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.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

No Internet

I just got off the phone with my mom in Ethiopia. She says that they haven't had the internet going on two weeks now and don't expect it until Saturday, the 25th. Also on Saturday Paul Morrell, the guy starting and funding the farm, along with some other newly hired directors are coming to see how things are going over there. My mom says that the farm is still crazy as ever!  Unfortunately, there was a death on the farm yesterday, a young mechanic of twenty had diabetes and failed to bring his insulin with him for work one day.  Nobody knew he had diabetes and he started feeling sick and needed to go home to get his medicine.  His blood sugar level dropped extremely low and they brought him to the clinic to see if they could treat him.  He was given some glucose gel trying to get it up, and then an IV with glucose, but his blood levels stayed erratic.  He was transported up to Beltu when he got in more stable condition and left there with the health workers there.  The next morning it was reported on the farm that he had died.  They had a "funeral", more like burial, for the young man today, many people attended. My mom was the only female there, apparently women don't attend funerals in Ethiopia because they are afraid of the burial tomb. Well my mom will have to explain more about that incident and the other adventures there on the farm when they get the internet back up and running on Saturday.
We, my husband, girls and I are planning on taking a trip over to Ethiopia the first part of Nov. We look forward to it and can't wait to see the life my parents have been living in Africa!

Thanks for following,
Morgan (Alan and Shelley's daughter)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Planting 2000 hectares (That's 4960 acres folks)

Alan says that a 5000 acre farm is a pretty large-sized farm, by most people's standards in the US.  We have been planting nearly one week now, and 1000 acres are planted.  Planting should be going faster than this, but because we have no bulk grain, just quintal sacks, it is as slow as a tortoise.  Usually, the tractor and drill have to travel back into the farm compound to get loaded sack by sack because we have no way of transporting enough grain out to the field to load it there.

Alan and Haile checking the drill.

 We have had the new John Deere tractors  and drill for just over a month now, and they are doing fine, however the tires are wearing out fast.  The land clearing has not gone as well as expected and stumps, sticks, and thorns have taken their toll on timely planting.  You're probably wondering why sticks and stumps are so hard on our tires,; it's because this wood out here is the heaviest wood I've ever handled.  It feels like it has iron in it.  Not kidding, it doesn't break.  The tractor tires, which were sturdy, strong, and so sharp looking last month, look like they've seen 10 years of heavy usage.

The tires are literally getting chewed to pieces.  Alan has never seen anything like it.  It is not unusual to get a flat tire on either the tractors, disk, or seed cart everyday, in fact one day Bracken had three flat tires, not his fault of course, just that he happened to be the one driving.  It is causing issues with planting because the tractors have to come in to the compound and the fieldwork is delayed or shutdown.  What to do?  Track tractors are on their way, but won't be here for sometime.   Even so, the tracks will get chewed up also, but no flat tires to change.  Forestry tires are being considered, also foam urethane was considered to pump into the tires.  Everyone is weighing in on this one because it is a major problem.  The wear and tear on machinery and equipment on this farm is unbelievable.  Items that were purchased a few months ago look like they are five years old.

We celebrated Alan's birthday last friday night (four days early) because so many people were leaving and wouldn't be with us on his birthday. 

Earlier in the day, Ashreka and I made a carrot cake.  We had to one and a half times the recipe because I was expecting a crowd. 

Zakir and Ashreka were very curious about the frosting that I was making, but because they are both fasting they didn't taste it, but I could see that they wanted to very bad. 

This fasting business is hard on all of us. 

We had a big "campfire" down by the dorms and restaurant.  I hired the restaurant, through my special events coordinator, Nahom, to  cater the party.  I supplied the cake (carrot of course, Alan's favorite).  We invited everyone living here on the farm, about 50-60 people and about 8 government officials were there too.  I was worried about having enough cake to go around.

 We surrounded the campfire in chairs, stools, wood benches, whatever and had good music and fun.  Here are pictures of just some of our guests.

Alan and I went into the two different restaurants, to check out the food, but it was too dark to take pictures with my little camera.  Two goats were killed and cooked, basically the same, but one restaurant is the Christian restaurant and one is the Muslim restaurant and since our guests were of both faiths, we didn't want to offend anyone, we had to commission a goat from each.

 The goats were made into tibs, basically little goat chunks cooked with onions in a ton of oil.  It is a big greasy pot of meat.  But I have to say, it smells really good, and it was really tasty that night.  We had rolls and injera made by the restaurant and Coke for everyone, which Mark had to go buy in Beltu.  "Going to Beltu" is like going to Rexburg, or Price if you're from Emery Co., which some of you are.  It's the happenin' place for all of us here at the farm.  We also had coffee as part of the coffee ceremony, in which we forenjees did not participate.  They brought out the tibs, big platters for everyone and rolls and coke and everyone really chowed down.

Nahom, our social events coordinator, and the birthday boy enjoying their plate of tibs.

 Then we brought the cake to the middle of the big circle and Alan explained with the help of Nahom as translator, our traditional birthday cake ceremony.  Everyone laughed when he explained about having a candle for every year, the birthday wish, singing, and blowing out the candles.  We only had six candles and we lit them and invited everyone to join in to singing "Happy Birthday" to Alan.  Of course we Americans had to carry the tune and sing louder, but it was so fun to have such a large group singing to Alan and they all cheered really loud when he blew out all six candles. 

I cut the cake into something like 60 pieces, to make sure everyone would get a piece.  And it was like feeding the five thousand, everyone got a piece and there were pieces left over.  It was a birthday miracle.  Then we had dancing by Alan the birthday boy, Elyn, and Nahom who had coordinated the whole event.  It was a great night, probably our best over here at the farm. 

We could have danced all night, but didn't because we got tired and went home.

Overheard at Alan's birthday party:
UMMM, that's good goat!
Is this the Muslim goat or the Christian goat?
He's only six years old?
Do I have grease on my face?
Was this goat hand shucked?
Why is he dancing like that?
It is the best cake I've ever had, may I have some more please, Madam?
Wow, these forenjees know how to throw a party!

The next morning as I was looking out my kitchen window, I saw a horse drinking the bath wather of Nia and Ethan next door.  The horse was so thirsty that he came and sucked the water right out from where they were bathing.  (Here on the farm the little ones often take baths out on the front porches in big plastic tubs.)  Nia liked the horse and was petting it as he had a good drink.  And after he had refreshed himself with water, he sneaked back behind my house and had ate all my peas and red-leaf lettuce.  If I could have caught him, I would have whipped him a good one. And to add insult to injury, he left a big poop in the garden.  What a nasty stinky thief!
Here are some other pictures of Nia with a tortoise, that Wally brought to show us, and the deer that lives out with the goats and cows and chickens.
  And here is Zakir with two chickens that he is taking to Beltu for Ramadan.  His mother will make Duro Wat for the family.  Duro Wat is a very traditional dish here and made on holy days and other times too.  It's a spicy chicken stew. 

A word of caution for those who can't look at gross things.  Do not go any farther.  If you are under 12 or your name is Bracken - this is not for you!PG-13.

On Friday last week, I was called to the clinic to attend to the arm of a child about 5 or 6.  His arm had been broken about four or five weeks ago, a compound fracture.  This is what I saw when I unwrapped his arm.

 This is a picture of the little boy's arm - rotting away.  We sent him to Ginir and I'm sure that the arm couldn't be saved.  He was a cute little boy and his mother looked so sad and upset. The smell was horrific.   It was very upsetting to all of us.  Too many of these kinds of things happen here.  We did get a thorn out of a man's eye this week.  Cheers to the clinic for dealing with all these things. 

Just to leave you on a good note, here are some pics of the garden. 
The potato bed.

Carrots, carrots, and more carrots.  The horse ate some of these.  Nasty Stinky Horse!

Til next time.