Maureen Atsali wrote:Reevaluating my goals...
From the start my main objective with the farm was to be as self sufficient as possible. Basically I wanted to feed my family. Last year, we pretty much achieved that goal, eating almost exclusively from what we raised on the farm. I was still buying tea, honey, salt and cooking fat. (If I was really motivated, I could keep bees, plant oil palms, and grow tea... Then all we would really need is salt.). Occasionally the mono diet would make me nuts and I would splurge for store bought stuff... White rice, a loaf of bread, chocolate! We had lots of animals, but since that's my main source of farm income, we were selling them rather than eating them... So my diet had become unintentionally almost vegan.
A little back story here: I have been obese most of my adult life. I was over 300 lbs and a hardcore diabetic when I came to Africa. Within weeks of arrival my blood sugar stabilized, and I was able to go off all medications, and over the course of a year I lost about 120 lbs, effortlessly. I kept it off for 5 years and through two pregnancies.
But last year, I started to gain weight again. And while I am out of strips to test, I think the diabetes is also back. (Ants in the pee bucket probably means sugar in the urine!). I was kind of mystified... I am working harder, physically, than I ever have in my life. Most people would say I have an uber healthy diet.
Then I had the lightbulb moment back before Christmas. The farm diet is extremely high in carbs. Sweet potatoes, cassava, taro, starchy banana and maize make up the bulk of our calories... And I think my insulin resistant body just can't process all that sugar.
So I have been thinking about how to change the farm so that I can still eat... Without overloading on carbs. The answer I came up with is to focus more on livestock. Still grow the starchy veggies, but let the animals convert it into energy I can safely consume. The problem is keeping more animals means we need more infrastructure. Another problem is that we sold off almost all of our animals to pay for Alex's surgery. I have a handful of chickens and ducks left, a couple of goats, one rabbit and one cow. So I feel like I am starting from scratch. When we moved from my mother in laws compound to our own last year we had to leave behind the big chicken coop, the goat house, the pigsty, and the rabbit hutches. So we have to build all those structures. (Currently the chickens and ducks sleep in the chicken tractor, the cow and the goats sleep in the unfinished bathroom!)
Money, money money!
Maureen Atsali wrote:The dirt is a bucket of fun. Sticky clay. As you can see it's still in clumps from the boy who plowed it by hand with a jembe. What you can't see in the photos is the invasive grass. I don't know the name of it, nor do I know if its found all over the world, or only here in east Africa. It grows a long root horizontally under the soil, branching about 5 feet in every direction, and sends up a clump of grass every six inches or so. If you just pull the grass from the surface, it breaks off, and the root remains, and it will send up new shoots overnight. The root for itself is like a steel wire, and it will choke out everything if you don't remove it. And the grass is useless because the animals won't eat it either. The locals just chop it as they plow and till it under, but that's like cutting the head off a dragon so it can grow two more. All the pieces left in the soil continue to sprout and spread, so now you have 10 invasive roots systems instead of one.
And this plot is full of that grass. Usually as I work in lines with my forked jembe, I snag them and pull them out, throwing them on the surface so the sun can bake them dead. I also break up those clumps as I go.. But its slow work, and the husband wanted to finish getting seeds in "faster". But I will work on it when I put in the beans and start to weed. In the places where I have done this consistently for a few seasons I have mostly eradicated the nasty invasive grass, and friendlier weeds have moved in.