Sunday, April 02, 2006

Shamba Update

Rainy season is in full swing and that means three things:

1. I’M FREEZING MY ARSE OFF. Every evening is an exercise in finding all the warm clothes in my house and piling them over my body, and finding something, ANYTHING, to cook just so I can light the stove. This peanut butter needs warming…that sort of thing. More importantly, I’m experimenting with how long I can go without having to bathe, because it gets pretty cold once the clothes comes off. I’m at day four right now, not quite a Peace Corps record since Ten-Day Sean easily drop-kicks my ass, but definitely a personal record.

2. If I set a cup, bowl or basin of anything down for more than five seconds, something will manage to fly or leapfrog into it. I’ve discovered a second definition for the term “spooning.” Take a spoon and scoop out whatever just kamikazied itself into my tea or bathwater. Fruit flies, moths, crickets, spiders, unidentified exotic species. I could start a veritable bug collection.

3. My shamba is growing!!

The headmaster at my school generously gave me two points of land, which is a sprawling one-fifth of an acre, for me to experiment with my gardening skills. Can I just say that the squash family is an eager and hardy bunch? My squash are already six inches tall and blooming with leaves, and the zucchini aren’t so far behind. The cucumbers are smaller, and only about a third of the seeds sprouted, but I might be eating cucumber salad this year! I’ve gotten in the habit of saving the seeds of everything I eat: garlic, green peppers, chili peppers, plums. And potatoes must be the cockroaches of the food crop world because they never die. I’m getting potatoes where I didn’t even plant potatoes! I’m planning garlicky buttery mashed potatoes every night, a nice change from Kenyan rice, which has been disappointing so far. Still under observation: tiny sprouts of broccoli, carrots, ginger, spinach, sweet red pepper and sugar peas. Another PCV gave me a little basil plant that he rescued from flowerpot death; I have fantasies of mozzarella and tomato drizzled with olive oil and fresh basil, but I may have to substitute paneer, which I can make for free using a bandana, vinegar and salt.

So all this and half of my plot is still fallow. I discovered an NGO in Eldoret that teaches workshops on how to start small agricultural and craft-making businesses. To compliment their agriculture classes they sell all kinds of not-so-local plants like strawberries. STRAWBERRIES! In Kenya! The cold and damp climate here has also spawned mushrooms in my shamba, but I’m told they’re poisonous. Disappointing. Apparently you have to forage deep in the forest to find edible mushrooms, and there’s already an army of locals that know all the secret places I don’t know. Fortunately there is another NGO near Kisumu that teaches farmers how to impregnate spores in cow poo or other favorable environments for growing edible mushrooms.

My shamba has also been my conference room. I think almost every half-decent idea, and lots of crap ideas, have come from a hoeing or weeding session with Hillary, debriefing each other on recent outreaches or meetings and exchanging ideas over clods of soil flying everywhere.

Not that working in the shamba is a constant high-powered strategic planning session. Usually we just say:

Me: Is this a weed?
Hillary: Yes.
Me: Is this a weed?
Hillary: Yes.
Me: How about this one?
Hillary: Yes.
Me: I should pull these weeds.


Anonymous phil said...

Hmmm...I was thinking about coming this month of there are good fares....I'm rethinking that after this post about cold....

4:13 PM  

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