Saturday, September 20, 2014

Things are busy here on the farm. Strawberry harvest has created more jobs for more caretakers at Lifesong school. Vulnerable children, widows, families and orphans are being provided for because of  your support. Thank you for partnering with us.

Sometimes we forgot that people may not know just what exactly we are doing here on the other side of the world in sub-Saharan Africa. Larissa and I were talking about her friends the other day and she was wondering if they remembered her or wondered what she was doing. So, she decided to take a quick walk around the farm with me and grab some pics so we could share with you.

Our family lives right on the farm now. While I wash dishes, I look out on the gooseberry fields. When Erik works at his desk he can see across to our orange grove. Upon stepping out the door, you can see more gooseberries, raspberries, and just a glimpse of the blackberries. As you continue to walk out of our yard, you will arrive at the entrance to the processing building. Inside these walls, berries are checked for quality, weighed, labeled and stored in our walk-in cooler until delivery. Also, berries are processed washed, decapped, and made into puree for jam. Jam is cooked and bottled. Honey is bottled. Whole berries are frozen and packaged. Green beans are weighed and packaged. Jobs are received. Hard-earned wages are given. Delivery vans are loaded...sometimes before the day even begins to dawn. Market ladies come with their babies tied to their backs with chitenges to buy berries to sell on the streets of Kitwe. Hands are busy. Feet and backs get achy from standing so long. Laughter is shared. Meetings are held. The love of Jesus is shown. 

As we stroll on past the processing building we pass the raspberries and gooseberries. The raspberries are still looking rough. It's a trial crop here and so far they aren't big fans of Zambia. To our right are the blackberries, and they are looking good.

They are just beginning to blossom. (I think I need a new phone just doesn't take the highest of quality pictures. Thanks for your patience.) Hopefully, blackberry harvest will begin Decemberish. As we continue on around the farm we come up on our Chilean blueberry patch. These don't look great but they are trying. Another trial crop. They are currently full of unripe fruit but the actual plants aren't very bushy yet. We will see.

As we circle around what we call Plot 1, we go past more blackberries and gooseberries. Along our front drive, lemongrass plants are growing. A Peruvian woman told me last week that in Peru they make tea with lemongrass. It intrigued me and it is on my list to do more research into fresh lemongrass uses. (other than chewing on it of course)
I am guessing I need to get to the inner stalks for the best flavor. But somehow I don't think Erik will appreciate me destroying the landscaping. But maybe...I can have it packaged and sell it?? 

In the above picture you can see across the road to Plot 2. Behind the Lifesong teacher housing are more crops. On this side you will find: orange trees, peach trees (another trial), more raspberry trials, greenbeans (as a rotation crop), and over 20,000 strawberry plants. 

The peach trees are just coming out of their "winter funk". It has been fun to watch as each of them have been breaking dormancy at different times. When we arrived, these were so small and now most of them are over Erik's head.

Of course, the strawberries are the main attraction here at Lifesong Farms. They are doing quite well. We continue to search for new customers and new marketing opportunites to sell berries that are coming so quickly.

The orange trees look great. They are grafted on to lemon stock which is much hardier. Our kids find it quite amazing that if you cut off the trunk of the orange tree a lemon tree will grow back. Here's hoping they will take our word for it. I can just imagine them now setting up an experiment for this one.

That's a quick walk around the farm. We would love to share it with you in person. Let us know when you are coming to this side of the ocean! ;)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Remember when...

Today marks a monumental day for our family. One year ago today we loaded everything up in a giant van and took off for Zambia. This morning I said to Erik, "hey honey, remember this?" And then I showed him these pictures.

By the end of our walk down memory lane, we both were a little teary-eyed and choked up. The emotions we felt on that day were so strong and overwhelming! Having a year of firsts behind us is a relief. It is always difficult to begin new traditions without thinking of where you were the year before and not feeling slightly melancholy. 

We spent some time this week reviewing where we were one year ago. We had saved a list of all the things we had said goodbye to and that we knew we would miss. (categories being...places, places at our house, things, friends and family) We then made lists of all the things we had said hello to in a year's time in the same categories. Again, it was disheartening to see how small the "hello" lists were in comparison to the "goodbye" lists but also encouraging when we remembered how many years it had taken us to form attachments with all the items on our "goodbye" lists. We know the hello lists will continue to grow as we continue to sink roots into our new place. 

Thanks to all of you for your strong love and support for our family during our first year. And thanks most of all to our Father for His faithfulness.

This post is short and sweet due to our awesome visitors! We are having a blast with Erik's sisters, Julie and Christy and Erik's niece Ashlyn. We are carting them all over the place to give them a truly Zambian experience. You can check out Christy and Julia's facebook pages to see their pics. Jule and Ash fly out this Monday, but Christy will be with us for the entire month. She has been driving occassionaly but big brother Erik doesn't quite trust her in town yet...we shall see :)

Love to all of you,

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Farm Friday

One morning last month I saw something I hadn't seen in awhile. It's been over a year and I kind of missed seeing it. What was this marvelous sight you ask? My breath. With the succession of chilly mornings here it's becoming a more common sight. I mean we are in the midst of an African winter here ya know! Even though the mornings start out cool, once the sun comes up, it gets hot in a hurry! But as soon as the sun drops again, it is cold! Our family is currently engaging in an ongoing debate over whether we should break down and buy a heater or not. The discussion continues.

The new field is on the brink of full scale production.
Harvest is just in the very beginning stages. The amount of berries gathered by the ladies will slowly increase until we are in full production again August through November. This will be our family's second Zambian harvest season.
First fruits gathered from the new farm. may be wondering...just what exactly do you do as you wait for the berries to start producing heavily? Well here it is for you, off berry season in pictures.

We build berry barns. And get to know someone new, our summer intern Jonathan Pelsey! Thanks Jon for all your help. We are blessed to have you with us for a couple months. These small booths will be set up different places in town for our farm berries to be sold.
Meet Cowboy. (sorry for the bad pic) Erik has introduced Gift to the old time cowboy of the Wild West. The stories have captured his imagination and he showed up for work one day with this hat. A new nickname was born. Here Cowboy puts up shade netting for gooseberries. 

Trellis blackberries. And irrigate, irrigate, irrigate because it's dry season again.

Plant new gooseberry fields.

Study human anatomy. Make cool snacks that reflect what you are studying.

Catch frogs in the orange orchard. Lots of frogs, like 30 or so. In 1 hour.

Build a toolshed

Decide to raise pigs in the backyard. I knew Erik wouldn't be able to live much longer without raising some sort of animal in the backyard.

Have a berry consultant visit the farm and scout your fields. Thanks to Brian Windsor (from South Africa) for his time and expertise to our Lifesong family.

Taste the berries that are coming on quicker and heavier daily!

Fish in the reservoir. Check to see if the tilapia we added have gotten any bigger.

Laugh like crazy when you go in to town and see trucks loaded with chickens drive over speed bumps and potholes.

Learn a new language.

Gain valuable cultural experience. Smile while doing so. Larissa told me she has been dying to carry home a chicken in a plastic sack since we moved to Zambia. The farm ladies told me today that I wasn't a good wife unless I could kill a chicken in 5 minutes without it making a sound. (too bad for Erik, huh?)

Cover up tight in the cold winter mornings of Zambia

Try to keep cool in the hot winter afternoons of Zambia.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Riss's report on malaria

Today we have a special guest blogger, child number 4, otherwise known as Larissa.

Hi everyone. I just turned 8 on May 17th. On my birthday, I drove the Kubota, went swimming in the reservoir (which we now have fish in!!), had a yummy supper and a cool butterfly cake that mom made. I shared it with dad because his birthday is only 2 days after mine. The very best part of my birthday was that Grandpa and Grandma were here. 

The day after my birthday, mom started to feel bad. She went to bed. I was feeling a little bad but not much. I had a tiny fever so I laid in bed with mom for awhile.  We were supposed to leave for Victoria Falls the next day. When we woke up, we ate breakfast. We played outside for a little bit and then loaded up. Mom was feeling pretty bad and slept right up until we left and then climbed in the van. I felt ok. We had a 6 hour drive to Lusaka. On the way, I started feeling really bad. I had a tummy ache, headache, and just didn’t feel right. When we got to Lusaka, mom and I climbed into our hotel bed. Daddy was starting to get scared. We both had high fevers.  Mom’s was around 103 but mine was 104. He decided to find a hospital and take us there.  I really don’t remember much, but when we got to the hospital, we went into the waiting room. It seemed like an hour but maybe it was only 20 minutes. I felt really bad now, kind of like I might be dying. Finally they took mom into a room. Then we waited a little longer and then they took me and dad into a small room. They took my temperature and then they weighed me. We had to wait in the hallway then. A lady called us and we went into another room. There they asked me what was going on with my body. I told them about how I was feeling. She made me lay on a bed. She checked my heartbeat. Then I had to go to another room. There was still just one nurse helping me D addy sat down on a chair beside my bed. The nurse came up and dad told me about what an IV was. I didn’t know what it was before. When he explained it, I knew what it was and I started to get scared. The nurse told me it wouldn’t hurt for too long. First, she tied a glove around my arm to make my veins stick out. She stuck the needle in my vein on my wrist real quick, it didn’t hurt for too long. A short time later, one of the doctors who was a lady went coo coo! I think she was mad about my IV or something. She came stomping in and she asked if my IV was in already. Dad said yes. She got all bent out of shape and went running out of the room. A short while later she was stomping down the hallway yelling out words in a different language. Maybe Hindi or something. Awhile later, it was time for supper but I didn’t feel like eating. The nurse found me a room upstairs. They wouldn’t let me leave because my IV was hooked up and because I had too many malaria parasites in my blood. Dad kept trying to get them to let me leave, but they refused. We finally settled on me staying overnight. I was so scared and didn’t want to. I kept crying whenever Dad talked to me about it.

Finally mom came and climbed in bed with me. She spent the night at the hospital with me in the same bed. It was a bad night. I don’t really want to tell you what all happened because its kind of gross. But they gave me medicine through my IV all night. They would just barge in to my room and turn on the light in the middle of the night. In the morning, we got out of there, but mom and I still had to receive injections through our IV ports. We wanted to get to Victoria Falls! We went back to the hotel. We got all our stuff together and climbed back in the van. My port started to feel really bad. I think I ate some crackers that day but that’s about all.
Mom and I with our ports

When we arrived in Livingstone, we checked in. Dad was talking to the guy and he asked if there was a clinic or hospital nearby. The man told us they had a nurse there! At the hotel! We went into our room. I laid in bed. The nurse came to our room and looked at our medicine. She said she could take care of it so we followed her to her clinic. But bad news, my port was blocked because my blood had dried up inside of it. I didn’t drink enough water and I got dehydrated. Bad news again. She had to stick a needle in my hand for a new IV port. She put the medicine in. It stings when she does that! We went back to our room and went to bed. The next day we had to see the nurse again and she gave us more medicine through our IVs. We had to do that for 3 days. I think. It felt good to get the port off, but it was still a little sore. Mom told me about kids who have cancer and other diseases who have to have ports too.

While we were in Livingstone, we heard that a little boy at Lifesong school died from malaria. I felt so scared. I wondered if I would die too. But mom told me, that I was getting medicine for it and I would be okay. It made me sad that he didn’t get medicine quickly too.

When we came back to our house, I was all better.

And actually, I got malaria again just last week.  But it wasn’t as bad this time. It still isn’t fun. And mom gets scared when my fever is 104.6. But we have medicine and I am better and thankful.

Mom looked up these malaria facts online.

Every minute, a child dies from malaria
Malaria is a serious (sometimes fatal) disease that is spread by mosquitoes who have been infected by a parasite. The disease is spread when mosquitoes feed on humans.
Malaria exists in 109 countries around the world, making 3.3. billion people (half of the world population) susceptible to the disease.
About 90 percent of malaria-related deaths occur south of the Sahara in Africa. The majority of these are children under the age of 5.
Common side effects of malaria are high fever, chills, headache, and other flu-like symptoms. Severe illness and death can normally be avoided if the disease is properly treated.
In 2010, 216 million clinical cases of malaria were recorded worldwide. 655,000 cases were fatal; 86 percent of those were children.

Thanks for reading what I had to say about malaria. Sometimes its weird to think that I have had malaria when I know I can die from it. My mom feels guilty sometimes because we can get medicine so quickly. But the good news is that we have a cool Nurse at Lifesong School. Her name is Christabel and she has lots of malaria meds. She even has malaria tests that she does for the kids who she thinks have it. Dad says she is a huge blessing to have here and we are so thankful for her help.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Botswana Safari

I can see I am really bad at following through on posting when I say I am going to. Good thing Dad sent me a hint over Whatsapp today ;) Somehow...time just slips away. Please know that despite our silence we think of many of you often and our hearts overflow with thankfulness. Whether its by your example, kindness generosity, expertise, emails, or prayers, our lives our made richer by the blessing of your life. 

Below is a blitz of nature photos from our safari with Dad and Mom in May. (What?? an entire month has gone by??)  We spent the first part of our safari in a boat exploring the river. Jonas is helping me remember what we saw that day. Hippos, elephants, nile monitors, crocs, really cool birds (like bee eaters, African fish eagles)

crocs sun themselves on the shore

Elephants wading through the water and grazing on the water grasses

Cape Buffalo with a cattle egret passenger

hippos at a distance

Savannah kept saying, "oh I wish an elephant would just swim right in front of the boat! That would be so cool!" She got her wish. :)
 At this point, we disembarked from the boat and enjoyed a buffet lunch at a nearby lodge along the riverfront. After dessert, we headed to Chobe National Park to take a driving safari through the park.
elephant leaving the river

I wish you could tell how close we are in these! They were right in front of us!

I am kind of in love with this tree...

So that's how they do it with those looong necks! 
The lions were chilling in the shade while a baby elephant they had killed was waiting for them to feast on in the sun. 
One of the highlights was being able to watch a leopard stalking some impala. It was incredible. She was unsuccessful but watching the drama play out was exciting. Viewing her as she stalked was amazing. Lots of times we would lose track of her even in the spare grass until she would make another slight movement, creeping ever closer.

 Sometimes the mother in me gets really down when I think about all that our kids are missing out on the States. No piano lessons, organized sports, vacation Bible schools, dance lessons, etc. But then I realize they are being provided with other incredible experiences and I am thankful. This is one of those times.

While we were in Livingstone, we received word that one of our Lifesong School students had died from malaria. He was being cared for by one of our farm ladies. During the month of May, there was a huge outbreak of malaria. Malaria is always a big deal, but this May was worse than usual. Daily, funeral trucks would drive by our house packed full of Zambians singing on their way to the cemetery just down the road from our house. It always haunts me a little to hear the funeral processions go by. I wonder how old the person may have been, what sickness did they have, were they able to afford medical care at all...And most haunting..did they know the entire plan of Salvation? Do the people attending have hope? Do they understand and remember that there is more to come?

Please continue to pray as our family and team work alongside the beautiful people here.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Grandparents and Vic Falls

Why is it that something you anticipate for so long comes and its awesome and then afterward you realize the time went by so quickly you're not sure it even happened?
70+ paper chain links ago, we started the countdown till Grandpa and Grandma arrived. On the way to the airport, the kids were giddy and excited although somewhat fearful that the flight would be delayed or worse yet...they might be stranded in Ethiopia (which is what happened to our last visitors). As the arrival time drew near, 4 little heads kept constantly poking into the secure area to check for "muzungus". The girls faces lit up as they caught their first glimpse of Grandma clearing security. They ran back to us breathless to report. How good it was to give Dad and Mom big hugs! And then...time went in to warp speed. 15 short days later...we returned from the airport in a silent car with occassional sniffles. And again, we were able to have those types of discussions that draw us closer to each other and closer to Him and Home.
But those 15 days were a blast! Despite the run in that Larissa and I had with malaria. (another post, another time!)
Half of our time was spent traveling to Livingstone, Zambia. We were able to explore Victoria Falls at its highest volume of the year. Going on safari in Chobe National Park in Botswana was also a long awaited experience.
Erik says less words...more pictures...
This is just the very edge of the falls from the Zambian side

The amount of mist was incredible. As we got closer to the falls it was like a torrential rain! We were absolutely soaked!

I must add some words because pictures can't do it justice! The falls are over a mile wide. At the Zambezi River's highest point, 197,000,000 gallons of water per minute are cascading on average 328 feet over the edge. I know you can't even fathom that, but it is A LOT of water! The sheer power of the water is astounding. The roar can be heard from a long distance away. While standing near the falls, not only is the water cascading down, but it is blasting up from below as well because of the sheer force of that volume of water. Of course we couldn't fully appreciate all this awesomeness standing next to it so Grandpa insisted we see it from the air! Yep, you got it, we took a helicopter ride!
ummmm....they forgot to mention they would be leaving the doors open the ENTIRE time. Not gonna was a little freaky. Mom was clinging to her seat the whole time :)

During the entire flight, rainbows were dancing over the falls
We stayed at a great lodge that was within Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park. Mosi-Oa-Tunya means the smoke that thunders in the local language, refering to the Falls. There was plenty of wildlife just where we were staying. We were told to be sure that our sliding doors stayed closed at all times because of the monkeys. One morning, Jonas and Claire watched as a monkey got in someone's balcony sliding door. They ran over to watch. The monkey came out with what he thought was a sugar packet...It was actually coffee. He dumped it out...right on to Claire's head!
Just hanging out at our hotel...WITH SOME ZEBRAS!

We were a five minute walk from the falls. This rainbow over the falls greeted us the day we arrived

I will never get over how weird it is to have to stop your van to let giraffes pass by. When they go by your window all you see is their knees. Weird.

These things are almost creepy.
We were so blessed to be able to experience these beautiful sights. We wished we could have experienced it with all our friends and family,

The kids and I will try to post more pictures later this week.
Blessings to you and yours.