Farmer’s Boy

Stevia, Crop, Plant, Seedling.
Some farming went down today.
Nursery 70% Write Off
When it goes to the stuff I have tried ever since I could do agricultural stuff, it would seem somewhat a lie at my age. But for a farmers son, what do you expect?  For plants, I have done Maize, Beans, Passion Fruits, Bananas, Carrots, Coriander, Onions, and recently Sugar cane. For Livestock, Rabbits like every other boy, I tried rearing a bull but somewhere along the way negligence saw safari ants bring down the poor yearling bull. Chicken have done me a great deal of good & I still do it, though on a partnership basis. I have taken a liking to sweet stuff of late, due to the fact that it is basically irresistible. Stevia is the next big thing. The back link will lead you to all about Stevia somewhere within this blog. That is if you are interested.
Watering The Nursery After Replanting
Stevia Seedling/ Unpinched
Stevia in brief is a natural sweetener. It’s sweeter than the sugar we know. So sweet that when it leaves the tongue, you get some kind of bitter sensation. It’s natural in that it does not have the negative health effects that are associated with the normal sweeteners. In fact this one reduces and treats or suppresses them. Diabetes for example. It has lesser calories also. Environmentally, you get to earn carbon credits if you have a sizeable parcel on which you grow the plant. By now you are getting the drift. Emerging trends, Cash.


Graceful Stevia


Transplanting 1
Manure Application
Again we are doing Stevia as a group. Kirinyaga Youth Entrepreneurs. All about it is found here.  We are in the 2nd month of the project. The job to be done today was pinching & transplanting. In farming, everything is tiresome. Nobody will sooth you to this. Its either you work as hard as the ground & whatever is on it requires or you won’t get the result you expect. Pinching as the name suggests is pinching the top shoots 4 to 8 leaves and planting them on another part of the nursery to develop roots and more shoots. This makes it a cycle which makes the plant very economical since you will never need to buy seedlings ever again. Unless if you get a 100% casualty, which is very rare. Transplanting is basically removing the mature plants, (Pinched at an earlier date) and planting them onto the farm. Being the first time, we had a test patch for the first lot; we will be planting them in lots. This is good also to ensure consistent produce & thus consistent income & reduction of losses incase of unexpected casualty.
Digging The Holes
The pinched shoots are replanted on another section of the nursery in small holes of about 5mm in diameter. We used a stick and pocked holes into the wet nursery/seed bed. This took about an hour. This was actually done the previous evening around 5pm when the sun was almost to the horizon. This is obviously to prevent them from dying via withering (In the evening the leaves lose lesser water than they absorb, in contrast to the much they would have lost during the day, considering they haven’t developed roots.) Transplanting & watering is done either early in the morning or evening. But in the case of these shoots, transplanting of the shoots is best done in the evening & so we did.
The Mature* Manure
Emerging trends has also seen new trends in farm & soil management. Stevia is a weed by nature, kindanative to the subtropical and tropical regions of western North America to South America. So we did not do much in terms of digging the part. We just “scratched” the top layer, and then dug furrows 1 foot from each other. Next we dug holes of the size of the hand. These holes were then filled with goat manure that had stayed for quite some while. The mature kind that is white in color. The kind that if you don’t mix properly with soil, will get your crop burned at the bottom. Its actually warm to the feel. 
This is not an easy process. Try scratching a patch with a jembe on the day after a good rain.
Transplanting 2
Next the transplanting was done. For the sake of continuity and ensuring 0% casualty, we did these three things concurrently. Being two ‘farmers’, one dug the furrows while the other dug the holes. That is for the initial two lines. From here I put the manure in the holes. One bucket went to two lines. The manure was the measure of a loaded palm. I was doing this while my pal was getting the mature plants from the nursery. It wasn’t easy since they had to come with some bit of soil from that nursery. I then picked these and placed them in their respective holes and replanted them. The process then took a slight twist & while my pal got the plants, I dug the holes. While he made the furrows, I got and applied the manure. We did this in a cycle, from the patch, to the nursery & to the manure hill. The last of the jobs on the patch was watering it since by then the sun was somehow hot. It’s a general requirement in agriculture that when you transplant any sort of plant, for a higher chance of survival it is advisable to water it before & immediately after transplanting.  There was still plenty of cloud cover though. It was a rain lucky season
We did this from around 8 in the morning to around 2pm in the afternoon. We had a short break though when the Moi Avenue explosion came on TV. This held us back by about an hour. I made several calls to make sure the few people I know working around that area were okay. The other thing that pulled us a bit was the source of our water. The makeshift pump that is used for irrigation is really slow at its job. It consumes too much energy as well; this is the part of the day I hated most. All in all the work was done.
The nursery having been left in a mess after the transplanting had to undergo some minor reconstruction. So we spread the soil a bit, watered it afresh and pinched a few more shoots. We wrapped it up by covering the nursery with clear polythene & a makeshift shade from old mosquito nets.
As I lay in bed that night, I had images of the green house that would replace the makeshift nursery cover & shade, the series of tanks and drip irrigation systems that would replace the pump that made me tired & all. Proper equipments, tools & clad for the job at hand. Gumboots, trowels, spades… as in all those gardening tools, dad used to tell me to pass him when I followed him to the farm. I know this very first patch won’t get us a tonne of Stevia, but in a year, watch this space.
End Result – Day One.
I would have done something about cane farming but I don’t have the content since its distance farming. Instead I will do a piece on farming by remote. This is very challenging. The brokers always get everything & you end up with the peanuts.
Farming is good. The fact that you become one with the ground, the soil and nature as a whole, gives you the feeling of insuperability. The ground trusts you to take care of it & you will trust it to take care of you. We are part of that ground from the word go to the word stop. Therefore it’s rare to hear of failure in the sector. The only set back is an unstable agricultural economy like ours.
Soon I will be venturing into French Beans & Tomatoes. It’s for the kick of it. I hear they drive you crazier than people.
Farmer’s Boy

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