Sunday, October 24, 2010

It's Been a Little Dry

We have planted the crop and now here comes the rainy season....  rainy season?  This month of October  has only yielded less than 3/4" of rain.  Hardly enough to sustain a crop and it's beginning to show.

In many fields the wheat has gone into self preservation mode and is shooting out its head early and at a very short height in order to produce at least some seed to grow another day.

The timing of the last we planted into virgin ground proved to be poor with little moisture left in the soil to adequately sprout and sustain the crop.   

 The ground is just as brown as the day it was planted three weeks ago

 The seed sprouted and found little moisture to keep growing and withered and died

Fortunately not all the fields are as bad

Below is Nahom working it for the camera as we were out inspecting the crop

What would we do without Nahom?

BTW - Happy birthday Nahom!

A sad thing about our project here is the necessity of displacing families from their small villages.  They receive compensation to gather their things and move to an out lying area to build their new home.

 This is now an abandoned village which housed about 30 people

Inside this hut is where a family of 5 or 6 would sleep with a few of their animals in the side room.  They have a small fireplace inside where they cook and keep warm .  This helps explain why the local people usually have a strong aroma of camp fire smell and there are so many children who come to the clinic with burns.

A corn crib to store corn

This village had to travel three hours by foot  to get needed water

 A small reminder of what was here

Now moving to the garden area and its crew
I'm trying to tell them about uncovering the bulb part of the onion to make it grow larger.  It goes against their logic to uncover much of the onion so we will do it on some and experiment to see.

They are so anxious to pick the tomatoes that a vine ripened tomato is hard to come by, bummer..

The view back to the houses

Here's a small crew trying to plant Bermuda grass for our future lawn, one of the few grasses that grows natural here.  Next best thing to laying down sod.

Shelley took off last week to Addis Ababa for needed time away from the farm and to get to know the capital and what it has to provide.  She has also been able to spend time with Alyssa's sister Kate and the children Wes and Alyssa are trying to adopt.  Kate has been a good sport in taking care of the responsibilities of these children since Wes' incedent.  Wes' last surgery went well and Alyssa is looking at returning in the next two weeks to be with the children.  What a change of events that family has had to endure.  We wish them well.

Until next time,


Friday, October 8, 2010

Planting is over

Much of the pressure is off now so I find myself with a little time to add to the blog.  We are happy to report that the planting is over.  We had a hard time getting the ground cleared fast enough in a short window of time so we were only able to seed about 1,500 hectares (3,705 acres).   Not too bad considering we have only been able to utilize half the equipment we expected with only one disk and one drill.
Here are some views from the air as we were all flown out to have a weekend retreat mixed with business to Lake Langano, ET thanks to Paul

 A good view of the camp.  Can you believe all this was nothing but trees and brush last January

 Vern was kind enough to hand over the controls for the last half of the flight, very nice.....

 Some of the view along the way.  These pictures don't do it justice

The pilot Vern Bell and me.  

An interesting thing about Vern is that he was Ethiopian born who's parents were Christian missionaries.  It's very impressive to hear a white guy speak fluently in their native tongue.

 The view from our room

 The lobby of Hotel Haile

The Next day was a Morrell Agro sponsored field day to help promote the wheat and barley varieties we are introducing into their country

It was complete with the ceremonial handing out caps and everything (except there were no door prizes)

We had a panel discussion on dry farming practices and varieties of grain

A trip out to the fields

A small field of Teff which is what injera is made from

Morrell employee, Mekonen giving his spill and playing a major role in the success of the event

Then came the big feed.  One of the few things I recognized  were potato chips at the bottom of the picture,  Bon Appetite!

The next day we went to church at a small branch in Awassa.  It was nice to attend an official church after being so far away for all these weeks.  

Then we were soon off in land cruisers to Goba (about 4-5 hrs. away) where the next day we were to meet with some VIP's from John Deere 

A view from a mountain pass along the way

This is a hotel that Chombe, the Ethiopian John Deere dealer, owns and the stage for the big meeting.  On top of the VIP list was Dave Everitt, president of region 1 & 4.  (Google him for further information) There were many others in his entourage from South Africa to Des Moines, IA  This was quite the treat for local farmers to have such representatives from John Deere.
We unfortunately didn't get to have much time with them due to time constraints.

We were spared the miserable 6 hr. ride from Goba to the farm on rough roads by being able to fly from nearby Robe.  Before that Clair and Bracken departed from us to travel to Addis to ready themselves to go back to the USA.

Things here at the farm are a bit more peaceful now.  We are preparing to spray the grain which is growing rapidly.  Soon after we are looking forward to the visit from our daughter Morgan and her husband Andrew and our two precious granddaughters. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

We're Back! (on the internet)

 Yesterday it was so good to turn on my computer and have the Yahoo Web site come up. Wow, you don't know how long two weeks are until you have to go that long without internet service!  It is even worse when you're living far away from home, and you can't commnicate even once a week.

On September 11, Ethiopia celebrated its New Year.   The Ethiopian Ge'ez calendar is the principal calendar used in Ethiopia.  It is based on the older Alexandrian or Coptic calendar, which derives from the Egyptian calendar, and like the Julian calendar, which we use, it adds a leap day every four years.  A seven- to eight-year gap between the Ethiopian and our calendars results from alternate calculations in determining the date of the Annunciation of Jesus.  The Ethiopian calendar has twelve months of 30 days each plus five or six epagomenal days, which comprise a thirteenth month. The Ethiopian months begin on the same days as those of the Coptic calendar, but their names are in Ge'ez. The current year according to the Ethiopian calendar is 2003, which began on September 11, 2010 AD of the Gregorian calendar. The New Year celebration, along with the end of Ramadan and Easter, is one of the most important holidays in Ethiopia and traditionally celebrated with family and friends.  Thus, most of our workers were gone for the week around the New Year because of travel.  We celebrated with few in numbers - just Alan and I, Bracken, Wally, Taz, Nate, Tony and July, Seid, Kea, and the security guards were here to celebrate.  And we had goat - again.  It was flavored with hot peppers and we drank coke - again, in celebration.  Then we danced around the campfire - again. That seems to be our usual way to celebrate.  It's fun, and I like that we can get together and have a good time. 

This is me, Seid is second to the left, and some of the guards, and I think Omar, the guy who tends the chicken and cooks our goats is in there somewhere.  Since Alan wouldn't dance with me, Seid asked me to dance and I danced in the middle of all these guys - which was great, however, I'm sure I added to that sterotype in their eyes, that white people can't dance. Sometimes I just have to prove I'm a dork.

On  September 25, the plane came and brought some new people here to the farm, most notably, Dennis Strong who will stay here at the farm with us for the long haul, and Kimball Shill, who will direct the Morrell Agro Ethiopian operations in Addis Ababa.  Sorry, maybe I can get pictures later.  Heidi, Mark and Elyn flew out on the same plane and are returning home to Cedar City for one month.  When the plane took off, I cried because Heidi was going and I wanted to jump on that plane with her and just leave this place.  But I didn't.  I wiped my eyes and smiled and waved good-bye with Nia and the plane took off and left me standing there with a heavy, heavy heart.  I almost felt a meltdown coming, but I pushed it down and thought about the chocolate Hershey's Almond Kisses that Vern Bell (the Abyssinian Airline pilot) brought me from the USA.  Oh my goodness and bless his heart!  He had remembered from his previous visit that I miss and am craving chocolate and he was so kind to bring some down for me and Alan.  A man who brings chocolate is a friend indeed!

This last week I have been focused on beautifying the yard of our four homes.  There are some very nice plants that were purchased for landscaping and so I have been putting them to good use. I wish I knew the names of each of these plants , because we have so many of them.  I'm hoping that some kind of grass can be seeded here so that we can cut down the mud problems as we go into the rainy season.  If any of you know the names of these plants, please leave me a comment, as I'm unfamiliar with some of them.
This I know is an orange trumpet vine.  I love it.

One of the guys here on the farm told me that this was a date palm in the picture below.  Anyone know for sure?

 Before he left, Wes told me that this plant in the picture above was a tree.  It was about two feet high and kind of spindly back in July, but now it is almost 3 feet high and look how it has filled out.  I don't know what kind of a tree it is. 
 Here's my flower garden today.  I have geraniums, and little daisys and roses too.  All lovely, however, I wish the roses will bloom before I leave in November. Below you can see the starts of the Bird of Paradise plants.  They took a beating about two weeks ago, when I transplanted them, but I think they're going to do well now. 

Below you can see the flower garden about 8 weeks ago, so you can see that it certainly has improved.

The traditional hut is 95% finished.  I took pictures of the workers.  They make the hut frame with some very straight long poles, then they start the roof with bamboo and bark strips and finish it with grass thatching.

This is the start of the traditional hut.Rocks laid in a circle with a fire pit in the middle.

It takes someone experienced to get the grass just right on the roof.  This hut has taken at least 10 weeks from start to finish and should have only taken two to three, but that's the way everything is in Ethiopia we know from experience, though we are continually surprised at it.

The wheat planting is averaging 80 hectares a day, when it's not rainy.  There are still tire problems, and that will continue as long as we are disking newly cleared ground.  An additional six loaders were rented for ground clearing so that assignment can go faster.  Taz and his crew are going like crazy trying to clear enough ground so that 2000 hectares can be planted before the peak of the rainy season.  They have been averaging about 10 hectares a day so you can see it is a hard job for everyone.   Considering we don't have enough equipment and what equipment we have is getting beat to death the fields are slowly getting planted.   Some equipment is just going on a wing and a prayer.

All the grain planted this last month is up and growing well.   Alan took this picture of the nice straight rows of drilled grain which have never been seen before in Ethiopia.  Everyone here thinks they are especially beautiful and they are.

260 Hectare field (640 acres)
 Below are some pictures of the tractor tires and stumps and sticks that are causing such havoc. These tiress have around 300 hours of use.  For those of you who can't relate to that farmer lingo, these tires are only two months old.  The two bottom tires show a big stick puncturing the tire.  A good example of what's chewing them to pieces. 


 I have rats in my house and about every third night we have an in-house rodeo and beat the rats to death with the fly-swatter.  One time Alan had one cornered (he thought) in the kitchen but it got away and came running right toward me.  He yelled stop it!, but I am a chicken and screamed as I let the rat run right between my legs and into the bedroom.  Yowzers!, I am as scared of rats as Bracken is of spiders.  It finally ran back of Alan's nightstand and he squashed it like a bug by pushing on the nightstand while I stood on the bed. I hear rats every night under my bed and I'm beginning to think I'm lucky that they aren't crawling in bed with me.  We also have frogs and birds that get in the house, not to mention the numerous and various flying insects, crickets, and monstrous spiders.   One day I came out of my bedroom, because I heard some weird sounds out in my frontroom, and there were four or five big ugly birds in my kitchen because someone left my door wide open.  I'm also scared of birds so I screamed and ran back into the bedroom and hoped they flew away - which they did.  And two other times I have had birds fly into the house - right through the windows, which I have had to chase around with my broom until they find the windows and fly out. Yeah, it's just allkinds of fun here on the farm.

Below are pictures Alan took last night of yet another celebration.  Today is the celebrating of Ethiopia having/finding the true cross that Jesus was crucified on.  They claim to have it in their possession somewhere in Northern Ethiopia.  So that was the cause of all this carrying on. 
 A bonfire - Taz and his guitar.

A chant of praises to earn money for Orthodox Christian uses (crazy!)

 Below is Bracken running hand in hand with the teacher.  I knew I'd get a picture one day, and now I have two. 
 Nate, Wally, and Taz getting the surround treatment and singing.  It gets very loud when you're in the middle of the circles.

 It's all really very fun, and I think we enjoy it as much as they do.

Hopefully, I will be able to post a little sooner than later next time and keep you informed about the happenings here at the farm in Beltu, Ethiopia.

Till next time.