Sunday, March 25, 2012

True Life.

Sam, who's ten, and I hung out all afternoon yesterday. It started when he appeared on the roof with a plastic bag kite he made and I climbed up to join him. When that got old with the fickle gusts of wind not giving lift to the thing, he got out his telescope and we tried to spy on the neighbours for a few minutes. At least, I did, unsuccessfully. Then he smashed old cow patties while I scouted for more, we raced to the fence, rolled down the hill, looked for poisonous beetles in the tree bark, and climbed a tree plotting where to put mattresses in the branches to sleep in it. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Milking Cows Unmasked

Did you see that 101 Dalmations movie that came out about twenty years ago, and do you remember that part where the puppies find refuge in an old barn with the cows? Or how about the story books with the golden light hitting that hay and a cute little milking maid toting her bucket and kneeling besides the happy cow?

It's. Not. Real.

Like everything else Disney and children's books produce, it's almost a complete fallacy.

The reality of milking is first that someone has to go round up the cows on a quad or motorbike and herthem to the shed. Then, you don your apron and slide between nose-dripping, pooping, peeing, terrified, slightly -wild, several hundred pound pregnant females.

"The girls" file into the two rows on either side of a middle, slightly lower, cement row that has the milking machines. They get to eat a couple kilos of cow feed while you go down the rows and hook up the hose with four cups attached to it (just google it if you can't wait for me to have fast internet to post pictures). It sounds easy right?

Well you're grossly mistaken, my friend! Who would like to have someone jam you alongside fifty other animals and then poke around your particulars and hook you up to a machine that sucks the juice out of you? It's sort of understandable that they give no regard whatsoever for whether you're standing in the line of fire when they need to go. I consider it a major win that I am learning to dodge the poop/pee spray and to listen for it coming. Also that I don't get nearly as dirty as I did the first couple of days!

You can use the high-pressure hose to clean everything once in a while but they just roll on through for two hours straight, first one row, then the other.

Glenn or Tracey clean the cups and whole system and hose out the area to get ready for the next morning's milking at 5:50AM. When we start in the afternoons, it's about 3PM and we finished around 5PM.

There's a whole machine operation aspect to milking that I'm not really involved with. I'm keen to learn but to be realistic, we all know I've had trouble with machinery in the past. The chief examples being the washing machine in France and that time a friend of mine and I tried to re-wire my car radio.

As gross as it can be, they can be almost adorable sometimes with their snotty noses and tufts of hair between their big, fuzzy ears. Seeing cows run has definitely been on my list of favourite things to see for several years and it hasn't diminished! Watching a whole herd of going on first-year calves run to catch up to the quad bike is downright delightful. I wish I could tell the wily old girls that when I smear the poop off my hands on their bums as I walk by, it's not just to clean them a bit, but a little show of affection!

Now you know.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I Was Peed On: Officially a Kiwi Girl

This morning I failed at an official test for my willingness to get up and run when my alarm went off and I saw drizzle and clouds but I did get up and get out of the miserable half hour of grogginess. 

Fact: Jesse Horning is not a morning person. It's not like I haven't given it a fair go with getting up for crew and at other times of my life, it just makes me weary and grumpy. I need at least a half an hour to have coffee or breakfast, which usually turns into an hour because i'm worthless in the morning at doing anything, to just come out of a daze.That said, I'll be up and wide awake working or bored because everyone else has fallen asleep. Facts. 

After Tracey and Glenn came in from the morning milking, Tracey made bacon and eggs. I love bacon. Not veggie bacon or turkey bacon as substitutes, just greasy, savory bacon. I'm a recovering vegetarian. Sort of. I do miss salad so I'm not a full on carnivore. Sorry, Mom. 

I finished book number two in the last two days. #1 Don't Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller about growing up in Rhodesia around independence from British rule. #2 Who Can Be Against Us?, Pam & Graeme Smith on their time as missionaries in Ethiopia, Zaire and Papua New Guinea (PNG)for World Vision. I didn't like either. I've almost concluded to no longer read anything on the NYT best seller list because 

A) I've found the American public is far to easily entertained by crappy writing (however, I'll admit, I hated the Twilight series but couldn't put them down)  
B) The books are never any good. I added "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight" to the list of best sellers I haven't liked including "The Shack", "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" and "The Life of Pi". 

What are some books I do like?
- The Practical Guide to Ridding Your Head of Lice Forever and Always (not an actual book…)
- Evasive Maneuvers for the Sweet Blooded: How to Avoid Mosquito Bites (another of my fantasy books…)

Back to daily life, after breakfast Tracey and I hopped on the quad and moved hoses and herded cows. This means Tracey drove and I competed with Bella, the Staffordshire terrier, for space and was the paddock gatekeeper. All the while avoiding the occasionally hose spurting a bit of the cow shit that gets washed out after milking and pumped into tubes to fertilize the paddocks. 

And then we ran out of gas. We walked home and even having been running every other day for a week or so, Tracey nearly put me to shame with her pace. This meant on the way back to the quad there was a few gallons of gas in front, Tracey, and me on the motorbike. My legs are pretty long- the same length as my brother's who is 6'2- and they get a real workout at the awkward angle of keeping my feet just off the ground. 

After refilling the quad, I got another crash course in using it and to my complete and utter delight got to tell Bell to hop on the back and drive it back to the house. 

Cut to going to Putaruru to drop off the motorbike to be fixed and having coffee and a freakin delicious blackberry/lemon/passionfruit crumble and my National Geographic fix, though I already read the issues last summer. 

My hair is getting long and unfortunately is practically forming cracks and breaking to bits. Too much lice shampoo use and not enough trimming is my completely uneducated diagnosis. 

New words I've learned:
Kiwi- togs/swim suit; suk/opposite of a man's man; naked (pronounced necked)/tired; sixteens/movie for 16+; ute/truck or utility vehicle
Nyanja- zikomo/thank you (I think!)
Afrikaans- kopje/hill, plateau

"I've been overseas in Canada and Scotland at university. The more I am away from the farm in Mkushi, the more I long for it. I fly home from university at least once a year, and when I step off the plane in Lusaka and that sweet, raw-onion, woodsmoke, acrid smell of Africa rushes into my face I want to weep for joy."
- p 243, Don't Lets Go to the Dog's Tonight

I think I'm eating a hawaiian pizza in sandwich form. 


In the evening…

I did run, the farthest I have in ages in fact. And when milking the cows, I was putting the cups on some udders when the cow started to pee (and when they pee, it's like a hose on half power) and I winced and then kept putting them on and Glenn said, "Now you're a Kiwi girl!" By that point, I'd been kicked and had cow shit smeared up my arms. 

For the second time today, I was delighted, though I didn't smell as nice as I did the first time. More on milking later. I'll tell  you this: it's not the hay and bucket you imagine. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

I'm Baaaaccckkkkkk!

 What has Jesse been doing for the last month- er, two months she's been AWOL from posting?

In Tanzania…
picking up children from school in full pirate garb
never hitting the gate into the agriculture college (and for the first time ever being dubbed "the best driver")
being reunited with Pamoja and everyone connected with it
being reunited with Khan's chicken and Stoney Tangawizi
getting really sick for one day

In the Dubai airport…
meeting Sam Childers at Pinkberry (the real main man behind the movie Machine Gun Preacher and book Another Man's War)

In New Zealand…
going to motocross (and seeing the 16 yr old Adam take a serious crash)
going to the hospital to visit Sam (the 10 yr old) after surgery
going on a ride to the coastal town of Tauranga on the back of my dream Harley (a red/black nightster)
going on a ride to the lake town of Taupo on the back of a Honda CVR crotch rocket…going fast 
learning to milk cows (being seriously nailed with tails/ and learning the hard way how to dodge whatever comes spewing out)
getting to drive yet again!
having begun to understand the New Zealand accent (with hopes of being able to distinguish between Kiwis and Aussies!)

Ian's around here in New Zealand somewhere and I hear from him a couple times a week. He says he's doing well. It sounds like he's had some physically and mentally tough situations to deal with but he's manned up and I think he'll come home a different guy- in the best way possible. I'm hoping he'll be over his fear of spiders and other creepy crawlies and then some. 

This may be shallow, or normal, but I would love to have some new clothes that go beyond t-shirts. I went through my closet right before I left and really downsized with a little help from my mom who took the clothes away. My entire wardrobe for the last five and a half months fits into a backpack and 70% of the clothes have been stitched up. I have a feeling I'll never need to do laundry again since at this point I only do it when I've worn every item at least three times. Somehow, I've lost of my underwear supply and have vowed to upgrade from Walmart value packs to something a little classier. When you're at the bottom, the only way to go is up. 

True story: One day in Tanzania, Tasha, the four year old previously and aptly known as "trucker princess", asked what colour underwear I had on (she'd already shared of course) and not wanting to lie I said I was going commando. Of course, that meant a little explaining and she ran home and secretly did likewise to her complete and utter delight. A few nights later, her Auntie Kim came over and explained in town that day when she was helping Tash in the bathroom she was shocked to find the girl had no chupees on and asked her what happened to them. "I'm going commanding!" Tasha replied with glee. I confessed to introducing her to it. 

I also realized I need some skills. Like cooking, you know, universal ones besides cleaning the kitchen, dishes, vacuuming and disappearing when laundry or weeding needs to be done. 

New music to love: 
Gotye, Somebody That I Used to Know video with the paint (and Walk Off the Earth's rendition on one guitar)
Lana Del Rey, Video Games
Bruno Mars' album Doo Wops & Hooligans
Pomplamoose, Bust Your Knee Caps
Sara Bareilles, Gonna Get Over You

Just a little taste of Pomplamoose;
Johnny don't leave me, you said you'd love me forever/ Honey, believe me, I'll have your heart on a platter/ 
Might you recall, we've got a small family business and the family won't like this/ 
They'll bust your knee caps, oooo wop dee doo, wop dee doo/
Johnny there's still time, together I know, we'd go so far/
I'll call Uncle Rocco, to call off the guys with their crowbars/
You call it crime, we call it smart family business…
What's not to love about all I've been doing lately?

Well, actually, I keep finding lice eggs in my hair and yesterday woke up with 25 new insect bites- all on one leg. The best places for internet reception is in a field next to cow patties, in the yard with the biting ants, and at night by the door holding the laptop with one arm above my head and typing with the other. The days of fast, free, accessible wifi (do I hear Wegmans?) seem like something I made up in my wild dreams. 

Speaking of Wegmans, yesterday Glenn asked if there was anything I missed besides my car and I realized that besides people and my dog, there isn't anything I'd miss anymore. I used to miss Wegmans but I like the challenge of making do with the local grocery. I like life with a little challenge and not having everything at one's fingertips. 

Can I tell you it sounds like there's a family tickle fight going on in the other room? I'll take living with a few guys any day over living with women. Be offended. It's the truth.

I sort of have internet in this field today with the biting ants and likely will again. More to come! Internet is too slow now for pictures but I'll try to shrink them down enough to make it work.