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Wrong Way Farm  RSS feed

 
pollinator
Posts: 439
Location: Western Kenya
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Hey friends, Maureen here, formerly from ASF farm.  I've been away for months, trying to figure out which way to go since my marriage exploded and I left the farm back in February.

I have landed on a tiny rental property, and I have been afraid to put down any proverbial roots here because I still dont know if we will be here for months or years.  So I tried container gardening, and rescued a couple of kienyeji hens from the meat market.  I found container garden completely boring and unsatisfying.  Its like "impermiculture" because everything is temporary and portable, and you aren't really doing anything to sustain or support the ecosystem.

I finally decided to relax and enjoy the property to its fullest as long as I'm here.  Instead of thinking of it as wasting my money, time and energy on a property that's not mine, I am considering it a service to the earth and humanity - hopefully I can leave this little place better than I found it. 

I am converting most of the grass lawn into gardens.  I have already built one chicken tractor composter, and hope to add several more in the coming months.  I have an order for 50 kenbro chicks expected tomorrow.  I've got sweet potatoes growing in sacks behind the house.

The very first day I was planting in the garden, a neighbor came, crossed his arms over his chest and told me, "you are doing it wrong.". I heard that sooo much for 7 years that its become an inside joke.  At the ASF farm I made it our slogan "Doing it wrong since 2011.". This time I decided to name the whole farm, "Wrong way Farm".

Here is to a new beginning.  More to come.
Hugs from Kenya,

Maureen
 
Maureen Atsali
pollinator
Posts: 439
Location: Western Kenya
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I wanted to expand a bit on what I've got growing on.  I've got very little space so I'll probably have to let go of my 100 species goal.  But we are only a couple months in and here is what we have so far:
Pumpkins
Okra
Georgia Collards
Tree collards
Popcorn (maybe? Mystery seeds from China, it was supposed to be regular colored corn, but the seeds that arrived were tiny and colored like bits of glass.)
Carrots
Jews mallow
Kanseraa (I dont know exactly what this is, and havent got an English translation...its a leafy green, and seems to be the catch all term for several varieties of indigenous greens that might be brassicas or mustards, although the taste is mild and the texture soft.)
Sunhemp
Black nightshade
Amaranth
Cowpea
Passion fruit
Giant chili peppers
Swish chard
Taro
Sweet potato
Zucchini
Bunching onions
Cilantro
Basil
Irish potatoes

Ha, it looks so much more impressive in the list than it does in the garden!
 
Posts: 133
Location: Boudamasa, Chad
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That's fantastic Maureen! I'm so happy to hear it.

I just started my urban garden in Ndjamena, Chad today, since I left the village for rainy season. Please do keep us posted and maybe some pictures?

Have you thought of starting a community garden?  It could be a very satisfying way to make use of all your experience.
 
Posts: 61
Location: South of Capricorn
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Sounds fabulous!! Glad to hear you're coming out on top.

I have a house that I don't consider long term as well, but am looking at it the same way as you- the urban farm is better than what I found when I got here.
Your list sounds great. And I love the name and motto-- I hear that a bit too.
 
Posts: 74
Location: San Diego, California
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chicken forest garden woodworking
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Maureen, glad you are back!!

I was so enjoying your other thread; your resilience and courage under so many different trials has been inspirational and encouraging - thank you for being who you are!

I remember at your last farm you were growing a ground nut (similar to peanut, I can't remember the name; the locals called it a grandmother food or something) that everyone told you not to grow, but was surprisingly bringing a good price with the locals - are you planning on growing that again?
 
Maureen Atsali
pollinator
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Location: Western Kenya
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Thanks for the replies everyone!

Dustin, that food you are referring to is called Tsimbande in the local language, or bambura ground nut in English.  The problem is I dont really have space to grow it in sufficient quantity to sell.

But... And this is probably a subject for a separate post, I still have rights to access part of the farm which i left. But I have doubts and concerns about the cost of the commute, the amount of time im willing to put in there, the emotional and psychological effects, and the very real possibility that anything I do there might be stolen or sabotaged by in-laws.  So...if i went back i would have room for pulses and grains, but I just havent decided.
 
Dustin Rhodes
Posts: 74
Location: San Diego, California
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Thanks Maureen!

I hope you find as many different means as possible to produce your crops "The Wrong Way." 

I don't know if this is possible, but one way you could possibly trick others into leaving your garden alone is grow something they consider a "weed," but that you know is edible and enjoy; I don't know what that would be, but maybe that might work for a season until they figure it out?
 
pollinator
Posts: 1112
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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It's so nice to hear from you again, Maureen! I was always interested in the things we're doing on your farm.
 
Posts: 123
Location: Galicia, Spain
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fiber arts cooking trees
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Plant anything and everything you want and sod the future.  Make your life happy today and enjoy it!
 
Posts: 554
Location: Bendigo , Australia
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dog homestead
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Great reading thank you
 
Posts: 94
Location: Southern Finland
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forest garden greening the desert homestead
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"Doing it wrong since 2011" - I love that!!

Our farm might be called that too, or "Not making sense since 2008". What I keep hearing (mostly from my relatives) is that nothing I do makes any sense, so a version of "Doing it wrong" here too!

Best of luck with your new urban farm and lots of strength in your difficult life situation. Hugs from Finland!

Nina
 
Maureen Atsali
pollinator
Posts: 439
Location: Western Kenya
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Evening folks,
I havent had much to write about as we are between growing seasons and there isn't much going on except watching last seasons veggies go to seed.  As i clean out old rows i reseed with a polyculture blend of indigenous greens.  I've started the nursery basins (under a net to keep the neighborhood chickens out) with a variety of co├▒ventional veggies: tomatoes, sweet peppers, onions, cabbage and collards. Plus some unconventional experiments.  Figs. Pansies. Rubekia.  Blue bamboo and butterfly bush.  Will be interesting to see if any of those germinate.

I got my 50 kenbro chicks.  I had a quarrel with the dealer as they tried to stick me with a mixture that contained naked necks.  The naked neck kenbro was specifically "engineered" for coast province, as it is able to endure harsher conditions and the extreme heat.  It also doesn't grow as big and lays half as many eggs.  On top of that, while I dont personally care about naked neck vs. Normal feathers, there is a local cultural bias against the naked neck snd consumers will not pay as much for a naked neck, regardless of weight.  So I threw an American tantrum and dem├ánded that they pick out all the naked necks and give me only the red or tricolor chicks.  The chicks come in boxes of 100, but they let you do a minimum order of 50.  I feel a bit sorry for the person who got the other half of my box, because they got nothin' but necks.  I'm feeling a bit uncertain about whether i will be able to order chicks again from this dealer...and as far as I know they are the only kenchic agent in town.

Anyway...brooding the chicks was less than successful.  Between weeks 2 and 4 there was a massive die off for no apparent reason.  They had all the right stuff -  food, water, heat source, and showed no signs of sickness.  Yet every morning I'd find a bunch dead.  It was quite discouraging.  In the end only 20 survived.  I moved them out to the tractor two weeks ago, amd they've done great, no more fatalities.  They share the tractor with two kienyeji hens and two kienyeji juvenile roosters, "Mr. Bean," and "Prince" as named by my preschool girls.  I am slowly gathering materials to build a second tractor.  When i have another tractor ready i may try again.  I would also like a separate tractor for just kienyeji.  Its only lack of funds slowing me down.

We also added a puppy, and I rescued my cat and one of her kittens from the old farm.  I've been back to the old farm three times now.  The first time was so traumatic I had a nervous breakdown.  Everything was stolen, from my taro roots to my dog...and even my cat, but she ended up running away and coming home.  The second trip i just did a lot of clean up, burned a lot of things like my old journals and ruined clothes, and put the ransacked hoguse back in order.  Third trip I did some experimental gardening, just to see what will happen. Three 4x10 beds inside the compound, with my kienyeji polyculture, collards, and potatoes.  If the in-laws steal or sabotage I'm only out a days work and about 4 dollars worth of seeds and starts.  And each visit I've smuggled out more of my stuff, clothes, books. And my cat!   I also brought some casava stems and some ornamental bushes back to plant here.  Still not sure what to do about that property.  If I dont use it, my in-laws will likely move in on it.  The cost of the commute is prohibitive, but I do miss the place.

Ive got some photos but I'll attach them in a seperate post. I dont want to lose all I've typed on my wonky phone.  Happy gardening! 

Maureen
 
Maureen Atsali
pollinator
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Always a bit tricky, uploading photos from my 3g fake smart phone But here is an attempt at our chicken tractor, with my lovely construction assistants.
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Maureen Atsali
pollinator
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Location: Western Kenya
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Hi Everyone,
Its been one hell of a month so far.  I was really sick for a couple weeks (malaria, a kidney infection.). Its only been the last few days I've been off medications and feeling fairly normal.

Things at my little urban farm are going along fairly well, despite irregular rains.  My nursery basins are ready for transplanting.  None of the "exotic imports" have germinated.  A bummer but no huge loss, just experimental.  Once I get those transplants in, I won't have much to do here except manage chickens, pull the occasional weed, and twiddle my thumbs.  So different from the chaos of managing 2.5 acres and 5 or 6 varieties of lifestock...i confess im a bit bored.

I went back to the old farm for another visit.  As i mentioned in an earlier post, the farm has been abandoned for 7 months.  It was pretty well ravaged during the dry season by in-laws and neighbors, and the jungle is encroaching.  But thanks to the power of perennials, i still found an abundance of food.  A sweet banana of good size...someday i need to weigh these things so I have a system of comparison.  A ripe pineapple hidden in the overgrowth.  A couple of small papayas, and small-sized but perfectly edible taro roots that the thieves ignored.

The three beds i planted at the last visit were untouched.  The dirt in these beds is worthless, and I had nothing to add, and no time to mulch.  Still there was an abundance of cowpea, which i pruned for greens, and lots of stunted amaranth.  Other seeds in the poly culture blend germinated here and there.  The Irish potatoes do not appear to be doing well, as I found only a few sprouted in the cowpea cover crop.

While I was there i cleaned out and replanted one line of taro and added a fourth bed behind the house with sweet potato vines left to run wild after the sweet potatoes were stolen. That's all I had the time and energy for.  The taro line was disheartening, as i was starting from scratch, planting tops from tubers the size of golf balls into the empty holes that once contained tubers the size of my thigh.  (For those who dont know taro, you replant the top, each planting the top grows larger in diameter, thus producing fatter tubers underneith.  You also get small off shoots from the mother tuber to start new plants.)

What i learned from this visit?  There should be no hungry people in Kenya.  Food insecurity is created by a dependence (addiction?) to food introduced from the West - mainly maize (corn) and wheat.  The news papers here are always counting the tons of maize in storage, wringing their hands in worry over chronic shortages and impending famine.  Meanwhile, i just carried home about 60 lbs of produce from a completely neglected farm - indigenous produce (or at least long-term adapted.).  If people would grow and eat these foods that their grandparents ate, there would be bountiful food and a much healthier population.  Africans did not evolve to eat maize.  I know I'm preaching to the choir here on permies, but its a message I still wish I could convey to my neighbors.  But since i still havent convinced my own husband... In fact he and my in-laws were still harping on me to plow my Shamba and plant maize.  For 7 years i have refused to monocrop maize.  I even sat down with a pen and paper to show my husband and mother in law that planting maize was a financial loss - it cost more to grow (by chemical monocropping) than it does to go buy a sack at the market.  Because of cheaper imports from other parts of the country, its not profitable to sell.  My mother in law grows maize every year, and sells at a loss every year - but since she keeps no records, she can ignore that loss and continue to cry poverty and wonder why she's not getting ahead.  So frustrating.  I used to grow a small plot of open pollinated maize in a poly culture each season, which we ate fresh as boiled or roasted maize, and only dried seed for replanting.  Now i have stopped eating maize altogether, so why grow it at all (except to prove that it can be done with no chemicals.)?

Whoops, got off on a rant there.  I'll get some pictures from the garden after I get the transplants in.  Happy growing!
 
Maureen Atsali
pollinator
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The new puppy and kitten are inseperable.
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The odd couple
 
Maureen Atsali
pollinator
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My landlady, in an act that seems a bit passive-aggressive, gave the other 3/4ths of my rental's plot to these ladies to grow their crop in the present rainy season, for free.  Nothing against these ladies, but I pay rent here and only get to use a quarter of what I guess is a third of an acre.  She told me I couldn't use the other part because she was using it for her own household crops.  Last season they grew little more than weeds.  And these lovely ladies have planted only a quarter of the area with sweet potatoes, collards and cowpea.  I'm watching weeds grow up in the plowed but unused portions.  Unfortunately, because these ladies planted collards, I can't allow my chickens to free range. Well, I could, but I believe in being a good neighbor.  Actually I wanted to post this photo so people could see the tool - a sort of oversized hoe with a short handle, called a jembe.  This all purpose goodie is used for plowing, planting, weeding, and all general digging work. Many of my neighbors back in the village plow multiple acres by hand with jembes.
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Janet and friend planing cowpeas with jembe
 
Maureen Atsali
pollinator
Posts: 439
Location: Western Kenya
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Some squash from last seasons garden. Squash take a really long time to fruit and might actually be perennial if the dry season doesn't kill them.  (At the old farm I had vines still flowering and fruiting after more than a year.). These bad boys took about 7 months, and some weren't fully ripe.  But they were being stolen, so I brought them in.  Plus I wanted that space for something else.

I've been plugging away at planting.  I generally clean a short 20ft row and replant it each day.  I am putting in tomato, cabbage and collard transplants, and direct seeding Swiss chard and 7 or 8 varieties of local green leafy veggies.  My giant chile peppers have become chile trees, and the tree collards are about 4 feet tall.

I've had a problem with mulching, because the chickens won't leave the mulch alone.  There must be good life under there because they insist on scratching it up, and end up ripping up my plants in their enthusiasm.  I dont like any bare soil, but im waiting to put down mulch cover until my plants are well established.

Every month i slide the chicken tractor-composter over to fresh grass, and, gee how did that garden get there?  I go over the bare spot with a fork to remove as much of the invasive grass root that I can, and then I plant into it and scatter seed.  Wow.  These little lazy-woman gardens produce more veggies than my two large gardens combined.  The chickens and the compost leave behind a fertility bomb.  The greens growing here are huge, with leaves 3x as big, and they even seem to taste better.

Chickens.  My kenbros are down to only 14.  According to the advertising, this patented breed is supposed to be hardy and self-sufficient.  Not so, says I.  They are as dumb as they come, terrible scavengers, ridiculously tame, no scratching and no instincts.  If I let them out, they just follow me around, waiting to be fed.  They won't dig on the compost, and if it rains and they can't get back in the tractor, they dont have enough brain to seek shelter in the bushes or under the eves.  They are easy pickings for predators and human thieves because they are so slow and docile.  On the other end of the spectrum I have 3 kienyeji hens, 1 mature rooster, and 2 young roosters.  These are almost wild chickens, super efficient scavengers, mad scratchers, fast as hell, able to fly short distances, predator saavy, impossible to catch, insanely broody and very slow to mature.  These guys are my compost workers, but they hate being confined in the tractor.  They make a break for it every time I open it for feeding and watering.  A few days ago I added 20 mystery chicks to my brooder.  I suspect they are the throw-away roosters from a layer hen nursery.  (The seller tried to cheat me that they were kari improved, but I'm sure they are NOT.). They sell these throw away male chicks for 30 cents each, and I figured I would try raising a few just for meat while I'm waiting for my other chickens to start laying.
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Tereza Okava
Posts: 61
Location: South of Capricorn
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food preservation homestead rabbit
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ooh, I have one of those! but the handle is slightly longer and it's called an enxada here (Brazil).

Your pup and kitten are gorgeous.

So much of what you talk about reminds me of things I see here, from the bounty of the earth to the not so great stuff (as an outsider, I'm american and have lived here for 12 years): the passive aggressive silliness, the scoffing at outside ideas that run contrary to "how things are done", the "wrong way" business (I was told using my enxada to turn the dirt was "the wrong way" to use it, LOL. There are no digging forks here and I've got no plow or rototiller, so it's the right way for me). 
I enjoy reading about your farm and hope that things get easier. I also like to be a good neighbor but I often find myself tempted to start sliding down that slippery slope to "if they can be jerks why shouldn't I". So far, not sliding, but I'd be lying if I said I weren't tempted.
 
Maureen Atsali
pollinator
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Location: Western Kenya
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I'm on a photo binge today.  Mystery chicks in the brooder.  Is there a special name for the throw away rooster chicks in a layer operation??? I need to google that.

Note how long the wing feathers are.  In my 8 years experience of hatching and brooding chicks, I've come to see this as a BAD sign.  If the wing feathers outgrow the body (extend past the butt end) the chick usually dies.  But I bought them anyway, about $6 USD for 21 of them...small gamble.
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Mystery chicks
 
Maureen Atsali
pollinator
Posts: 439
Location: Western Kenya
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The kenbos.  "Hello mama, where is the food bucket?". Do you see the little one outside?  He got out when I was tossing in the food scraps and is just waiting to be let in.  Foraging? No way.  Also that particular chick is a genetic anomaly.  He is small, and his color is off.
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Kenbros
 
Maureen Atsali
pollinator
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OK last one for today, I promise.  My phone can only handle one upload at a time.  These are the little gardens that spring up behind the chicken tractor.  Keep in mind he first patch has been picked and pruned at least a dozen times.  Also, I dont weed.  I just throw on the seed and let them duke it out.  Many thanks to Tyler Ludens who turned me on to this method.
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Tractor Gardens
 
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