All posts by tannachtonfarm

A 13- year homeschooling mom (youngest graduated in May 2015!) who is also a cattle and sheep farmer married to a cattle farmer. My three children and I enjoy traveling and spending time with family and friends. While this blog will chronicle our journey of Faith, Family, and Farm, opinionated articles on frugal living, traveling, recipes, and homeschooling experiences may be found sprinkled throughout!

Enonkishu Conservancy

Enonkishu Conservancy,  (Maa for ‘place of healthy cattle’) located in southwestern Kenya, is one of the newest Savory Hubs.  Designed to demonstrate the attributes of managed grazing in a challenging environment and to encourage local community involvement.  The young couple who have pulled this endeavor together to qualify as a Savory Hub and move forward with implementation have indeed set a challenging yet heartfelt mission before them.

Their stated mission:

“REGENERATIVE GRAZING

Enonkishu Conservancy is committed to sustainable rangeland management that allows space and resources for all people, cattle, and wildlife. To achieve this it seeks a balance between conservation of the ecosystem and appropriate enterprise for the resident Maasai communities. Enonkishu is adopting a unique approach to conserving land by creating a viable livestock enterprise through a Holistic Management (HM) Approach. Through HM, Enonkishu intends to improve productivity of the livestock in the region, improve livelihoods and maintain heritage.”

The desire to improve the land, livestock, and wildlife is admirable, but no more so than the commitment to lift up the lives of the local people by finding ways for more children to seek formal education and to put more dollars in the pockets of families.

‘Regenerative’ is the new buzzword and thinking to replace ‘sustainable.’  I think it’s a good change.  Why sustain something that is in decline or degraded?  Regeneration of poor soils is tantamount to improved lives.  From the dust of the earth was man created -Genesis 2:7.

However, offering and encouraging education in holistic management or any other ideology must be introduced with gentleness and respect into a culture and society which may push back with decades of ingrained practices and customs.  Even in our rural county in Missouri, USA with one of the premier managed-grazing schools at our fingertips, there is little adoption of the regenerative practices.  To form a cooperative of producers willing to allow their comingled cow herds to be managed as one mob by someone else on comingled land would not even be considered.  Yet this is the simplified explanation of one component of what is happening with Enonkishu Conservancy and the Mara Training Centre.  With any new organisation, family or business, there are growing and learning pains.  Rookie mistakes, which should be avoided by heeding advice from those who have already made them, creep into any undertaking.  One of the key elements of Allan Savory’s management courses is defining goals and testing objectives.  Good, basic advice for anyone at any point in their lives.

Admittedly, i’m glad i don’t have to manage the massive number of mega wildlife that Lippa and Tarquin do – no worries about lions, leopards, elephants, zebras here in north Missouri.  Wow!

Dallas and I recently (July 23, 2018) returned from a 9 day stay on Naretoi Estate at the House in the Wild accommodation.  We traveled with Trey Shelton, who owns Denizen Global as our TD and along with four other like minded travelers (now good friends) and offered through Savory Institute Journeys.

We learnt so much on this wonderful expedition – not only did we meet great travel mates, hosts, servers, and leaders, but we enjoyed safari and game drives, superb meals prepared by Chef Purity and graciously served by Godfrey, guides who surely have no equal, and opportunities to enjoy local life.  More on all that in future entries.

Journey on!!!

tauna

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Our ‘estate’ at House in the Wild

 

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My bedroom with full ensuite behind the bed.

Across our expansive lawn, Dallas relaxes on one of the swinging beds overlooking the Mara River, which was often visited by trumpeting hippos!

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Mara Training Centre

 

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Currently, the Enonkishu Conservancy consists of about 6000 acres and 11 cooperator cattle herds.  Nearly three years into the managed grazing component, they shift cattle through 13 blocks.  Unlike Missouri and other places, the cattle are maintained in mobs by trained herdsmen rather than electric hi-tensile wire fencing.  Of course, the elephants, hippos, zebras, and giraffes would be pretty hard on fences!  Labor is very inexpensive, although the Conservancy makes a point of paying excellent wages.  
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Plans are underway to soon double the number of blocks, or paddocks as i call them.  My experience in north Missouri is that 24-28 paddocks is a sweet spot to balance labor and pasture improvement as well as cattle health and growth.

Two hours on that sort of gravel road was the last of our five hour drive from Nairobi to House In the Wild.  I’ll not complain about gravel roads in Jackson Township, Linn County, Missouri, USA again!

Beautiful cooperator cattle on Enonkishu Conservancy.

 

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Another value added enterprise is the Mara Beef.  Born, grown, and butchered right on the farm at a state of the art abattoir, Mara Beef will be offered at House In the Wild and the many lodges located  in and around the Masai Mara National Reserve.  Chef Purity at House in the Wild prepared Mara Beef for us one supper – superior flavor and tenderness. 

 

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Another enterprise or ‘holon’ of the Conservancy is the Mara Training Centre at which young people and adults from around the world come to learn about managed grazing.  Camping and dorms are available for long term stays.

Even though the soil is much better covered on the Enonkishu Conservancy, despite the massive amounts of wildlife (which continues to increase because of better forage), there is much work to be done.  My observations are that the cows are the forward grazers and receive the more mature grasses.  This, of course, challenges them to maintain body condition.  I don’t know what the conception rates are.  I asked about how the wildlife are managed and the comments was that oddly, the wildlife seems to follow the cattle.  This is no mystery as to why they do this!  The wildlife are getting that coveted second bite, the one that shouldn’t be taken until the grass has had adequate rest.  This is one point that many graziers differ with Allan Savory’s grazing management.  He says that the amount of time grazing is the most important, whereas many of us believe the amount of time rested is most important.  The key is to move the stock before the blades can be grazed too short- often this is one bite, then move on.  However, time grazing and time resting will vary with seasons and weather conditions.  For example, in my operation in a typical fast growing cool season forages spring, the cows will be in a paddock no more than three days, then that paddock should rest at least 30 days.  However, if the rains don’t come, this rest period could easily extend to 60 or 90 days.  This would require longer stays in paddocks and possible herd reduction.

Anyway, my point is that the wildlife on Enonkishu are fat grazing the creme of the grass crop and quite likely slowing down the regenerative process.  However, tourism is a huge part of the income and goals, so this must be taken into consideration and balance.

The boma is a mainstay amongst cattlemen and shepherds in conservancies of southwestern Kenya.  Stock must be corralled each night for protection from serious predators like lions, hyenas, leopards, cheetahs, and other wildlife which like beef as much as we do.  Bomas are designed to be easily set up and taken down and the overnight dunging by mobbed stock can improve soil structure and productivity very quickly IF the area is allowed to rest for along time after use.

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Here is a boma (corral) which can hold 200 cows in each large round pen, while the smaller center pen will hold all their baby calves.  Each evening calves are sorted and separated from their mommas for safety.  If the cows are spooked, they can easily crush babies if they are penned together.  See in the forefront where the soil has been disturbed in a circular fashion.  This indicates the area where the boma was the night before.  Dallas and i helped pack a couple panels to the next location to set up for the upcoming night.  The panels are about 7 or 8 feet long, but not really too heavy, yet there is extra wire on them to make them lion proof.   The herdsman’s hut was nearby, but i forgot to take a photo of it.  It is not lion proof, the the night herdsman is also guard.
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This photo clearly shows the great improvement in soil production where the bomas were located.  These areas are indicated by the circular areas of thick green grass cover.

The Enonkishu Conservancy as a new Savory Hub is doing a smart, yet difficult thing.  Mistakes in management have been made and I hope that leaders will continue learning and talking to people who are not only ‘experts’ but also producers, those of us who put these ideas to practice.  We’ve already made the mistakes and most are glad to share our failures and successes.

Wishing them all the best!

tauna

 

 

Stuffed Grape Leaves (Dolmades)

Stuffed Grapevine Leaves

Adapted from Betty Crocker’s International Cookbook recipe by the same name on page 165.

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Place about 1 tablespoon of meat (lamb or beef) mixture on doubled leaves and wrap, place in skillet, seam side down.

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Using my Kitchenaid Mixer,, i whip the eggs and add the organic lemon juice.

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Pour the egg mixture over the stuffed grapevine leaves.

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Here are the alternative meatballs only – better for people who have difficulty chewing.

Shavuot

Chag Sameach!

Shavuot explained by TorahFamily.org.

Shavuot out of Egypt

 

Regardless of when the first resurrection takes place, may we
always make sure we are living the life our savior is calling us to
walk in. May we always walk in His love. The love that He said all
men would know we are His disciples. Are you walking in that love
today?

Remember, people won’t know you are His disciples because you
follow the right calendar. People won’t know you are His disciples
because you say His name right. People won’t know you are His
disciples because you can quote verses. People will know you are
His disciples because of your love.
Walk in His love today as we continually watch and pray for His
return.
Blessings & Shalom!”

Steve Moutria
EMAIL: info@torahfamily.org
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/torahfamily.org
WEBSITE: http://torahfamily.org/
SUPPORT: http://torahfamily.org/join-the-famstevily/

 

Pawls are good Pals!

Pawls usually need replacing after several years of hard use.  Buy them from Kencove Fence Supplies.

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All that is needed to replace the broken pawl with a new one are a Phillips screwdriver and a 10 mm wrench.
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This little piece of plastic will save a lot of frustration and time by effectively holding the metal catch up when unrolling polybraid.  
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With the new pawl installed, the metal catch is securely out of the way to keep it from stopping the reel from unrolling.

Shabbat Shalom!

tauna

Anti-homeschooling or Snowflake?

If the followers of Brave Writer were the start of homeschooling in America, it would have never taken hold and become the parental freedom of educational choice it is today.  Though our forebears fought for and won great victories, our hold on educational freedom is challenged on a daily basis, both personally, as well as on the local, state, and national levels.  Yet, Brave Writer takes us backwards.  Her points in this article outline such gloom and doom, self pity, and hand holding and – well – to use the modern vernacular this describes a snowflake.  This is the wrong direction for home educators.  If we are weak, we will be vanquished.

Early home educators faced criminal charges, allowing and promoting truancy, no curriculum, public shame, few knew of others who home schooled, and a host of legal challenges- they were just out there on their own.  But those parents were certain of their goals for their children and families which bolstered their enthusiasm and commitment to freedom.

Below is a link to an old HSLDA article outlining the history of home schooling in the United States.

Publication Date: 

I. Introduction

Twenty years ago, home education was treated as a crime in almost every state. Today, it is legal all across America, despite strong and continued opposition from many within the educational establishment. How did this happen? This paper traces the legal and sociological history of the modern home school movement, and then suggests factors that led to this movement’s remarkable success.

II. Why Home Schooling Should Have Failed

Today’s generation apparently is lonely, whatever that means.  As a parent/teacher there is so much to learn, teach, share, read, discover, explore, people to meet, places to see, community involvement, youth groups – how could anyone ever be lonely.  Many of us of a certain age, decided to home school to get away from groups, structure, group think, group activities – we had our own family goals and agendas – we didn’t need the approval of anyone nor fear we’d have no friends.  And fear of fitting in?!  For goodness sake, that’s why we home schooled in the first place – we blazed our own path.  But, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be part of a group, but don’t complain if you don’t ‘fit in’ – just move on – it’s not a personal thing.

None of this to say we kept ourselves secluded – far and away, most homes schoolers are involved in a myriad of high profile community, educational, and self growth activities and have earned the respect of their elders.

The more i thought about Brave Writer’s article the more convinced i became that it needed to be challenged and to question her intentions.  Is she a wolf in sheep’s clothing – acting in support of home education, all the while tearing out the foundation?    This article very much sounds like it.  Or one using the foibles of social media to create a downward sucking whirlpool of commiserate negativity  fostering feelings of helplessness so she can sell you some answer?   Anti-home schoolers will thrill to add this gloom and doom piece to their arsenal – for indeed, all that ‘loneliness’ and insecurity will surely harm the children.

To finish my rant, two things: one is that i really don’t think this has anything to do with loneliness and secondly this article does not reflect the ideology of myself and many other parents, who, with wisdom and covenantal commitment, chose to home educate their own children.

Here’s Brave Writer’s article as posted on her Facebook page.

Tonight’s thoughts.

Homeschooling is lonely.

Lonely thoughts: am I doing it right? Doing enough? What if I fail?

Lonely days: you and your kids slogging through, no one entering your house to give you relief, no one else planning a lesson or setting up the art project or supervising PE while you take a break in the teacher’s lounge.

Lonely outings: a field trip of 5—you and your three kids—in a sea of school children and teachers, or alternatively, the only person with kids in tow while people wonder what they’re doing “out of school.”

Lonely self: wanting friends, not sure who will be your friend, wondering how to find them, make them, keep them, coordinate with them, manage the interactions between your kids and theirs, how to fit in when you don’t have the same philosophy or religion or educating style.

It’s a creeping need—at first, the joy of choosing to spend all day every day with your kids is rewarding, fulfilling, and need-meeting. Over time, the craving for adult contact and affirmation becomes profound, powerful, necessary.

The Internet helps—online conversations can tie us together and give us a place to gather—our own water cooler.

Co-ops help—offering a place for parents to chat while kids get instruction you didn’t have to prepare.

Yet it’s more than that.

Underneath the loneliness is this: a craving to be understood, to be accepted.

Can we say our truths, our worries, our different opinions and still be accepted and known by the other homeschoolers? Can we share about our philosophy of education without it raising suspicion or creating rifts?

And what if you are not in the majority homeschooling community? What if you come from a different faith or no faith? How do you find friends then?

The hardest part of homeschooling for me was the feeling that I had to *qualify* to be a member of a given group. The rejection, scrutiny, and exclusion I’ve experienced while homeschooling was excruciating and not unique to me. I know homeschoolers who gave up home education because they literally had no options for community involvement.

If homeschooling is going to thrive, it has to expand and include.

If you are a human being, your beliefs will shift over a lifetime. It’s impossible to guarantee that what you believe is true now will remain in the same configuration for the rest of your life. If you home educate, you are examining those beliefs daily (because you are studying, reading, and discussing ideas all day every day).

When we form groups around beliefs, we teach people to pretend. We say that you must deny the part of yourself that is curious or disturbed or doubts in order to retain membership in the community. That kind of group fosters vigilance to uphold a single perspective, where suspicion becomes a mode of operation rather than support and kindness. Suddenly the strictures of the group become more important than building supportive relationships around home education.

The best homeschool friendships weather change—create space to revise, grow, experiment, and explore—in education models, in religious affiliation, in non-religious affiliation, in various political beliefs, in parenting-styles.

The weakest friendships are built around reinforcing the party-line—and avoiding the discomfort of difference.

The greatest suffering occurs when someone fails to live up to the group’s stated beliefs and is kicked out or shunned or rejected (or is told that their family is now dangerous to others—that one hurt me the most).

We can cure loneliness in homeschool. We do it by building communities that welcome people committed to the daring adventure of bringing education to life for their children. That’s the ground floor of friendship.

Everything else? Fodder for rich conversations over brunch and mimosas at Mimi’s.

Love one another.

 

Another Hot Morning!

Today’s (June 19) chores were frustrating and exhausting – hopefully, i won’t vent too much, but instead methodically record what happened and what decisions to make based on the mishaps.  However, the first of the morning was spent walking in 3 Angus heifers to attach Estrotect patches in preparation for AI (artificial insemination) over the next weeks followed by spraying off 30 gallons of Surmount chemical mix on woody brush at my farm.  Started about 5:30 am.

This late spring I started letting my cows graze the new seeding implemented last fall.  It’s been super, super dry (until today!  already 8/10s of an inch and still gently raining), so using a back fence was not important since the grass wasn’t trying to grow back after grazing because of the heat and dry.

Nevertheless, I’ve been stripping off sections of about 2 days grazing each – no where near what could be considered mob grazing, but i’ve already decided that is a practice which simply won’t work for me.  I had already set up 2 temporary fences of polybraid of about 1/4 mile each.  Anyone who has done this realizes that that 1/4 mile of walking turns into at least a mile by the time the poly is unrolled, then walk back to get posts, then set up posts along the poly and hook the handle into a hot (electrified) lead.

When i arrived this morning, the cows had blasted through both of them!!  I was not a happy camper to say the least.  Thankfully, i had brought along another 1/4 mile roll of poly braid and I pushed the cows sort of back where they belong and i unrolled this tape.  The grass and weeds were tall, so it just sort of laid on top and looked like a fence the cows didn’t want to bother.  Testing the lead, i found that there was no electricity.  Ah ha!  all the polybraids were ‘dead’  and with baby calves running around, it didn’t take long for them to run through with mommas right behind.

But why was the fence dead?

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I know this tree doesn’t look very big in this photo, but it was about 18 inches in diameter where you see here.  But my spinning jenny was not hit and, although, the post was pushed over a bit, it was still strongly in place.

I had spent some time at that very spot repairing some wire and gate just 24 hours before.  Why did the tree not fall while i was there?  Only by the grace of God.  Not only that, but my spinning jenny  was unharmed and the end post was still in place!  Only one gate handle and the top hi-tensile wire was busted.  Easily repaired that.  Plus, the tree fell in such fashion that i didn’t even have to move it or cut it up.  (thank goodness because i didn’t have my chainsaw on this trip).  I simply repaired around it.  It will have to be removed when i have time.

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The daisy wheel wire tightener was the go-to some 20 years ago and still is for many.  There might be 2 or 3 of these left on my farm, along with a couple Hayes tighteners.  When i redesigned and built my new paddock system, i used only Gripples.  They are so easy to use, remove, splice, etc.  Nevertheless, because of the extra wire stored on this tightener, i had enough to splice the broken line with a Gripple.  I don’t carry the proper tool for Daisy wheel in my Gator, so had to pull this pin and unwind by hand, which was  a bit of challenge, but not insurmountable.

But this also is a prime illustration as to why forests, timbers, draws, need managing!  Treehuggers take me to task for removing mature and junk trees.  But without management, trees can become diseased, can’t compete for sunlight and nutrients so they can die and are a major hazard.

Anyway, back to my morning winding up.  Once all was said and done, i’d walked at least 5 miles in tall forage, scratched through dense brush, and crawled in and out of deep ditches to retrieve all my temporary fencing and posts, finishing the morning installing a new rain gauge, checking my replacement heifers, and resetting an end post.

Dragging back to the seed plant, refueling the JD Gator and using forced air spraying out the seed heads from the grill (this must be done to keep the Gator from overheating), unloading the reels of polybraid and a bunch of posts.  I forgot to take water with me and by noon (got home), i had lost 4.2 lbs.  Goodness, that is 1/2 gallon of water sweated out!

This was another reminder of why mob grazing with multiple shifts per day will not fit with my schedule and quality of lifestyle.  It’s just too stinking much work – i sold off the sheep to get away from so much exhausting work.  With tall grass (not complaining), deep ditches, long stretches of temporary fencing, dense brush, and baby calves not trained to electric braid, there are simply too many bugaboos to make this a happy time.  The mob currently has about 20 acres to relax and graze.  It is what it is – i do the best i can.

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Can’t believe i took this blurry photo and, worse, actually posting it here!  But that is a medium sized Gripple which is used on hi-tensile electric fence.  Easy on, easy off.

 

 

My Viewshed Today

Weather was nearly perfect this morning – a welcome relief from the 90 plus temps and high humidity.  May have been the most beautiful day since last November!

This is my viewshed whilst shifting cows to a new paddock.  Okay, actually they shift themselves – i really don’t do much with the cows most of the year.

Cheers!

tauna