I Saved Some Water

I did my part for water conservation yesterday. (If you follow Kate on Facebook then you are aware that we are experiencing a water shortage as we wait for the dry season to end.) I bathed using only a third of the water I would normally splash on myself. In fact I had enough left over to wash my underwear.

Honestly it was a bit of a shock, the left over water that is. All that water I've been wasting. (Though in my defense we do recycle the water from the shower.) It is the little things that we do which can make a big difference. 

When we first moved to Kenya and started experiencing issues with water supply it drove home our attitude towards water. We grew up twisting a faucet and water coming out, always. Even hot water. Now we have to be more proactive in procuring our water, and make sure we have enough to hydrate our fourteen children. 

Currently we are working towards expanding our storage capacity. New tanks will be purchased this week, and several other ideas are in the works. A recent visitor proposed digging a trench across the property to collect runoff water from the hill.(He does it on his farm with great success.) Actually seems like a pretty decent idea. I might try a shorter length first to test it out. Others have suggested a well, that is a big project that starts with a geological survey. Not there yet. There are more, and keep the suggestions coming folks. Before the next dry season we will be prepared, and able to grow food out of season.


The Next House

Our next construction project is a small staff house. We need help caring for all these children and actually getting this farm to produce food. Labor in Kenya is not too expensive, and it will be great to help out more folks by employing them.

The house is a small two bedroom affair inspired by the bridge of the Enterprise from Star Trek. I know we deviated from the Middle Earth theme, but it will possiblly be named The Barrow.

We will be building it out of earth bags. More details to follow, but basically bags stuffed full of sand and soil and stacked on each other. Ninety percent or so of the construction materials will be sourced right here on The Shire. Good for the environment, and more importantly good for the pocket book.

The plan right now is for Andrew and a young man coming to help out on the farm to stay in this small house when it is finished. 


The Solar Post

Yesterday Matthew (a friend and fellow missionary here in Nakuru) and I went to Nairobi to purchase our initial solar system. The trip went smoothly and we made a purchase at the third company we visited. This is what we bought:

Solar System

Our fist time to buy anything like this. Well except for the small panel we bought for charging our phones.

A little more detail:

120 Watts Solar Panel

We now have 2 120 Watts Canadian solar panels. Canadian Solar has apparently been bought out, but these guys still have their panels. Panels that are German technology made in China. In other words we have international solar panels.


Epsolar Charge Controller

Electricity goes from the solar panels to the this little device called a charge controller. Which does as it's name suggests, controls the charging of the batteries.

Ritar Power 12v 100AH Battery

There are 2 of these batteries. Which of course will store the electricity generated by the panels. Our plan was for 4 hours of power in the evening time. We have lights, t.v. DVD, speakers, and charging of phones/computer.


200 Amp Fuse

I believe that after the batteries will be this big 200 Amp fuse. I think. Matthew knows the layout, but somewhere after the batteries but before the inverter charger comes this fuse.

After you have generated and stored your electricity it needs to be inverted into something useful. Since we are in Kenya we will be transforming it for a 220 system. From this inverter charger the power goes to the house and we can flip on a light. We bought this particular one because we can charge the batteries with the generator through it should the need too arise.

Electrical Lot and Mounting Hardware

Oops. I almost forgot to include the wire and mounting hardware we got as well.

Did we stay within budget?


Now that I've put this photo in the post I realize it is hard to read. We spent 175,000. ($2,002) Plus fuel for Matthew's car, lunch, and a stop at the media store to pick up Frozen for movie night this weekend. Within budget.


I'm Back

Hi from Johnny

My break with social media has come to an end. All in all I would say getting away from the online world for a bit worked out great. I felt that it was all just becoming too much for me to cope with. Thankfully this "sabatical" coincided with our move to The Shire. Which made it pretty easy to stay away from Facebook and the blog. No electricity and all.

We still do not have permanent electricity, but the generator is working out for t.v. time in the evening, and I did purchase a small solar kit for charging our phones. (Plus we take the opportunity to charge our computers, while watching White Collar.) Soon we will make a final decision on the solar setup and purchase enough to power lights, t.v., DVD player, and charge phones and computers. Not enough for refrigeration. I am still hoping for a propane powered fridge sometime in the future. (In the meantime I have burried my Coke Zeros in a claypot with water in the ground.)

Shelves have been installed in the Prancing Pony, stones laid in the shower, drainage put in for said shower, and we are enjoying the peace and quiet of a community without electricity, gates clanging at all hours, and horns constantly hooting.

Personally I am not too keen on the dirt floor we have in the house. There is just something "unclean" about walking around on dirt. Kate has plans to install more stones around the house in the future, so clean feeling feet are at least something I can still hope for.

Thank you to everyone who has made this move possible. We are putting together a system here on The Shire that can be duplicated on another piece of land in order to care for more children. This agriculture based approach will hopefully allow the homes to be more self sustaining. We have not yet planted much beyond fruit trees and herbs, but piece by piece we are taming The Shire.



Play Outside

I really believe in spending time outdoors. In fact, I think it is the best way to learn. Several of our children went with us to have some constructive playtime* in their new house which they named The Prancing Pony.

*which means they ran around in circles to tamp the clay floor down.

With that said, we have managed to build the structure of a 2000 sq ft house for just $6,500 USD! Now that is not bad! (FYI, this doesn't include our fence which cost $2,500 and our water tanks which cost $1,000 for those wondering where the money went!)

Our house is not complete yet, and we are doing a fundraiser so we can do these things listed here:

1. Currently our floor is just loose soil, so they need to be tamped and have flat stones on them so we don't get muddy feet.

2. Also, our walls are bumpy mud, so we are paying guys to dig clay, make the mud, smooth it on the walls, and they are leveling the yard at the same time.

3. We have no counters nor shelves nor rods to hang clothes, etc.. so we need some cabinets and shelves

4. We need to water proof our bathroom, so we need tiles and cement.

5. We need water tanks to store more water, and a pump to pump it uphill so it can get pressure to come into the house

6. A tank stand is needed to put the water tank on at the top side, and holes need to be dug in the ground on the lower side to put the storage tanks that collect rain water in from the gutters.

7. Pipes for the water system are needed.

8. Storage racks and shelves for the kitchen and sink are needed.

9. We would like to fence in an area around the house so that visitors don't just pop in and the dogs stay near the house instead of roaming around 11 acres.

10. Some windows have no shudders and need screens

11. We need a hot water system put in

12. A small fridge will be bought for when the generator is on

13. Solar panels, inverters, etc... need to be bought and put in

14. We need a portable gas cylinder for our gas stove top

15. We need a gate in the fence at the back

16. A drainage trench needs to be dug around the barn and filled with stones

17. We want to build a donkey stall and paddock fenced so we can use her to help haul things up the hill

18. Moving expenses for a big truck so we can shift to our new home.

If you would like to help us finish our home, you can donate or share our link with friends and family... Easter is a time of new beginnings, and we have a big new beginning just ahead!



Share and Share Alike

On April the 2nd we started a fundraising effort to help us get moved into The Shire by the end of the month. Our goal is $8,000, which will enable is to move in and get started on developing the farm. We are creating a system with the farm that will help us to rescue more children and give them hopeful futures. 

What we need you to do today, right now if you can, is to share our campaign. You can send it to folks via email, Facebook, Twitter, and even talk about it face to face or on the phone. If you follow the link below you can find tools for sharing on the campaign page itself. (Just click on the image. The sharing tools on the campaign page are just below the video.)

Thank you. The more we get the word out the better. We can't do this alone. Also if you haven't made a donation yet please consider doing so.


Happy Birthday to Kate, and a New Fund Raiser

We went out to celebrate Kate's 39th birthday last night with friends who are leaving Kenya to move back home. We had a lovely time, and Kate was able to eat jumbo (real jumbo) shrimp. One aspect of being a missionary is that people are always coming into and going out of your life. You get used to it after awhile, and learn to appreciate the season they are with you.

Another reality of life for us is fundraising. In the past we shunned it, or at least approached it wearing rubber gloves. We have changed our approach over the past few years and are embracing, or at least learning to, this part of our lives. Honestly it is wonderful and uplifting to know that there are folks out there willing, and who do so each and every month, to help us live and care for these children. 

Fundraising is a part of our lives, but so is sustainability. Which I mean that we have to also find ways to generate income locally for the project. Not an easy task, but we believe that agriculture is the key for A Future and a Hope. Even if we fail to sell our food on the market, we have food. Currently we spend about 43% of incoming donations on food. The Shire will enable us to drastically reduce that percentage freeing up cash for other needs.

We will be moving, 'shifting' as they say here in Kenya, to The Shire by the end of this month if all goes according to plan. The Prancing Pony (our barn which will serve as a temporary house for us) is not completely finished, but is livable. One thing living in Kenya has taught us is how to live without ameneties such as running water. We will move in and continue development of The Shire while living there.

This current fundraising campaign is to help enable us to continue that development and make the transition smoother and quicker. Please consider helping out with the campaign, and share it everywhere you can think of.


Already Packing


Even though we have not officially chosen April as our move in month for The Shire Kate is already packing. What I mean by " officially chosen" is that I have not yet given notice with the owner of the house we are currently renting. We still have around 5 days to give our month notice if we are to move by end of April.


Besides packing there are a few somewhat big hurdles to overcome before we can move.

Electricity. We do have a small generator that will power lights and recharge our devices in the evening. We can survive a few weeks or months like that, but we will need to purchase solar panels and batteries to lessen our dependence on the noisy generator.

Plumbing. Currently we have an outhouse. Said outhouse is on the other side of the property, making nighttime potty breaks a pain. We want to use dry composting toilets, but I am concerned about being overwhelmed by the amount of solid waste. Meaning we most likely will need to install a septic system. The water tank installation and running of pipes can easily be done while we are there. One thing living in Kenya has taught us is how to live without running water for extended periods of time.


Those are the biggies, but we are still optimistic for an end of April move in date.