As much as I try to help on the farm, learn the five separate languages I might encounter, what this switch operates and what that button does, what each of the 13-letter-name medicines in the fridge’s butter cubby are for, and what to do when an angsty rabid kudu comes to the front gate, there are some things that I just do not gel with. Here’s the top 5 I’ve determined that are best left to the professionals.
1. Genny the generator
Genny is, no doubt, an important part of the farm. Since Nampower, Namibia’s state-run (and only) electricity supplier, decided our farm was too far out to hook up to the grid (even though all our neighbors are), this lady provides a lot of our power. While we are trying to move more towards solar, she still carries a chunk of the load. But to get her going, it takes a good couple swings of the crank, and take my word, the crank is, proportionally, just as big. It ain’t for woosies, or otherwise meager-armed folks such as myself. I’ve certainly tried, sweat and swear words flowing, but she just groans a little and lays back down, like my cats when I disturb them at nap time. My main job in regards to Genny, therefore, is to turn her off when the batteries are charged and that’s no easy task either. Just take a look at the accompanying circuit box:Indeed, to stop her thunderous revolutions, I first must enter the room and remind myself that she will not tear herself free of the concrete floor and chew me to pulp. If I keep all extremities clear of her moving parts, I should remain whole. (To this day, I have only injured myself once with this intimidating piece of machinery, and that was when my knee came to rest on a metal tube which I quickly learned was the exhaust pipe). After that, I need only flip four switches, push a button, pull a thingy down until she stops her sputtering, and then disconnect her battery. I believe that is as intimate as I shall ever be with the giant engine and her labyrinthine electrical box. Any more than that and one of us will no longer work properly.
A single key is harmless enough, but when they congregate, I prefer not to be present.
I know it’s a farm and all, we have doors and gates and things with locks, but I do not believe we have so many of them. This isn’t even the only key bundle nor are bundles the only place in which keys are kept. So, to avoid acute key anxiety, I do as I do with Genny, keep it simple. I know the keys to the rooms which hold things important to the continuation of my life, and the rest I have absolutely no idea what they do or to what treasures they have access and I’d like to keep it that way.
3. The slaughter shed
This is where animals go once they’ve been shot. Normally, they are shot to feed the farm staff to prevent poaching. Sometimes, hunters shoot them so they can put the heads on their walls. Regardless, here, they are strung up by their hind legs, gradually reduced to pieces which includes the use of that handsaw on the back wall, and their blood and other excrement drains into the large hole in the floor. I have actually helped in this process before, really only because there was no one else to do it. And while the biologist inside me was sort of interested in this massive science project, it’s not something I look forward to.
4. Water intersections
This is another one that seems innocent.
But one must know that water pipelines run throughout the farm, each one connected to the next. If I close or open just one pipe, the water is going to go somewhere else and I never quite know where that is. For example, if we pump water to the house, it can either go to the garden and water the orange trees, it can go to our reservoir so that we can shower off the cow poop at the end of the day, or it can bypass us and fill the workers’ water tank. For each of those things, the pattern of open and closed valves must be just right or I’ll end up watering an oasis somewhere in the Namib desert. To make things more complicated, sometimes water is pumped to the house using the engine at the windmill down by the main road and sometimes it falls on Genny’s shoulders. Sometimes they are both running and I don’t know who is doing it. But if our reservoir is full and begins to overflow, I need to stop it. Do I stop Genny or the engine at the windmill? Do I need to open or close the valves at the house or the valves at the main road? Do the workers need water? Or do I need to fill the big reservoir that feeds the rest of the farm? Answer quickly now, the water is a-wasting. And these intersections are all over the farm. If any of the miles of underground pipe breaks then the water must be closed at one or more of them and who knows which one that might be.
This last one is probably the most important for me to avoid for genetic reasons; I’ve inherited a calamitous gene which earned me my nickname “Disasterpants”, one that has caused countless injuries to me and my family for many years now. As such, I stay as far away from this thing as possible:
This saw cuts our wood, wood that we use to heat our water, post our fences, or to otherwise build or burn, but why must it be so big? Namibia is not known for its gigantic trees and even if it was, I would rather chop all my wood by hand than to have to come within slicing distance of Spikey here (although I may do just as much damage to myself with an axe). If I have to gather some logs for the fire, even when it is not connected to a single watt of electricity, I move quickly, deliberately, and then get the hell out of there. I can feel it watching me.
Same goes for the handheld spinning blade, known as a grinder (enough reason to leave it alone):
This blade moves up and down very quickly and very loudly. Some people on the farm saw their meat just fine with this thing; fast and smooth, no worries, no problem. And that is why I call them the professionals and let them saw or slaughter or lock and unlock whatever they want and I go feed the baby chickens.