Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Field notes from home

By Yulia

Last year, May and part of June turned out to be the busiest months for us here. This year seems to be repeating the pattern. We've been very busy the whole
month of May, hence not too many blog posts. Of course it is the time of planting and tending the garden, but it is by far not the only activity we have been involved in lately. Yes, to be able to continue to move forward, multitasking is a must for us living here. Planning, fixing, doing, redoing, growing, cutting down -- creating our space here, takes a lot of effort. It builds not only physical, but also mental and emotional stamina. Being in the process of it all, right in the middle of this creation, it is, sometimes, very easy for us to forget how much has been done, how much we have done to make it happen. But there are times when we stop for a moment and take a look around. Wow! A lot has changed since we first arrived here.
Allow me to take you on a walk around our place and show you what is happening:
A beauty.
We've been eating our own green salads for over a month now. Sometimes I harvest salads and sometimes I harvest hearts! Yes, the violas will also be eaten.
Planted a few heads of rhubarb brought from the grandparent's. Thickly mulched it with straw to keep the weeds down and the roots cool.
A few plants are self re-seeding in our garden, like this borage. Called cucumber grass in Ukraine. It's bristly and smells like a fresh cucumber. We add it to our salads and juice it. Later in the season it will produce vibrant purple flowers, which are beloved by the bees. Calendula, ground cherries, tomatillos, red orach and dill are also popping up all over the place. 

Lavender is soon to flower. 
Elder is starting to flower. Last year, I dried it for tea, but this year I also wanted to try something  new.
An elderflower champagne that is. I used Susun Weed's recipe that I found on Youtube. It was very simple and quick to make, hopefully it is also tasty. 

Can you spot those valerian plants in front? Are they supposed to be that tall!? I'm not sure if you can tell, but they are about 1.5 meters high. We have some wild valerian growing by the spring and it is definitely not that big. 
Apples, apples, apples...we have over 20 apple trees growing on our properties. We didn't plant them. They were already here when we arrived. This year almost every single one is loaded with fruit. We shall see what the harvest is like this year.
Strawberries are also doing exceptionally well this year. Last year I added a few more varieties and they are also flowering a lot. We are expecting strawberries in about two weeks.
Pictured here is our plant nursery. It is in the process of being moved, yet again. This is my third moving it, but I think this time I found just the perfect spot: it stays cool during the hot summer days and it is well sheltered from wind. I've been adding a lot of freshly planted pots to our nursery lately. For some it has taken just a few weeks to emerge, Catalpa, Norway Spruce, Ponderosa Pine and Red Alder are among them. And I am happy to finally see a single (at least!) Siberian Cedar (the one with edible cedar nuts)  making its appearance. I've tried to grow them more than  a few times but have failed every time. Perhaps, more of its siblings are not too far behind. Do hurry up, please! It takes years and years, until the tree starts producing any nuts. 

One of our sweet chestnut trees is doing very well.
We have 3 serviceberry trees planted and this year was the first time that they bloomed. Now they are full of  green berries. We have never tried them before, so it will be a real treat once they ripen. 
Hesperis Matronalis is hugging the pear tree. These flowers are tall and fragrant, especially in the evenings and  on cloudy days. To the left of them is clary sage waiting to greet the world with its purple flowers.
On Monday was a holiday here, so it was spent gathering herbs. These are hanging to dry in our kitchen. 
Two years ago I planted a single seed packet of chamomile, today it is proudly taking over my herbal bed. It reseeded last fall and is looking as lush as ever. 

That same chamomile was harvested to dry. It will be made into tea during the winter time. 
This sage was grown from seed. It was planted less than 2 years ago. And look at the beauty it has become! 
 Michael has been working on changing the wooden siding on our house. The north side, which faces the street, is done. This project has made Michael very popular at the village. Every person walking by complements his work! This photo was taken  before the shutters were installed.

This photo was taken at 9 pm, so the colors aren't that great, but you get the idea.

Toma is always nearby!

Friday, May 8, 2015

'Tis the season and other shenanigans

By Yulia

Right now our Ukrainian village is bustling and the villagers are hustling. We are in the month of Apri-May and the weather is more than suitable. 'Tis the season. That is, the season of the potato, and the corn, and some more potatoes. Old, rusty, metal cans are making their ways to the fields, while leaving trails of noxious aromas. The men inside of them are just as rough as their industrial beasts. A brand new mini tractor, not yet touched by the elements, can be spotted quietly rumbling away in another nook of the village. It is mounted by a part-timer. His life is in the city. He has the resources. Firas, the good, old fashioned horse and carriages, are making their rounds also. Filled by adolescent boys and grown men alike, looking to prove their self-importance, the firas garishly zoom by.They all have a common goal -- to turn the soil. 

Over the next few days, perfectly straight rows in the fields will be filled with potatoes and corn. This yearly ritual (almost) never fails in the Ukrainian countryside. For (almost) any villager will tell you about the importance of stacking up on sacks and sacks of potatoes, rightfully dubbed Ukraine 's second bread, for the winter time. Corn grown by the villagers here is usually not consumed by people, it is destined to be dried and used to feed their poultry, and perhaps, some domestic bunnies. It is still a mystery to Michael and I why so many potatoes have to be grown here. The majority of people's plots are dedicated solely to this root vegetable. Why not plant more trees or diversify your crops a bit more? Don't get me wrong -- the locals do grow other things. There are plenty of fruit and nut trees, mostly, sour cherries, apples, pears, grapes and walnuts. Also vegetables such as beets, carrots, onions, garlic, cabbage, just to name a few, are grown. But no other crop gets as much attention and space, both literally and metaphorically speaking, as a potato does. 

In the midst of this potato planting extravaganza, we decided to go to the city to take care of a few things and to visit the Lviv City Market.

After running some errands on Saturday morning, we grabbed a marshrutka (a small city bus) and headed downtown.

We don't visit this part of the city (where the market was taking place) very often. And there's always something new to discover in Lviv, like this interesting statue that I'm seeing for the very first time.
This pair was found by the fountain near where the Lviv city market was taking place. Judging by its look, it must be newer than the previous one.

A fellow with a wine barrel. 
And here's something odd.  This large boot in the middle of the street is made out of live plants, although they are look rather grey right now.  Not sure why it's there, might be for a local shoe company or a store?
The area in front of the Opera House was full of people.

The small wooden booths are set up for the ongoing Easter fair, which will end next week. They sell all things Easter related and more.

The Lviv city market promised to showcase stylish, good quality and delicious products made in Ukraine. As their FB invite said: " Не “скігліть”, а підтримуйте наших місцевих виробників", meaning: " Don't wine (complaint), but support our local producers." I can definitely agree with that! It was a pleasure to see young, local (mostly from the Lviv area) artists, bakers, crafters, brewers, performers, photographers, clothes makers and just all around creative folks in one spot. This is what it looked like at the Lviv city market.

We bought a loaf of homemade sourdough bread from these people. They also had all kinds of home baked goods: strudel, cheesecake, muffins etc..

Little forest creatures. Michael got one of their prints for our veranda.

More cards, notebooks etc..

I love succulents!

Bow ties and suspenders -- yes and yes! 

These people are amazing. They are one of the reasons I wanted to visit the market. We purchased a couple of spoons from them. 

Block printed t-shirts with a ukie theme
A unique way of brewing coffee. These guys from the "Alternative coffee" were very popular with the visitors. 

In the bottle next to the stuffed creature is a cold brewed coffee, no heat has been applied. The guys told us that it takes about 3 hours to drip-brew it, which results in a less acidic and more full bodied coffee. 

Michael wanted to try some of their coffee. It was very acidic and strong.
We liked their cat and reindeer lamps. 

While most of the vendors were from the Lviv area, this duo came all the way from the capitol of Kyiv. They were very friendly and knowledgeable showing us their vintage Polaroid cameras from the 60's and 70's, as well as some new models. 
It was a hot day. The sun was beating down on us and somewhere half way through the day, feeling like two sardines stuffed in a can, we started to grow weary of the city. Before heading back home, we grabbed a late lunch with a friend at no other than Green cafe. Somehow we always find ourselves there.
Raw borscht, fresh grapefruit juice and uzvar.

Michael had a Mexican soup and carrot juice.

Some ammazing pink tortellini with a rich sauce. We couldn't believe they were plant based. 

The village met us with its cool, refreshing air of the early evening. And our neighbors greeted us with their usual inquisitiveness:

"Hello! We haven't seen you at all today. We're always used to seeing you work."
"Hello! Yes, we were gone. We were in Lviv." I assured them.

It's good to be home. Tonight the frogs are serenading each other. Their melody will lull us to sleep. 

Sweet dreams everyone!