The thing about farming is that you need rain. The thing about Africa is that rain isn’t always forthcoming. This year the rains didn’t arrive in our little cove when they were supposed to. So our homesteading efforts have obviously suffered the effects—particularly the agricultural aspect. Hence, like the seed I’ve sown that’s waiting on reluctant showers, this section of my blog has lain dormant.
We haven’t been stagnant, however. Livestock still had to be fed. The combined manure of goats, sheep, rabbits and chickens had to be shoveled and piled to fester for future fertilizer. Honey had to be harvested and young trees still struggling to take root had to be consistently watered. I’ve done some experimenting with sprouting avocado seeds both in cups of soil and hydroponically. And I tried grafting some local mango saplings with a hybrid strain we planted several years ago. The outcome of this is yet to be determined. But by the looks of it so far, I might not have gotten the timing just right as my grafts don’t seem to be taking.
Trial and error, waste and renew, plan and scrap those plans, plant and watch your neighbors’ pigs demolish your cassava crop. Well, I didn’t really watch them, per say, since they came and did their misdeeds in the pre-dawn hours or in the evening when I was bathing. I hesitate to “shoot, shovel and shut up,” seeing as that could have a long-term negative impact on our ministry to the local population (i.e. – the pigs’ owners). Instead, it’s been a matter of turning the other cheek while attempting to get reimbursed. Like my mango grafts, I’m not too confident about the final outcome.
At any rate, it’s all part of the wonderfully convoluted journey in homesteading. I can physically see the changes that have occurred in the last five years and, if I reflect on it, we do tend to do a lot more right now than we did at the beginning. It’s been well worth the effort, the hard work, the sweat, the chapped hands, and the proverbial tears. But if you’re looking to get into farming or homesteading because it seems like a “back to nature,” Thomas Hardy novel sort of ideal, I’d urge you to reconsider. Our forbearers who knew what they were doing didn’t live in idealisms, at least not in their minds. They lived real rough and tumble lives of labor, the likes of which I’ll probably never experience.
But if you’re ready to claim a patch of dirt, roll up your sleeves, toil in the heat, still maybe not get enough rain, and possibly experience pigs eat the only crop you’ve got left from last year, go for it! The rewards surely compensate for the all the effort: the contentment of knowing exactly what went into the soil that grew your food, a life lived close to the earth and in harmony with nature’s rhythms, and the satisfaction of an honest day’s work, just to name a few.
And if the odds still seem to be stacked against you, you can always turn to the owls you rescued for a little sympathy…