Thursday, 26 March 2015

Wish you were here?

We made the straightforward but arduous trip from London to Kursk via Moscow on Sunday missing the Liverpool Manchester United game which turned out to be a blessing.

We spent the night before the flight at London's Gatwick Premier Inn which as a seasoned traveller and hotel user I wasn't expecting too much but I have to say it was brilliant.  

Exactly what you need from a stopover hotel; clean; in full working order; reasonably priced; very comfortable beds and brilliant staff.

No idea how they are executing their business model but it’s working, I'm considering taking my fortnights summer holiday there.

The four hour flight was straightforward, we even managed to get 129kg of luggage on board without any additional hassle and I couldn't quibble the extra £30 it cost me, in my experience that’s a bargain.

The children were questioned at passport control, their passport photographs which had been taken when they were days old no longer looks like them now they are two and four, who’d have thought?

The four year old was asked in Russian what his name was, to which he replied, in Russian.  He was then asked what his Papa’s name was, “Dad” was his straight-faced answer.  That’s my boy.

We then drove eight hours south to Kursk which will be our jumping off point for the 4KKM Crop Tour™.

I have spent the intervening days catching up on sleep; trying to register my arrival (a legal requirement for all visitors to Russia), twice now and both times unsuccessfully; buy SIM cards which took two hours (two staff, queues out the door, complicated registration process); sort out transport (my previous rental guy who is 50 has joined the army and is now charge of a howitzer); buy some food (supermarkets full) and just generally get up to speed in this fast paced, take no prisoners country.

I think we are nearly getting there.

If you want to register for the 4KKM Crop Tour™ and follow the fun from a safe and comfortable distance, drop me a line for details of how to subscribe.

Latest USDA weather update for western FSU

Mostly dry, mild weather promoted fieldwork and winter crop development.

A large area of high pressure provided sunny skies along with above-normal temperatures (3-7°C above normal) from Belarus and Ukraine into central and northern Russia.

The sunny, warm weather melted the remaining snow cover in all but the coldest eastern locales (picture, right, was taken by me on Sunday just south of Moscow thus illustrating the need for reliable information), reduced winter crop cold hardiness, and accelerated small grain planting.

Farther south, light to moderate rain (1-15 mm) in southern-most portions of Ukraine and Russia kept top soils moist for vegetative winter wheat, though cloudy skies slowed the unseasonably early crop development somewhat.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

USDA weather summary for February

Western FSU
Unseasonably warm, mostly wet weather encouraged winter crop greening in southern-most growing areas and maintained overall favourable conditions for dormant winter crops elsewhere.

Temperatures averaged 2 to 5°C above normal, with highs reaching the teens and lowers 20s (degrees C) near the Black Sea Coast.

Consequently, the region’s southern crop districts were devoid of snow cover by mid-month, and snow began to recede in the more northerly winter grain and oilseed areas by the end of February.

Wet conditions (locally more than 200 percent of normal) further boosted soil moisture following autumn drought from central Ukraine into Russia’s Central District, while localized dryness (20-50 percent of normal) in the Southern District reduced moisture reserves for spring growth.

Eastern FSU
Warmer-than-normal weather prevailed during February, with moderate to heavy rain in the south contrasting with below-normal precipitation over the north.

Despite somewhat milder conditions (1-4°C above normal), northern spring wheat areas of Russia and Kazakhstan remained encased in a moderate to deep snowpack; consequently, there was little if any agricultural activity in these northerly growing areas.

Meanwhile, locally heavy rain and mountain snow (25-190 mm liquid equivalent) over southern portions of the region improved soil moisture for winter crops and boosted mountain snowpacks and irrigation reserves for cotton and other summer crops.

Latest USDA weather update for western FSU

Warm weather prevailed, with showers in the south and west contrasting with sunny skies in eastern and northern growing areas.

A large, strengthening area of high pressure provided sunny skies along with much-above-normal temperatures (6-10°C above normal) from Belarus into central and northern Russia; the sunny, warm weather melted the remaining snow cover, reduced winter crop cold hardiness, and encouraged early small grain planting.

Farther south, widespread rain in Ukraine (10-35 mm) and southern Russia (1-10 mm) sustained favourable soil moisture for winter wheat, with crops continuing to break dormancy as weekly average temperatures topped 5°C across most southern growing areas.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Why doctors receptionist should never grow bread

In the past I have experienced several healthcare systems and I would say that the UK NHS is outstanding.

But trying to book a doctors appointment with a receptionists is an exercise in patience and restraint. 

I have tried on three consecutive mornings now and failed.

If I applied the same approach to producing a loaf of bread as a doctors receptionists does to booking an appointment it would go something like this.

"You want a loaf of bread? Please call after eight thirty to book one."

"Sorry all loaves of bread have now gone for the day, you can try again tomorrow."

"I know it's only eight thirty five and you've been in a queue since eight thirty but there are no more loaves of bread available today."

"No you can’t pre-book one, I know you’re still hungry but you will have to call again tomorrow."

"I understand this is your third day without a loaf of bread and you are now very hungry."

"I can offer you our practice cracker at 4:30 but no loaves of bread."

"I'm sorry but that's the system and besides you don't sound that hungry, do you really need a loaf of bread?"

Just be thankful that doctors receptionist are not in charge of producing our bread.

Latest USDA weather update for western FSU

Unseasonably warm weather prevailed across the region, with rain falling in western and southern growing areas.

Temperatures for the week averaged 3 to 6°C above normal over most major winter wheat areas of Russia and Ukraine, further eroding the region’s snow pack (now confined to the Central and Volga Districts in Russia) and encouraging early greening of winter wheat in southern parts of Russia and Ukraine. 

In addition, light to moderate rain (2-20 mm) accompanied the warmth over western and southern portions of the region, maintaining favourable moisture reserves for spring growth.

However, the Southern District (in particular, the Rostov Oblast) remained unfavourably dry (less than 50 percent of normal over the past 30 days), and rain will be needed over the upcoming weeks to ensure adequate soil moisture for spring growth.