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May 2018

Entries from June 2018

Lone, Blue Kernel

Several years ago, our friends gave us five precious, rare, blue, corn seeds. Johnny insists they were actually purple, but since he can't tell the difference between purple or blue to save his life, I am going to say they were BLUE.

We planted them.

That year, the rains were scarce, and our corn stalks didn't grow to great heights. Knowing they were rather precious, we spared water for them and encouraged them to grow.

Then one day, our calf got out and decided those five little stalks were just the right size for munching! 

CHOMP! (1) Chew... chew... chew..

CHOMP! (2) Chew... chew...

CHOMP! (3) Chew... chew...

CHOMP! (4) Chew... chew... chew... chew... GULP.

All that remained was the LAST tiny, decrepit looking stalk so short, it was actually hidden among some grass.

I was quite upset with the little bull, and he probably got sold not long after, as is customary for our little bull calves born over the years.

Still, I tended to the little stalk only to see it never fully develop. It had one minuscule ear the size of my thumb growing out of a joint in the stalk. It looked rather pathetic so ultimately, we didn't bother with it. When the entire plant was dry and withered, I decided it was time to pull it up for something new.

Out of curiosity, I pulled off the tiny ear... I love dissecting things and seeing how they grow. I gently pulled back the mini husks and fine silk to find on this white, immature cob, there-- staring back at me was a single, dark, rich, blue, lonely kernel. 

I almost chuckled. To imagine that this stalk, with all of our efforts poured into it, grew to produce ONE lonely seed. It seemed almost mockingly funny to me.

 I plucked the seed from the cob and put it on a shelf near our coffee mugs and forgot it there.

This year, after our rains started, I was cleaning the kitchen when I found a blue, hard ball on the kitchen shelf and almost tossed it when I realised it was my corn kernel!

Kate and cornI planted it in the front of the house so we could keep an eye on it. It now is two times taller than I am with several lush ears growing on it!

We recently visited our friends who gave us the seeds. While there, I told them about how our special blue corn got eaten by the calf, and all the rest of the story you just read...

They gasped with excitement telling us that ALL of their seeds were accidentally destroyed by their farm staff who tossed them out as 'garbage!' They have been frantically calling all of the people with whom they shared seeds. Unfortunately, EVERYONE of them ending up fruitless. No one managed to harvest or keep any blue corn seeds due to various strange reasons.

Our lone, blue kernel is ALL that remains! The blue corn of Kenya (as far as our area is concerned) is banking on that one seed!

So my point of all of this is to say that in life, you may feel as if you are alone, you are decrepit, or you may not feel full of life, but you may end up being the hope for the future... YOU may be a drop in a pond that causes a ripple that changes the world. You may be a lone, blue kernel set on a shelf somewhere waiting for your time to be planted so that you can grow into something fruitful!

I believe in you!

Kate

 


SPOOKY!

It is a good think we practice first!

Not only do we desensitize our horses through interacting with them, riding them, schooling them every day of the week...

Every time we have riders coming to A Future and a Hope, we make sure to get up early and do a 'dress rehearsal.'

We set up the arena, and we practice our planned games like a dance to make sure that everyone knows where they are going, what they are doing, and things flow smoothly. When you have so many autistic children and kids with down syndrome, it is a MUST that things be organised in way that every one is safe and there is no lull or 'dead time.'

We also practice because horses are flight animals. We want the safest, most fun experience for our riders. We are building their trust, and one 'problem' can undo all of our efforts in establishing that trust and getting them to bond, open up, and enjoy being on these giant beasts.

This weekend, we introduced a new game. That game is explained here

I decided to do a walk through of ALL games both old and new... As we did so, we learned something... This is very...

Scary tires
Have a LOOK at our two horses' expressions! They were doing the games just fine, when suddenly, Moonshadow swung his bum around in a spin snorting at something terrifying! The tires weren't usually THERE! We removed them from the arena immediately and walked through our games again. He was calm and happy. 

Our riders arrived, and had a BLAST learning and giggling, and enjoying themselves. You can see the video here.


Letting GO: a lesson learned on horseback

This week's sessions, my goal was to encourage our riders to 'LET GO' of the saddle. Many of our young riders are still not confident in their own balance. They feel the need to HOLD ON and grip the saddle with their hands.

P1350751The importance of letting go is that it encourages them to balance with the horse's movement, and it develops their core strength.

I spent some time thinking of a game that might help correct this issue, build confidence in our riders, and help them LET GO without them even noticing they had done so!

Every child likes to drive. Hand a child a steering wheel, and they can be entertained for a while: Think shopping carts at supermarkets that have car designs.

I created a 'road' with poles and gave the riders a 'steering wheel' to hold on to. This encouraged them to sit tall and DRIVE their horse without realising they had let go causing them to balance on their own in the saddle. It was a huge success!

 


What it is like living off-grid

Oh, the easy life on The Shire! Off-grid living looks like a breeze. Surely you're eating your own food, you have no bills, and life is pretty carefree...

About that...

It took us the last 4 years to adjust to moving out to the middle of nowhere in a mud barn with no electric connections, no water connections, etc...

Basically, all of the things 'on-grid' people get, we have to MAKE. For example, hot water is made by taking a pot, filling it, and then boiling it on a gas stove or over hot coals. Or, for example, said water must be caught drop by drop first as it falls from the sky... funneled into tanks, pumped uphill, and then gravity pulled into the house...

Butter is made by getting a bucket, boiling hot water, cleaning cow teats with the hot water, and squeezing those teats for a LONG time... (My hands get tired.) I actually have someone help me now with this, but still, the process is the same. Then, the fresh milk from the cow, while still warm is separated manually with a hand crank machine by our daughter Makena. We save the cream over night, then turn on the solar power the next morning, blend the cream, wash the cream, add salt, and then press it into a butter dish. (I do cheat using the only electric kitchen appliance we have! Which leads me to another thing... you want to whip anything? You have to actually whip it by hand. We don't have a mixer, refrigerator, electric kettle, hot water heater, curling iron, blow dryer, clothes dryer, washing machine, or vacuum cleaning capabilities. We don't even have an IRON! Ha! Take that you domestic goddesses out there. We just let the sun do our drying and the wind do our ironing. It doesn't always work, but it does take a lot of physical work hand washing clothes, hanging clothes, etc...

You want tacos on Tuesday? Fab! We will get started on those on Monday. First, we must soak the beans overnight. (Are there beans in tacos?? I don't know! We don't eat tacos because there is no yellow corn meal here.) We actually eat burritos... so let's do burritos, ok?

Beans are soaking overnight. Flour, salt, oil is put in a bowl and mixed for the tortilla dough which is then cut into 30 or more pieces, each rolled and pan cooked. Tomatoes are washed and chopped, onions, too. Cilantro, chilies, lemon, garlic... you get the idea. Yogurt is made the day before, too! Fresh, raw milk is warmed and culture added so by morning, we have yogurt (we use this as a sour cream substitute)... Then beans are cooked in a pressure cooker with onions, garlic and spices... Then we use our trusty blender to make them 'refried'!!! Yay!! Cheese is grated, and hot sauce made from fresh tomatoes, chilies, salt, Worcestershire, and garlic... You get the idea... 

Each meal takes TIME. We can't just buy a bag of tortillas in our area. We also don't have a fridge to store stuff so things must be made meal by meal, moment by moment. 

Every morning, we start our day with facebook (for me), and Johnny gets up to put water on to boil. He makes coffee, pig food, dog food... Usually we feed the dogs a rabbit that we butcher or store bought meat along with a grain mix Johnny cooks. 

That is another thing. We eat (the others eat) fresh pork.... from the farm. But it is not like he just hops onto the plate! Gotta catch him, hit him on the head, and well... you get the idea.

Our day to day takes so much physical energy. The horses are fed 4 times a day. They are schooled 45 minutes to 2 hours in the morning then let to graze in-between feedings which means we have to fetch them and bring them in to eat. The cow must be fed and milked and grazed. The goats, too. The rabbits are over 30 of them now. We must harvest weeds for them... The chickens need feeding as well... dogs, cats, people... they all eat. We spend huge hunks of time pulling weeds to feed to the grazers, and carrying heavy buckets of water up and down the hillside to all of the various animals.

We also have to deal with ALL garbage we produce... there is no garbage collection here...

Our freezer has changed our lives! Now we can store dog food and meat we butcher from the farm as well as excess milk and butter. :)

Let's talk about grocery shopping... Yeah, that. All of the animal feed must be bought, too. It takes a full day to buy the things we need from our nearest town which is an hour or so away. We must go to a butchery for meat, cheese shop for cheese, vet for flea control, super market for produce and flour, feed store for grains... Then, when we arrive home, our car cannot make it up to the house. We must HAUL all of our groceries UP HILL. The kids usually help, of course!

Would you like some tea? Let me harvest some lavender for you and boil you a cup. Would you like some scones? How about creamed tea, which is my favourite? I'll fetch some firewood so we can bake... 

The gardens must be planted and tended to. We have to rotate our livestock so they don't eat our growing food. Of course we have to harvest the food when it is ready, too! The beans don't just pop off the plants and into our mouths.

Our life is organic. Our life is non-toxic. Our life takes a LOT of physical energy.

When we first started this off-grid life, it was so hard to get used to having to WORK so much just to do basic things like take a bath and eat.

Now, we finally have a solar shower so bathing is easy on sunny days IF we have enough water in the tanks. Still, we don't have 'hot water' in any taps other than the bath so we still heat water on the stove for washing things, etc. We still bake with firewood. We keep warm with firewood, too.

But we are extremely grateful for our floor. I tell you, walking on dirt 24/7 was TOUGH. What a life changer. People, be glad you have floors. Floors are so taken for granted! One thing I do miss is the ability to actually clean my floor. Our pavers are just not really moppable, and we don't have enough electricity to vacuum. Which leads me to another thing... I miss having my dogs in the house. With no way to clean the floor, the dogs must stay on the large front veranda or outside. I am trying to find ways to let them be indoor doggies... I miss their cuddles. Muddy paws on a rough floor we cannot wash is not cool... so... I am still working on solving this issue.

Anyway, over the last 4 years, we have come a long ways thanks to help from you guys! We love our organic life on The Shire, but even though we have a freezer and a shower now, it is still a 24/7 job. At the moment we have been so busy working on paperwork stuff, the grass is almost taller than we are in the areas where the cow and horses don't graze! 

 

 


A Poem for my Dad for Father's Day

I don't have a gift for you, Dad, so I thought I would write you a poem. I hope it is not too 'cheesy' as I am not very good at poem composing. I was going to turn it into a song, but this will have to do. 

You're not perfect, but you're mine so you're perfect to me.

You're my dad, a genius, you know how things work

Such as mechanics, quantum physics, and dentistry!

Before search engines and internet, you had all the answers to my asking.

We spent bonding hours running errands, swimming in our pool, and midnight sailing.

You are the wind beneath my wings.

When I cry you're quick to answer.

If I'm in trouble, you're always there.

In all of my experience parenting 

I cannot even compare!

 

You, dad, may not be perfect, but you're mine, and you're perfect to me.

Of all the people in my life,

You have proven you love me so.

You deserve an award for being the best dad,

And this fact everyone knows!

As a little girl, I admired you with childlike innocence,

But now that I'm grown,

I try to make the world make sense.

Even with the blinders of youth left behind,

Still, my feelings haven't changed;

I'm honoured to be yours and proud to call you mine.

 

We are not perfect, but we are Yours and Mine.

  Dad on boat

Happiest of Father's Day. You have been my rock through the years. You are a hero.

All my love,

Kate


We Get by with a Little Help from Our Friends

Fourteen years ago when Kate and I moved to Kenya to work with "the least of these" we felt like God wanted us to forgo more traditional fundraising efforts and rely on our relationships with those we were asking for money from. We did not create a marketing campaign nor did we hire a professional fundraiser. Instead we shared our mission with those we knew and asked them to spread the word.

Over the years we have tried to stick with this idea. (Anytime we have deviated and tried something slick or more marketable it has failed.) Our fundraising has grown and morphed into something different than the fifty or so letters we sent out back in 2004 to everyone we knew, but essentially it is the same. We present ourselves and what we are doing and those who want to help do so. Not a bad system.

Sometimes when extra funds are needed we make a plea or run a special fundraising campaign for it. Example: Our campaign to raise money to buy the piece of land we currently live on. We were able to raise thirty-four thousand dollars in thirty days!

This is one of those times when we could use an extra bit of funds.

We find ourselves needing to renew work permits amid changes to the immigration policies here in Kenya. Anytime you need to deal with officialdom here it is expensive. I obviously cannot go into details here, but travel to Nairobi is needed, staying over, fees for this and that, and etc. We have had to spend money sending Andrew off, school fees, car maintenance, and so on and so on.

We need funds now. Like yesterday actually. Around $2,800 to cover everything and bring us to a place where we are back to normal. This is a plea. A serious plea. Can you help us to stay in Kenya and continue to assist the "least of these?"

If so here is how: Use Paypal and send to afutureandahope@gmail.com

Use the Wave app and send to 0723743212

MoneyGram to Johnny Brooks (or Western Union)

Mail a check to: A Future and a Hope c/o Bob Humphrey 7909 Walerga Rd STE 112-141 Antelope, CA 95843 


Darkness

It is dark. 

I have been fumbling around trying to find my contact lenses, get dressed, find the tea kettle and get it going in complete darkness. Birds are chirping so it is a sign that it is not TOO early. My watch says it is 5:45 am. Today I have a home schooling function for two of my kiddos so I am up early fumbling around trying to get ready.

I used to own a torch (flashlight). The kids always take mine, and I always let them. 

We don't turn the power on until 6:30 PM, just after supper. It stays on until we go to bed, at which time we turn it off again. Using solar is BRILLIANT. We don't have to worry about common black outs any more. The down side is that the inverter for our solar system still uses the battery even when the lights are off, so we just turn the whole system off every day in order to preserve the batteries.

Usually, we wake up with the consistent sunrise. It begins to rise around 6AM every day of the year give or take 30 minutes or so. It also sets 12 hours later every single day. Such is life on the equator!

Good morning from The Shire. 

Johnny is in Nairobi, Andrew in the USA, and I am home with girls only! Makena will 'hold the fort' with her baby sisters Eowyn and Starlette today while I take Emma and Butterfly to a function not too far from our home, hence the predawn wake up and this blog!


Thanks for telling me...

Today is Madaraka Day in Kenya. We celebrate 55 years of self rule this year. I love Kenya, her vibrant colors, diverse peoples, vast wild areas, consistent sunlight to night ratio, relaxed lifestyle, and well... just about everything about her.

P1350370
Mowed Arena with our hillside in the background

While the country celebrates, Johnny is mowing grass for tomorrow's therapy session, the kids and I are bathing ponies for Horsepower, exercising them, and getting the arena set up; all the while, I am nursing a rib injury I acquired last week just before Andrew left. Who knew you use your ribs for so many things... like breathing, or moving your arms? Breast feeding Starlette on my left side is off limits. OUCH.

Andrew kissAndrew is in Oregon and already missing us just as we are missing him. He is extremely exhausted all while being inconveniently WIDE AWAKE at 2 AM, texting us because he's hungry, and only just realizing it is actually NOON (aka lunch time) here. His hosts are extremely kind and looking after him well already. He will adjust to the time change soon enough. Feel free to text him on FB messenger if you think about it. He'd love it.

While going about my day, I decided to call the group that is bringing disabled riders tomorrow. I expect them to tell me in advance WHO is coming so we can be prepared with the appropriate number of side walkers and volunteers. It turns out, they are closed for midterm and no one thought it important to tell me. Even during our last session, we put the next session on the calendar so I was expecting them.

Such is life in Kenya. One never gets used to some things. So this means that we have time to recover from the amount of energy it took to get Andrew ready for his big trip, which included a trip to Nairobi as well as lots of paperwork stuff. It is all very tiresome and nerve wracking. The good news, his travels went well, and he is safe and healthy, and most of his luggage made it.

Sarah m
Our brilliant daughter Muthoni

In other news, our daughter Sarah Muthoni is doing her practicals for her cooking school. We are very proud of her. Edith is doing well in school, as well. BT is struggling with some teachers at her school, but she is making good grades. We aren't sure how to sort out the issues she is having, but we are working on it.

On the farm front, we have over 30 bunnies, our 3 yr old Great Dane just came from breeding for the first time. Our pig is expecting, our baby cow is growing, we have chickens who aren't really doing much for us, but we get 3 eggs a day or so. We make several pounds of butter a week from our cow milk. The cats are eating mice and birds. The goats are just eating weeds, and well... the weather is amiable, too. 

P1350365
Our tire treads

We need some help to restock food for everyone and everything since we spent quite a lot on Andrew heading off to the USA. We gave him some spending money, and the trip to Nairobi, etc... so if you feel inclined, please consider a donation to A Future and a Hope. One of our biggest needs apart from food is new tires. One looks like it can explode any minute. They are $350 EACH. 

I also hope to follow after my son and visit the USA in August (if possible). This is one reason I am not an emotional mess with him leaving right now. It would be my first trip in over 11 years. It would be extremely helpful if we could buy tickets soon for this adventure. A fundraiser may not release the funds in time for a ticket purchase...

Perhaps if someone loaned us the funds, then we could do a fundraiser and pay it back? I don't know. I am brainstorming here. We need about $4,500 just for three of us to get to Houston. Of course food, travel funds, etc. would be helpful... meanwhile Jesse Duplantis is raising $54 million for his 4th jet plane... (Shaking my head over here). I just want to have enough funds to feed people, maintain a decent supply of toilet paper in the house, get tires for the car, and travel to see my family and

P1340715
Putting helmets on our therapy riders

friends in the USA for the first time in 11 years so we can thank the folks who have helped us over the last 13 years! Seriously, though, it seems overwhelming and like a lot to ask. 

Thanks for helping us continue bringing A Future and a Hope to these precious kiddos and being a light in the darkness. So many of you sacrifice for the sake of these precious children, and we are grateful. Our hearts are full, we are grateful and happy. We just have to present the needs we have so you know them. <3 

Loads and loads of love to all of our peeps out there. Happy Madaraka Day, and don't forget to communicate, folks! :)