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August 2014
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October 2014

Entries from September 2014

What to write about?

I'm trying to write our monthly newsletter. I can't even begin!

  • I want to tell you about how 7 years ago we did something really crazy..

  • Or explain to folks about our simple life. (No fridge, no floor, no car, no shower nor bath... but we have horses, and WHY...)

  • Or that our Grace turns 20 this month!

  • I also want to share about how Mercy who is REALLY smart has to travel to Nakuru this month and go to her old school and why...

  • Or I could share about why we have so many animals on The Shire and each of their stories...

  • Or how the vet who came out recently said his boy WAS first in class, but now he complains that my children who are new to the school are just too smart for him to beat.

  • Or maybe you want to know what projects are going on like how we want to focus on animals instead of veggies (though we'll grow some), and why we haven't planted much food yet.

  • Or how we really need more water tanks, and plus other building supplies,

  • Or what our plans are for the community and for our own little village.

  • Or perhaps you'd like to hear the story about how I was abandoned in the bush...

  • Or that Emma saw lions and Hyena not far from here while with some friends...

There is so much to tell, and it is too much for one newsletter. What interests you?

My morning... Life in a barn in the bush.

A typical morning...

The Rooster crows at 2am. A neighbor's cock-a-doodles back. I wake up.

By four am I'm usually finished solving the world's problems and back to sleep. Five am has the girls waking for school and clanging around in the kitchen preparing tea for breakfast.

By 6:00 am I'm out of bed still wearing yesterday's clothes. I kiss Éowyn who sleeps between Johnny and me, then I slip on my boots, fumble for my glasses, and head out the door.

Usually Makena is already outside waiting for me to make the feed for the horses. I mix their feed, greet them, then dump it in their troughs as they whinnie in excitement. The donkeys are usually close by pushing and shoving me hoping for a crumb to fall.

Next I prepare the food for the cow. I pour it in her trough, then I find her some where in the pasture and tempt her into walking up to the stable with a handful of feed. Once she's in, I go back to the house, wash my hands, heat some water, grab the milk pail, and head back out to milk Sagana with children at my heels excited to help in the milking.

We get three cups from her udders at the moment because she is so emaciated. She is a rescue cow given to us just this week. That is a different tale.

After Sagana is milked, I let all animals out to pasture. I return to the house, boil the milk, some water, and grab a herb of choice from the garden to make myself some herbal tea. I usually eat a grapefruit, or two eggs, or mashed banana with egg made into pancakes. At some point I brush my hair and teeth! If Éowyn is awake, I make my bed and greet Johnny.

After the milk cools, I take the cream off the top and make a tiny amount of butter. Since we do not have a fridge, I made today's three cups of milk into yogurt.

I make sure all of my remaining kids who are home have eaten, and we start school. We read our history lessons, do some sciences, then they do Math in workbooks, English, spelling, and music practice. While they do the practicals, I halter the horses, bring them in for a grooming to make sure all hooves are clean, and they are bushed and combed. Then back out to pasture they go.

I return to the house to help the children with their school work, then I start planning either lunch or a bath... Both involve fire.

If Johnny is bathing, he makes a fire and heats enough water for us both.

If I'm making bread, I make a fire in our mud oven (Johnny usually helps with this, too. He likes making fire.) It takes three hours to heat up. While he makes fire, I make doughs.

Lately, I've been trying to eat less wheat so we have things like celery with natural peanut butter, tomato salad, corn on the cob, eggs, apples, and cheese for lunch.

And that's my morning! If you made it this far and are curious about the rest of my day, perhaps that can be an article for tomorrow.


One of our biggest goals when we bought The Shire (our almost 12 acres near Lake Elementaita here in Kenya) was growing our own food. We spend a lot of money buying food. If we can grow or raise that food instead, then the money can go someplace else. Like school, health care, etc. 

We want at least five cows. Milk, milk, and more milk. Kenyans love their milk, and Kate and I love cheese. Five cows would more than satisfy our needs. The excess could be sold or more cheese made and then that can be sold. Either way it is good for us, good for the children, and good for those we assist in the community. 

Shortly after moving here we purchased a pregnant cow. She is actually due any day now, and all the children are looking forward to seeing the calf. We are of course hoping she gives birth to a little girl cow. Which would put us closer to that five mark.

Since moving out of town to The Shire we have met all kinds of new people. One of these folks has a friend who had a cow that was being neglected by the people he left it with. Mostly seems that she has not been fed properly. No grazing space and not enough feed equal a skinny unhappy cow. This fella we had met told his friend about us and they decided that we were the kind of people that could nurse a cow back to health and benefit from the cow as well.

Yesterday they brought us a skinny cow. 

She was fed and watered and slept the night in one of the stalls. This morning when I went out to check on the animals she was already happily grazing in the paddock. Our vet is scheduled to come out and do a check this morning, but day one has started off well. 

Thanks to these new friends we are now one step closer to our five cow goal. Not to mention closer to delicious home made cheese.


Things I haven't told you about The Shire

Life on The Shire is beautiful. Ok, you know that one, but....

Admittedly, it is not easy. Adjusting to the change from a town to village is actually taking longer than we expected.

Things that are hard to adjust to in no specific order:

  • People are always staring at us. They literally stand all around our fence and gawk. I know, I look different, and I'm amusing, but after a while, I would like some privacy.

  • Bathing takes hours. First, wood must be collected, then a fire made. I'm not great at making fire. Fortunately, water comes out of the tap to fill the pot through a neat thing called plumbing, then we heat it up, pour it in a bucket, and take a cup to splash it over our head.

  • We have to pump water every week to fill the tanks. That can take a huge hunk out of a day.

  • It's very windy and cold up here. Living almost 7,000 feet up on a mountainside makes for very cold days. I'm wrapped in a polar fleece blanket now and wearing two sweaters as I type. The next house must have a fireplace.

  • Dirt floors are messy. We didn't have time to make smooth cob (dirt) floors. Instead, we just moved in without doing anything to the ground the house was built on apart from sprinkling water on it and compacting it down a bit. It's obviously messy all the time. We can't change the floors without moving out. So that's on the list for the future house. Plus, there is no 5 second rule when some one drops food on the floor. And sweeping is hard!

  • No electricity in the day is actually quite nice. The house is quiet. There is no power bill. There are no power poles or lines outside in our view, but I must admit making purées and mayonnaise takes a lot longer by hand. Kneading dough, mixing cakes, etc... All take more effort. I've adapted well and don't mind, but when visiting a friend, and they just heat up food in a microwave, or better still, put ice in a drink or pull food out of the fridge, I'm still in awe. I do miss those conveniences.

  • Our toilets work beautifully. They save water because they are just buckets with saw dust... But they fill up and have to be emptied. It is just one more thing we have to do.

  • We don't have glass in our windows. I love the indoor outdoor feel of windows opened, but admittedly, it's a windy place and the shutters are always banging around, plus the animals are always popping in the house stealing food off the table!

  • Not having a car out here in the bush means I'm forced to take beautiful long walks with my family. That is a perk! However, those walks are not a choice and they take a great deal of time and energy. A simple errand can take all day. We do have motorcycles, but I'm not brave enough to drive on the highway yet, plus our groceries and whatnot will not fit on a motorcycle.

  • Communication and blog writing is harder. Firstly, I'm spending so much time trying to do everything mentioned above, and secondly, battery power runs out often. Plus internet is sketchy often or nonexistent.

  • Lastly, baking is a blast and extra tasty in our clay oven, but it takes a lot longer to get the oven ready. Fire wood, fire, prepping of doughs, then removal of fire, then mopping of oven floor, then guessing temperature, then baking not just one item, but many because we don't want to waste the heat.. Baking pizzas turns into baking bread, crackers, biscuits, pizzas, and anything else I can put in before the oven cools.

I love living on The Shire so much, that I really don't like sharing the downside, but this is just the reality we live with.


Take the Time to Look

Every now and then I will find myself going through life looking at the ground. Just marching along looking at nothing but where to put my feet. In other words only  concerned with myself or those I live with. Interacting with others, but just barely. Or rather just enough to accomplish whatever set my feet into action.
Yes even us missionary types can ignore those around us. (I am talking about people other than the herd I live with. You know folks in the community, cashiers, public transportation guys, etc.) It is easy to get distracted by one's own life. Especially if it is a life like mine. I'm pretty sure that I've been watching my shoes since moving to The Shire (our new farm.) I know, I know I shouldn't be too harsh on myself. It has been a big transition full of lots of work. Good reason to be self absorbed. Yet I do not want to live this way, thinking of and seeing only Johnny and my immediate family.
It takes effort to look at people, especially for an introvert like me. The rewards are fantastic, if I can only get my eyes up.
This morning I came to town to pay the school fees for our girls in secondary school. The first walk is down the hill to the highway. It's just a path, not a road. Most times I don't meet anyone else during the half hour walk. Lonely, but pleasant. Once at the highway I flag down a public transit vehicle, once it stops the tout jumps out and lets me in.
It was during the forty five minutes to an hour ride that I came to realize that I was drifting through life not paying attention to those around me. Usually at some point during the trip the tout, who is the door opener and  closer, will ask you for the fare. All this happened this morning, just like every other time. Nothing unusual, meaning I was able to coast.
What shocked me out of my stupor was realizing, as we were nearing the end of the line, that our tout was a woman. Now before you say "so what" you should know that female touts are rare. In fact this may be the first time I have ever ridden with one. I was shocked to discover not her femininity, but how easy it was for me to not notice. (She was not a dude, didn't look like one, nor sound like one.)
Once out I made an effort to look at people. Which admittedly made my trip across town take longer, but it was worth it.

Beautiful Quilt


Check out this beautiful quilt that Kate's mother, Sheryl, made. Very talented that woman.

She is giving it away to the first person to donate $1,000 to A Future and a Hope (that would be us.) Which is super nice and I guess it means she still likes Kate, even though she married me. Ha. That was a joke. How could anyone not like Kate? Even if she comes with me.

Here is the message Sheryl posted on Facebook about the quilt:

I am offering this quilt to the first person who donates $1000.00 to A Future and a Hope--. Each block represents a month--12 blocks, one for each month of the year. This is all done by me--the blocks are all appliqued by me, with lots of little pieces!. The quilt measures 77X96 inches, is all cotton, and backed with soft flannel. It took me 3 months to make. The donation needs to be verified by A Future and a Hope (Kate Brooks)--go to their blog to donate. She will let me know who to send it to. This offer is for stateside shipping only. If you are outside the USA and want to pay on the shipping, I will send it to you as well. This quilt will cover the top of a king sized bed, has some overhang on a queen size. The theme is very American as each month represents some holiday or tradition.