J – Diary #10

Making the difference

The advice was to come for 3 months – one to find my feet, get over being home-sick, one to get the picture and the third to really achieve something.
I find I’ve fast-tracked that, largely from necessity but mainly because I’ve found it so easy to settle in.
So after a month now I’m really getting stuck in and feel confident enough to offer real help; technical, practical and financial.

1. Financial. The MTCEA project needs money to keep it moving… Watch out for an appeal coming your way soon! Today work started on “Sim’s office make over”, my own gift to these great, warm-hearted, underpaid (mostly unpaid actually) friends of mine who are helping farmers out of the stone age. After clearing out decades of accumulated rubbish, desks, computers and journals, mostly held together by a cake of spider webs and dust, at 11 o’ clock a man was sent off to get “the machine” to dig up the concrete floor, ready for re-laying over the weekend. He turned up 2 hours later on his bike with a short pick-axe that had seen a bit of action. Like, quite a bit. We sent him off to get a mate and another pick-axe in an effort to get the job done today.
I somehow figured I might have some say in how my white-man money was distributed round the local paint, cement, scrubbing brush and roof panel distributors and in a way I did, but mine was but one of several opinions vying for a front row. Sand the walls (the expert view) or scrub them (our man’s opinion), oil based paints (e) or good old acrylics (omo)?? Etc….
In the end my plans for a working bee were overturned by the sort of Presidential Decree that typifies Uganda… everyone was so relieved to reach a decision of any sort that any resentments simply vaporised. So we’re (I’m) paying a painter to make the decisions, and do the job, the walls will be sanded (a bit), there will be a huge variety of all types of paint, several in each colour, all of which which will obviate many a future debate. Good show, our man is happy! And they are all so grateful how could I complain? Streuth!

2. Practical. Little Jude is 7 and lives next door to the office. His parents run one of hundreds of little hole-in-the-wall food shops. Jude is one of 5 children. This morning I noticed his right eye, shut and swollen. Not being the son of a nurse for nothing, and having travelled half way round the planet with a sack of medicines that will fix anything from a laceration to pneumonia, I borrowed the motorbike and sped home to get my trusty anti-biotic eye cream. Thank you, Dr Brewer! Patient recovering well, doctor. He would not have had any medical help otherwise, I know. His dad offered “May God reward you abundantly”. AS I pointed out, He already has. Just pray He doesn’t now give me an eye infection.
3. Technical. I may have already mentioned the mulch experiment we’ve set up. For anyone who’s missed our man’s stirling work in the rice paddy, the idea was to battle this horrible parasitic weed called “witch weed” or Striga, by spreading a layer of mulch around the root zone, as it’s the roots that the weed attacks. The mulch would stop the striga growing there as well as retaining much needed moisture. I’ve been looking for a suitable, readily available, cheap or free mulch, and found it in the adjacent rice paddies… it normally gets burned, total waste, it’s light to transport to the maize fields, yes it’s… Rice hay. Today did some more googling and now we’re also excited by a cover crop that is planted around the maize in Kenya called Desmodium Uncinatum – kills striga, fixes nitrogen and then provides great cattle fodder after harvest. Just got to find a seed supplier now. John Valentine, if you’re reading this, you’d love this stuff! Other little thoughts that are fermenting away; a better and lighter design of ox cart (a Briford caged trailer with an ox draw bar?), talking to local welders about that, cider vinegar drenches for oxen?, importing secondhand ATVs, The need for a restaurant serving anything but banana, beans and rice, a business that collects rubbish (everything gets tossed into the street. Jo Ann, this reminds me of the Taiwanese chucking rubbish into the sea off Rocks Road), the list grows daily.
So, you see, I’m happy to be making a real difference so soon. So happy!


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. amanda olley
    Aug 18, 2012 @ 02:59:59

    Wow Sim you are on a roll, almost ahead of yourself! That must be a good feeling . Keep going. Every animal and human that comes to my little patch gets plenty of Redwood Valley cider vinegar, so none of us have worms !! well maybe a few. Just an observation the animals seem to give birth to females as well , quite personal to explain tho! but I think the evidence is there. Groovy eh ? Im glad you happy. xx


  2. john
    Aug 18, 2012 @ 07:41:27

    I never miss a dispatch Simon. I have been searching out you-tube clips for you but unfortunately all of them are no tillage systems that do not require the ox teams!!! probably talk of the devil considering the hard work you have been putting in. Lots about water and the design of the landscape to collect and conserve precious amounts of the life giving stuff. Permaculture obviously right on the money for the conditions both physical and social that you find yourself in and the desert Australian communities have the last say on getting things to grow. Very pleased to hear about the Desmodium and its use to solve one problem and create solutions to several others at the same time. That is really the way forward to self sufficiency. Masunobu Fukuoka should be your next google search and if Ican get you a copy of his book “one straw revolution” you will wet yourself considering the possibilities.
    Keep up the good work.


  3. simthomas
    Aug 18, 2012 @ 14:04:20

    Cheers John, I often think of you and me during vintage – the “how would it be if we …..” discussions. Brilliant! I can’t stop myself doing that here.
    All the best, S


  4. Rebecca Mackay
    Aug 19, 2012 @ 16:37:48

    I can’t believe you had to pick-axe the old concrete floor in preparation for re-laying. That must be back breaking work. As awlays I look forward to the Before and After pics from the weekend’s Makeover. You’ve been moving fast, and great to hear you’ve settled in so quickly, easily and happily! I already have the feeling that this might be the start of a long0tem relationship with the friends you’re forging fast! Look forward to next dispatch OM. Bec x


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