Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Summary of the Farm Operation So Far

It started with a large tract of ground leased to us, Morrell Agro Industries (MAI), from the Ethiopian government.  There was nothing but brush and a few trees in January 2010. We tried to get dozers to come and clear the ground but ,after much waiting, only three showed up and two broke down immediately. It was then decided to hire two thousand local laborers to manually chop down and pile brush with nothing more than axes, machetes, and grubbing hoes.

It proved successful.  Within a month and a half they had cleared about 5,000 acres.  The piles of brush were soon burned.

and with purchased and hired local equipment we started to plow ground in preparation for planting.

We had placed an order for larger equipment that we were familiar with  from the U.S. in December, but none of it had arrived.

John Deere model 1895  44' air drill  (somewhere over the ocean)

Morrell Agro's plan is to plant a U.S. proven variety of drought tolerant hard-red wheat, which had been introduced in Ethiopia about a year ago.  The intial amount was small so  it was grown initialy by ET government owned farm for our purposes. After they cleaned and bagged the seed it was delivered to the farm.

These are 1 quintal sacks, 100 kg. (220lbs each)

Since there were no conventional type drills in Ethiopia we had to plant using a common method used by the larger farms in ET. This method is mix the seed with fertilizer and broadcast it on the ground with a fertilizer spreader, and then lightly covering it with a disk harrow.

Broadcast Spreader

Offset Disk Harrow

Covering the Seed

Normally this method is a recipe for disaster if moisture is scarce, but the soil is heavy enough, and moisture was adequate, so the crop germinated fairly well in the loose soil.

One week after planting (Wow!  Warm weather makes a difference)

In the end of our first phase of development we now have 5,000 acres of ground cleared and 3,000 acres plowed and planted into wheat.  We started planting wheat April 5 and finished April 21.

The area received a good amount of rain after planting and the condition of the crop looked good through the tillering stage of growth.

One month after planting.

We had a fair amount of brush attempting to grow again, as well as sporadic weeds. Our sprayer, that we had ordered back in December, had yet to arrive so we were forced to purchase 50 backpack sprayers and guys went to work spraying 2,4D amine by hand, which by the way is the only broadleaf chemical available in ET.

As the crop approached the heading stage it was discovered that we had an infestation of Army Worms working on the grain.
Army Worm damage

The back pack sprayers were sent out again spraying insecticide. Some areas showed some major damage but most  only had a little, for now anyway.

For the most part the crop looks good  and the harvest will likely start arround August 1.

8 weeks

Reflecting back it has been quite an effort.  To think what we started with just a short time ago it is amazing we got what we did accomplished.  It has been very much a group effort, thanks to all.  

Shelley and I are still in the U.S. awaiting ny fallout of the Ethiopian elections.  For safety reasons this keeps us out of the country. Trying to mange things from a distance has been difficult.  Wes and Alyssa have chosen to stay in ET with their children and are doing what they can to manage the farm.  We have a good Ethiopian staff on the farm as well that makes it happen.

We plan on rejoining the crew on  farm by the first or second week in July.  We have been busy planning and ordering equipment for the future.  Here are some pictures of some of the equipment we are attempting to send to ET.

John Deere 9770STS w/630  grain head

JD 9530T

I'm thinking this "Bad Boy" should leave an impression on the local people.  

I need to thank Shelley for updating the blog while I have been busy.  What an experience this has been for both of us.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Wheats Up!

Since I went over to Ethiopia, it seems like I have hijacked this blog; first, because Alan is so busy that if it were up to him to keep the posts up, they would be two to three months behind reality; and second, because I love to write the posts and tell everything from my point of view.  I know, I'm completely selfish.  But, because I have done this, I realized that I'm not getting much of the farming/men stuff onto the posts, so this little one is more about the farm and the men on the farm.  You will ENJOY! 

This is a picture of the wheat just south of the airstrip.  It was the first field that was planted and was seeded using a broadcast spreader.  In the next picture you can see the height of the wheat in comparison to Alan's pliers.  In some places the grain is not up as high, because it got covered with more soil and will take longer to sprout.  But you can see that it is up and growing.  These pictures were taken about two to three weeks ago.

Alan finds many uses for pliers, he is usually never without them.  He is lost if he can't find his pliers.  Kind of reminds me of a song my sister Elizabeth made up about a farmer and his pliers, wires, and pigs.  Don't ask.

These are some of the tractors on the farm.  We have John Deeres, Case, and Belarus tractors.  If you remember, back in mid March, another restaurant went up on the farm because our tractor drivers would not eat at the other restaurant.  After thinking about it, for awhile, I have realized that this may be because our tractor drivers are mostly Christian and they refuse to eat at a restaurant run by Muslims.  They can get along with each other, usually, but they have different requirements in their  religious dietary laws. 
The muslims won't eat anything killed by a Christian and vice a versa. It has something to do with how the animal was killed.  If you offer any of them a piece of meat, they will ask before they eat it, who killed it. Our maids would not eat any of the Walmart jerky we offered them, until I assured them the cow was killed by a Muslim. Yeah, I know, I lied; but there could have been a Muslim working at a jerky factory.  Anyway, I digress.

This is the size of the disk harrows that were used to disk before and after the wheat was spread in the fields.  Alan found a larger blue disk at Nazaret Equipment, and had to have it. It came about a week before we left for the US and it was an amazing peice of equipment compared to what we had been using. Clair and the mechanics worked and got this one ready to go. Can you imagine using something like this in Idaho? We're happy for what we can get on the farm.


 I wanted to show some pictures of a manly Ethiopian custom that is very prevalent here on the farm.  As I have said before, the Ethiopians are very friendly and don't seem to put up barriers like we Americans do.  The men and boys here hold hands as they walk together.  At first I found it hilarious, but then as I got used to it, I found it to be good.  They have no fear at all, of showing friendliness toward each other by reaching out and holding hands.  The first one is of two workers just walking together, the second one is of Nahom, our interpreter, and Fiza, who taught me my numbers in Oromifa, and the third one is of Nahom and Mark.  Nahom will hold
anyone's hand, except mine. Men do not hold the hands of their wives or any woman. 

At first, the American men were startled and mostly creeped out by this PDA, but then they just got used to one of the guys grabbing their hand as they walked along.  The Americans still find it disconcerting, but they are learning to not be disgusted by it, and will tolerate it for a minute or so.  Alan says they don't try to hold hands as much with him as they do with Bracken.  Something about that guy.  I did try to get pictures of Bracken holding hands with Haile or Nahom, but he was quick to disengage before I could snap the picture.  I am determined to get one, so that I can blackmail him into giving me all his per diem. 

This is as good a shot as I could get so far of Bracken getting getting chummy with the locals. 

The next ones are of Alan and his two sidekicks Amin and Baruk.  Amin got in big trouble a couple of weeks ago because he deleted (accidentally) three days of GPS mapped fields from the GPS system.  Oooops!  Alan just about had a freakin' meltdown right there in front of everybody.  I think if he had been able to yell in Oromifa he would have.  Amin was supposed to do some GPS work on a field and then return it to Alan so that they could put it on the computer, but when Alan got the GPS, all the previous unrecorded information had been deleted.  He made Amin and Baruk go out and redo it all.  I said to Alan, they'll never make that mistake again.  Three Days of work down the drain!  You know, you have to feel bad for these guys who aren't familiar with all the electronic equipment that we expect them to use.  They hope they're doing it right and then they push one little button and it's "Gone with the Wind," never to be retrieved again.  So, here they are after a few days of remapping with the GPS, anxiously getting the info. onto the computer before Alan left for the US. 

This last little picture is of the shoeshine boys who have shown some real entrepreneurial spirit by starting their own little business.  They will clean and shine your shoes for 2 birr, which is approximatly 25 cents.  They came and Alan asked how much to sew up the splitting seams in his boots, and they said, " 2 birr".  Alan asked if they would do it for 4 birr.  They gave him a real puzzled look and then did it.  I went in the house and got them each a sucker for a treat.  Then Alan paid them a little more than the 4 birr.  More like $5. They really did a good job and mended his boots very well.  When he gave them the money they took off laughing and yelling with the suckers in their mouths. I'm sure they thought we were the suckers. 

Till next time.