Dallas and I stayed at awesome accommodation during our stay in Kenya. Located some two hour drive from Narok proper, House in the Wild offers private and serene accommodation with first class service and meals. Our small group of six had the whole place to ourselves (it was booked that way), though it can accommodate up to 12, and within hours, we were like family – arriving from Denmark, Australia, and the United States. Safari tours can be easily booked through this venue with Moses and Boston as premium guides and story tellers. Our hosts, Tarquin and Lippa Wood came in for a couple visits to make sure our stay was perfect.
House in the Wild is located on Naretoi, the 1000 acre private estate within the Enonkishu Conservancy wildlife sanctuary on the edge of the Maasai Mara. All the houses are situated with gorgeous views of the Mara River from the porch or just a few steps away.
As followers of my blog realise, I struggle mightily each late August through September with ragweed allergies. It’s been so since my middle child turned one year old in 1994. Oddly, of the three children, he is the only one who also suffers badly from same allergy. I’ve discovered this year that our home raised grassfinished beef broth either drank alone or with finely chopped onions and a pinch of powdered garlic really hits the spot.
Though the main reason for Dallas and my visit to Kenya was to learn about the new Savory Hub at Enonkishu Conservancy, we also had the opportunity to go on several game drives. Now, don’t confuse a western thought of game drive being like a cattle drive. Our purpose was not to move stock or wildlife, but to discover them and enjoy them in their natural habitats. So, you might say, ‘well, i’ve seen hippos, giraffes, elephants, cheetahs, lions, and such in a zoo.’ Sure, many of us have, but it surprised me at the excitement and joy of seeing wild animals in their natural homes just doing what they do. Living, killing, eating, raising young…. No one feeding or watering them and piles of poop and drainage on a concrete pen. Our guides, Moses and Boston, are expert at knowing where to find the animals by observing the tracks, habitat, and behaviors of other animals. As a matter of interest, guides are required to complete many hours of training and testing, including how to drive safari vehicles in some rugged country.
Our stay in mid July was simply stunning with temps in the mid to upper 60s during the days and mid to upper 50s at night. On the Masai Mara National Reserve we were so thrilled to see the start of the wildebeest (which includes zebras, antelope, and other wildlife) migration from the Serengeti. Clear skies provided excellent stargazing opportunities, including the Southern Cross!
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:
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!
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.
Across our expansive lawn, Dallas relaxes on one of the swinging beds overlooking the Mara River, which was often visited by trumpeting hippos!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.