I am not sure off-grid people have the best of reputations. There are some pretty weird people living off-grid and if we are honest they get all the attention because they are weirdos. (Like the people in this article on CNN's website: http://cnn.it/1qJAi4N ) Kate and I choose to be different, contrary to our culture at times, but we are normal everyday folks. We go to dinner parties. We have a big car. We have many many children. And, we like electricity.
Unfortunately where The Shire is located there is no electricity. We have no choice but to generate our own or live without it. We did no electricity for a couple of weeks, and well, I like me better when I can watch t.v.
There are really on two feasible choices for us, solar or generator. We chose solar as our primary source of power because in the long run it is cheaper. The generator takes constant fuel, oil, and servicing. Plus it is noisy. The solar system makes no noise until I turn on the power in the evening. Then it hums, kind of like an old fridge.
There you go. We are off-grid not because we converted to some Mother Nature worshiping new-age cult or became hipsters. Nope. We are off the power grid because we have no choice.
That is not to say we do not appreciate the side effects of no grid hookup. Not having that monthly bill is nice, and no ugly power lines to mess up our view. Also it does feel good to use green tech, at least until you remember how much it cost.
I am sure the power lines will find their way to us, eventually. When that time comes we will hook up, maybe, possibly.
The past couple of days I have been loading soil into a wheelbarrow and hauling it over to my raised beds. Not particularly difficult work, but tedious labor. I keep finding my mind wandering and questioning the purpose of all my digging. I am not a farmer, at least not yet. I can understand that the digging and hauling is important for the here and now. The food we will eat this season will be worth the effort, and it is rewarding labor. Yet consumption of all organic home grown food is not the end goal here on The Shire.
Enough food to share and/or market to generate income that can be used to care for more orphaned/abandoned children; that is the goal. The main thing is rescuing children. Creating opportunities where none exist. Giving the hopeless a hopeful future. Loving and being loved is our purpose.
That is why I dig. That is why I will continue to learn to farm. That is why I will try and grow pumpkins. The future of these children and the ones we have yet to save depends on the digging.
Meet June our milk provider (and a random donkey pic or two.) We let her nurse her calf all day. We separate them at night and take a bit of milk in the morning, just enough for our family, then let her calf nurse all he wants.
Kate and I have given the blog a going over and changed the design. This new layout and design is supposed to be able to adapt to any screen. Though I have not yet had a chance to check it out on a portable device, it does look nice on the laptop.
Right now we are waiting for the rainy season to begin so we can fill up our water tanks. Last year we were able to expand our water storage to just over 100,000 liters. (That would be 26417.205 gallons.) As we wait for the life giving water the grass has dried up and we have to water a few newly planted trees. Thankfully we have not yet run out of water. I checked yesterday and we have a little more than 12,000 liters left. (3170.0646 gallons.) It did cloud up today and cool off a bit, but still waiting for the rains.
This planting season we hope to plant and harvest enough food to share with the hungry in Nakuru. One of the goals for The Shire (our farm) is to produce relief food. Not only for orphans in the community but for disaster relief as well. You know to help someone out whose house burned, mom died, lost a job, or just made a stupid mistake. We want to be there with healthy organic food for them. Plus growing food and raising animals is kind of fun, and provides jobs for our community.
Yesterday was my forty second birthday. I spent the day hanging out with the kids and climbing up the hillside. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday.
The life we are currently living is not the life I imagined for myself as a young man gazing into the future. Not at all. About the only part I got right was Kate.
I had not imagined having children. There are now fourteen, and one on the way, in my life.
I had not imagined living in Kenya. It has now been almost eleven years here.
I had not imagined a life without religion. I am so glad that Jesus led me to a religionless life. What freedom!
I had not imagined building a farm. There are now pigs, horses, donkeys, cows, chickens, and rabbits outside my door.
This moment, right now, it is not perfect. There are things, resources, people, and skills missing from my life. No, perfection is not a part of my life. Yet happiness is. I am happy. Happy with how things worked out. I tried out some of my imaginings on the way to forty two, none of them brought me happiness nor contentment.
Living out my faith, my ideas, my commitments to family; these are the things that have made me happy to see birthday number forty two.
What will the future hold? Hard to say. I can imagine a future with:
More children rescued and given a hopeful future.
Our children living their lives faithful to their beliefs and convictions.
A farm producing enough food for us and the hungry in this world.
I can imagine a better future, and hopefully just like that younger man gazing forward in time, this slightly older one will find that his future dreaming fell far short of what actually has come to be.
Shot this with my cheap smart phone, a Samsung Galaxy J1 (at least I'm pretty sure that is what the phone is called.) Testing the video quality. I mean looks good enough for the internet to me, what do you think?
I spent the day trimming trees, cutting weeds, and creating even more compost heaps here on The Shire. In fact it has been a couple of weeks since I last spent the majority of a day laboring.
There has been many trips to hardware stores, grocery stores, animal feed stores, and helping out Kate's elderly friend who broke her arm. In other words not enough time to spend a day working with my hands.
I am a bit tired, but the good kind of tired. You know the type your dad told you about. When you are tired because you worked hard it actually feels good. It is not the same tired you get from sitting in front of a computer all day. Sure that wears me out too, but it doesn't feel good to be tired after that. When you have been chopping, hauling, and running after animals, well that is a nice tired.
Which is why I was doing all that manual labor anyway, not to feel good, but to monitor animals. We needed to let them graze on some of the upper land, but have not yet harvested all the maize. So I elected myself to keep them from eating the maize. The cow slipped through, twice. Russel, the male donkey, tried all day to get up to the maize. In the end the maize survived and I got a lot of trimming done.
After we purchased The Shire and put up a fence (half the land,) and built a little hut I (Johnny) started to push for an early move in date. I wanted to be on the farm in order to start developing it without the hour commute or sleeping in tents.
When The Prancing Pony (our current home) was nearly finished I suggested we move in. No electricity, no running water, and worse of all no floor.
Having never lived without a floor I didn't realize how difficult it actually would be. The dust is killer. Poor little ~Eowyn keeps stubbing her toes. I cannot walk around in socks at the end of the day.
Not that I am complaining, well not complaining too much. We started saving money as soon as we moved in, which in some months (like this one) is fantastic. Development became easier as we are here twenty-four hours a day, and we are able to participate in the work more.
Still a floor, more electricity, and a bathroom would be nice.