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Savory Global Network Travel Journals: Bush walks with Allan Savory

The Savory Global Network visits Meg’s Spot

May 28, 2016 Saturday 9:50 am Dimbangome

This morning’s run was the first time we saw wildlife not just tracks on the run. Mike, Bjorn (who is the tall man from Sweden, who the locals call “giraffe”) and I trotted off without Tre who was helping with filming logistics this morning at Elephant Camp and Allan’s camp. As we neared the crop field, a herd of impala shot across the red sandy road, some cleared both dirt tracks in a single bound. When they regathered, they snorted warnings. Baboons darted across the road too, but at a relaxed pace. Guinea fowl flew above us, adding to the bush exploding with song in the early morning light.

Outside of writing in the early morning yesterday, I did not get on the computer all day. In the morning we finished the team meeting to define abundance, disturbance and work for the Savory Network.  Allan talked again about the “principles of flight” that guide every successful flight and if lacking, doom every flight. The core, simplicity of Holistic Management must be maintained. At times it has been disrupted and altered and it has damaged it.  He said that the egos of experts and institutions have been the biggest resistance to Holistic Management. The last thing we want to do, he said, “is get in a pissing match with a skunk.” At lunch we brainstormed the annual conference title with the film crew. What fun! I’ve never been part of such an active, energetic brainstorming session. The outcome is: Eat it. Wear it. Restore it. Igniting a consumer revolution.

Mazey played with Grace and Savi most of the day as we headed out after lunch for the bush walk with Allan. It was hot. We saw a demonstration of effective water cycle on bare land. The trainer drew three squares. One was bare, one was impacted with animals (people with sticks), one was impacted with animals and cover. Then we poured water over each plot (rain), then observed and discussed the impact of it. The covered and impacted plot sunk into the soil much deeper, of course. The bare un-impacted land evaporated quickly in the hot sun and less than an inch beneath the surface was dry.

On the bush walk, Allan told us that this ranch ran 100 head of cattle and now it runs 500 and is far understocked. He said they should be at least at 1,000 head of cattle plus the sheep and goats. He showed us a flat grassland full of dense, tightly spaced grass that reached far over Allan’s head. He said when his children were little this area was a mud flat.

One time he was driving through it with his daughter Meg and an older couple. Allan and his family used to live on another ranch near this one and often times drove through this ranch en route home. As they drove on that day through the flat, the truck hit mud and sank up to the doors in mud. Allan left his six-year-old daughter with a rifle under a tree, sitting there with the older couple and ran back to the rail road tracks. He hitched a ride on the next train into Victoria Falls and then found a mechanic friend with a tow truck and made it back to the spot in an hour. The flat is now known as Meg’s Spot from the experience of that day. The point was that now there is no mud, it is a healthy grassy area. Did anyone else picked up on the James Bond qualities of the story?

Next, we looked at the riverbanks of the Dimangombe River. Sloping, grassy, stable and gradual, they are healthy stream banks. He credits proper grazing of riparian areas for this. When waters rise, it flows slowly over the edges into the fields. In contrast we looked at the next river that flows into the ranch from the bordering national park. It was marked by deep cut banks, driftwood was found far from the river bottom. Allan asked us to imagine the millions of gallons of water that are flooded out instead of sinking into the land.

“This is where your flooding and droughts come from,” he said. We saw the cattle come into the kraal, slowly one by one crowding into the kraal. The herders camp next to them in tents to protect the herd from lions. Maezy fell asleep on the ride before the kraal. I sat with her in the truck alone as others trekked out with Allan. I watched the peach sun color the golden grass. Listened to the birds and other music of the bush. Sitting there alone with her sleeping on my lap brought a deep peace. There is a flow here to the day that is grounding, refreshing and complete. I feel in Africa free and safe—as I did as a child playing by the river with Annie and my friends. Connections between people are real, genuine. We are allowed to be whole and humble. There is enough time. We sleep deeply in our earth homes, we eat well but not too much, we work but we also laugh and socialize. Sarah and I discussed this feeling. It is a weightlessness, a freedom, a happiness. It is a sense that life, and our role in it, is operating in harmony. This is, for me, the greatest power of Holistic Management.

After traveling the ranch in the open seats of the tour trucks, we were all covered in dust. I went to the bathroom sink to wash my face. The towel I used was bright red-brown from the dirt. We grabbed our jackets and water, then ran back to the trucks. We drove out to the bush for a bush dinner. It was beautiful! Tables were set up around a large campfire. Dinner and drinks were served. The meal was traditional. We ate beef stew and chicken stew from the large cast iron pots as well as the cornmeal dish (like cream of wheat) called sadza. Maezy loved it. She got seconds. She eats very well here. Music from local musicians played. They were what Maezy called, playing “African xylophones.” Sithi told us this morning what they were called but I don’t remember now. Everyone, even Allan and Jody and staff danced around the fire. Maezy climbed onto Bjorn’s shoulders which she said was the highest she’s ever been up! I am so proud of her. The staff all know her and call her “clever girl, precious Maezy and darling Maezy.”

When we got home, we brushed teeth and she fell fast asleep while I went out to the dining area to wait for Jacob to return from the bush dinner so I could get my lead detox supplements out of the locked fridge. As I waited, I lay outside on the flagpole steps and watched the stars. I remembered watching those same stars in South Africa more than 10 years ago. They were brilliant. I saw a huge bright green, bluish star burn across the sky. A magical end to the day in a magical place.

The “clever girl” and gluten

May 29, 2016 Dimbangombe Ranch 4:05 am

The hubs got their first lesson in the one-page business plan yesterday. The routine and pace is settling in now that the SI team meeting is over and the film crew is wrapping up their work here. The food is excellent, but more carefully rationed. There are not cookies and sandwiches served with tea twice a day. Meals are never lacking in socializing, stories and laughter. Last night we stood around a campfire near the dining hall and Maezy wanted to hear stories. She loves to listen to Tre tell stories. He told her fishing stories of when he was little and growing up in East Texas. He would go fishing every Saturday with his grandfather. One time he sat in a fire ant nest, another time he was helping his dad film a fishing show and ended up catching a 25 lb. snapper. He said he loved fishing for catfish. It is his favorite fish to eat. Brad, who grew up near Tulsa, Oklahoma, joined in and told us stories of “noodling” which is catching catfish by having them clamp down with their mouths on the fisherman or noodler’s arm. Sometimes the catfish are so big, they can break a person’s arm.

Mazey had a relaxed day with Sithi. She painted watercolor paintings for all the kitchen staff—who feed her anything she wants. Today she had pears (no one else gets fruit on demand!) and on a break I went to visit her and she was eating a jelly sandwich (on gluten bread!). She has had gluten a few times (that I know of, and probably more jelly sandwiches than I am aware of) and she doesn’t appear to be adversely affected. No runny nose, no hyperactivity, no bumps on her skin. What is in our gluten/wheat that is not present here? Sithi says, “you have such a good girl. She is really, really so good.” She is teaching Maezy to say words in her language which is N’debele.

Today we are going to Victoria Falls and then the BOMA for dinner. I can’t wait to explore all of this with Maezy.