I have lived in Africa 10 years, recently celebrated 20 years of marriage, 40 years of life; I have 14 children, and I am STILL learning so much...
We moved to The Shire, our off-grid farm 1 year and 4 days ago. It has been a huge life change, almost more than moving to Africa itself 10 years ago.
Things I have learned in the last 12 months:
It has been raining a bit now, and we have been digging with hoes and planting with our hands. Many local farmers hire tractors, but part of our 'work' here in Kenya is to help as many locals as we can, and since so many of these guys have no jobs, they are much obliged to earn while digging in our farm.
Our favourite worker at the moment is Steve, age 54. He has no teeth due to a car accident 20 years ago. Steve's age brings much learned wisdom.. He is not a permanent worker on The Shire, but he probably would love to be! Still, we have hired him for weeks now to help us get the soil ready and plant. He even takes time to teach the kids how to plant certain things as well. Of course he is only used to planting Maize, Beans, and possibly kale, so the variety of plants we have must make him feel overwhelmed.
Here is what we have planted so far:
Admittedly, most of these plants are only 1 or 2, and some are just being sprouted. This is our sprout list:
We hope to have a good harvest near the end of the year! In the mean time, we need to start thinking about building a house so we can store all of these goodies somewhere..
Emma Caite is 8 years old. She has beautiful, big, dark brown eyes that seem to suck you in. She is an all or nothing kind of soul. She is sensitive, very affectionate, and tends to be every visitor's 'favorite' because she loves deeply and adopts people quickly. She is a cuddler.
Butterfly Annsely Brooks age 11 (below) started talking at 6 months. She always seems older than she is. She loves writing for fun and has an entire world created in her mind with its own language and maps. She is very balanced on horse back and bicycles. She reads all. The. Time. She's lived in Kenya since she was one year old.
Edith Awino age 12 (photo below). Edith tries anything. She eats bugs if you ask her to. Her first experience with a swimming pool, she just dove in and started swimming like her sisters as if she were a natural born swimmer. She did the same with riding horses. She has the sweetest singing voice and a great laugh. She was 4 when she became ours seven and a half years ago.
Makena Adelle age 14 (below). Mak or Kena is a kenetic learner. She played with string as an infant tying it around everything. Now she is a talented crocheter. She loves DOing things, has an artistic eye behind the camera, and a deep love for animals. She loves drawing on skin and doodling. She is becoming a nice flute and piano player, too. Petite for her age, she and Butterfly are often thought to be twins.
Beatrice Nyawira, BeeTee, just turned 15. She is petite like Makena, which made Makena feel normal, and they thought of each other as twin sisters. Beatrice stole Makena's heart and all of the children's hearts in the house when she moved in 7.5 years ago. Beatrice smiles and laughs, a lot. She is the valedictorian of her class in school, and she has a bio-sister who also lives with us. Beatrice is a fan of Jaden Smith, and she enjoys hoolahooping and jumping on the trampoline.
Teresa Awour age 15 is quiet and adorable. She is polite and tidy! I love that she keeps her things neat and helps others do the same. She is fifteen and only joined our family 5 years ago, but without realising it, we were helping our future daughter with food and essentials years before she became ours. I was looking through old photos on our laptop and found one of Teresa as a tiny little girl about 7yrs old holding up bags of food with a smile. It touched me to know I was making a difference even before she stole our hearts.. She makes my heart happy.
Mary Awour age fifteen (see below). The moment Mary moved in we knew this girl had spunk. Mary gives things her 100%. She sings, dances, and is animated. She wins at poetry competitions and gets singing solos at school. She has a big heart and a strong personality. She is always talking, even in her sleep. She is a dramatic person who often times needs a lot of attention.
Andrew (below right) if you haven't noticed, I am going UP in AGE order, but not school grade order. Andrew just turned 17. He was 'made in Kenya' back in 1997 in a village called Molo. We returned to the USA planning a home birth, but we had no home! So Andrew was born in the loft of a friend's house. We moved back to Kenya when he was a 1st grader (home school) so he grew up here in Kenya. Andrew is a 'Mr. Fix it.' He takes after his grandpa, my dad, Dr. Sam Showalter. He loves mechanics, and enjoys working on cars. He is currently apprenticing at a Land Rover Mechanic shop here in Kenya. If I need anything done around the house, Andrew will do it. He is smart and is just an all around good person.
The irony of this shared photo of Andrew and Sarah (below) is that our next in age child Sarah Muthoni, is also age 17, and was born in Molo... which means that she was a newborn in her mom's arms around the time I was living there and pregnant with Andrew. Chances are, we met in that small village. What a crazy world. Sarah is a hard working girl with the brains to match. She is always top in her class and the best at everything she puts her mind to. In fact, if I need a job done, I can always rely on Sarah. I love her to pieces. She is good at Taekwondo, net ball, zumba, and academics. She is always by my side helping in the kitchen.
Mercy Anyango age 18, ninth grade. Mercy has changed the most since moving in with us over 7 years ago. She went from being unable to open her arms nor look a grownup in the eye to being outgoing and confident. She is the teacher's pet at school. Already she is a prefect at her new high school which she is attending on a full scholarship due to her excellent grades. Mercy LOVES doing Zuma. She's quite good! And most of all, Mercy likes to write stories and plays. She has a gift. She likes playing jokes on folks, too!
Mildred Awino age 19, (see photo below). "Milly" as I like to call her has a wonderful personality. It was painful for her to lose her mom 7 years ago, and her wounds were more fresh than our other girls' making her transition into our family that much more bitter/sweet. She had to care for her ill mother so she missed a lot of school. She is in 10th grade now and has grown into a beautiful young woman. I love singing with Mildred and listening to her laugh. I like the way she turns her feet out when she walks in a sort of shuffle. Milly has a bright smile that makes my heart happy! And she is great at milking our cow June!
Sarah Apiyo age 20 (see below). Sarah also missed a great deal of school and is in 10th grade. She is quiet and honest. She never tattles on her sisters, but when there is an issue, I know Sarah will tell the truth. She plays the recorder in her high school and helps around the house when needed. She is a peace maker and has a great laugh.
Grace Mugure (below) our eldest age 20 also was not allowed to go to school as a youngster due to being in an orphanage that forced her to work as a maid. She is in 10th grade as well and is focused on graduating so she can be more than a physical 'model' for young girls, but a real model in all areas of her life. Grace loves fashion. I love that about her. She is self aware, which means she smells nice and looks smart. She is good at playing the recorder in her high school. She likes dancing especially tap and zumba. She wants to model. I adore her.
Water fell from the sky today. Commonly known as rain. Not too much, but enough to actually get the ground wet. Mud actually stuck to the bottom of my shoes, and we slipped in the car on the road. Good times.
One of the big lessons that living in Kenya has taught me is; to try and live life more in tune with nature's cycles. You know, the seasons. We do not have winter, summer, fall, and spring here in Kenya. Just the wet and dry seasons. The fact of if it's raining or not raining has just as big an impact on life as the four seasons I grew up with.
There is no washing of the car during the dry season.
Bathing is not a daily occurrence during the dry season. (Once every three or four days.)
Water has to be rationed. First drinking water, then cooking, then hand washing, teeth brushing, and so on.
Dust becomes a part of you during the dry season.
Just try running down to the village during the dry season on the motorcycle without any eye protection.
You remember all those times when you were a kid spraying ant hills with the hose, and wonder why your parents did not scold you for wasting water.
If it is yellow let it mellow.
This particular dry season felt drier to me. Maybe it is the change of scenery. Now that we are living on The Shire the lack of rain is more pronounced. We have to feed the animals more since most of the grazing is gone. There is no green grass left. The place is really brown. Trees are looking worse for the wear, and there are no flowers. Water is harder to find. Thankfully a neighbor down the road drilled a well this year, and so we plus our neighbors have been able to get water via 20 liter buckets carried on a donkey's back.
It has been hot.
When it rained today it felt fresh, almost like the first flowers of spring. Not that we have any flowers yet, but still the dust was washed away. It cooled down a bit.
Now let us hope that the weatherman is wrong, like he normally is, and this is really the beginning the rainy season.
Unfortunately I cannot tell all our stories here on the blog. Some exciting, hair raising adventures. Others bone chillingly scary. A few so depressing, that I wonder how I keep going. There are some happy ones that I just can't talk about because of privacy concerns.
Once upon a time we had a wish list here on the blog. Stuff we wanted or even needed that could be shipped to us here in Kenya. Part of that post was a line asking the shippers keep the declared value of the box as low as possible, since we paid a customs duty based on that amount. It does not matter that it is a gift, we still pay. The government objected to that line and charged me a fine for lost customs revenue. Not cool. That was the day I started to pay more attention to what I posted on the blog.
A number of our children are now online, and sometimes might even see this blog. Naturally that hampers my ability to talk about them here.
So if you really want to hear the juicy tales, you gotta come for a visit in person. I cannot promise a tell all, but I guarantee excitement.
For those of you who do not know it, we got a car!! It all happened rather quickly. An anonymous donor bought us an 18 year old Land Rover.
We chose this particular car because we know its life story, and we know its last 8 years maintenence record. "Dolly" as we call the car was owned by only 2 people, the most recent being well known Land Rover mechanics who also happen to be my friends. Knowing everything about the car made it a good buy! With that said, it revolutionised our day yesterday and today since we got it.
We managed to haul 12 bales of hay, 8 20 liter cans of water, our kids got ferried down to a friend's for a bath, we went shopping, etc.. all in ONE day. Doing that without the car would have taken days.
'Dolly' took our bio fam (since they are finished with school early) to Lake Elementaita hot springs. It was our first family outing in AGES!!
We swam with pelicans, pink flamingos, ducks, and lots of little fish and many local Maasai. It was such a sight seeing the Maasai women washing their clothes in the hot water and throwing their brightly colored wraps on the bushes to dry. The fish were fun, too, jumping over us as we swam!
Then Makena Brooks had to go to hospital for a minor operation. She stepped on a thorn three weeks ago. It broke in her foot, and we did not know it was still in there pierced all the way through. (See the type of thorn below.) After our swim at the lake, we noticed it was abscessed. So Dolly came to our aid again! We were able to go to hospital without much fuss! If this had happened just a couple of days ago, it would have been far more complicated. Makena had a local anesthetic for the thorn removal and is fine now.