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?
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.
Currently a campaign is running that is ongoing to build a couple more stalls, buy equipment, and finish leveling a piece of The Shire for this horse therapy program. This is one more way we will be working towards bringing hope to children here in Kenya.
Here is another video where Kate talks about this Horsepower:
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
- Planting lots and lots of trees.
It is only September, there is still plenty of year left.
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.