Tuesday, March 24, 2015

As of lately ~ in pictures

Last week we had some special guests here in Ukraine. It was our family ;) (Hello! O&Z) They were in Lviv for a short time, but wanted to see and do as much as possible. We suggested the Lviv Opera Theater, since they've never been there. We ended up seeing Die Fledermaus (The Bat) or летюча миша in Ukrainian. The operetta was funny! Everyone did a marvelous job. After seeing this operetta, Michael and I decided that we need to go to the Opera theater more often. Once we have more time, we definitely will. Our family also enjoyed it and wanted to go back there the next day!
At the entrance hall of the Opera Theater. People always take pictures there. I don't blame them, it's a beautiful space!
Dining out was another thing we did a lot of while our family was here. Michael and I don't get to do it very often and having them here gave us an excuse to go out for lunch or dinner, or maybe even both. We visited our regular spots, such as Green and Veronica's. We like going to those places, because we are confident in finding delicious and nutritious plant based dishes there. However, we think we discovered yet another favorite -- Amadeus. It has the same owners as Veronica's. The decor and the menus were, indeed, very similar. Our family had been there before. They stumbled upon it on their last trip to Lviv and had nothing but good things to say about it. We are happy to have agreed to visit it with them this time. We feasted on delicious green salads with sunflower sprouts and pea shoots, green curry and poppy seed varenyky.
The picture above is of the panting that hung by our table at Amadeus. Her name is Anna D'Austria Regina Gatta IX and she has a cat babe? Bizarre and cute! 
This year nature gifted us with another early and warm spring. Therefore, I happily started planting in our vegetable garden. It feels soooo good to dip my hands in the soil and dream of all the veggies we will soon have :) Pictured above are two of our small seabuckthorn beds. We have 12 of them lined up. We built these by encircling our seabuckthorn trees with some rocks we found around the property and adding compost. These two have been planted with mache salad, turnips, lettuce, garlic chives and more. I had to put some branches/sticks around the beds to keep cats and chickens out. Our cats love using fresh soil as their toilet. And although we don't own any chickens, the adventurous chicken from next door always finds her way into our garden. Later, it's a big drama trying to get her out. She always seems to forget her way back home. 
This long bed was planted with fava beans, carrots, beets, spinach, different lettuces, greens, and dill. We have four such beds in the veggie garden.
Two more composting bins were added. The way we garden requires a lot of compost and our household also produces a lot of organic waste--kitchen scraps, garden clippings, other organic materials etc., so having large composting bins is a must for us. (or any gardener, for that matter)
Our pond is still waiting to be be finished. The previous owner dug it up (by-hand!) and started lining it with rocks. He was hoping to connect it to the natural spring, which runs not too far from us. However, one of the neighbors didn't want the pipe to go through his property, so he put a stop to the project. We will have to figure something out in the near future and turn this into a nice water feature. 
Home remodeling continues. Work is being done in our last room. We are dividing our bedroom in half, in order to have enough room for a bathroom and a closet. This shot shows the future bathroom area.
Michael working hard, as always. 
And the wall is up. Drywall was used to construct it. Although, not our kind of building material, but the previous owner had bought it, so we decided to put it to good use. 
Spring is moving forward. We're discovering more flowers, like this Liverwort (Hepatica nobilis).
It's time to gather medicinal herbs again. It is my first year harvesting coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) flowers. We have a small patch of  them growing on our property. These are some of the earliest flowers in the spring. The flowers come up first and the bees love to visit them. Later, once the flowers are done blooming, the leaves appear. I will collect those also and combine them with the blooms to make tea. 
And more crocuses. These are quite large in comparison to the other ones. Also, beloved by our bees. 
There is also some flowering happening inside the house, Bright red flowers add cheer to our veranda.

We hope you're enjoying spring as much as we are!


Monday, March 16, 2015

DIY Home Repair Videos

If you are new to home repair and need a place to find instruction and how-to videos, I have found this site useful: askmediy.com. The host, Dominick Amorosso, makes short videos that focus on one aspect of a job at a time.

For example, Yulia and I have some drywall that was already in the house when we moved in. We may have never thought of using it before we came here. But since it is here, we figured we might as well put it to use.

Since I don't know left from right when it comes to drywall, I found Amorosso's videos really helpful. In this one, he talks about how to install a corner bead:

I'll keep this one short. Just thought I'd share this in case there's anyone else out there taking on similar projects.

Monday, March 9, 2015

There's daylight at the end of the tunnel

Yulia and I would like to have running water in our house someday, and to accomplish that, we must first install sewage pipes that will take waste water from our house to a septic tank. In order to get the pipes from our house to the outside, we recently dug a tunnel under the foundation of our home.

I started inside, in the corner of our bedroom. I pulled up the floorboards and then started digging. 

 After digging for a while I went outside, approximated where I was digging inside, and began to dig another tunnel.

I dug both tunnels for two days hoping that they would connect at some point. I teach English on the internet, so I had to go inside (or through the corridor to the living room), unvictorious, on a few occasions. Self doubt began to grow.

On the second day, the hole in our bedroom was quite deep. Using the measuring tape I knew the bottom of the hole was at least even with the bottom of the foundation. But I needed to go deeper. I tried probing with a metal rod to try and find the other tunnel, but I had no luck. Were my tunnels not even going to meet?

By the end of the second day I was annoyed. I had made a lot of progress on the horizontal tunnel from the outside. It was about half a shovel length in--surely deeper than the thickness of our wall. 

I had a bad headache from the constant bending over and lifting of dirt. I was sick and tired of this job. Was it worth all this effort just to be able to put in a sewage pipe?

I summoned my energy.

On the third day I measured. Dug. Measured again. Dug from the inside. Dug from the outside. I asked Yulia if she could see or hear anything on the other end when I probed with the rod. Nothing.

I took a break. Then gathered my energy, pulled up yet another floorboard, and started to dig again.

I took out two more wheelbarrows of dirt.The hole in the bedroom was twice as wide at this point.  I was able to stand in it. The bedroom's floorboards came up to my chest. I was covered with sand and dirt and so was the bedroom and corridor.

Finally, I probed with the rod just to the side of a big rock that was in the way, and success! I moved the rock and was able to create a nice, big hole to daylight with little more effort! 

On the bottom right you can see my foot.
Yes, I dug this hole in my sandals! On the first day I tried wearing boots, but realized I would have to take them off every time I went outside to dump a bucket of dirt. The balls of my feet are feeling it at this point!
I'm not sure if this is a very good story. My feeling is that it's not. It's about a rather mundane subject--a sewage pipe. Who doesn't have a sewage pipe in their house? (We didn't until recently) The protagonists are dirt and a shovel. The antagonists are rocks, a deep foundation, and a thick wall. My photos are mostly brown. Everything is covered in dirt. The scene looks bare and dreadful. The denouement was expected. 

Why do I think it is worth telling?

I tell this story because it's a snapshot of our lives. Yulia and I have many such stories, but we don't always get the chance to share them. Every day brings us challenges, but every day also brings us victories. If you think your end goal is worth it, then the labor and pain that some days bring are put into perspective. They make up your life just like joy and pleasure. 

Our goal in life is not to be comfortable as often as possible. We think there are things in this world more important than pleasure and comfort. But this does not mean we are masochists either. It's important for us to rest and relax for both health and sanity. 

I tell this story to convey some of the texture of our lives. We write about taking walks through flower filled fields. We write about eating delicious foods. And we write about this just because it is another part of our everyday lives. Yulia and I try to learn and grow everyday. That is why we feel we are here. 

We hope you find this little tale useful as well. Yulia and I have found that the greatest challenges we have faced as do-it-yourselfers are rarely written about. It is easy to find information on how to install a sewage pipe in your house. It's easy to find information about gardening and healthy eating. It's less common (though not impossible) to find how other people have struggled with something like installing a sewage pipe in their old house. Building materials don't usually come with emotional directions. We hope this helps fill that gap just a little bit.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Lately in our household...

Looking to the south from the top of our roof on a cloudy day

We are working on the last room in our house - the bedroom. The walls have been painted and now it's time to install the ceiling.
The ceiling is almost done! (Notice the huge citrus tree in the middle of the room, it's a mandarin. My grandparents gave it to us in the fall. It is 30 years old and was grown by them from seed.)
Looking through some old things found in the house. There are a lot of beautifully embroidered traditional Ukrainian towels, table runners and such. They are all thick and sturdy,  made out of  homespun linen and hemp. I'm not sure what to do with them yet, but there were two linen towels/table runners that looked like they would make perfect pillow cases. So I did just that! What do you think?
Last week the weather was very nice  here. We had a few sunny days with temperatures going up to 15 degrees Celcius. I decided to use that opportunity and do something productive outside. I'm a big fan of  having stairs and large rocks in the landscape, so I decided to give it a shot and build a walkway/stairs using concrete urbanite that we have scattered around the property. I used sand to level out the surface and to fill in the cracks between the stones. It is not finished yet, but we are liking the result so far. 
The spring is near!
Stocking up more wood for the early spring and the next winter.

Michael cutting wood from the old/broken/fallen trees we found on and around the property. (And Toma is always nearby.)

Also stocking up on smaller branches and twigs. These are great for starting a fire.

For the past two weeks we've been trimming our trees. We have over 30 apple trees alone. A few of them are very old, most of them are overgrown and  a lot of them have dry or damaged branches.
Some curious fungus growing on the shady side of  our old wooden fence. Can anyone tell us what it is?

It's taken me nearly forever to finish this post! Well...enough time for the first flowers outside to stat blooming, like these yellow crocuses.
Can you spot the tiny snowdrops? They are popping up all over our apple orchard. 

Looks like the spring is almost here...

Til next time,


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Voices of the Cherokee People

Yulia introduced me to an interesting show the other day called, Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People. It is a new TV show made by the Cherokee about their own culture. The show discusses news and history.

One of the interviews that caught Yulia's attention the most was an interview with Roy Boney Jr, an artist. He explains how many people often question his artwork. "If you're a native person, you need to do this kind of art," they say, giving him a picture of an Indian in a head dress on a horse. Instead he paints in his own style and infuses his paintings with traditional themes and the Cherokee language itself.

Yulia said she can relate to this. She also paints and doesn't like to feel that she has to conform to any school or style that already exists. When it comes to our being Ukrainian, you may have already guessed from other posts we have written that we also try to resist Ukrainian stereotypes like the vyshyvanka (the traditional Ukrainian embroidered shirt) and the whiskered kozak on horseback. Yulia and I like these aspects of our culture, but we also don't think they should be the beginning and the end of it.

Being from Ukraine, Yulia feels a certain connection with American Indians. For her, it was always easier to connect with them than with Americans with European ancestry. I'm also interested in their culture, but perhaps on a different level. Either way, we both enjoyed watching the first episode of this new series. It helped take our minds away from war, terrorism, and politics (which dominates Ukrainian news right now) for just a little bit.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

This Old House

As a second part to our post titled, "Home buying and home repair TV shows," we must add our recommendation of This Old House. I remember watching this show many, many years ago with my parents, but the show has new meaning to me now that I am fixing my own house.

For a do-it-yourselfer with no experience, it was initially a little hard to me to watch teams of workers with every tool imaginable take on a project in a fraction of the time it takes me to stumble through something similar. I annoy Yulia several times each episode with comments like, "Wow! There's literally a special tool for every kind of job out there! I would have never imagined!"

I also envy the professionalism that building contractors have in the United States. We hired a team of three workers to change our roof last summer and were not totally pleased with the result. Several weeks ago I had to climb up to our chimney to examine our internet cable and antenna and saw that they lied to us about caulking around the chimney. I'll have to do it myself and replace the flashing that is already beginning to detach.

But Yulia and I have warmed up to the show considerably after getting over the shock of how much money, resources, and skill are available in America. We are fixing our house for a fraction of what it takes in the States, and we are paying close attention to the experts on This Old House for when the time comes for us to take on similar projects here. I'm already thinking how to better waterproof our house when we replace our siding in the summer.

In general, the show is not only about the construction site, but about different themes. Usually, the homeowner has some sort of style or preference, and the hosts of the show explore those themes in greater detail by traveling to different places to learn more about history, style, and building types. So far we have watched projects that explore the "Scandinavian Modern" style (which can be found in the video above), "Universal Design" (that is, designing for elderly and disabled homeowners), and the history of the "Dutch Colonial" home.

The show has turned out to be a hit for Yulia and me. Whenever we find some spare time, Yuila suggests we watch This Old House. It's not only educational, but interesting and entertaining.

Thanks to our reader, "Saint Coemgen," for recommending this show to us! You were right on in your recommendation!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Chaos for the sake of chaos

Like most Ukrainians, Yulia and I want to get on with our lives. We are not interested in living in a state of perpetual war. We moved to Ukraine to grow a beautiful garden, fix an old house, and maybe even enjoy ourselves. We are doing that and try to blog about it whenever we get a breather from our very busy lives.

But we also came to Ukraine because we love the country. We love the land and the people. I have more family than I ever realized living here. Yulia and I try and treat everyone with respect, whether it be family or strangers. We are doing our best to be responsible caretakers of our land.

Along with that responsibility comes the job of protecting it from people who want to destroy it. We have attended protests and railed against international fossil fuel companies who were planning on drilling for shale gas in our immediate area. Thankfully, that threat has passed for now. Unfortunately, war has been spreading across our country for quite some time now, and we can't ignore it. We do not relish writing about it on our blog. We wish we could write about eating healthy and planting trees (and we will). But I just wanted to share some thoughts that came out of a conversation Yulia and I had not too long ago.

Like many people who live far away from the battles, we read about the war in the news. I was particularly sickened by the attack on Mariupol, where rockets were fired from behind Russian lines into the city. Thirty people were killed. All but one were civilians who were going about their daily lives when they were suddenly killed.

The Russian side has been called many names since this conflict started. People say that they are "zombified" (due to the high level of brainwashing happening in the Russian world) and refer to them as potato beetles because of the orange and black striped ribbons the separatists often wear. However, the fact remains that they are human just like all of us. I believe that very few people are actually evil by nature.

What would prompt someone sitting in a truck to fire unguided rockets into a city of 500,000 people is beyond me. Trying to understand a person with such a mindset has been sobering. I've lost my former naivete. I no longer think our enemy in this war is just trying to build what they think is a better country. I think they are trying to create an environment of chaos as their end goal. Up until now they had a chaotic environment provided for them by Ukraine's criminal presidents (most notably Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Yanukovych). Now they face the prospect of Ukrainians building a more enlightened, democratic society, and they are frightened that they will have to start living like responsible adults.

I shared these thoughts with Yulia, and she said she thinks that this war began long ago. It has grown out of a collective culture which allows people to act without fear of consequences. I think she's right. These are broken, traumatized people whose psychological disorders have never been addressed. Their sicknesses did not just develop overnight, so I don't think it is accurate to say that these people are simply resisting the democratic changes that have swept Ukraine in the past year. The sooner the Ukrainian side realizes this, the better. Their psychological wounds have been festering for a long time. Sadly, Ukraine still faces a long road of collective rehabilitation after the violence stops.