Farm baby pictures

It’s something like spring here on the farm.  The weather is nothing to judge it by, it does whatever it wants to; cloud poofs or clear blue sky, gale force wind or dead still.  But in between the meteorological absurdity, life is springing up around the farm.

Check out the new:

Donkey

Oranges

baby orangesPrickly pear cactus

baby cactusChickens

baby chickensPomegranates

baby pomegranatesFrogs

tadpolesAnd the cats abandoned by their mom on our yard

kittensOne died, but after a brief adjustment period, the other got the hang of life with humans.  This was the first time she purred.

purrAbout ten days old, she opened her eyes.  Soon she was creeping around.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI’m still not sure what to do with a fourth cat, an African wild cat, nonetheless.  Even if she doesn’t act like one.

bottle timeMaybe she’ll grow up and follow her instincts into the bush.  Or maybe she’ll help with mouse duty on the yard.  All I know is that life on the farm is one day at a time.

That, and the weather better get its act together and bring us some rain.

Sun

Sometimes the universe is with you

Motivation is not always easy to find.  In my case, I had a big idea rambling around in my head, waiting to be put into action.  I sat on it for a while, wondering if it’d stick with me and prove itself legitimate, not just a passing thrill that I got excited about after a couple of beers.  It did, but still, I wasn’t acting.

Fresh off the plane from a visit to the States, where I spent time with friends and family, the number one thing I miss about life in Namibia, I was in a bit of a low this week.  Returning to a country where, besides my man and our animals, I’m pretty much on my own, can be disheartening.  However, I tried to light a fire under my butt, saying, “Look, you’re not going to live in Namibia forever.  Make the best of it while you’re here, and then when the time comes to move on, you’ll know the years weren’t wasted.”  And so, I gradually pumped myself up for the year ahead and tackling my big idea.  Although I was still half-exhausted from the long, nearly-sleepless flight, I stuck with the mantra “make the best of it” and pushed forward.

But as the first days slipped by and the load of farm work waiting for me quashed any productivity I had for my personal plans, I began wondering if I’d dreamt too big.  Thoughts like, “you have no idea what you’re doing, you’re gonna screw it up”, and, “stick with the projects you’ve got, and maybe later you can start something new when you have more time”, totally deflated my let’s-go attitude.  And even the current projects, like writing a blog post, seemed monumental.

But this morning I knew I had to post something, I’d neglected it the whole time in the States.  I just had no idea what to write about.  So, of course, I procrastinated and piddled around on the internet, rather than committing to writing.

Slowly, though, a message started to reveal itself.

My sister’s boyfriend posted something on Facebook about no more zero days.  An email from a writer’s mailing list had a quote from Amy Poehler about taking risks, getting out of your comfort zone, doing what you’re afraid of, even if you think you aren’t ready.  And here on WordPress, a (again, writing) blog I follow, talked about taking little actions until you get the results you want.  The message was persistent: do something everyday towards your goal, even if it’s small.  You’ll never know if you don’t try and even if you fail, you learn something new.

I got straight over to my blog and started typing.  My butt was lit.

It all sounds so trite, I know, but sometimes the trite stuff is exactly what you need to hear.  The cosmos knew it, and loaded me up with a big helping of it.

So, moral-of-the-story #1 is:  Procrastination isn’t always what it seems.  If you’re paying attention, you might just find what you’re looking for.

But, don’t forget moral-of-the-story #2:  No giving up.  Do something everyday, no matter how small, that moves you closer to your goal.  Because we all know, a little bit, over time, adds up to a lot.

As for my big ideas, small steps, alongside the farm work, are making me feel that they’re achievable.  Maybe, I’ll even make some friends along the way.  Or at least find better conversationalists than my cats.

The cat face

The mystery of the black cat and the full moon

Like most places in the world, every month or so, we get a full moon here on the farm.  Generally, it is a welcome occasion.  There is a local theory that it brings rain, but otherwise, it simply allows us to move about at night without clinging to a flashlight (or torch, depending on your English proclivities) or walking into things.  Plus, it’s pretty.

moon 'n cloudsThere is one drawback, though.  When the full moon slides into the sky over the hill in the east, it takes the sanity of one of our three cats with it.

She isn’t ever really normal.  Normal is not a cat adjective.  But back in the States, this little black cat of mine had no reaction to the state of the moon.  Maybe it was because we lived in an apartment and the outdoors were not a part of her life.  Maybe coming to this Namibian farm has brought out the leopard inside of her.  Maybe her brain is flashing images of huge yet very slow lizards, or hordes of giggling mice traipsing through the kitchen, champagne in one hand, cheese gobs in the other. I don’t know.  She simply cannot control the instinct telling her that she must go outside.

the cat

The little black cat, covered in dirt, and probably hunting something.

It seems to only affect her in the winter.  She’ll patrol the room, pacing back and forth, mewing and squeaking, informing us of her distress.  And this is when we are still downstairs eating dinner.  We can hear her through the wall (which, to be fair, is made of logs and fairly porous).  Once we climb into bed the fun really begins.  Like a pouting 4-year-old, she stomps over us to get to the window above our heads, wails her misery to the world on the windowsill for a few minutes, and then leaps down again with a four-footed landing and stomps back the other way.

This is then repeated throughout the night.

Jay and I used to just sleep through it, or pretend to.  I felt guilty for subjecting him to my apparently PMSing cat, but once we got some sleep again, we’d laugh it off and forget about it.  Til the next month.

But this time, I thought of a solution.  It was so simple, it was aggravating to think of how much sleep was lost by us not having thought of it before.

Water.

My cats hate water.  Unless it is going down their throat – by their own doing – it is evil. I tried to give them a bath once when all three became infested with fleas.  I walked away from it bloody and wetter than they were.  When a stream of water comes their way, they will do anything to avoid it.

Thus, needing a water-launching device and not owning a water gun, I turned to the syringes left over from multitudes of cow injections.  Once the needle is off, those things can shoot surprisingly far.

Problem is, our little syringes only hold one round, and it’s easy to miss a small black cat even with a full moon.  Which is, of course, exactly what happened.  So I stepped it up a notch.  With a whole glass of water in my mouth, I headed toward the warbling.  The first squirt hit the ground, and the cat bolted across the room, still singing her woes.  I caught up to her, and let out another squirt.  Another miss, another puddle.  She was hiding behind the bedside lamp now, by Jay’s head.  He seemed semi-asleep despite the commotion, but I was on a mission.  I shot the last of my water and hit the cat square on.  She took off again, silent this time, and I climbed back into bed for a triumphant sleep.

The cat spent the night and those to follow on the lonely chair by the glass door.  I suppose she was either mad or she wanted to keep an eye out in case those oafish lizards wandered by.  In any case, it seems mother nature had heard her distress calls.  One night a gust of wind blew the door open and by the time we noticed, the cat had long ago disappeared into the night.

Luckily, she returned by morning with that innocent cat look on her face, despite the headless mouse in the shower.  I have no idea if it was meant as a gift, to say all is forgiven, or if she brought it as proof, to say “I told you so”.

I don’t believe that I will ever figure out my cats.  I don’t intend to try.  I would only like to sleep.  And, if it’s not too much to ask, keep decapitated wildlife out of the bathroom.

the gift

Thanks.

 

Our island

Jay and I are reading a book right now (we like the same kind of books and it was just easier to read together than read over the other’s shoulder) by Linda Greenlaw of The Perfect Storm fame, about her life on “a very small island”.  Jay and I have always envisioned ourselves living on an island and our conversations on the topic have reignited while reading this book.  The less people the better, we figure, even if it were just the two of us, plus the cats and Sniffdog, obviously, for company and entertainment.  The peace, solitude, and freedom sound ideal to us.  Running around naked, living off the land, free to be ridiculous. But I realized, when it comes down to it, we basically do that already on this place we call a farm that is located just west of the middle of nowhere.

Although it would be fabulous if we needed a boat to get here, we do need to drive quite a hefty distance (about 45 minutes) from the nearest town where our mail is delivered and beer is bought.  The journey even comes with dangerous animals to avoid, though they have legs and not fins.

We hunt for our meat (and by “we” I mean “not me”) and scavenge for fruits and vegetables in the wilds of the garden (but I am learning wild edible things).  Fresh water is up to us to haul out of the ground and we are not hooked up to an outside source of electricity.  Solar panels and a generator, though not homemade, power our fridge and computer.

Occasions do pop up when we run around naked.  Usually when it is very hot and the farm workers have (hopefully) left for home.  In fact, we would probably be naked more often if it were considered an acceptable form of attire and would not frighten the people who have to work with us.  Our ridiculousness is also reigned in as to not lose all respect of the staff, although I’m quite sure they already think I am completely weird, like when they catch me talking to the cats.

Sometimes we even get time when it is just the two of us, no sounds or sights of other people.  We are surrounded by our animals, with a beer in hand, as the sun is leaving for other parts of the world.  It is one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever been or can imagine.

So while our farm is fairly remote, private, and serene, I would not be upset if a big, fat body of water were to take up residence at the edge of it.  It would be swell indeed to run for beer in a trusty lil’ sailboat.

I think I’ll have to keep dreaming on that one.

Winter with a bang

That line sure is fine sometimes.  Summer, winter.  Warm, cold.  Life, death.  One day, we’re wearing shorts and all is well.  The next we’re sheltering sick and struggling animals from near-freezing temperatures, as if Namibia was looking for a snack in the fridge and then someone shoved it in from behind and slammed the door.  It’s been a roller coaster week here on the farm.

The cats and Sniffel are unfazed.  They’ve been packing on extra hair for a while and the cold hasn’t interrupted their schedule of sleeping.  But four newly hatched chickens got a rough welcome to the world.  At least they have a fat and fluffy mom who takes pride in sitting on them.  The other six eggs were worse off – abandoned when they took too long to hatch.  Jay and I went in and rescued the two that were still alive, keeping them warm with a hot water bottle.  Only one chick survived the first night and though she’s wobbly, she seems eager to get going with life.  At first, I’d hoped her mom would take her in but her little legs don’t work too well (earning her the name Rollie, as in she rolls more than walks).  She couldn’t keep up with her siblings and would end up sleeping in the cold.  Now she’s living with us and eating infant bird food from a syringe multiple times a day.  Without a mom to teach her, she took the plate of corn meal mush I gave her as a new, very wet, napping spot.

Rollie, the one in the middle, hanging with her family.  Her mom accepted her at first then began pecking her on the head.  She stays in the living room now. 

The cows are giving birth as well and like every year, we’ve lost one or two or six newborn calves to predators.  The worst though is when they’re only bitten and not killed.  That means we have a calf on the yard, weak with infection from a leopard bite, like this week.  The holes in his neck made just breathing a struggle.  So to drink milk from the bottle I offered we’d have to stop often so he could haul in some more oxygen.  The rest of his body was rather helpless as well, he even needed help pooping (don’t ask).  But when he saw me coming with a bottle of milk, his ears, the only part he could move on his own, perked right up, as if ready to take flight.  But the little bit of food in his belly and the blanket over top of him wasn’t enough when the cold came.  Although I greeted him yesterday morning, rubbed his head and told him I’d bring him some milk, he left us before I returned.  The next calf has already taken his place.  Not because of a leopard; he’s just too weak to stand.  He’s now inside in the laundry room and sleeps with two blankets.  Luckily, he’s still a champ at drinking milk and hopefully we’ll get him out in the corral with the others in due time.

Calf number two enjoying the waning afternoon sun – assuming that’s a face of enjoyment.

Amongst the chaos, however, was an unprecedented event on the farm.  Jay’s cattleman flagged us down as we drove by the corral the other day.  He and Jay then commenced a conversation in Herero about something obviously exciting; the old, reserved cattleman was smiling.  A little later, Jay translated for me saying, “he’s never seen anything like it in all his years.”  With only that to work with, I was left hanging while they continued on for a few more minutes.  Finally I got another word and it was all I needed: twins.  One of the cows plunked down two heads, two hearts and eight legs, a lot to get out of a little hole.  Lucky for us they’re doing well.  Reading up on twin calves taught me that often one of them is neglected by the mom and has to be bottle-fed or one or both are underdeveloped and weak, also requiring a bottle, or a load of medicine when they get sick.  These guys though, both male, seem to be ok, relieving us of overtime bottle duty.

As the mom was not available for the photo, readers will have to take my word that these are in fact twins and not just two calves sitting next to each other.

I’m hoping from here on out we’ll all stay on the right side of the line, the warm and alive side, the all is well side.  But that’s a lot to ask of life, no matter where you are in the world.  At least we know Namibia will warm up again someday, returning to her blazing-hot ways.  And someday, surely, little Rollie will discover that the plate I give her is food, not a bed, and I will once again have that elusive thing on a farm called spare time.

Forbidden fruit

Imagine a ripe, red, round tomato.  It hangs from its hairy, green vine in a clump with its friends among the twist and tangle that is a tomato plant.  Unable to resist, you pluck the fruit, admiring its smooth, shiny skin before popping it into your mouth.  One squeeze of your teeth and its juice explodes outward, filling your mouth with seeds still warm from the sun.  You chew slowly, savoring the homegrown sweetness and then slide it all down into your belly.

It’s a nice image, no?  Unfortunately, it’s as close to that ripe, red, plumpy,  deliciousness as I’m ever going to get.  At least while living in this complicated land called Namibia.

It’s no secret that she and I have a rocky relationship, otherwise this blog would be titled something like “Cavorting with Cupcakes”.  Our latest quarrel: my vegetable garden.  Apparently, growing my own food, rather than eating the plants she provides, each and every one covered in thorns, is completely unacceptable.  And punishable by biblical plagues.

The tomatoes were the first to go.  I had six plants growing like it was a race, leaves and flowers sprouting left and right.   Gradually, the little tomato balls began to form and I was already listing delicious recipes in my head.  Then, just as gradually, the plants began to whither away.  Moving from one side of the bed to the other, yellowing, drooping leaves replaced the green ones.  I watered and watered but no fruit ripened, and my imaginary recipes remained just that.

Then one day, Jay, who is much smarter than I, came to visit me in the garden.  While I lamented the death of my friends, the tomatoes, he knelt down to have a closer look and after a minute asked what those little spider webs were all about.  Confused, I knelt beside him and indeed, saw little spider webs encasing stems and undersides of the leaves.  I’ll go with the excuse that they were really quite small and that is why I had never seen them before.  And I had never seen any spiders, and still didn’t.  A subsequent “tiny spider webs on my tomato plants” google search revealed the culprits; not spiders, but spider mites.  Tiny varmints that chew holes in the veins of the plant, suck out all the water, reproduce every three days and are very difficult to get rid of.  Super.

In an effort to keep the garden organic, the option of pesticides was ruled out.  So I tried a variety of other deterrent sprays: coffee water, chili water, stinging nettle tea, everything that anyone ever recommended.  Either the sprays didn’t work or they didn’t work fast enough and soon the plants were nothing but skeletons.  Namibia just laughed as she sent forward her next blight.

The zucchinis were another plant that used to grow not only well, but so well, that I didn’t know what to do with all of them.  Last year, I became an expert on different ways of eating a zucchini.  This year, the mice have.  I find it especially charming how they eat part of each fruit rather than all of just one or two.  But that would be too lenient on me, the sinful vegetable grower.

This time, however, I had back-up.  I called in the cats.  I could tell they took their jobs seriously by rolling in the dirt, lounging in the shade, and eating grass and then vomiting it up again, but they only cocked an ear, if anything, toward the rustling in the grass.  No amount of encouragement from me could entice them to investigate and the zucchinis continued to be reduced to inedible stubs.

My attempt at a counterattack was not received well by my opponent.  Soon after, the mice began consuming the flowers as well, allowing no fruit whatsoever to grow.  But I was not willing to watch the zucchinis follow the tomatoes into the grave, so again, I raised the stakes.  I put a match to the grass surrounding the garden, the grass that protected the mice.  I watched those flames with a gleam in my eye and a smirk on my face and went to bed feeling the victor.  I was not.  The zucchinis now have worms.

Next came the locusts.  Giant, yellow, armored locusts with appetites as big as themselves.  I countered with marigolds, the so-called workhorse of the pest deterrents.  They were simply chowed down to nubs.  The carrots stood no chance.  The onions disappeared.  Lettuce gone.  Cabbage ppbtthh.

But I fought back.  I fortified.  Either with sliced-up Pringles cans, yogurt containers, or strange, black plastic lining that Jay uses for more important things.

In case of survivors, Namibia turned up the sun.  In a single day, seemingly healthy plants were fried lifeless.  So, up went the shade-netting.

I’ve got a scarecrow.  I’ve got a fake snake.  Companion planting, crop rotation, piles and piles of manure.  But is it enough? How many plagues are still to come?  Will Namibia and I ever sit at the table of sisterhood and break those cupcakes together?  Only, I imagine, if she has made them herself and covered them in thorns.

The annual repatriation

Namibia and I have a like/strongly dislike relationship.  I like it over there, they vehemently do not like me over there and have made it as difficult for me to stay there as they could.  That mountain of stories will have to wait for another time.

Due to the endless visa struggle, I inevitably must return to my home turf.  Such was the case this past month, and so I write this now from the land of Obama and bourbon.  Despite the hole next to me where the wheezing cats should be, the lack of Sniffel chasing dream warthogs on his pillow in the corner, and no Jay to pop by to steal a smooch, I’m enjoying my ephemeral US reinstatement.

At first, I had a problem remembering that I could speak English here.  Before each sentence I’d begin the mental German translation, only to realize that those in my company would actually prefer to hear what I have to say in English.  While that obstacle has slowly faded away, German still slips out from time to time.  Today while shopping for flip flops (because Namibia destroys flip flops), a woman behind me sneezed.  I whipped around to say “bless you”.  Instead “gesundheit” came out.  I am not sure if her look of bewilderment was from the random German or the random politeness.

While the initial excitement to be back may wear off, the appreciation never will.  Appreciation to be able to speak to people on the street and know that we will understand each other.  To be able to walk to a friend’s house when I am lonely, to walk to the store when I need beer, to call my mom on the phone.  These are wonderful things.

Folks tell me they envy my migrant life.  But I always tell them I envy theirs.  They have their friends and family any time, in that magical place called home.  I’ve lost that place.  But I gained an appreciation for my country, the only one that always welcomes me back.  And so I intend to indulge in all that it offers while I’m here.  Until the day when I head back to Namibia and try to patch things up.