It still hasn’t rained! The drought is debilitating and the famine is homicidal. Yet, here I am. Let me fill you in. When the drought got serious, I could not deliver my quota of required chilies. So, the contracting company cancelled by agreement with them, and I was left “holding” four acres of chili plants with nowhere to sell the fruit. In sheer frustration and anger, I ordered it all uprooted. I was done. Subsequently, I let go of my farm manager and two farm hands and scaled down to almost zero. Zero being the production of food for our consumption. I was livid, and frankly disappointed with myself. How had I not factored the scenario of a drought into the math? I knew enough to know the seasonality of semi-arid Kenya and what to expect. Anyway, kicking myself was not going to solve anything, so I mourned my chili for a nano-second and moved on. This is what I meant – singular and resolute!
It was time for a new plan, and the plan was beginning to form in my mind. It was not a new plan. It was an old one that had been ignored and relegated to the back burner by the illusion of money from growing and selling horticultural produce. The name of the game was ranching! In my case, it meant goats and cattle. Indulge me a little. I have the space. Cattle and goats do well in semi-arid land, if you get the breed right. The cost of production is relatively low. All you have to do with a living animal is keep it alive unlike crops that have to be kept alive and free from pests, disease, and drought. I liked my odds better with cattle.
I had learnt brutally painful lessons from trying to do commercial farming of vegetables. Lessons that would serve me well in future. These were life lessons not just lessons on farming. The one that stuck the most was this: You must know how to pivot, when to pivot, and where to pivot to. And this applies in all spheres of life. The other thing I learnt is to leave things well alone. The farm manager and farm hands I had, lacked the level of compassion and dedication needed to run a farm in semi-arid Kenya. They were cavalier in their attitude and this resulted in death. The death of my puppies, chicken, plants, and the almost total death of my earthworms. They were farm hands whose spirit was not in the farm. They were here for the paycheck. The barebones operation I now have has farm hands who have been with me for at least ten years. Their souls are vested in this and it shows. I should have left them alone back then. They may not move at the speed of light, but their consistency guarantees progress.
The chickens are still around, and have started increasing in number. We have a new batch of eggs in the incubator. As I write this, ten chicks have already hatched. Feisty little things that pecked my nails in the hope that the nail polish was food! The earthworms have started to multiply and we are in the process of building them a new more spacious “house”. The dogs no longer escape. Amid a debilitating drought, my animals are content and my plants are alive. I am a farmer who believes all living things have a spirit. The spirit on my farm is one of renewal and rejuvenation, not death and destruction.
Did I tell you I got stung by a scorpion? This happened on Christmas eve last year. The heat brings out all the critters in search of shade and water. I was out and about, barefoot and enjoying myself at dusk. I stepped on a scorpion! That was soul re-calibrating pain! My farm hands told me it would subside in 24 hours.
As Rumi said – the cure for pain is in the pain! 24 hours of excruciating perseverance later, the pain subsided. I am done with barefoot strolls around the farm.
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