Saturday, February 28, 2015

Nemtsov is Murdered; Who is Next? (Ukraine invaded; Who is Next?)

My Facebook news feed this morning is full of stories of Nemtsov's murder yesterday evening.  Two days before an anti-Putin march scheduled for March 1st and within sight of the Kremlin.  There have been more than 100 murders of activists, journalists and other "enemies of the people" in the past 15 years.  Whether the Kremlin ordered the hits or whether targets were simply painted on peoples' backs and fate allowed to run its course is irrelevant.

Russian media is claiming it was a CIA sponsored provocation carried out by Ukraine and the trolls are all over any MSM comments section.  Like it took more than two brain cells to figure out that would be the story.

If you want a list, here is one of journalists only murdered since 1991:

What keeps Putin looking young and fit: Work outs, a face lift, botox AND this person.  Amazing what between $40 and $200 billion will do for a man.

More non-surprises:

  • In Ukraine both sides are pulling back their heavy artillery.  The Russian side has pulled back about 10% to 15% of what they claim they have and can have them back in place in under 30 minutes.
  • Russia has massed 63500 troops along the Ukrainian border, about half in Crimea.  Invasion of Mariupol expected in spring (I say sooner but what do I know and I am always a pessimist).
  • Organizers of the Kharkiv terrorist attack were trained supplied and funded by the GRU.
  • More HERE, including links to other articles.

The list of Putin's tactical objectives are well known and discussed to death at great length over the past year. His strategic objective is this: a return to the world of the Yalta agreement of 1945, (keeping in mind that Stalin agreed to everything but lied through his teeth) which de facto divided up Europe

Speaking about the foreign policy doctrine of Russian President, Khodorkovsky assures that Putin"s ultimate goals extend much farther than it seems. "Putin does not need Donbas. He wants to determine the fate of the world at talks with a U.S. President," he explained. Russian president would like to negotiate with the United States to return to the old system, when the world was divided into zones of influence of the superpowers. "When you cannot interfere in someone else's zone. Not even to mention internal politics," Khodorkovsky said.

That calls to mind these words of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill: "We seem to be very near the bleak choice between War and Shame. My feeling is that we shall choose Shame, and then have War thrown in a little later, on even more adverse terms than at present."
It is unlikely those world leaders will agree to that sort of humiliation again. The failure of the peace process means that, among other things, Russia is fundamentally incapable of keeping its agreements. It is impossible to make agreements with someone who violates that agreement the very next day.
In fact, the Ukrainian crisis marks the collapse of the existing world order. Putin is not fighting for control over a few economically depressed areas of the Donbass. He is fighting for the right to sit at the same table with the "great powers" where they redraw national borders.
But even if the West was willing to indulge Putin's desire, the time has long passed for individual leaders to determine the fate of other countries. The resulting impasse has put the West at a total loss as to how to proceed: Sanctions clearly have not forced Putin to change his policy, it is pointless to try to reach an agreement with him and it is impossible to go to war against a nuclear power. The Moscow Times
More good reading from Paul Goble: 
See also, for Paul Goble's series of articles based on comments in Russian, Ukrainian and other FSU media:

Window on Eurasia -- New Series

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Remembering the Farm – Cows II

Having grown up with cattle from a toddler, I was never afraid of them.  Dad had a small field of oats south of the yard that the pail-fed calves ran in.  Their mothers were milk cows and the calves got skim milk after the cream was separated out.  The calves were taller than the oats which was taller than me.  Mom knew where I was because she could see the calves moving through the field and knew I was following them.

Lack of fear can get you killed.  I was about 6 or 8 when the dog and I wandered through the herd during calving time.  A black and white heifer had calved for the first time and she was on the prod.  She flattened me and I have no recollection of how I got out of there without serious injury.  For the rest of her life she had no use for kids and dogs (or women in skirts as she chased my mother once when she was wearing a skirt).  She would put up with dad or any other adult.

We kids used to go “camping” in the pasture which began about ¼ mile north of the yard and had several good poplar and willow bluffs we could play in.  We had a 6x6x6 teepee tent that our grandparents Johnson had given us for Christmas which we took with us.  But we had to make sure the cattle were in another part of the pasture, to avoid the Black and White Cow (that was her name).

When I managed the farm at Cumberland House in the late 70s, during calving time I took the night shift as they all had cattle of their own.  One morning they came to work and found me high up on the 10’ shelter fence clinging for dear life with a wild-eyed crazy heifer pacing below me.  When they finished laughing they ran her into a pen and rescued me.  First calf heifers can be problems as once in a while one will spook because she has no idea what is happening to her or because she wants to protect her calf.

Mostly Dad’s cows calved on pasture on their own.  Calving problems were almost nonexistent as I do not recall Dad helping any.  Initially the cow herd was mostly milk cows that Dad bought, meaning beef cows with a touch of Guernsey, Jersey or Ayrshire and the rest Shorthorn or Hereford.  Bulls were Hereford until 1958 when Dad bought a Red Poll bull and three Red Poll cows to get a little more milk in the herd.  Eventually many of the herd had some Red Poll blood.  Then he bought an Angus bull which we kept for quite a few years for some reason.  After that it was all Simmental.  Initially half-blood and three-quarter blood but eventually purebred as the breed became established and purebreds affordable.

Initially there was a planned breeding period.  The bull went out July 1 to August 31.  The cows calved on pasture beginning in early April.  They got salt and bone meal (Ca, P) all year round.  The rapid growth of grass in May and June got the cows back in shape to rebreed beginning in July again.  It worked great as long as the pasture was good and the cows came through winter in fair condition.  

The problem was that as the bulls got better (Simmental) the cows got bigger and more productive.  The winter feed regime didn’t change so the cows were thinner in spring and took longer and longer to rebreed.  The last few years the bull ran with the cows all year round and calves were born whenever.  This created a huge amount of work for dad because the cattle managed him, not vice versa.

Up to the end of the 1950’s, everyone we knew kept their cows inside barns all winter long.  A huge amount of work, hauling feed in, hauling manure out up to 200 days of the year.  We were no different.  There was an old pole barn with a shiplap roof that may have been shingled at one time.  I am sure it was built around 1906 when the farm site was established.  That is where the cows stayed, tied in their stalls, let out once a day for water, pumped by hand from the well. 

The old barn, about 1952
 Dad’s Uncle Joe moved to Edmonton from Cavell in 1951. In 1953, Dad moved their big two-story house to the farm and put it on a cement foundation.  It was remodeled to become a second barn for milk cows, young calves, a few pigs and a team of horses.  The rest of the cattle were allowed to run loose in the old barn which was knee deep in muck by spring.

The stackyard by the barn c 1972.
 My kids might recognize their mother and uncles
The old barn finally collapsed the summer of 1959.  Dad had no choice that winter but to run the herd in the sloughs and poplar and willow bluffs, about 3/8 mile north of the farm, close to where the dugout was. (If cattle are grazing in snow they can get enough water from snow but if they are fed dry feed then they have to be watered).  We hauled feed to the cattle twice a day with the team and sleigh and cut ice on the dugout for them to drink.

Dad was more than a little nervous about the cattle being outside in the cold.  One night there was a bitter SE wind and it was 40 below.  In the middle of the night, Dad got up and harnessed the team, loaded the sleigh with grain and headed up to the cattle.  They were comfortably nestled down in deep bedding in the slough bottom out of the wind and much warmer than Dad was.  He said they never moved, just looked at him like he was crazy for disturbing them.  Dad didn’t even unloaded the sleigh; just turned around, put the team in the barn and went to bed. He never worried about them again.

In later years the team and loose feed was replaced by the pickup truck loaded with bales.  The trees eventually thinned out (cattle are murder on trees) and replaced by a windbreak shelter fence.  The cattle still drank from the dugout but several years of manure build up around the drinking holes and lack of good spring runoff left only a few feet of very murky water some years.  That is why it was cleaned out with a drag line the one year it was almost dry.

Feeding a twilight
My brother Stan took the last two pictures. To be continued

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ukraine gets thrown under the bus

Newsweek has a recent article entitled Europe throws Ukraine Under the Bus. It seems more like the whole world has.  The Russian separatists and Russian troops continued to attack along the line between Russian occupied Donbas and Ukrainian controlled Donbas.  Apparently they have since stopped as Ukraine has announced it is pulling it's heavy artillery back as agreed in Minsk II.

The DNR and LNR are "pulling their artillery back", too.  Several hundered tanks and other heavy artillery pieces were filmed moving from Donbas to the area near Mariupol which is likely to suffer a full scale attack from the north and east, hoping to surround the city and create another "kettle" like Debaltsev.

Russian trained and equipped terrorists set off a bomb in Kharkiv during the march to commemorate the Heavenly Hundred shot down on the streets of Kyiv Feb 20. The terrorists were arrested as were some intending to do the same in Odessa.  Ukraine security are working overtime in all cities to try to prevent more terrorist attacks.

Europe and America express "____ concern" (insert any adjective) and "call on Putin to ______".  They also discuss more sanctions and discuss this and discuss that.  Obama is supposed to make up his mind about supplying weapons sometime.  I will not hold my breath.  Maybe once Mariupol has fallen...

Interesting conjecture about Putin's next moves.  In past articles, talk was about continuing Russia's hybrid war against the Baltics.  Now the thinking seems to be that one of the snap military maneuvers carried out on the border with the Baltics will suddenly morph into a full scale rapid invasion of all three countries, leaving NATO to deal with a fait accompli.  Kaliningrad is much more anxious to be "rescued" than are the "Russian speakers" in the Baltics regardless of how much propaganda is pumped at them.  A land corridor to Kaliningrad will be as useful to Russia as a land corridor to Crimea.

This will leave Sweden and Finland sweating bullets as they could be next.  They have been holding military maneuvers with America though neither is part of NATO.  This did not please Russia who sent the Ambassador to speak to the Swedish Minister of the military and express his displeasure. The Minister's response was yes, sir, yes sir, three bags full sir, we will inform you of all future exercises.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Remembering the Farm - Cows I

It snowed in West-Central Saskatchewan on September 28, 1982.  Enough wet snow for the kids and I to make a wonderful snowman in our backyard and decorate it with  sweet peas which were still blooming along the fence between our place and Nash's in Kindersley.  Dad had no harvest done and no feed put up. He said he was 60 years old and tired.  He phoned "the truck" and the cattle went to the yards.  For the first time since my grandfather bought the farm near Cavell in early 1914 and likely since 1906, there was not a cow on the place.

Initially, Dad farmed four quarters of land (640 acres, 260 ha), two owned, two leased.  The leased land, which he eventually bought, was 240 acres (97 ha) native (prairie wool) pasture and 80 acres (33 ha) cultivated. This would handle about 20+ cows with small amounts of pasture near home for milk cows.  In the 60's he rented another 3 quarters, which he also eventually bought,  of which one (65 ha) was native pasture and the other two (130 ha) were cultivated.  This allowed the herd to expand to about 30 cows which could be covered by one bull.

The pasture was in good condition until 1961 when the year was drier than anything in the 1930's. Between the cows and the grasshoppers it was shaved clean and never really recovered in 20 years until after the cows were gone and it was a few years before dad leased out the pasture for grazing.

Parkland native pasture with poplar bluffs, wolf willow and buckbrush

Overgrazed pasture allows invaders such as prairie sage 

Lessee's cattle grazing on recovered pasture
We ran out of feed in the winter of 61-62 and so did many others.  Buying feed was a problem as the insecticide Dieldrin, which wasn't banned for another year or so, had a long residual effect which meant that sprayed crop residue couldn't be fed to cattle.  And virtually everything had been sprayed as it was the worst hopper outbreak in years. We found a neighbour with three year old straw, half rotten but along with grain, it kept the cattle alive until spring.

Old original well and pump jack.
Water sets the limits as much as grass.  Livestock numbers were in many cases limited by how much water a farmer could pump.  Some cattlemen had gasoline motors to run pump jacks but before we got electricity in 1953, it was all pumped by hand at our place from a bored well about 20 meters deep.  In summer the cattle on pasture drank from sloughs until they ran dry, then there was an old well that dad pumped from.  I don't remember that very well as PFRA made a dugout for us in the mid-fifties and the well was abandoned and filled in with rocks.

 In summer there were the draft horses and milk cows at home to be pumped water for.  Dad got a tractor in 1950 and the horses, all but two, went to France in tin cans, leaving just the milk cows.  More on them later.  But in winter all the cattle were home and pumping was a major chore. One of the first purchases when the electricity came on was a pump jack and small electric motor.

PFRA dugout, dug 1955 (?), dry and cleaned out in 1980's
That did us until the mid 1960's when we drilled a deep well (100 meters?) and put in a pressure system with a hydrant in the cattle yards. Water quality was terrible.  High in Glauber salts and Epsom salts, calcium carbonate and iron bacteria.  We had it analysed and the lab said it was not fit to drink.  We hauled drinking water but the livestock were stuck with it.

To be continued

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Therein lies madness

Last night at 1:00 am, I finished a short report for a friend.  It took me almost two weeks for something that should have taken two days at most.  I could not focus, could not concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time until last night when I put in three solid hours to finish.

Blog reading will get caught up on tomorrow and writing will continue sporadically as usual.  I read the other day that when you don't do what you are supposed to do, you have no time for anything else.  Mostly I read the news articles that showed up on my Facebook news feed and in my email and played solitaire.

Today I did nothing.  Slept for a while this afternoon. Read a couple of articles but couldn't bring myself to read anymore.  I feel as low as a snake's belly in a wagon rut as the saying goes.  The troops in the Debaltsev pocket were finally given the order to retreat and are now streaming northwards.  The Russian troops promised safe conduct if they gave up but remembering Ilovaisk, it is a bit like Lucy's promise to hold the ball for Charlie Brown.

There have been several ambushes along the way. One soldier comments he had to change vehicles several times as they kept getting shot up.  Used to be horses were shot out from under you, now it is trucks.  I guess most of them are getting out at least.  Ukraine is the only side that seems to be expected to abide by Minsk II.  Russia claims it is not part of the problem so is not part of the  Minsk agreements.

A BBC news crew were set up at the Donetsk Airport and narrowly escaped with their lives.  They were being toured around by DNR officialdom and an escort, which then left them alone to complete their shooting.  Mortars were being fired the whole time they were in their and they were told that they were incoming from the ATO and outgoing "suppressing fire" which was not so; they were all outgoing fired by DNR.  Suddenly, after the escort had left the mortar rounds started dropping right into the middle of the crew.  They ran for their lives.  The intent was to kill them and blame the Ukrainian military for breaking the truce etc.  Great propaganda.

Why do we do this?  All living creatures have lived out their allotted time and been replaced by the next generation since the dawn of time.  To what end? Humans live their three score and ten, yet we fight over riches and power and land as though we were here forever.  Empires come and go and have done so in an endless cycle over thousands of years.  To what end? People have suffered  the inhumanity of man to man for eons.  To what end?  You can't take it with you and if you have no intention of leaving it, I have news for you.  You will and there is no prize for the most toys.  So why do we do this?

Instead of trying to beat each other, why don't we help each other?  There is enough to go around, even for 7.5 billion people.  We could all have good education, clean drinking water, shelter, food...a very comfortable life.  It will not happen as we are as as species thousands of years too late to start.  The evils of today trace their roots back untold generations.  To what end?

The seasons go round, the generations go round, on and on ad infinitum.  To what end?  What if it stopped?  The doomsayers predict we will destroy the planet or it will destroy us.  What difference would it make?

Those who believe in a higher power have invented religions to explain the ends and why it matters in the name of their god. It seems that mostly they have served to tribalize and excuse the killing of any who are "not like us". To what end?

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?
One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.
The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.
The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.
All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.
All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.
There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.
And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.
 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.
That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.
I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.
 And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit.
For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.

You, indeed, have made my days short in length, and my life span as nothing in Your sight. Yes, every mortal man is only a vapor

"Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure.

Our veterinarian Andrei was here at 7:00 tonight to give our cats some kind of medication.  They had to do without food all day (they have food in their dish at all times) and were they antsy by supper time.  I cooked Andrei a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches while he and Tanya treated the cats. They are now eating and will likely sleep all night with full tummies.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Peace in our time or July 1914?

The Minsk talks have ended with an agreement.  The opening positions of Ukraine and Russia were as follows:

1. Drawing a new line of division: Ukraine wants the same one that was agreed upon in September, while Russia wants a new line that reflects the rebels’ significant territorial gains since then.
2. Withdrawing Russian troops and equipment from eastern Ukraine: Russia says it does not have any troops and military hardware in the east, a stance scoffed at by Ukraine and NATO.
3. Securing the Ukraine-Russia border: Ukraine wants to regain control of its border with Russia to stem the flow of Russian fighters and weapons, while Russia says that’s up to the rebels who have captured some key border posts.
4. Giving the separatists more autonomy: Ukraine says it may offer them broad rights under Ukrainian law but Russia wants guarantees. Russia also wants Ukraine to end its financial blockade of the east.
Exactly what is in the agreement has not been reported however it is irrelevant as the leaders of the DNR and LNR refuse to sign it.  Which, of course, is exactly what Putin planned.  He promotes peace but the "rebels over whom he has no control" reject it and so his aggression in eastern Ukraine will continue until Ukraine surrenders on Putin's terms.
Russia's threats to use tactical nukes if USA arms Ukraine has scared the crap out of Europe, which is what sent Merkel and Hollande scurrying to Minsk to meet with Putin.  This is good for Putin's ego and good for his standing at home.  He is no longer being ignored and isolated.
It is time for Obama to play that great Psych 101 decision making game "Shit or Get Off the Pot".
We live at the far west side of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast (see inset)

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Changing Monkeys

The following was sent to me by a good friend who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty but he taught me animal nutrition.

If you start with a cage containing five monkeys and inside the
cage, hang a banana on a string from the top and then you place a set
of stairs under the banana, before long a monkey will go to the stairs
and climb toward the banana.

As soon as he touches the stairs, you spray all the other monkeys with cold water.

After a while another monkey makes an attempt with same result
... all the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Pretty soon
when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will
try to prevent it.

Now, put the cold water away.

Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one.

The new monkey sees the banana and attempts to climb the
stairs. To his shock, all of the other monkeys beat the crap out of him.
After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the
stairs he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another of the original five monkeys, replacing it with a new one.

The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous
newcomer takes part in the punishment...... with enthusiasm, because
he is now part of the "team".

Then, replace a third original monkey with a new one, followed by
the fourth, then the fifth. Every time the newest monkey takes to the
stairs, he is attacked.

Now, the monkeys that are beating him up have no idea why they
were not permitted to climb the stairs. Neither do they know why they
are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.

Finally, having replaced all of the original monkeys, none of the
remaining monkeys will have ever been sprayed with cold water.
Nevertheless, not one of the monkeys will try to climb the stairway for
the banana.

Why, you ask? Because in their minds...that is the way it has always been!

This, my friends, is how Parliament operates... and this is why,
from time to time: ALL of the monkeys need to be REPLACED AT THE SAME TIME.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Cats and Dogs; Odds and Sods

Last months flurry of posts on the Russian war against Ukraine boosted my numbers and actually brought Russia up to Number three Position for hits on my blog (Canada 400, USA 350, Russia 50) but it came at a cost.  Ukraine is not doing well economically nor militarily and the hundreds of news articles I read on the Internet made me highly depressed which is why you haven't seen me until today.

Yesterday a good friend emailed me and said blog about dogs, cats and kids.  He must have known I needed the break.  I may even blog about cows at some point, so be warned.

We have a new dog.  At least so far no one has claimed her and we have put up a number of posters.  Kashtanka (little chestnut) is a small young (>1 yr) reddish female about 7 kg who joined us on a walk about 10 days ago and has not left since, even though we have given her ample opportunity. She has become Volk's wife and he is quite content and does not cry all night like he has since Bobik died.

There is some question as to whether she married for love or money.  Volk has a big house, lots of food and a comfortable life but he is 7 years old, much older than she.  Kashtanka has a young male friend from next door.

Lucia and Zhenia's little male puppy, Lord, which is about 6 or 7 months old now can squeeze under their fence.  He and Volk played together until  Kashtanka arrived.  Kashtanka likes to play with Lord because he is young and bouncy while Volk is suddenly all serious business.  He doesn't try to kill Lord (yet) but does try to discipline him rather severely.  Lord just thinks he is playing rough and continues to make a nuisance of himself.

Kashtanka has gone for her veterinary visit and is recovering at Sveta's until she can come home and go back in Volk's yard.  Kashtanka is a nice name but clumsy.  Do I call her Kasha (porridge) for short or Tanka (rude short name for Tatiana)?

Kashtanka was not fussy about getting her picture taken
Volk seems to be taking her absence in stride, only crying a few times. How to explain she will come back?  Yesterday was clear and sunny so we went for a long walk almost up to the lake east of us, which made him happy as he could explore places he had not been for a while.  I almost fell in the creek that drains the lake down to the Zhovti River and came home mud to the hocks.

Water build up in our marsh area
Last fall someone got a good burn of the dry reeds in our marsh and this winter there has been a build up of water in the area, deep enough to ripple in the wind.  This panorama is from four photos taken with my mobile phone.  The frogs and ducks will be happy in spring. I am sure the Phragmites reeds grass will be 3 to 5 meters tall again by the end of June.  That is amazing stuff; grows like bamboo.

We have been house and town bound for months it seems.  Tanya bought a painting on line from an artist in Poltava.  Maybe we can take the train and go and see the gallery.  I have never been to Poltava though I was close back in 1999 when several of us went to the  Mgarsky Monastery and Holodomor Memorial nearby.

The cats are fine; they send their love.