Week five on the farm: Danone bloggers & lake Ladoga

Highlights of last week included Monday’s group of bloggers sponsored by Danone, a first proper catch of fish on the river and my last weekend here that presented itself with beautiful weather and a trip to Lake Ladoga. The international crowd in issad now counts a further guest in Cohan from New Zealand who is in charge of building a new milking parlour. The russian crowd shrank in turn as Lisa headed back to St pete. Was a pleasure!

Danone bloggers: I had written about this earlier. Danone basically uses micro-influencers in form of instagram bloggers to promote their Tëma – childhood line. They had visited Danone’s production facilities in the past, but now went a level deeper looking at the milk origin here at our farm. Quite a few big insta names in town with a total of close to 3m followers and Russian actress Anna Mihailovskaya. Overall, it went quite well though one hardly will get 100% honest feedback for these (paid) influencers I should think. Here a short movie of the farm.

Otherwise the work week was mainly routine tasks and a lot of time helping the vets again.

Fishing with success: Having changed spots to the new one Jan located a bit further up the river, I finally caught two medium sized fishes last week. great success! Rather than eating these bony little things, I donated them to Evelina’s sea turtles.

Last weekend in Issad: The unbelievable happened … we actually had a few more guests at cafe Britannia and some sort of party. Must have been arranged ;o)

Lake Ladoga: To visit the lake has been on my agenda already when I left london. It’s the 14th largest freshwater lake in the world (by square meters) and an absolute beauty. We made our way there on Sunday hiring a small motor boat to get around (RUB2000/day from local campsite in Novaya Ladoga). However, since the local fish shop in issad had run out of worms we were a little short of good bait. We tried fake fish with mixed success. I caught a small pike before losing my plastic fish to the lake … just got stuck somewhere on the ground I guess. Anyway, relaxing in the sunshine and taking in the scenery was top class nontheless.

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Half time at the dairy farm – changing location for a few days

The end of last week (week 3) marked half time for me here on the dairy farm in Issad. It was also reasonably eventful with some new tasks such as replacing faulty tags on (kicking) cow legs, meetings in preparation of a blogger event at our farm sponsored by Danone to promote their babyfood line тёма, covered new silage clamps, watched the vets getting literally into it and work on the excel model for the new cheese factory. Back to the office job for a bit. I could also put my injection skills to work to make watermelon vodka – knew it would be good for something! And of course we went fishing (no success!).

Next week (eg as i write) i will go a bit deeper into village life at another farm of the group in вязье (yep, that little village). Since we departed there with Richard from St Pete, i threw in a few days in st pete to catch up with yuri & yuri, nika, anna and co. Life music in the liverpool pub, a police visit on yuri’s balcony due to my boombox music and a thai massage being the standouts. It was nice to taste some civilisation amidst decent weather (even the sun came out).

So how was it so far? Clearly, there are many day-to-day jobs at a farm that i could never do for a longer period without boredom eating me alive. The bigger picture stuff and management aspects are in turn very interesting. Much have i learned about agriculture, animal health and behaviour, modern dairy technologies, the soft commodity market (QE is now even impacting butter ;o) and now how to make cheese (well, a little anyway).

Weekend in Issad: BBQ, visit to Staraya Ladoga & fishing

Since the engineer from Israel required a pick up also on Saturday morning, we decided to work that day and did our usual routine until early afternoon. Due power getting switched off on our part of the farm to investigate if other electricity circuits interfered with the ID-system we left at some stage and returned later for driving the engineer. There was some interference and we are now closer to solving the issue though it meant no PC and no weekly report. Monday is another day.

The vet students went to novaya ladoga on Saturday, which also was Lisa’s 23rd birthday. We joined them for a bit and briefly visited the annual town festival. The town really fails to impress and has its structural challenges (some 8000 people now vs 13000 in 1989 tell worlds about its demography akin to many eastern european cities after the iron curtain fell).

On our way back to the car we went shopping and decided to have a BBQ that evening. It ended up with some 7 people as Evelina invited two farm workers from Tajikistan along and Vlad the agronomist joined us too. Given there ain’t much to do in issad, all were pleased about some socialising. After we were done i visited a club in novaya ladoga while Jan stayed home to be ready for another driving job on Sunday. Thanks mate! The club was pretty low key. Some guys were a little aggressive in the beginning, but that settled quickly. We ended up doing some arm wrestling (which seemed a popular thing to do) and i was intrigued by how many people brought their own drinks (vodka & juice) to celebrate the night (ever watchful that the security guys don’t spot it). I ended up playing my own music in the boom box and got all people to stand up for the russian national anthem. Fun times though i didnt last all that long after a 6 day week at the farm.

Naturally, i didn’t get up too early on Sunday (with a small intermission to let richard in who returned from hungary for a brief stop before heading to another farm). 1pm jan and I had lunch and visited staraya ladoga after. Pretty village i have to admit with its fortress and monastery. Evelina, who is from there, said all the refurb was helped by a putin visit some time ago. Clearly he hasn’t yet been to novaya ladoga – it would help!

Staraya ladoga is sometime referred to as the first capital of russia given it was a trading center in the 8th & 9th century connecting the baltic sea and Constantinople at the time. The people inhabiting the city at the time were of Scandinavian origin and called Rus. So much for naming.

Near the fortress we practiced our hunting skills with crossbow and bow & arrow for 200RUB / 10 shots. I though we both were quite good and are sure that we would definitely have killed the wild boar we were aiming at.

Jan then had a brilliant idea – lets go fishing. Problem – no equipment. Now issad, a village of 1,000 people, surprised on the upside. There is a proper fishing shop right next to the supermarket. We weren’t even aware of it. For 750RUB each (11EUR) we got ourselves as fishing rod and all the little things to get going.

The weather was pleasant as the sun made an effort and clouds cleared. Just the wind kept it a little on the chilly side. Great afternoon though apart from an anchovy sized fish each nothing to brag about. Looks like we found ourselves a new hobby!