Friday, April 7, 2017

Milk dairy mumblings- Mũthenya wa mbeca cia iria


Endarasha is a dairy cattle area where milk is the cash crop since the colonial era when it was part of the white highlands. A few centuries back, there was a big time milk production plant that would export milk powdered milk  and other milk products. But that and pyrethrum is only for our history books now.

Having dairy cattle as a business means we get up and think milk and before we go to sleep the last though is, has the left over milk been boiled?
In between the day, the most important utensils that should be clean and drying on the rack  are the strainer, the small sufurias which the calves drink from, the buckets and the milk delivery containers.
the most important equipment in a dairy farmer's life



We get up at 3.00a.m to tread in ankle deep mud to milk in time for the 4.00am milk collecting truck and every so often we have to make a quick call to the vet to come over and check out why  Nyameni’s tongue is swelling.

But that is all forgotten when a very special day arrives- The day of money for milk-
When we were growing up, there was no specific day for payment. We kept our ears open each time we delivered the milk. The man that ticked off the cards would not say anything to us. He would fill up the last card and get back into the front of the lorry and just when the lorry was driving off he would shout.

Ũmũũthĩ mũũhige! (become clever today)

We went back home and told our mothers and fathers- mwerũo mũũhige.

 At twelve the farmers milked the second time and when we delivered it to the pick up point, the farmers would take a quick shower and put on their cream overcoat, the women wore their pleated flower viscose cotton skirts with a cream cut off blouse with a just a bit of detail around the v-collar and head off kwa ngũkũ.

At plot 65, we collected firewood enough to cook food for a whole week, we made up songs and had a full bath even though it was just Friday and full baths were left for Sundays.
 Just before dark, granny would totter in her basket full of all sorts of packages. Beef, of course, Oranges, fresh broadways bread which I wonder how she carried it in the basket, it would still be firm and in good shape.

Sometimes a sweater for one of us. We ate the scones, sitting by her feet. She would ask for tea to eat with hers. Then uncle would come and eat bread with tea. It was like a small family picnic, really special.
I came to relate the day of money for milk with beef. Any other time we ate chicken, lamb or pork sausages when granny went to Rware, the other bigger town. But once a month, there would be beef. 

If the day fell on a school day, granny sent a message to the market women. ‘if you see my little girl, tell her to find me -ha nyina Kũi- Mother of Kũi had a clothes boutique and also sold Omo, granny was a regular customer.
She would ask me to choose a dress, or shoes, then we would go to a butchery where she would have pre-ordered tumbukiza (Meat, potatoes, onions, nyanya and a bit of pepper boiled together.)
I was just a stupid adolescent who didn’t appreciate simple things, I would tell her her I would have preferred tea and mandazi or something childish as such.

But that was not the point really. It was not about eating what you liked or preferred or thought was the high life. It was about getting us things that would avoid bringing shame on ourselves.
My theory is, she didn’t want us to feel deprived, or feel like somethings were out of reach from us.

 People around us had fathers and proper families and their fathers brought home meat and took them out to eat nyama choma on Christmas day. As we grew older, we mingled with people who were used to eating sausage and buttered toast for breakfast. It was nothing alien. Equalise us, so we’d never be greedy for things that we imagined were beyond  our reach, especially food, and meat which people seem to have an inordinate desire for, at least in the African set up.

- You can lack anything else but don’t lack food, don’t talk about food- I once heard someone say.

One time, my little cousin was showing a great interest in bread. He was about six. And granny says to him.
-If you can finish one loaf I will let you eat another by yourself.-
And I we laughed.
He was done in a few minutes
-You really have a big stomach- she exclaimed.-You will eat your own bread every day until school opens.-
He got bored eventually.

Our parents and guardians, though not experts at parenting, somehow knew how to make  things special.  I grew up and realized I didn’t know how to make things special for me. Always in a bit of rush, cup of tea in one hand mop in another. Or, phone in one hand, while eating the  hot mandazi I just made.
 I have been grasping myself in a firm grip, making conscious effort to sit down , enjoy a cup of tea or orange juice arranged proper with fresh flowers on the tray and no gadgets in sight. We’ll see how far that goes.
Project; slow down sista Ciss

The day of money for milk was scrapped when the farmer’s society decided to register their members at Taifa Sacco, where your monthly earnings reflect on your account. If you ask me, that kind of stern business approach is good, to some extent but the old fashioned cash payments had a human touch to them. If you ask me too I also think the farmers co-operative takes advantage of its loyal customers, making decisions for them without enough consultation and everyone should just sign up with Brookside. Don’t ask me, I’ve never owned a cow.

kwa ngũkũ- Our shopping centre is called kwa ngũkũ, after the white settler that owned that land-  His name was Cook.



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