The other day I was reflecting on my farming journey, as I watched the birds flitting across the backyard, with Mooshoo chasing them and barking at them. In her head, she is “super doggo” and she can fly! I spent time wondering why April is a month filled with such nostalgia for me. And then, it dawned on me.
If you grew up in Kenya in the mid to late 70’s, you are a child of the East Africa Safari Rally. You know names of cars that no longer exist; Datsun 160J and Peugeot 404! You also know the names of rally drivers like Joginder Singh, Vic Preston Jr, Rauno Aaltonen and Bjorn Waldegard. Names a 6-year-old, with missing front teeth struggled to pronounce without swallowing her tongue. Those names spoke of excitement and far off lands that were only seen on maps. Those names, to me, were synonymous with adventure. No wonder I ended up studying Geography at University! I had to learn about the places that gave their children such exotic names.
Easter was the East Africa Safari Rally. They two meant the same thing to me. The onset of the long rains was sometime during the end of March, and they were never late, unlike the touch and go schedule of the rains these days. The rains were of biblical proportions, and would pour and soak the earth roads turning them into a mushy mess. That mushy mess was the route of the Safari Rally. Five thousand kilometers in four days, across Kenya, into Tanzania and Uganda, and finally back to Kenya, limping onto the podium at Kenyatta International Conference Center for the final splash of champagne and on to the next rally.
The East Africa leg was known for its brutality on man and machine alike. If you were raised by a rally enthusiast like my father, you spent ridiculously early mornings chasing after the cars and parking at strategic spots to cheer them on as they splashed you with muddy water and spun wildly in their effort to regain control and stay on course. For a few weeks after the rally was over, some enthusiasts would deliberately poke a hole in their cars exhaust pipe to mimic the guttural growl of the rally cars and remind us that next Easter was eagerly anticipated.
This was also the season when my elder male cousins made toy cars out of detergent boxes and bottle tops and staged the local neighborhood rally, complete with a flag off event and judges to establish the best built toy car.
The Rally calendar eventually changed and the East Africa Safari Rally was no more. Even if it was back in April, the rains have become notoriously unreliable, and the cars are now engineered to almost think for themselves and adjust to terrain.
Sigh! It is 2022. The rains are still not here, never mind the dark threatening clouds that gathered a while back. Some good things have happened on the farm though. The earthworms multiplied. From the measly 5 kilos I delicately transported to the farm, we are now at about 30 kilos of worms. I need to renovate their home and increase its size! The more worms, the merrier.
We have pushed on with the chili, though one of the biggest risks to farming in my neck of the woods is casual labor. It is perpetually scarce and expensive yet we need it especially when it comes to harvesting and planting season. The bulls I recently purchased have grown quite big and are maybe ready for selling. Or maybe this is the sign to increase the number of bulls we raise for meat? The dogs escaped again. They grew smart. This time they jumped over the fence, after spending time weakening it to a good sag. No more tunnelling, I guess! The goats too had escaped. Turns out they went to visit the neighbor’s goats. Maybe they have a book club where they discuss grass quality. Who knows?
The chicken eagerly adapted to their human “mothers” and now multiply at a steady rate. My target remains and my farm hands assure me it is a feasible target, if a little stretching. My farm manager has convinced me that we need to scale our onion crop to commercial levels. I agree! It will be brutally hard work, but then again, what isn’t? In a couple of days, we will go on our first farm visit to see what other farmers are up to, and gauge whether they too suffer the vagaries of farming – or is it just us? I truly hope this farmer allows me to take photos and write about his farm. I can’t wait for the visit. If we can, we will squeeze in two farm visits.
As Mooshoo chases the birds and butterflies with her usual zest and verve, I continue to dream about those good old days!