforms but you better be on the right one when the train comes as you have to cross the tracks to get to two of them.

Two years ago, I had ridden the same train from L’viv to Dnipropetrovs'k and figured that there had to be a quicker way to go about 1000 km. There isn’t.

The train had seen better days and the coaches were not like the Kyiv to Dnipropetrovs'k run at all. Windows were filthy, washrooms just one cut above Chinese trains, but the bedding was clean and the tea water hot. We had our four-person compartment to ourselves for the first 6 hours which was nice. Then a young man got on who went as far as Bili Tserkva, then two women who went as far as L’viv. We had the last two hours to ourselves again.

Truskavets is booming. It is a spa town and there are spas everywhere and new ones being built, economy or no. Too bad there was no money left for road repair. The road from the railway station to the Sanatoria Pivdennii was more like our village main street in Marianivka. Which is to say one could bury a sizeable herd of livestock deep enough to meet Health of Animals Regulations without too much digging.

Our Sanatorium was built in 1976, so was Soviet style. The bathrooms had been upgraded but the rest of the building was quite as it had been for three decades. Kuchma (Ex-President, not our cat) used to come here when he was head of the Soviet Space Program out of Dnipropetrovs'k so it must have been pretty classy place in its time. It had a wonderful arboretum.
We found our room and settled in. Expecting internet was too much. Hot water was intermittent. What can I say? We needed showers before we dared go for lunch. No hot water!? Ok!! Desperate, I took an icy mountain-cold shower. Of course, the hot water was working by the time Tanya got in ten minutes later. I get no respect.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Last night at home for two weeks

We are ready to go. More or less. Clothes clean, gathered, folded and packed. Yard and garden beaten into shape, not totally but will have to do.

Our neighbour Natasha, daughter Dasha and boyfriend Sergei were back yesterday to transplant strawberries. Natasha had thinned out her huge strawberry patch and brought us the spares. 120 of them – to go with the 120 we already have. Lots of jam for next winter and even more the winter after.

Dasha was back today and dug in about 15 or 20 blackberry bushes and 5 or 6 tea roses. Sergei and his brother came along and Tanya had them take out another apple tree. Those kids can work. Dasha is a sweetheart. Seventeen, cute as a bug’s ear, always smiling, just finished high-school (Grade 11) and will write University entrance next week. Sergei will go for his medical and if he passes will be mustered in to the Ukrainian Army for two years. If the romance lasts, those two will do OK. Likely never have much money but will never do without.

We hooked up the hoses today and Tanya watered the raspberries and some of the other transplants. She spent all day in our “greenhouse” transplanting tiny little plants (petunias?) into individual places where they will grow big enough to move outside in two weeks.

Maxim and Ivan helped me walk the dogs tonight. The boys had spent the afternoon playing with two big cardboard boxes left from our Care packages of a year ago. Well taped up to hold together. One would get inside a box and the other would roll it down a hill. Oh, to be young again.

On our walk home we ran into Katya and Yuri out in their big garden. Along with Babushka, another woman and their oldest daughter (about 20) and their dog EMMA. My dogs were quite enthused but she put the run on them. Katya will look after the house while we are away. Watering all Tanya’s plants should keep her busy. I need to go through and do a count again but it is up over 30 plus all the boxes of seedlings.

Tomorrow morning we will go to the big Sunday market to see if I can find a pair of rubber footwear for garden duty. Our train leaves P’yatikhatki at 2:00 so we have time.

I hope that resort has internet. I have two projects to work on, two books to read and if there is no internet I need to take more books.

Friday, April 3, 2009


If you Google Truskavets Spas you will get about 3000 hits. It is the Spa capital of western Ukraine apparently, noted for its wonderful water which is good for all ailments internal and external. We leave on Sunday by train for two weeks at a resort/spa/sanitorium, the name of which escapes me. I pray it has internet.

Europeans love spas but in Ukraine they are a religion. People actually belive that one's health is improved immensely by going to a spa. It was one of the perks of the former system. Companies sent employees all expenses paid. Since husbands and wives usually worked for different employers, they would go at different times to different sanitoria for two or three weeks. (Did I mention the divorce rate is 70% here?).

Now, I walk my dogs through the local cemetary and if the number of deaths between 45 and 65 years of age is any indicator of the life prolonging effects of spa going, I remain to be convinced. However...we bought bottled Truskavets water at the grocery store three days ago and after chugging half a bottle, announced myself miraculously cured of all ailments and was not considered funny.

So we are going. Of course they only take cash so I had to pull enough from my account to cover. Given the withdrawal limits, this would take three days. March 31 - Fine. April 2 - no connection between Ukraine banks and American banks. April 3 - same. Panic. Email my Customer Service Rep at Conexus Credit Union. Is your system down? No. Phone Tanya's bank. There is periodically a disconnect between American and Ukrainian banks. Just keep trying.

Email my CSR at CCU. Can you give me a contact who deals with, in this case, Maestro so I can find out why their system is not connecting across the pond? Answer: "I called our internal person who said the problem must be in Ukraine and the bankmachines may have been serviced when I was there (THREE banks?) or there was an error in communication. Now PFO."

Doh! The only box this person ever thought outside of must have been a cornflakes box. And the first time in 35 years, I wanted to move my account. But where? Credit Union service is incredibly good, their people are wonderful and helpful. Maybe this one was just having a bad day (caused by me).

The sytem was back up by midnight - we made three trips to check and finally it worked. We are so dependent on our electronic age communication systems! What will we do when they don't work for real sometime?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Remembering the Farm - The Winter of 1955 - 1956

Anyone reading through the local history books of Saskatchewan communities might notice how often the Blizzard of 1955 is mentioned in various family stories. It was an old time three day white out just before Christmas that started one of the stormiest winters I can remember.

The day started out absolutely lovely. Mild, calm, sunny. The kind that killed pioneers who didn’t know better and set out for somewhere on foot or by horse and never made it. I was in Grade Three in the one-room school in Cavell. Miss Veit was the teacher, new in the fall. Dad showed up to take my brother and me home before the storm hit. You could hear it coming. He said Miss Veit should send all the kids home. Miss Veit wasn’t sure about that until the wind hit, grabbed the school front door out of her hand and smashed it to pieces against the wall. School was dismissed.

We got home before the snow started. Dales (Dad’s sister and family) had come to visit and we knew they weren’t going home for a while. Suited me but I have no idea how we made sleeping arrangements in that small house for another four people. Or more.

Old 14 Highway ran past our place at the time. Built in the 1930’s with horse drawn scrapers, it was narrow, with steep ditches. ¼ mile East and ¼ mile West of our farm site, the highway ran through two small hills with very poorly cut banks which trapped snow with every blow, blocking the road. We often had storm-stayed company over night trapped by the drifts in these cuts. Wish my folks were still alive to check with but I think we caught a couple more visitors with this blizzard too, so our house was FULL. For four days until they ploughed open the road.

It blew all winter. The truck mounted V-ploughs made cuts through the snow drifts which filled in higher the next time the wind blew. Our neighbour Martin Glackin was skinning Cat for the RM at the time. The Caterpillar was able to push the snow back in the deepest places and open the road but by March, he had given up. He was pushing snow over 15 to 20 feet high back from the road and it blew in again. The road was closed until spring thaw.

Dad drove us to school in the sleigh or the closed-in cutter for much of the winter.

I know I have some readers who will remember that winter and would appreciate comments and corrections to my story.