Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Halloween of Treats? Nope, 8 Tons of Beets

In honor of Halloween and our disappointment of not being able to dress up and go out, our little Burty bunch has cleverly decided to have some Tricks and Treats still. Our Tricks: card games and Drew's slide of hand magic. Our Treats: any candy we were hoarding away and a glorious bag of Starburst jelly beans my dear mother carepackaged over. (Thanks Momma!) Walking home from the bus stop on our party Saturday, we had been in the next town over for a Peace Corps cultural training session and do our weekly errands, Mama Olea stopped us in the street saying that she was leaving town to visit her grandbabies and Papa Volodia needed some help with something at home. We would be feed after. Everyone should be at my house in an hour. Deal? Deal.

Personally, I was grateful to have some help with farm chores. Mama and Papa bragged around Burty that  I 'worked like a man' because I could help with clearing the field and feeding the animals then turn around and help cook dinner. But honestly, I knew if Papa was asking for help, the job must real big and I didn't want to mess with real big by myself.

Oh, my. Big doesn't begin to describe it. 

Instantly, when I reached the front gate, I saw it. There was no missing it. A massive pile of shredded beets sat in our courtyard. Covered my courtyard. I'd heard rumors of such things but never seen it. Papa was franticly running to feed all the animals and yelling and pointing at the front corridor. Knowing that meant, "Cassie, go get dressed and help me!" I tossed my stuff into the air as I walked through the front door - it took me a week to find where my scarf landed - and changed into my work clothes. An old pair of Papa's boots and jeans already ruined and field overcoat to protect all the rest. I had no idea what to do and how exactly I was supposed to help. I had no idea that we were about to participate in the an Ukrainian farming tradition as old as the country itself. As dusk arrived, so did everyone else. We attacked the beety hillside with shovel and pitchfork.

Hopefully, these photos will do the evening justice.

This is what I came home to.
Sawrick, the dog, was going mad due to violation of his territory.
I don't blame him. His dog house was somewhere under all that. 

Papa prepares the earthen room and shows us what's up. 

Caitlin is, typically, very sweet but does branch out to be mischievous. 

A bit blurry but Drew and I trying to recreate 'American Gothic'. 

The women charging the hillside ready for whatever is about to happen. 

Our first round of shoveling. 

The heat of beets against the frigid air created great, smelly, heavy steam that rose the against night.

Peering into the seemingly endless abyss of steam and beets. 

First round of stomping.
I love this photo because it's me and Papa. We were jammed into these corner stomping beets down. Also, he was telling me he needed to keep me warm. Then he started in a story about stomping beets as a child. I don't remember all the details and I didn't catch all the words but it was sweet. 

Ira, our current language teacher, appeared to giggle at us. I quickly invited her in.
"Nope." she said, "I'll just watch. It much more entertaining." 

When my shovels weren't of great quality, Papa took over for a bit. He threw as much beets in the pit in 2 minutes as I did in 10 minutes. The dude is a rock star. 

These women can work hard and look good doing it. 

Papa Volodia is not only a rock star shoveler, he's completely adorable.
He was laughing with us most of the night. 

Regick, the cat, came out to discover what the racket was. 

Anna Banana doing her 'beet' dance. 

Papa told Ira a great story and I struggled to finish. 

Beet stomping is best done in group unison.
Papa told us he had never such a show in a beet pit in all his 62 years.
We took that as a great compliment. 

Papa Volodia loved me and enjoyed the company of all the Americans that dailied his house. But his had a special thing with Drew. If I ever told him I was going to Drew's house he would say, "Yes! Go there!" or he would ask me to bring Drew home with me after.
Therefore, I adore this photo of their joined laughter. 

Not the greatest image but you can see how much closer to the ground we got.
Although, the women started up the hillside first the men finished it off. A few more stomps after this photo, we were instructed to revert back to our traditional roles and go check on dinner. Fine with me!

***So as a recap, there are just a few steps to get 8 tons of beets from a courtyard into a 10 foot pit. ***
1. Spread plastic on pit floor. 
2. Put a generous amount of salt on plastic. 
3. Shovel in beets. Judge amount of eye and experience. 
4. Climb or jump in! 
5. Level out with shovel and stomp/dance/jump away. 
6. Climb out of pit via ladder or with a little boost/pull from your friends. 
7. Repeat process until pit is full or your run out of beets.

Store your beets well to feed all your livestock all winter!  

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