I used to live in the city. I had been there. Done that. Almost became a Champagne capitalist. In between life seemed to crawl from one traffic jam to the next. Stress was the byword for career progress. The cost of living rose and my income was stuck in second gear. I was caught between a frugal existence and the dangling carrot that was the elusive better paying gig.
Stuck in a rut, it took three world-televised events to shift my perspective. The global financial recession; Obama nailing Osama;Family Radio dotcom head honcho Harold Camping, doomsday judgment day message. The end of empire was the recurring TV broadcast. It was the kind of prompting I needed to look beyond the city limits to a rural lifestyle that offered respite. Therefore, I ignored the horrified look of my peers, closed shop, packed the jalopy and drove across country to a little village in Siaya County. Out there, by the banks of the raging river Yala, lay the family farm.
I have always viewed the rustic life as idyllic. No noise, natural smells, fruit from the crop and people did not think it was nuts to slow down. Doing nothing was seen in the positive light of contemplation. No need for gym membership when you have a farm to weed or thickets to clear. I had this really warped notion of living up to the neo eco-man ideal, surrounded by abundance in nature to provide for my material and spiritual needs served with fair amount of eco-friendly drivel.
Perhaps I was driven to this state by those blonde dates who all thought that farming was so cool and manly. Well, as Public Enemy once said, “Don’t Believe the Hype”.
Rural life is not for the faint hearted and there is no room for glamour on a farm. Rain-fed agriculture is simply a gamble with the elements. Waiting for seed to pop from the bare earth is an exercise in patience. I was hardly prepared for the frustration of listening to thunder echoing in adjacent valley as pregnant grey clouds gathered and then drifted out of sight without as much as a drizzle. I stopped poking fun at weathermen and started to pay attention to their forecasts but it did not change a thing. Often, they seemed to be just clueless as I was. It became apparent rather quickly that I was ill prepared for the reality of the farming life.
No one bothered to tell me about a new range of adversaries from the insect kingdom. Vicious buggers like safari ants and their toe-seeking-pincers. The industrious termites that held this stubborn belief, that all the dry wood in world belonged to them. Anyone thinking of venturing into organic farming would be advised to give it deeper thought. There is a whole universe of microscopic invaders that love their veggies fresh that you have to contend with. Each microscopic bug has a separate pesticide product. Most with names that only a chemistry major could pronounce.
You would think the creepy-crawlies are bad, until you encounter monkeys that are quite capable of driving one bananas! Vervet monkeys might look cute scratching their butt in a national park. On a farm, they were a marauding gang out to wreck havoc. They are smart, they know the terrain and they do not scare easily. Apparently monkeys have innate intelligence to discriminate between adult males and females. They are aware that women seldom throw stones and are likely to give them a free pass just when you thought you cornered the thieving primate. As for birds, not all are equal. Small birds, the weavers, bustards, larks, pigeons add to the provincial charm with constant chirping. The birds of prey are different flock altogether. Hawks and eagles do not eat greens. Not when they can have chicken. That means a chick a day keeps the hawk in sight.
Some skeptics are probably thinking, “Maybe aquaculture” the fancy term for raising fish in a pond. I took on tilapia farming, a big fad in most of the country. The advantages seemed obvious. Fish are a constant source of protein, profitable as a product and low maintenance. That was before I realized that birds are practically pests around a fish farm. Expectedly, there was nothing in the manual about airborne pests. Birds can be incredibly worthy adversaries. Armed with aerial supremacy and telescopic vision they are hard to catch in the act. I was out manoeuvred so many times that I came to develop a twitch whenever I saw a grey heron. Herons love their fish raw. And so do yellow billed storks, marabous and wild ducks. When one spots Marabou storks, poised gracefully within range of a fishpond, trust me they are not there for the ambience. Not to mention those creepy monitor lizards that take off on two legs running upright, skimming above the water and leaving one aghast. It is not as though you can take a complaint to the Kenya Wildlife Service. Not when farmers upstream are dealing with a hippo menace. Eventually I have learnt an important maxim. Do not count your fish before a harvest.
Frantic as it may seem, this is all an attempt to slow down and experience life in a fundamentally different way. In the city the only way to hang on was to speed up. In the countryside, the only way to live, is to do it slow and pick the lessons in your stride.
11 thoughts on “Making Of An Eco Man”
sema a guy,
“Stress was the byword for career progress”
“I was caught between a frugal existence and the dangling carrot that was the elusive better paying gig”
The two sentences above, stated at the start of the article, had such an impact on my perspective as I read the article. “That elusive better paying gig” is the clincher isn’t it? It makes my lungs deflate and my head hurt just thinking about it because that is where I am. Living our lives on a wing and a prayer is what we have by and large bought into. By the end of the article it is clear that strive for a living we must, put food on the table we must, but the choice here is to either use my smarts to navigate traffic jams or to use them to outsmart the Vervet monkey. You sound enriched by the choice made. Your writing casts clear images to the mind and heart as we learn the day to day intrigues of living on the land. I am inspired. I have bookmarked your site to visit while I have my coffee every day, this article has made me think deeply, laugh, learn and connect with a perspective that is certainly rare in these times we are living. Beautifully written, such a joy to read your work. Thank you. I am a fan.
Very beautiful writing indeed, Oyunga. I have always envied the country life for it’s simplicity and the sense of brotherhood/ community that permeates all around. It’s always been my wish to leave the City by the time am clocking 30-35, pack all my stuff and go till the land.
This was hilarious and right on time. Was planning to relocate to shags and put up a greenhouse.
Truly rainfed agriculture sucks lucky you kuna the mighty river Yala closeby you can farm all year round.
Well I admire shags life and once I graduate I’ll move there
It seems your part of country is much the same as where my folks are at, where you can plant but it doesn’t rain, or it rains too much or it does not rain nearly enough, and then there are the insects and those annoying monkeys that unearth your seeds and eat them, then wait for whatever sprouts and uproot that too and eat and then wait for you to put out your harvest to dry and eat that! But mom says the shamba never lies (direct translation). You will always get something out of it. All the best!
Your folks and I could talk for days. They obviously understand never to underestimate the resilience of a Vervet monkey. The reality of small scale farming as it but it is not always all gloom.
Nice blog boss. Keep it up! Keep it fresh man.Do what you know.
Much thanks Jeff. Keep popping in.
I’ve been surfing on-line more than three hours these days, but I never found any attention-grabbing article like yours. It is lovely read for me. In my view, if all website owners and bloggers made good content material as you did, the net can be much more useful than ever before.