Saturday, October 1, 2016

September: Coffee, Ducky Duck, froglings, snakes, and working on the house

Eug's mom and brother are visiting for a month, so I expect the October update will be full of all kinds of adventures. Hopefully we'll make them feel comfortable on our farm (as compared to a high rise apartment in Seoul). For now... here are some things we were up to in September.

This month I managed to find coffee plants for the first time in Cape Town. I've gotten green beans to germinate, but they never survived. We need 15-20 mature, happy, plants to be self-sufficient in coffee, so we'll not get there any time soon. Still, it's a fun experiment. Until we have a greenhouse (shadecloth, not glass, given our climate), we're limited by what will fit in our house. So far thats 2 small Arabica trees, and one Robusta. Robusta are probably better suited to our climate, but Arabica is supposedly a lot tastier. So maybe we'll do a mix of the two. The Robusta plants are also a lot cheaper...My faithful neighbourhood nursery has 1m trees for just R30 ($2) whereas the Arabicas, at another nursery, cost R90 each for much tinier plants ($6). I'm hoping to have 8 trees by the end of the year, but don't tell Eug that I'm planning to turn our tiny house into a coffee forest.

This month we had a lot of baby frogs in our reservoir, as well as lots of new growth and .... ducklings! I'm so excited about the ducklings-- just watching them run around is quite addictive (for Hana also), though it's clear we have a lot of learning to do: 

So, onto our ducklings...
Our first batch of ducklings included eight that the mother kept, as well as one egg that she abandoned. Mommy duck just brought the egg out from her nest and dumped it near our house, where we witnessed it hatching about 36 hours before all the others. The abandoned duckling immediately imprinted on us and became a full time job, with a tiny duck following us everywhere. This is an important moment to note that we don't have dogs or cats because we're not really sure we can handle the responsibility. Eli said "you and daddy can take care of Hana, Noah and me will take care of Ducky." Eug tried various things to get our duckling adopted by another adult duck, but no luck, the duckling was certain it is human. Eug drew the line when it desperately wanted to sleep on our pillow, nuzzled into my neck. The good news was that it ate a fair number of the flies in the kitchen/living room. [What we learned: we need to make a brooder so that if we have abandoned ducks, we have somewhere to put them straightaway.]

And then when I was out with the kids and Eug was working outside with Ducky with him, the mother came and throttled the duckling. Enough to really injure her, though we were hopeful and kept her close and held her a lot. She died in the night in Noah's bed, at just one week old. There was this clear moment when s/he crossed from farm animal to something else. It was somewhere between catching flies for her and her taking baths with the kids and squeaking if she couldn't see one of us. Then she was gone and it was weird because she was just a little one-week-old duckling, whose brothers and sisters we're still planning on eating (that's a contradiction for another day). And we are really, really sad. Noah especially. He wanted her to come back, and I wanted to tell him that it would be ok, but death is not like that. All that seemed to be left was an opportunity to be changed by that week of life and by the strange ways that family grows and is shaped unexpectedly. 

Our second batch of eggs included 10 babies that hatched, plus 3 unhatched eggs. There was some confusion on the part of the ducklings about where they belonged, which almost led to some duckling murders by first-time-mothers who didn't want to end up with ducklings that weren't theirs. For now, it seems ok. We hope.

The third batch included 17 eggs! They'll hatch out in a couple of weeks. We are ultimately going to eat these ducks as our primary source of meat, fully aware of the gravity and pain of doing so, and also fairly convicted that its appropriate. It's definitely easier to buy meat at the shops!

Protests for free education
In other news: Like last year, there are student protests (joined by some faculty) at UCT over fees and the call for free education. Like last year, I did not physically join in as I do not know how or when. For what it's worth, I stand beside the protestors in spirit and agree that there are many kinds of violence; that it is violence to be born poor in South Africa, and that there is absolutely nothing romantic or simple about it. And yet. Possibility and potential shouldn't be defined or reliant on government decisions, by state education. It is and so I stand beside the protestors in spirit, even as I wonder how to restore the centrality of farming...and generally learning to take care of a lot of menial tasks ourselves... convinced that rural life is legitimate and potentially wonderful.  

We've lived on our smallholding a year now and we're not doing a good job yet of sharing with others. Mainly, living next to a township is overwhelming-- in a way that it may not be for someone who isn't from this country-- where my privilege seems to swell directly from the experiences of my neighbours. Farming is really hard, and it would be a whole lot harder if we were depending on it for our livelihood. But it's also a way of gradually opting out of a lot of exploitative industries, and embracing the fact that life is always hard, always hard work, (perhaps always complicated). The bit that changes is the nature of the hard work. I don't have a good plan except to try to give away more, and to figure out how to do well with less, and pray/be open for insights and ideas as the days go by. 

Here are some pictures from the month!

Firstly, a memory of a duck who thought he was human:

Ducky ducks favourite place to sit. (You can also see the seating that Eug built this month, also in preparation for visitors from Korea)

homeschooling with guinea pig in drawer.

snake attacks bug.
tiny tadpole-frog
praying mantis lays eggs in car seat... mmmm....
Eug and Hana prep bathroom for his family visiting from Korea
Eggeater snake stealing eggs. You should see how big its mouth has to get to swallow one.
8 baby ducks having their first swim. The black one on the right was drowned by another female yesterday (also at one week of age), so now we're keeping the ducklings with their mom in a small A frame coop.
Mommy duck. Instincts are horrible and awesome.
Random stuff:
If you want to read about food, check out the weekly roundup of the Society of Food Anthropology, where I alternate with David Beriss on sharing food stories from around the web.

Lastly, if you're in South Africa and want to save seeds, check out this seed savers activist guide! Write to me if you live nearby and would like to save and exchange seeds!

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