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 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!


  1. Hey that was pretty cool, the blog. So what kind of "forest creature" did the Michael get for the veranda? I really enjoyed the pictures and the order of you day. Especially about the frogs serenading. My cat today will have a visitor serenading him......King Kona is stopping by. GREAT Post

  2. A few reasons why potatoes are so popular:

    - Potato is a high yield crop. 20 tons per hectare for potato compared to 5 tons for maize (corn) and 3 tons for wheat. Corn and wheat also do better if rotated in larger plots. If you are poor, you get more food per square meter with potato each year, year after year (baring infection with blight).

    - Since the potato contains toxins in its leaves, it is not bothered by insect pests. No need to spray insecticides to protect the plant directly (but spraying does help keep insect vectors from infecting the potato plant with viruses).

    - Potato is resistant to extreme weather. A heavy wind, hail or rain storm can decimate a corn or wheat field.

    - Potato is easy to post harvest process and store over winter in a dark, dry cellar. Wheat and corn must be stored in a mouse and rat proof container. Wheat also takes additional processing (husking), and corn must be dried and shucked off the cob (more post harvest work than with potato).

    - Potato has vitamin C. Cereal crops (i.e. corn, wheat, etc) do not. Not so important today when you can buy a lemon or orange from Spain or Turkey in January, but historically this was important.

    - Endless ways to cook potato. I especially like them mashed with lentils and vegetables where their starch helps to form a nice veggie-berger.