It is an extremely blustery day! On The Shire we have a 'windy' season. Lately the gales are so strong, they blow off the neighbor's roof on occasion.
We are frantically hoping for rain. I remember a time in my life when talking about the weather was 'small talk,' but now that my entire life revolves around the weather, it has become THE talk. Greeting friends in Kenya, we almost always ask, "Have you gotten any rain?"
The rains were misleading, starting on time, then suddenly stopping. Everyone planted, including us, with the assumption that the rains would do their normal thing this season.
Sadly, we are using every drop we harvested from those initial rains to water our garden. We have maybe one week left of water, if that.
This is not just small talk, this is us realising how important WATER is. This is us being mindful of how much we use to wash our hands, shower our bodies, pour on our plants, and use for drinking and giving to the animals. This is us collecting grey water in our banana circle to grow things.
Water is life.
Entries from June 2017
It is an extremely blustery day! On The Shire we have a 'windy' season. Lately the gales are so strong, they blow off the neighbor's roof on occasion.
Ok, enough 'horse' talk. It is not ALL we do at A Future and a Hope. We still are parents to our beautiful kids we birthed through our hearts and our hips.
School fees are paid for this middle term, and that is fantastic! What a huge relief.
We also are trying to get extra funds to stock up on food for our house, the girls' house, and several other homes as well because we have an upcoming election in August.
Our experience in 2007/8 was ca-razy. We had 35 refugees in our home and town was on a lock-down with it being somewhat of a 'war zone.' Getting food was a risk of one's life, so we hope to be a bit more prepared this go 'round just in case things go south.
We are hoping everything is peaceful through the election process. Past experience has made us a bit concerned, and there is tension, but we want to encourage peace among the various tribes of people. Love one another, k? Seriously. We are all just humans trying our best to do what we think is best so let's get along, alright?
Lack of rain this rainy season hasn't helped people's moods, and sky-rocketing food prices aren't helping either. It is worrisome.
Personally, we'd like to stock up on food for our animals and people, and some families in need, but we don't have a freezer for ourselves, so... that might be part of the need as well?? I don't know. I always feel guilty when we 'purchase' big items. We really try to be efficient financially by living with our minimum needs, but I do think that a freezer solar system would save money in the long run by giving us the ability to store things that go bad quickly, and therefore preventing so many long trips to town during the week.
Anyway, this is just a bit of info of what is going through our heads at the moment.
We are extremely grateful to those of you who love our little family and continually encourage us. You are a huge part of us buried deep in our souls. Love to you all my sweet friends.
Something happened at our most recent horse therapy session that I had not thought through before. It makes complete sense, but it just didn't cross my mind until I witnessed it first hand.
This is Duncan. He has spina bifida and cannot feel his legs. In this photo, he is extremely nervous about this new experience of coming to our farm, possibly riding a giant monster, and meeting all of these new people. It was his first therapy session...
It started to drizzle just as everyone arrived so we all gathered on our veranda and sat down. I began entertaining the kids by asking them to get to know one another.
See, usually, they all come, get on a horse, and off they go. It hadn't occurred to me that they didn't know one another until this moment when we were all huddled together seeking shelter.
When I introduced Duncan to Malia who also has spina bifida, I pointed out, "Duncan is just like you, Malia!"
Her reaction was priceless!
Malia just looked Duncan over soaking in the fact that she is not the only person who has spina bifida!
It never occurred to me that perhaps these kids have never met someone like themselves before! They are unique, after all!
This is a perk of our horse therapy program that hadn't crossed my mind until this point.
Malia took it upon herself to show Duncan that, although she was afraid her first time getting up on a large equine, now she is a pro and can do it with a smile. She competed wholeheartedly in the games and really worked hard. (Right)
It took Duncan quite some time to get used to the horses. In the middle of our session, he was already experiencing fatigue in his core. You can see in this photo how he was lying on the horse because he was too tired to support himself. Therapy sessions are quite a workout, and in time, Duncan will get stronger and stronger.
We are already seeing results in the other riders' core strength!
One thing is for sure, by the end of the therapy session, Duncan was enjoying himself! (Below)
Recently, I wrote an article about how several university professors who visited us said they were interested in doing a short film on our home schooling methods after seeing how the kids use horses in school. I mentioned that I would write more on why I think every child should own or at least work with horses.
When I was a teenager, I was not a 'horsey' girl lusting after everything equine, but when my mom decided to get an Arabian gelding, I immediately fell in love with him and wanted to spend every moment with him. He was boarded at Plum Nearly Ranch in South East Texas several miles from my home. I would ride my bike or beg my parents to drop me off there where I would volunteer my time learning to wash horses, scoop poop, and feed them. I even assisted in an artificial insemination process! Needless to say, I learned a lot more than just 'riding;' however, I did learned to ride and even competed in a few horse shows. I found that my time with my horse was some of the best moments of my life. The sweet smell of hay, horse poop, and oats is a part of my soul now that brings back fond memories of crisp cool mornings, and the feelings of learning responsibility. During this time, after 18 years of marriage, my parents were getting a divorce. On top of this, I was going through puberty and was not very 'pretty.' We built a new house and moved every 3 years, and I found that it was difficult for me to fit in at school.... but my pony, he didn't care about all that. His warm breath was a comfort to my soul breathing life and hope in me that I could leave all that mess and stress behind and fly away with him carrying me.
After going off to college, my dad decided to sell my horse without telling me. He bought me a new, white, 1993, Toyota Celica hatchback. I didn't know how to feel. I was grateful for my new car, yet, so sad to let go of a friend. Fast-forward to my grownup years, my daughter Butterfly was given a horse book by Rod Hatch when she was small. She would talk about horses and look through its pages every day... so when we got our small farm, my first thought was to find a horse. I wanted my kids to experience horses, and here are twenty reasons why I think you should make the investment, too:
- Discipline-- It comes as no surprise that owning a horse teaches discipline. There are many safety rules when dealing with horses such as wearing boots to protect feet, helmets when riding, and back protectors when eventing. In fact, 75% of owning a horse is done with feet on the ground and not riding. It takes patience and discipline to own a horse.
- Responsibility-- by 8 am, my kids have to feed horses. They brush them, clean their hooves, and make sure they are healthy by checking for any scratches or issues. My kids learn responsibility through owning a horse. The horses are fed 4 times a day (in our case, but usually two at most places). The kids must bring them in, feed them, etc... four times, every single day. And they do it!
- Humility-- horses keep you humble. Not only do you have to deal with their poop, slobbery kisses, and messes, they are huge animals. Bad attitudes do not go far around horses. If someone does not respect the animal, they can get hurt. Humility is learned rather quickly.
- Challenges--Children learn to embrace and persevere through challenges that arise with owning or renting a horse. In some cases, challenges are having a lame horse that forces you to wait MONTHS before riding. Other challenges may be the physical ones you experience while learning how to ride properly, and the challenges you face as you ride over or through new places! Every time we get on the back of a horse, it is a new challenge since horses are cognitive beings with their own personalities.
- Bravery-- Our minds have to learn to trust in the horse and in ourselves. It takes a certain amount of bravery to ride a horse and to get back on if one falls off.
- Intellectually stimulating-- Learning to put tack together (trust me, it can be a puzzle), how to care for hooves, measuring feed, calculating percentage of rider's weight to horse's weight, learning anatomy, and how to fit a saddle properly, calculating distance in a circular round pen, or measuring stride between jumps... there is so much room for intellectual growth when working with horses.
- Physical education--in our case, this element of our education system comes mostly from outside play, and horse riding. Riding is exercise. Learning to canter and rise in trot requires physical strength. Even a 'walk' strengthens one's core which is why we use the horses for physical therapy for our disabled friends. For the older kids, leading their younger sister on a pony requires a great deal of walking/jogging. Lunging horses also takes energy. Lifting hay bales, feed sacks. large jugs of water, jump poles, and going in and out four times a day to feed the horses is physical work in of itself. It keeps my kids outside for large portions of the day.
- Friends/acceptance--Horses are friendly. They love you no matter what. They can listen to hours of talking and still look back at you with those big, beautiful eyes.
- Competition-- Home schooling, there is not much competition when you are the only student in your class level. I find this the biggest flaw with my educational choice for my kids, but here in Kenya, there is a community of horse folks who put on shows and actually compete! We haven't entered any shows yet, but this is an element we are hoping to delve into. I think a competitive spirit is good for kids, and teaches them to have drive to succeed.
- Socialization-- Living in Kenya, my pale kids stick out. It is difficult to connect with village kids who constantly stand in awe of our 'paleness' unable to go beyond that feature even after years and years of living here. Home schooling also means my kids don't have many people they can relate to or with whom to interact. There is a surprisingly large community of people who ride horses in our neck of the woods. Riding horses gives my kids an element of 'connectability' to kids who also do so. Not every one has our circumstances, but this element of having a horse is still true for kids all over the world. It gives kids a place to 'belong.'
- Emotional management-- There is no room for emotional outbursts around horses. Horses are mirrors of our souls. They will reflect what we are feeling inside. If you head out to deal with horses while angry, the horse will respond accordingly!
- Adventure-- Horses can take you exploring through forests, trails, hillsides, etc... hacking out with your horse buddy is an amazing adventure that connects one with nature and stimulates the imagination! You can be a princess on a unicorn, a knight in shining armor, or an explorer like Lewis and Clark, or imagine you are Sacagawea.
- Patience-- This is a HUGE part of owning/caring for a horse. For example, today, Emma had to wait 20 minutes of me lunging her pony before she could ride today. She sat and watched--waiting patiently. Butterfly has had to wait MONTHS for her horse to get sound after an injury. In the meantime, she has groomed her and doctored her wound, learning how to treat her horse during this time, but has been a huge test of her patience while the rest of us who are lighter can ride the ponies.
- Something to do/keeps kids out of trouble-- Having a horse costs time, energy, and money, and this is not a bad thing! Where your money is, your heart is, too. Having to work for something is a great motivator and keeps kids out of trouble. Instead of going out to parties as a teen, I was heading off to the stables volunteering. Instead of getting into mischief, I was having sleepovers in the barn with some of my friends and practicing our riding the following day. On a personal level, now, living in Kenya where there are few other activities available, horses give my kids something to do beyond just reading books indoors.
- Bonding-- having time with your child on a horse hack provides loads of bonding time between you and your child. It opens room for conversation. And if your child is riding alone, she will bond with her horse.
- Transportation-- Horses carry us. We live on a hill. I am lazy. I ride up and down it.
- Coordination/balance-- "Kick with your inside leg." "Keep your hands down." "Don't pull in her mouth." "Rise on the correct diagonal." "Stay balanced!" There is a certain amount of acquired skill that comes with riding.
- Language-- I have read of many accounts of how riding a horse causes children to learn to speak. It has to do with the rhythm and balancing on the horse's back that taps into the language part of the brain. One of our Kenyan daughters didn't speak to me for years until we got a horse.
- Empathy-- while interacting with a horse, a person is encouraged to imagine how the horse feels and put himself in the horses shoes.
- Birth control (for us grownups, haha)-- I have six biological children. I find that I get 'broody' when my youngest child reaches a certain age; however, now that I am 'into horses,' I find that having a toddler is hindering my ability to ride and train the horses, and therefore, preventing me from even CONSIDERING another little human running around. Horses fill that 'need to be needed' void as well. It is very difficult when you follow attachment parenting methods like I do, to have a small person who is still breast-feeding and being carried when you want to go out on a long adventure with a horse, or when you need to train them for (in our case) equine therapy sessions.
So there you have it! I can think of even more reasons, but I think 20 are enough! This doesn't even scratch the surface of therapeutic benefits! So parents, when your child mentions s/he wants a pony, why not consider volunteering at a ranch nearby and see how you get on?
I just sent out our June newsletter. Here is the text just in case you do not receive it. Use the link on the side of this blog to sign up.
A Decade of Orphan-Care
Not everything works out. Sometimes failure is unavoidable, other times we can avoid utter failure. Rarely is it possible to have everything work out exactly how we want it to. We have been caring for our orphans no more for a decade now. Ten years of feeding, clothing, housing, schooling, and above all loving unconditionally. There are times when it feels like twenty years instead of ten, and other days it is like we started last week. We cannot report success in everything, but we can report success in the most important thing. Family. We have successfully created a family with our girls.
This family is not like a typical nuclear family, nope it is different. The foundation for family, love, is there. We are connected and will remain so throughout the years. Yet we come from different places and sometimes see the world differently. Our girls are growing up. Only one of them, Edith, is still a minor. All the others are legal adults and capable of making decisions without us. Which they do frequently. Each one of them are still in school and rely on us one hundred percent for their livelihoods. Legal adulthood is here and practical adulthood is just around the corner.
Four of them will be graduating high-school this year. That means four decisions on four different futures will be made soon. Vocational school, jobs, relocation, and relationships are all part of those decisions that have to be made. They will not all lead to success. There will be setbacks, failures, and mishaps along the way. However, just like the past decade each of those misfortunes will be handled with a family for support. We and this includes you, will be there for them, and hopefully, they will be there for us when we need them.
We have succeeded in love. We have a family. We have also triumphed in keeping the girls in school. They are healthy and able to make wise decisions about their health. They have experienced love and have confidence in us. They know, even if some of them do not acknowledge it, that we are here for them.
When I put it down on paper, not all our endeavors have found success, but the most important, providing family, has and is succeeding
Two years ago, college professors from Louisiana State came to Kenya to film us having no idea WHO we were nor what we were doing in Kenya. They wanted to find interesting folks of whom to document a 5 minute short film to be shared in France at a movie festival. Our relationship has grown since that first visit as they come each year to record edits and additions for our now 20 minute short film in-the-making! We had no idea we would be interesting enough for such efforts, and it is heart touching to be encouraged in this way.
This last week, they returned to finish up the film, and while here, they suggested they might do a second series focusing on our horse therapy program and how we use horses in homeschooling. I had no idea they were interested in the impact the horses are having. In fact, the horses and home schooling are not even featured in their first film titled "Pioneer Pizza". I was surprised our schooling methods were even an item of interest, and the horses being a GOOD model of home educating? That made my heart swoon! Feeling curious and extremely flattered that I was doing something right, I inquired of my film making friends why the interest?
Being professors at Louisiana State, they struggle with standardized testing pressure and the structure of the educational system's negative impact on students. The producer and director of our short film expressed his passion for hands on type learning and how meaningful our type of home schooling is on young people. Our time was short by the time I realized this gem that connected this college professor to myself, the measly, little, home schooling mom who wonders if she is doing things right, so we didn't get to delve in any deeper into the topic.
However, I went away from the conversation happy that someone sees the benefits of having my children start their school day with the responsibilities of caring for horses on our farm. That particular morning, my day started off with a confrontation with one daughter, who will remain unnamed, who insisted that she couldn't brush or work her pony because she had 'school' to do. So I retorted with the fact that indeed she WAS doing school, and that I as her teacher have made a farm work subject of which she can't just 'opt out.' She got the point, and she actually enjoyed her morning, but it was extremely convenient to have university professors bring up the topic in our home on the very day my daughter just didn't feel like DOing the hands-on section of school because she didn't think it was as important as Algebra.
If you are wondering my reason as to why I feel that horses are a vital part of my children's education and why I think every child who shows interest should own a horse, here are a few reasons that I will put in an article soon:
- physical education
- emotional management
- something to do
- birth control (seriously, haha) More on that in my next article
There are other blogs that talk about this topic, too! Just google 'why every person should own a horse!'
Yesterday, Sunday, we slaughtered and butchered our young bull. The process was done as humanely as possible and with the aim to come out the other side with as much meat as possible. Mission accomplished. We had succulent, juicy, and delicious meat from ten o'clock in the morning till seven that evening. It was a good day.
Not only did we enjoy the nourishment, but many of our neighbors did as well. Typically a kilogram of beef sells for around 400 KES in Nakuru. That is about $3.87 U.S. dollars, which is a price that puts beef out of the reach of many people. We started selling our beef at 250 KES a kilogram and ended the day in another village selling the remainder at 200 KES. The bull did not bring in much income, a total of $90, but we were able to spread around the meat to many families in our village.
This is the third bull that our cow as given birth to (hope with us for a cow this next time around.) Bulls are pretty much useless to us here on The Shire and can be rambunctious and too eager to break through fences. The first two bulls we sold to brokers who then resold in the market. This time around we decided to try slaughtering and selling the meat in the village. We made less but were able to spread the wealth more. Not only were our neighbors, who rarely eat beef, able to buy at almost half the normal cost, but we also were able to pay the butcher/slaughterer, also one of our neighbors.
Most of the profit went to pay labor around the farm, and the rest will be used to buy feed for the pigs and dogs. We are not creating a commercial farm, but when money can be made we will use the profit to help spread as much hope as we can.