farm

Buying the Freezer!

Recently we ran a successful fund raiser to sock up pantries and buy a solar powered freezer for our home, The Prancing Pony. I just received the latest quote and after speaking with the salesman on the phone have decided to make the purchase tomorrow. Below you will find the quote and a video to help visualize the freezer.  (Edit: Oops forgot to mention that we are buying the second option, the larger freezer.)

Thank you everyone who participated, we are about to return to the ice age. 

 

 


Standardized Tests in schools and horses?

Eowyn studying on moon bwTwo 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:

  1. discipline                                     Eoywn pony bum
  2. responsibility
  3. humility
  4. challenges
  5. bravery
  6. physical education
  7. friends
  8. socialization,
  9. emotional management
  10. adventure
  11. patience
  12. something to do
  13. transportation
  14. coordination
  15. 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!'

 


Bull

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. 

Rain

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Here in Kasambara Kenya, we have two basic types of weather;  it is either raining or not raining. Fortunately, we do not have much extreme weather, just raining or not raining. The Shire, our almost twelve acres here in Kenya, depends on rain for water. We do not have access to any piped water nor do we have a well. We capture all the rain that falls on our roofs during the rainy season and store it in large tanks. We then pump the water from those storage tanks to a tank up the hill from the house and that tank feeds the house via gravity. Currently, we have a little over 100,000 liters of water storage (not full as our rainy season has just started.)
 
Water management is one of the top priorities here on the farm. We can not afford to waste any water. There are no flush toilets. You would be surprised at how much water toilets use. Instead, we use a composting toilet system. All the water from the sinks and shower (gray water) goes into a banana circle. Showers are limited and not every day. With careful oversight, our water lasted throughout the previous dry season. We never ran completely out. Nice.
 
Now the clouds have come and it is raining again. Tanks are filling, the grass has gone green again, and the temperature has cooled off a few degrees. The rainy season is our favorite. 

Pork

Part of the reasoning behind buying The Shire, our almost twelve acres here in Kenya, was to be able to grow and raise much of our own food. Plus to be able to produce food for the hungry people we work with in the Nakuru community. We spend the vast majority of funds that come in on feeding the children, ourselves, and a host of other people. When we started to look for a piece of land to buy that was one of the foremost agendas for that new land, production of food.

Now since we know little about farming and gardening we are studying and applying that timeless learning tool, trial and error. I have failed to grow quite a few vegetables and succeeded on a few others. I am confident that in the future this farm will produce an abundance of vegetables.

One aspect of the farm that has been a big success are the pigs. We bought the two pigs from a farmer nearby, and honestly I did not think they would survive. The things were skin and bones and covered with mange. Lots of food and a little medicine fixed them right up. Maggie, our sow, is on her third litter. We have been able to sell some of the piglets, give a few away, and most importantly eat some ourselves. Last week I slaughtered a piglet for dinner and tomorrow will do the same for lunch. One hundred percent organic and well cared for suckling pig is some of the best meat I have ever had.

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Refrigeration!

Some time back, many months back, Juliet Barnes gave us an old kerosene refrigerator. Now if like me you have, or rather had, no idea what a kerosene fridge (or as they say in Kenya paraffin fridge) is don't feel bad. It is a pretty old piece of technology.  I deduced from the name that it was a refrigerator that ran on kerosene, but I had never seen anything like it in my life before.

We drove across the Soysambu Consverancy to get to her house (also a mud house) and pick up the fridge. She had not used it in some time and it is pretty ancient. Juliet advised us to drive as roughly as possible on the way home to shake up the chemicals that cause the cooling. We did so, but alas could not get the thing to work. We tried a couple of times and more or less gave up on it.

Enter Andrew, our nineteen year old son, he spoke with a fridge fundi (repairman) in town and got some advice. The fundi told him to turn it upside down and listen. If he heard the chemicals moving than great. The fundi said to leave it for a day or two then turn it over and try it out. We lit the flame in the evening and had ice in the morning. It works!

Now this refrigerator is small and will not be able to meet all our needs, but it is helping to keep the milk fresh. Thank you Juliet.

P1240637The Fridge

P1240638The flame that heats the chemicals that causes the cooling action.


Fire!

We had a fire today.

P1210909

Not to worry the only thing lost was a compost bin. Unfortunately not everyone thinks about how dry things are before throwing coals onto a compost pile. We managed to contain the fire before it spread too much. The biggest loss, all the precious water we had to use to contain that fire.


It's Friday!

Hello Friday.
 
School is back in full force. 
 
Weekend is just over the horizon. I wonder if I can manage to pull off doing nothing this weekend? My guess is that with fifteen children, farm animals, and trees to water the answer will be a resounding no. Sigh. Someday a weekend will come that will bring the blessed nothingness.
 
Last night during dinner preparations our gas cylinder needed replacing. (No piped cooking gas in the house we use cylinders. You know like the ones you take camping, only these are bigger.) Fortunately we have two. Unfortunately the replacement has a problem with the nozzle or whatever you call that thing. So dinner was cooked over coals. Not as convenient, but more African. In fact we had a Kenyan dish. I suppose it was appropriate we cooked it on a jiko over charcoal.
 
Busy day today. I, Johnny, will be Kate's driver as she places orders for lumber to build three more animal stalls and collects various bits and pieces for that project in Nakuru. There is still an ongoing fund raiser to help with these costs. The stalls will house animals related to the horse therapy and another cow. (At least the cow is planned right now. We might change our minds and do goats.) Thankfully Kate generally rewards my driving her around with nice food, perhaps Chinese today?
 
What are your weekend plans? Chinese on the menu?
 

Horsepower

One of the fringe benefits of moving onto The Shire (our almost twelve acres here in rural Kenya) was Kate was able to rekindle her love for horses. Almost immediately after we moved she began a search for a horse. She learned quickly that finding a horse that we could afford here in Kenya was not easy. In fact it was almost impossible. She met many people with horses and made new friends along the way. Still no horse. When she was almost frantic with the quest, her search led her to an organization in Nairobi that used horses as therapy animals for disabled children. This organization gave her a horse that was not suitable for their use. This began our journey with horses and more importantly gave us a way to help more children.
 
I do not understand the bond Kate has with horses. They are not animals that I appreciate and I have never had a bond with anything other than a dog. Yet it does exist with some people, and especially with children. A child and a horse share something between themselves. There are benefits to the relationship, even if it is a fleeting encounter. Reminds me of a scene from this documentary we watched about horses with a guy named Martin Clunes. He ends up in a pen with a horse and just after looking into the animal's eyes has an emotional moment. If I remember correctly there were tears and all. Seemed silly at first to me, but I try and respect other's experiences. I tried it out. Stared into a horse's eye. It did not have the same effect on me, but after observing the eyes and the sense of thoughtfulness behind them, I can understand the connection some people feel they have with these animals. 
 
Horses make good therapy animals. The children get to ride the horse and it actually helps with their muscle development. Really. Amazing to think about. It is no miracle cure, but for these children even little advances can seem like miracles. It has to do with the way the horse moves and then the children have to utilize muscles to stay balanced and sitting up. These muscles do not normally get this exercise. Over time it can help them to sit up better and perhaps even walk better. 
 
There is also the emotional boost to the child. Unfortunately disabled people do not have much reason to be happy here in Kenya. We have encountered almost unbelievable situations involving disabled children and young adults in Nakuru. Including one young man chained to a wall. What I am trying to say that bringing even an hour or so of happiness to these children is worthwhile. They get to ride a horse. Many if not all of them have never even seen a horse, and now they get to touch and sit on one. The smiles and giggles have an impact on their well being. 
 
 
Here is another video where Kate talks about this Horsepower:
 


Infrastructure

There is this cute little boy that lives down the road from us. I am guessing he is maybe two years old. Anytime he hears the car, which being a LandRover is audible from quite a distance, he runs to the road and waves with as much vigor as he can muster. I have never heard him say anything (in Kenya is is common for children to shout "How are you" at passing white people) he just waves and smiles. I try to give him a worthy wave in return, and generally if anyone is in the car with me they will lean out the window and say hi. 

I have never actually stopped to say hi. That actually might scare him and mess up a good thing. Little guys like him are one of the great things about living out of the city and in a smaller village. Kasambara does not have a busy road, which makes it easier to wave at a little boy on the side of the road. Plus the road is so terrible that one is forced to travel at a measly pace which makes it harder to miss cute kids on the side of the road.

Having now lived in Kasambara for more than two years I do not think I could go back to living in a city. I mean not if I have a say so in it. We have less noise, people, and bills cluttering up our lives. Which creates more space for us to be with the children and each other. A less busy space.

Honestly though when I stop and think about it our lives are not less busy, in fact we generally have much to do, but the excess noise is less and that helps generate a more relaxing atmosphere to live in making the work more enjoyable and less like work.

Creating the farm system takes up much of my time and energy. Not necessarily with the labor part, but just learning about farming. There is a lot of information out there and a lot of people willing to sell you their interpretation on that information. Processing data on farming methods has begun to take up bigger and bigger pieces of my days.

At the moment the farm is not producing very much food, though what we do grow and raise is delicious, however the infrastructure and development necessary for the future is going in. Some of what we have done:

  • Some fencing, including creating paddocks for cows and horses
  • Building a small hut for guests. This hut recently had a toilet added on to it.
  • Building a house out of mud. This is our home, which is powered by solar energy and now has a hot shower (also solar powered)
  • Building stalls for cows and horses
  • Building two pig sties
  • Building a rabbit enclosure
  • Building a small chicken coop
  • Planting lots and lots of trees

Now a list of what we would like to get done before the end of this year:

  • Slaughtering house (not really a house but space to be able to butcher animals cleanly and more easily.)
  • More fencing. In fact we would like to complete fencing of the whole property
  • Refrigeration. 
  • Planting lots and lots of trees.

It is only September, there is still plenty of year left.