Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Farmer's Life (wife) is never Boring, Here's What's Happening!

I wanted to show the Kello-bilt disc that arrived here on the farm a few weeks ago. Clair, with the help of many of the mechanics (I think there are about 10 now), have been working the last few days putting it together. Kello-bilt is a company in Canada that fabricates the Challenger disc line for Caterpillar. The frame is very heavy and no one has seen or put together anything like it here in Ethiopia. It drew a lot of attention as the parts came out of the container. They had to use a loader to lift the frame. Clair has to keep a tight rein on the instructions and the crew so that things get assembled correctly. Clair says the assembly is going well, however, a box of hydraulic fittings is missing and when Clair asked Ferdoweke, the storekeeper, where the missing fittings were, and he said, “It’s a long road from here to Djbouti.”

Alan quickly emailed Kello-Bilt so that new fittings can be sent as quickly as possible. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Even if the disc were assembled tomorrow, here on the farm we have no tractor large enough to pull it. We are still waiting on that.

The harvest has slowed because of rain. It is overcast and cool and not good grain harvesting weather. Even so, the owner of the combines we are renting, wanted to go out to the fields and start working one day this week. So instead of letting him go out with the combines, Bracken took him out in the Land Cruiser and the mud was sticking to the tires and they were spinning in the grain. Not a good sign for cutting. Bracken asked the owner if he thought it was dry enough, and he admitted that it was too wet. We haven't cut any grain since the second day we got here.  According to the local people, this is the first time in about ten years that they have had this kind of rainy weather in July.  Just our luck!

Alan is constantly amazed at the poor condition of the equipment. When he inspected the combines the first day we were back he found that whole sections of knives and guards were broken or missing. Little wonder that our yields are low and unimpressive.

He told the combine owner that at home in Idaho when one knife blade breaks he will stop the combine and change the blade for a new one. “Really, theese is so important?” was his question. Yes, it is important to have the cutter blades working when you want to cut grain. Well, we are all learning from each other.

I went out to the gardening area today. We have some kind of crazy nursery going on in back of my house. They mound up beautiful raised beds and then seed them. Then they build these little wood leg things and lash sticks between them and then cover them with straw to protect and shade the seeds as they germinate and become seedlings.  This is the way they do it here I was told.

If you can tell from these pictures, the seedlings are growing in the shade of the grassy topped structures.
 Underneath are carrots, onions, tomatoes, collard greens, lettuce, spinach, zuchinni, cabbage, and so many others I can’t remember.

Then there are the trees – acacia, eucalyptus, apple, orange, mango, papaya, avocado, banana, and numerous shade trees. Above is a row of banana trees just starting out. And below are mango and avacado trees.

They are even trying to grow raspberries. Below is a picture of the raspberries, strawberries, and apples.

And the potato area was very confusing to all us Idahoans, because they dug pits and then put the potatoes in them and covered them up. I don’t know if this is just a test or what but it is very different than how we see it done on the other side of the world.

Above is the potato field.

I have some flowers and flowering shrubs around the porch of my house. I don’t know the names of any of them yet, except two or three geraniums and one petunia. I wish I did know what was growing here, I usually do know what I have in my yard. This is a first for me. I can’t wait till they get bigger and less spindly-looking.

 I can’t remember the name of our gardener/nursery man, but he is very nice and says he will prepare a bed for my own personal garden next week. He told me that now is not a good time to plant corn, August will be better. So, I guess I won’t get my corn until later. Below is a picture of me and the gardening crew.

Funny thing about the seasons here. Alan informed me that here in the southern part of Ethiopia we are having summer, but up north in Addis, they consider June, July, and August to be the winter months. I believe September and October are considered the winter months here where we are, for that is when it gets really rainy. Alan says he read that during the rainy seasons the storms travel inland from the Indian Ocean and because we’re so close, and Ethiopia is so mountainous perhaps that is why there is so much rain. I’m sure it will be nice and green here then, so that will be fun to see, if we don’t all drown first or get buried in mud.

I think I said last spring, that our maid Ashreka was married. She told me today that she is not married to her husband. I asked if she had a husband and she said yes, but she will not be married to him much longer (I know, I was confused too).   

In her Muslim culture here, she can live apart from her husband for six months and then she is considered a single woman again. Then after three months more, she will be available to get married again. She told me she does not want to be married again, or to have more children. She has a two year-old daughter whom she leaves with her mother and father.  The baby's name is Karina.  Ashreka was married for two years and she is now 17.  She says her husband, Johar, did not treat her right and would not give her any money, but spent the money on himself.  That seems to be a world-wide complaint.  In August she will travel to her village and talk to her parents, husband, and I think then her marriage be over. This is too much for a young girl of 17 to deal with. At home in the states, I have three nieces who are 17. Just think Tenny, Arden and Kelsie; life could be so much worse. For now all you three have to do is look forward to your senior year of high school. You have no idea how blessed you are. You could be living with me out in the boondocks as my maid. Any takers?
This is the to-do list Ashreka and I made for us that is posted on my refrigerator: Monday and Thursday wash clothes, Everyday sweep with broom all floors and porch, mop all floors and porch, make bed, wash dishes, clean shower, toilet, and bathroom sink, clean and wash stove and refrigerator, take garbage to chickens, go for walk with Shelley, read English books with Shelley.  Draw pictures, have rest, and have fun.  Just to show you that some of her chores are hard, this is what she has to deal with on my front porch almost every day. And that was after Bracken shoveled it.

Now here are some funny and cute pics. 

Every once-in-awhile you see menwearing scarves or turbans or something. Look at how skinny the man's arm is in the forefront.  Most the people are that skinny.

    Heidi maid, Misra, enjoying my kitchen and my bedroom.

My bathroom - that's about as clean as it gets folks.  Notice the shower curtain.

Ummm, breakfast -  Cake doughnuts - these were the leftovers.

We have an extensive sports program.  Besides the karate lessons in the morning there is volleyball (net above)  and soccer.

This is the clinic, also where English classes take place in the evening. 

Oh, how sad!  The demise of the washing station.  It had to be moved and it fell apart.  The maids are back to wshing our clothes in the dirt and mud.  I hate that.

 "Crappy, crappy, crappy, internet crap!" - overheard wile Bracken was trying to talk to his family. 
I hope your week goes well, I hope we get sunshine.  I hope everyone stays safe and healthy.  Till next time.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Back home in Ethiopia

Well, we are back on the farm and so far life can't get anymore exciting. The day we got here, we had one of those tremendous downpours that keeps On giving and giving. I had the water coming in through the window jams? Because nothing is sealed tight here. Everything comes in freely - rain, bugs, spiders, dust, Small children, etc. We were also informed that two of the maids had been let go because of a theft problem. When I got here, there were many items missing from our house that were supposedly under lock and key. My pots, cups, cleaning sponges, some food items. Alan and I had taken a picture of a the things we left behind so that we would have a record of what was left behind. We should have had a motion detector camera that would have caught the thieves in the act. Oh well, i'll just have to replace things. The next day, Sunday, we had a small electrical fire between our ceiling panels and our roof;bad wiring. Alan climbed up and doused the fire with water, but we had a little smoke in the house. That evening we had a light shower problem, it wouldn't turn off. You can't turn things too tight here, because it breaks the inner workings of the faucet. So our shower was quickly daring all the water from the water tank. Alan went out and snipped the wires to the water pump and then four of them proceeded to fix the faucet. Between our two housing disasters we had lunch, church, and dinner.
The wheat is dry enough and is being harvested. Mark was wondering how dangerous it would be if a body were to get caught in a combine - as in could a body go through and if it would hurt the combine. Alan didn't think a body would get too far, but Bracken was quick to remember that last year Alan sucked up a big rock and really damaged the auger in one of our combines. Finally after much discussion, we asked Mark why he would be worried about somebody getting sucked into a combine. Mark reminded us that last April during planting season, the upset and frustrated farmers would stand in front of the tractors until they would have to stop. He is hoping that the farmers won't try that trick with the combines. The crop is not yielding what Alan is used to getting. We have army worms and the rust fungus to thank for that and too little rain. I believe one drill is being put together, and I will haves to post a pictures of that soon.
Life is never boring here on the farm; frustrating, confusing, crazy, funny, very Ethiopian of course, and we are never bored. There is too much to see and do, too many people to meet and love. Too much to worry about and never enough daylight to get it all done. Remember we have just 12 hours of daylight all year round.
Have a good day, and the next time I post, I promise to post pictures.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fields of Gold

The crop has progressed rapidly and we find ourselves preparing for harvest.

This is a picture taken a short time ago of our wheat at the farm at Beltu, Ethiopia

The wheat kernels look good so far.

Shelley and I are soon to return to Ethiopia where we will be harvesting our first crop. We have had the crop attacked by army worms and a fungus called rust, and it has taken a toll but we should still get a decent crop of seed wheat.

As the crop in Ethiopia has been maturing I have been busy dividing my time between Morrell Agro Industries and my personal family farm here in Idaho, trying to hand over the responsiblities to my brother and son in-law as Shelley and I take on the this adventure in Ethiopia for the next couple of years. I didn't realize how many responsibilities I had accumulated over the years that needs to be handed off and its hard to let go, even though it is is for a short term.

Our spring in Idaho has been cold and wet. We have not been able to plant our grain easily between storms. In fact we weren't able to finish planting until June 14 which is very late for us. Despite the late planting our Idaho crop looks good so far.

It has been a challenge trying to help manage duties in Ethiopia while waiting for their national elections to run its course over the last two months. Fortunately the elections were peaceful this go round.

Wes and Alyssa chose to stay in Ethiopia along with their son and five other children they are trying to adopt. They helped being the eyes and ears of the farm as his main responsibilities are to be the project director and complete much of the infrastructure on the farm. I have recieved pictures and comments from our good helpers on the farm Natnael (Nati), Nahom, and Haile. They have done a good job managing tasks of spraying the grain for pests and other necessary task that come up.

Bracken, his brother Dex and I took the five Dodge pickup trucks from Idaho down to the port of Houston, TX last week which will be shipped over to Ethiopa.

Two 5500 Dodge Rams pulling gooseneck trailers which carried two 2500 pickups and one 2500 pulling an enclosed tool trailer.  We traveled about 1,800 miles to get there and we enjoyed the drive and secenry along the way.  These pickups should turn some heads when they get there because they don't have pickups like these.

Shelley and I will be posting a little more often after we return to Ethiopia so we can keep all informed of our experiences.