Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Farm report…

Pear wine? Why not. Dry and a bit tart, but thoroughly drinkable. I make this claim from two kind of experience. My own sampling and that the local drunks broke into my house two years ago and the pear wine was all they took!
Long day today out in the weather. I don't know what the conversion is really, but Egor told me that we were looking at something like 90 degrees. Hot, hot hot! I have said this before but I think the single greatest thing I have ever done at the dacha was putting in a shower. Now the technology on this is not so mind blowing: We have a bucket with holes in the bottom suspended over the water trough next to the well. But let me tell you what it means to be able to have cold water fall all over you when you are covered in land and sweat. We have a second version now as well since I found an old hand-pump sprayer at the renok. This was the USSR's human energy version of a compressor and can be used for anything from spraying for bugs to spray painting the house. So now, in addition to dousing, you can also shoot a light mist all over the general area you are in, sort of a light rain, and cool off that way. I need to grease the plunger though; working up a new sweat trying to undo the original seems to be sort of redundant.

But woe is our field after those torrential rains from last week. There were a lot of things I didn't see at first glance such as what has happened to our peppers. Sad, sad looking things now. Peppers simply do not like so much extra water. The word in Russian for things which become rotted is gnili- the leaves are all drooping and several plants have started to go over, Titanic like in dramatic plant terms. Several of the stalks have half grown peppers bulging under the wilting leaves. It is all very sad.

To balance this out we have this week the first edible apples available as well as the first pickles. We missed the first bus home today and having eaten our food supply already, we noshed on small fresh apples, straight from the trees. This is not an apple year for sure; nothing like last year's deluge. It is a pear year though and our two remaining "gruzhiks" are chock full of already semisweet brown pears. In fact, there are so many brown bulbs hanging all over oe of them that it seems like Christmastime already (Sorry Moishe). Pear wine? Why not. Dry and a bit tart, but thoroughly drinkable. I make this claim from two kind of experience. My own sampling and that the local drunks broke into my house two years ago and the pear wine was all they took! Ok, a Belarusian alkash (alcoholic) will drink anything push come to shove, but they did see it as something to drink! This is something. I still wish they would bring back the seven-litre bottle though.

We didn't plant a lot this year. At the beginning, we didn't think we could afford either in time or money a full-on year like last year. Wanting less time in the field, we went without a major potato planting and absolutely no tomatoes; these the two most difficult/work intensive crops to try and bring in. But in the end, and to our chagrin we found that unfortunately, we still had just as much work to do despite not looking forward to the same sort of harvest. But during the course of this year's work we decided on a long term plan which will, after three or four years, potentially balance out the cost of the farming and travel to and from. No one will get rich from this, but there should be a benefit for us and for the kids. Once this plan became clear though, it made the land management much easier. This is not to say that we have been swinging blindly up until now- I mean, we have been swinging blindly, but we have been learning on each missed cut. At the moment though there is great hope that we will have both allowed ourselves the sort of situation which will bring the most pleasure and nourishment possible from the land as well as allowing ourselves at least some chance to make back a few dollars. And on days like today when the sweat pools in your glasses and your mind slows down so much that decision making is like waiting for a pot to boil, you appreciate a golden, sweet dream or two. Hope does indeed spring eternal and along with nostalgia is the highest selling Belarusian commodity available.

And finally, for everybody but us today was also a bicycle day up at the farm. Through the misty haze which came over my eyes from dehydration and sunburn, it seemed a heavenly picture watching all of our village people gently peddling around on their Motovello Eists- Old and young, just enjoying the breeze made by some light effort. And really, how better to beat the heat than to push your bike around a little? Heart, lungs. Legs- and no particular pestering of the old joins. These old cold warrior bikes squeak and groan under the weight of their riders; the wheels never seem to stay in round, they never really allow for speed. Bu then again, who is in a hurry to go anywhere on such a hot summer day as this? Up one village street and down the other (there are only two streets) and then back again with a slow circle to allow for a short conversation with a friend. Ah the gentle life; nowhere to go and all the time in the world to get there. That's Belarus in the summer to me.

More soon…