On Friday, May 3, Michael and I left for Chisinau by 8 am so that we could do a few things before Herb Graybill and David “Huffy” Hoffman’s plane landed. We were able to purchase the actual cell phone for me, not having as many choices of appropriate phones available in the US as I had hoped. We got to the airport about 20 minutes before the scheduled landing, and found that the plane was going to be about 25 minutes late.
When it arrived, Michael and I waited nearly an hour for Herb and Huffy to get to us. Because of a strong headwind on the flight from US to Munich, they only had about 30 minutes between flights. So they arrived in Chisinau, but their luggage did not. It took quite a bit of time for them to get the necessary forms filled out, and Michael had to go back and help them, so that the airline could have an address to send the bags to.
Then it was a mad dash off to McDonalds drive-thru to get some Big Macs to eat on our way to Dancu. We arrived before all the supplies and equipment got to the field, so we were able to have a cup of coffee with Dimitru and Slavic, change our clothes and drive to the field.
The barley they had planted for a cover crop was not as thick as I would ideally like, being planted about a month later than hoped, but it still had some nice growth, being about 10 inches tall. I was able to visually show them the value of having a cover crop by measuring soil temperatures. Where there was no cover crop the soil temperature at 3 inches was 91 degrees. The soil temperature where there was the barley cover crop was 83 degrees, and right next to nice barley plants was 80 degrees. With the soil drying out so quickly and getting hard, this difference could potentially have significant impact throughout the growing season.
They had already had the nitrogen fertilizer spread, and we helped them make some adjustments to the sprayer before they applied the burn-down herbicide. Ideally this would have been done a couple of weeks ago, but I decided it would be to our advantage to let the cover crop grow as long as possible. Time will tell if that was the right decision or not.
We then worked on getting the planter adjusted. After many times of checking the seeding rate, we realized that the original information about setting up the planter for sunflowers was incorrect, we put the original equipment back on the planter. This was the first time any of us from the US had attempted to plant sunflowers with our John Deere planter, so we had to read the manual to discover how to set the planter up properly. There might be a life lesson there, about reading the instructions ourselves, rather than listening to someone else’s instructions. I sure appreciated Herb and Huffy diving right in and getting their hands dirty to get the planter working properly, even though they were tired from their flight.
We finally got everything working to our satisfaction, and then the planting proceeded. After being assured that they could finish themselves, we were able to leave Dancu about 8:30p m. We made it to Chisinau and found a restaurant that was still open at 10 pm, had a good supper, and then got to Valeri and Maria Belousv’s house about 11:30 pm. After quick cleanups, it was off to bed so we could be ready for breakfast at 7:30 am.
We got to Iablona a little before 11 am, and went straight to the field, as the planter had arrived. They were working on getting the sprayer working, this being the first time it was used this season. After about an hour, we decided to wait and spray after planting, since they only had one tractor. A large part of the problem with the sprayer was because they ruined the diaphragms in the nozzles by poking holes in them because the spray wasn’t coming out right since they weren’t using the proper pressure, and the filter was very dirty.
Again, I decided not to burn down the cover crop until now, because it also was planted about a month later than hoped for. There was a nice crop of barley growing, but only about 10 inches of growth. At 11 am, under cloudy conditions, the soil temp at 3 inches was 78 degrees in the cover crop and 81 degrees right beside were there was no cover. At 1:30 pm under sunny skies, the difference was 80 degrees vs. 90 degrees.
It took about an hour to put the hitch back on the planter, unload it, and change the hoses to fit Nicolai’s tractor. There is definitely a disadvantage working with someone who does not have enough proper equipment, and equipment that has been properly maintained and prepared for the season. It didn’t take long to get the seeding rate and depth adjusted, so planting got underway fairly quickly and proceeded smoothly. We decided that they could finish themselves, so we ate lunch there and left for the 345 km trip to Michaels by 3 pm.
Before we left, I stressed that they must, absolutely must, get the spraying done yet that night. With the soil moisture and temperature, the corn is sure to be spiking by the end of the Easter Holidays, and we couldn’t risk using glyphosate then. About 8 pm, as we were traveling, they called to tell us that the tractor had broken and they weren’t able to spray. The tractor driver said that he would come on Monday, a holiday, and fix the tractor and get the spraying done. We will check on them to see if it happened, and if it didn’t, will have to make an adjustment to our herbicide recommendation.
On the way to Michael’s village, we stopped in Chisinau to get some things at the grocery store that Angelica wanted for meals the next couple of days. We also stopped at the airport to pick up Huffy’s luggage; Herb’s didn’t make it. Herb was able to pick up a few essential toiletries at the grocery store, and it was decided that between Michael and me, we would be able to provide enough clothes for him to survive the next couple of days. We got back to Valdu Lui Isac about 9 pm, where Angelica had supper ready for us. So after another great meal, we all got our showers and stumbled off to bed.
Easter in Moldova is the biggest holiday in the country, and to describe it will take a separate writing. I will say here that is was a pleasure to share that time with Michael and his family. People dressed in their finest, lots of special music during the service, lots of pictures afterward. Then home for another special meal, a short rest and back at 5 pm for another service.
Sunday evening’s service was mostly singing, first by the children and then by the young people. Then only one sermon – there are two Sunday morning, and afterwards lots of visiting. The youth started playing volleyball, and begged us to join them. I told them the only reason they wanted a crippled, old American to play with them was so that they could brag Moldovans were better than Americans. I asked, which team did they want to lose, I would play for them.
So in my Sunday clothes, I played volleyball with the youth group. It started out as friendly fooling around, and then settled into a serious game. I must admit that I didn’t embarrass the USA, old people, or any other group that I am part of. And our team won. But there is a limit to how many games I can play, so we watched for a while, and then back to Michael’s for more food, with Angelica’s family. Why should it be different here than at home, when friends and family meet for special occasions, there is always an abundance of delicious things to eat?
Monday morning’s breakfast was late and leisurely, and afterwards I worked on some emails before it was time to head off to church for another service. Just before it was time to leave for church, I got a call on my new Moldovan cell phone. Would I be willing to preach? Ok, but it won’t be a long one.
Monday’s service was lots more singing, dramas, special singing and instrumentalists. After almost 2 hours it was time for me to speak. As Pastor Andre introduced me, he said he was glad that we were there and that they had the chance to show us how to really celebrate Easter. I agreed that you can never celebrate too often or too much. I would hope that the message was well received because of the words I shared, but suspect that the real reason was that it was short, less than 15 minutes.
Then it was back to the house for more food, another short rest, and then we traveled about 30 miles south to the border where Moldova separates Ukraine and Romania with 600 meters along the Danube river. It is the only port in Moldova, and while it didn’t look bad, it is nothing like the ones in neighboring countries. We couldn’t get a close look at it obviously, but it still was interesting to see.
As we were getting into the car for our travels, Michael handed me the keys and said, “You’re driving.” I don’t know if he just wanted to be crowded into the back seat next to Angelica, or didn’t want us to have to sit in the back seat looking like an Amish family on their way to church. But anyway, my first experience driving in Moldova was on some of the worst roads in Moldova, and that’s saying something.
After seeing the border, we headed back, and stopped at Angelica’s sister and brother-in-law’s house. We had talked a lot the night before about his garden and he wanted me to see all of the things he was doing. It was quite an impressive mix of various fruit trees, raspberry and blackberries, currants and gooseberries, vegetables of all types. They have a desire to grow all of their food with very limited chemical use.
I was able to make suggestions on improving his composting, making a compost tea to foliar feed his plants and ward off insects, various other mixes for insect protection, mixes of lime and copper to paint on his tree trunks for disease control. And then did an ob-gyn examination on his goat to determine that, no, she wasn’t pregnant and there would be no milk from her this year. Probably sentenced the goat to contribute significantly to future suppers.
We then looked at his shop. He is a gifted woodworker, currently making a hand-carved fireplace mantel. There were also other projects in various states of completion, and a book filled with different pictures of things he had made. It was truly impressive to see what quality of workmanship can be done with such limited equipment.
And of course you have to have something to eat with them, even if lunch wasn’t that long ago. Lamb, stuffed grape leaves, cucumbers, tomatos and cheese, compote and breads and pastries. You eat because it is so good, not because you’re hungry. And, of course, you want to honor your host’s hospitality. I made it a point to weigh myself before I left, and am quite confident that I will not be losing weight on this trip.
After successfully driving back home, no dings, no busted suspension or blown tires, Michael said, “You passed the test.” So I suppose there will be times in the future where armed with a GPS and my limited Romanian, I will be off on my own. I feel like a 16 year old who just got his drivers license.
We missed the evening church service, but Michael’s family came after it was over. Did I mention that when friends and families get together there is an abundance of food? At 9:30 pm it was homemade pizzas, potato, ham and pea salad, corn, egg and crab salad, cherry compote, plum compote, apricot compote, cake and sweet breads. And, no, I didn’t play Dutch-Blitz or stay up until 2 am watching a movie, but went to bed, stomach full and heart overflowing with the goodness of God and the friendship of people I am coming to love dearly.