Maureen Atsali

pollinator
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since Feb 06, 2015
Western Kenya
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Recent posts by Maureen Atsali

If you know a hen is laying, and you confine her you can observe her becoming really agitated when she wants to lay.  Pacing the fence, looking for an escape.  Let her out at that point she will generally make a beeline straight to her nest...and you can follow at a distance to find the spot.
9 months ago
Hi Everyone,
I'm in Vermont, which seems more like "the great white north" than Eastern USA.  I hope I'm in the right forum.  I spent the last 8 years in Africa. This will be my first year back in Vermont.  I'm feeling kind of bleak as I face the long, dark winter.  What do you do during the winter?

Maureen
10 months ago
Where I live, especially during the rainy season, certain parts of the farm produce so much biomass.  I'll see if I can put a recent picture here.  The locals slash it down, pile it up, and burn it, or leave the pile to rot in place.  And yet the tropical soils here are STARVING.  In many places the top soil is gone and farmers are trying to grow into a gravely, lifeless subsoil.  It's a lot of work, but my method is to slash it down with a machete, chop it into a size I can handle (about 2 ft) and then spread it everywhere.  Around trees, between rows in annuals and around perennials.  When we get rains here they are torrential, so having the mulch in big pieces helps keep them from washing away.  They help some with weed suppressing.  Weeds will sprout in and on the mulch, but they are easy to yank out on a walk through, and are often beneficial type weeds like blackjack, which all the livestock, especially the rabbits love.  Also some of the chopped mulch doesn't die, it will try to re-root.  Again just keeping vigilant and yanking up the piece if you see it starting to sprout leaves.  The soil is so hungry that it will eat through 6 inches of compost in one 4 month season.  You will find nothing but a few of the fattest sticks left.  So for me, it's part of a never ending cycle of controlling the bio-mass, and feeding/rebuilding the soil.
1 year ago
That's it R Jay.  I am thankful that I was able to learn as much as I did when I lived in the village, and now my kids and I enjoy a wide variety of healthful, easy to grow food.  Can't force anything on any one.  At least people aren't as likely to steal my indigenous goodies and even the chickens aren't so thrilled with them 😁. But I keep hoping it will catch on. (With people, not the chickens.)
1 year ago
I learned about indigenous African foods only when all of my american imports failed to grow.  All of my squash succumbed to mildew and insects, but I noticed that my elderly neighbor had indigenoud mystery squash growing abundantly on her fence.  I had to mine those seeds and that knowledge from the elders in the village.  Changing over to indigenous food crops transformed the farm into a productive successful project.  There are still half a dozen things I dont have an English name for.  Some studies done in Nairobi a few years ago showed that only 17% of urban Kenyans ate indigenous greens, and the main reasons were availability and not knowing how to prepare them.  (And of that 17% the most common greens eaten were cowpeas and pumpkin leaves, not much variety there.). In my experience in rural areas it has been more than lack of knowledge but a strong prejudice against those foods which are regarded as poverty foods or "old peoples food.".  They are insulted if you serve it to them.  I had an american friend who was staying with a Kenyan man, and I offered to bring her " omurere" (Jews mallow) to try.  Her man friend turned to my husband and said (in Luhya, not knowing I understood.) "I dont want that sh*t in my house.". And that man friend was overweight and suffered from bleeding ulcers thanks to his rich, western diet.  

I have no idea how to overcome that mind set.  Just this week I had to chase a local lady out of my garden who thought she was doing me a favor by "weeding" out all of the amaranth between the rows.  She was incredulous that I had scattered that seed there on purpose.  And this was a poor lady in her sixties who surely knew that "mchicha" was a nutritious veggie.  She also didn't like my system of growing between the rows. She complained that it was messy and unsightly.  She is planting collards on her side, with fertilizers and insecticides.
1 year ago
"Tend to the part of the garden you can reach.". Its good to be sensitive to the fact that there are starving children in Yemen, but that's out of reach for most of us.  Instead of philosophical discussion about " world hunger" I would love to see permies all over the world addressing local hunger in their corner of the world garden...
1 year ago
Sometimes its hard to read these posts.  I live in the third world, and let me assure you that any time there is instability, people do NOT run to help each other here.  It takes very little to break civilization when you are already on edge.  And people DO immediately default into rioting, looting and murder here.

Also let me say that people are already suffering in many parts of the world, right now.  I do home care visits, and was out the day before yesterday to see a woman with spinal TB who lives in a 10x10 mud room in a squatters slum behind a cemetery.  She shares that house with about 8 kids and grandkids.  The only food she had were a few packages of enriched porridge flour given out by the government at the TB clinic, but she had no way to cook it.   She used to earn money washing laundry for others, but now her spine has collapsed and she is barely mobile.  She has no money to buy food or charcoal or firewood, or water.  She was burning her plastic jerricans to cook, but eventually ran out of plastic too.  Pictures from Friday, not 1933.
1 year ago
That sounds like a fantastic project, I love it.  I wouldn't have survived without art as a child.
1 year ago
art
Haha Dale. You crack me up.  Note I mentioned in my original post that the Masai have gone to the standard western diet.  I went to the city park yesterday in Kakamega.  While relaxing 5 masai men came and sat in a semi-circle about 5 feet away from me, aparently fascinated by my daughter.  They were all close to six foot, but yes rather scrawny.  How many generations of eating sh*t does it take to ruin your genetic heritage?

Given you were at a tourist sight, i would question if your entertainers were really Masai or just some random actors?  The few Masai I know here come for work and usually work as security guards...or sell beaded sandals while they walk around in shoes made from recycled tires.  And they eat ugali like everyone else.

Luo's eat a lot of fish, so perhaps that explains their robustness.  Although my first friend in Kenya was a 6 foot 1 inch Luo man who was so skinny you could practically see through him.  Lots of variation I guess.

And as long as I am posting i should add that day 1 of carivory has been rough.   I went into the slums to do a home visit, and I almost fainted... Which would have been really bad because there was no vehicular access to this particular squatters slum.  I'm not really sure the cause.  They were cooking over charcoal indoors in a tiny mud room with no windows, and it was like an oven in there... So carbon monoxide? Or hypoglycemia? Or anemia on my part?  I had an orange in my back pack and I sucked that down to make sure I could get out of there on my own two feet.  I made it home, but I still feel tired and weak.  Impending malaria is also a possibility.  So i ate an orange.  I dont intend to eat anything else non-animal today.  But oh well, try again tomorrow.
1 year ago