Lake Baringo Wildflowers

Over the last few days, I took a few close-up photos of some of our local, Lake Baringo, wildflowers. For plants that grow wild, these are not bad on the beauty scale (?). I hope you enjoy seeing some of our fabulous blossoms!

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Filed under Plants

Blooming Baringo!

It does not happen often, perhaps once or twice a year, that the Acacia mellifora, “wait-a-bit” trees blossom – but they are doing it now! I turned my morning dog-walking session into a photo op, and snapped the photos below. The place truly is Blooming Baringo!!

Apologies for the dog in some shots. That’s Ndoto (Dream), our youngest! He loves to have a bone or a stone, doesn’t much matter which, in his mouth when we go out on a walk, and he always has to lead the way!



If you can see the thorns (click on the photo below to see an enlargement), the little ones that look like a cat’s claw and curve back towards the tree itself, you’ll know why Acacia mellifora is called “wait-a-bit.” The thorns are very hard and do not break off. They tear clothing and skin. Fall into one of these bushes and you’re not going to come away from it easily – I know, I speak from experience – OUCH!


Lake Baringo, Kenya


Oh, and the reason the wait-a-bits, and most of the trees here, have that kind of umbrella shape to them is because of the goats, who eat everything lower down that they can reach. Otherwise, these trees would be dome-shaped. Funny thing, you get so accustomed to seeing trees scoffed below 5 feet that you can’t imagine that doesn’t happen naturally!

So, now that I’ve shared with you my morning, and posted on Facebook about The Magical Art of Stitches Exhibition in Nairobi, it’s time for me to get back to editing “Reflections,” the next online patchwork design class that will soon be open for enrollment at QuiltEd Online!

Sign up for the QuiltEd Online News, so you’ll be told immediately when Reflections opens for enrollment!

Gosh – all this social stuff takes a lot of time, but it’s an awful lot of fun!  ;-)






Filed under Art in Kenya, Online Quilt Classes, Patchwork Quilting, Plants

Lake Baringo Heat Wave News Flash!

Lake Baringo Heat Wave News Flash

It’s raining!!




Filed under Kenya

Tropical Heat Wave at Lake Baringo

Over the last few weeks, the weather around Lake Baringo has been behaving strangely.

The usual weather pattern of a typical year at Lake Baringo is to begin in January with hot, dry weather, perhaps a little rain interspersed, with gradually increasing temperatures and decreasing humidity. This is the famous “dry season” of Lake Baringo which continues through February, March and into the beginning of April, by which time conditions are very difficult. Grass dies back, livestock and people begin to starve, days and nights are uncomfortable, bordering on unbearable, life slows and everything holds its breath.

Camels come south to Lake Baringo in dry season

Camels come south in dry season

Suddenly, there will be an afternoon shower, not much, perhaps insufficient to settle the dust, but certainly enough to cause plants to spring into life. “Wait-a-bit” Acacia mellifora trees, aloes and desert roses bloom, and we all heave a sigh of relief – the “grass” rains have come.

Acacia mellifora in pod at Lake Baringo

Acacia mellifora in pod at Lake Baringo


Aloes blooming at Lake Baringo

Aloes blooming

After a couple of weeks of light and intermittent showers, the “long” rains arrive, taking us from early April into June. Every day witnesses a glorious sunrise, followed by warming temperatures and the typical late afternoon build-up of thunderheads. Heavy rain ensues, sending everyone racing for cover and washing tons of soil over the ground and into the lake. This is low season for tourists, a time when Lake Baringo hotels and tented camps virtually close down to undertake repairs and renovations, and employees take their leave.

Rain over Lake Baringo

Rain over Lake Baringo


Storm clouds over Lake Baringo

Storm clouds over Baringo


Road wash-out near Lake Baringo

Road wash-out near Lake Baringo


Being just north of the Equator, June, July and August are technically summer months at Lake Baringo, although we seldom use that expression. During summer here, temperatures are blessedly cool, life is back in full swing, school holidays are on so the young are at home, the tourists come in droves and the world is a beautiful place, never too hot.

Nairobi which lies south of the Equator enters its “winter.”  In Nairobi, cold temperatures prevail. People break out their moth-eaten woolen clothing and bundle up. Households, all of which lack central heating, light fires in the evening and early morning to ward off the chill. Ex-pats leave the country in droves, and Nairobi’s traffic problems are noticeably reduced due to their absence.

By late June, heavy rains at Baringo have ceased, although the odd shower may occur at any time during the summer/winter months. By September, things begin to warm up again and in October, we have a fresh rainy season, this one known as the “short” rains. When these finish, everything is a little cooler and generally pleasant until after the year-end holidays, when the cycle begins again.

This year has been markedly different, however! The long rains failed completely in April/May. We keep rainfall records, so we know the statistics for 2014, and I made up a little chart to illustrate more clearly what is happening:

Rainfall at Lake Baringo

Rainfall at Lake Baringo

The line in blue is 2014. To illustrate the difference, the line in green is 2004, only ten years ago. We had our highest rainfall this year in July and August, not in the normal April/May period. September went very dry again and began to feel like the dry season in full effect. That atmosphere continues even now. I was up late last night, and it was still 86º F at midnight – too hot to sleep!

It seems our weather pattern has slipped forward (or backward, depending on how you want to go) by about 3 months. Mid-October feels like mid-April, and it seems we are on the verge of a long rains season! It will be interesting to see how the rest of the year stacks up against 2004 (nothing special about that year, only that it’s a decade).

I’m beginning to wonder if the Mayans got it right. Maybe the world did come to an end on December 21, 2012, but nobody noticed. Perhaps the Earth’s precession caused it to tilt that day just a little too far, only enough to set seasons off their normal tracks. This may mean nothing, but then again, nothing will ever be quite the same again . . .



Filed under Animals, Kenya, Patchwork Quilting, People, Plants, Tourism

Mud Cloth Happy Endings

Getting Down and Dirty for Mud Cloth

So, last year – before I got committed to opening a new online quilt class Web site (QuiltEd Online) –  I was fooling around with mud, glorious mud, to make some mud cloth! I collected soil samples from the roadsides on the way to Baringo from Nairobi. With lots of road construction going on, that part was easy. I even found helpful volunteers along the way. One fellow assisted me by using his panga (that’s a machete, not a dirty word – no pun intended) to dig dirt out of an embankment for me!

Many folks along the way were curious about what I was doing. It’s unusual here for an old, white-haired, light-skinned woman to stop her car on the roadside, get out, scrape up a bunch of dirt into a plastic bag, get back into her car and drive away. Several people found the courage to ask me what I was doing, so I got extra practice for my Kiswahili as I explained about making mud cloth: “Natakakuweka rangi ya nguo” –  “I want to put color on cloth” – not so great, I think.

Perhaps not so surprisingly, some people I chatted with had heard about making mud cloth before! We all learned something new, had a few laughs, and life moved forward. It is surprising what you can learn if you’re willing to risk stepping “outside your comfort zone.” (I’ve always despised that cliché, but there is some truth in it.)

Anyway, I brought all my lovely dirt home and spent a couple of days refining it. I washed it, much as I would wash dirty rice or peas, by multiple passings of water over it. The rubbish floated, and the best stuff sank. I drained off most of the water, then left the tubs of dirt in the hot sun to dry out completely before shaking, breaking, even pounding it all into a fine powder.


Mud Cloth – The Real Colors of Africa

The differences in colors were noticeable, even then, although all had that lovely earthy quality I personally so admire in much Japanese patchwork due to their fabrics. Check out “sakizome” for examples of that gorgeous stuff, especially Akemi Shibata, who I met yesterday on Facebook – serendipity!

I made my soy milk, mixed in the mud and began painting, stamping and even dyeing my silk fabrics with the mud as well as with tea, henna and the oxides from an old iron pot. This post is to show you some (not all – saving the rest of it) of the outcomes of my efforts at making mud cloth(click to enlarge):


Mud cloth dyed, stenciled, stamped and painted by Dena Dale Crain


These fabrics have literally been through the mill. White silk dupioni, 28 yards of it, I dyed with commercial dyes gone out-of-date. Disappointed with the results, I began distressing the fabrics further with my collection of wonderful muds. Using everything from my Bernina plastic sewing table (the underneath hexie part) to a kitchen pancake turner to a paintbrush, I worked these pieces of cloth over and over, in true Jane Dunnewold “Complex Cloth” manner. Working fast – what fun I had!

Interestingly, these mud cloth colors are far more my idea of what African fabrics should be; they echo the earth. Where colors or lack of texture were most disappointing, I went back in with some acrylic fabric paints in Yvonne Porcella “Colors Changing Hue” style. Even the paint colors were toned down and seem to work beautifully with the mud colors.

It’s hard to say whether it was messier working with the mud or the paint, but I didn’t mind either. In Africa, all things are washable, and if they aren’t, it does not matter anyway!


Mud cloth dyed, stenciled, stamped and painted by Dena Dale Crain

Dye plus mud


Mud cloth dyed, stenciled, stamped and painted by Dena Dale Crain

Dye plus mud


Mud cloth dyed, stenciled, stamped and painted by Dena Dale Crain

Dye plus mud plus paint


The one thing I did not do was to mix mud directly with paint. Funny – I never thought of doing that at the time. Never mind, though! I have plenty of fairly solid color fabrics left over to play with. I had expected this to be the last post in this series about mud cloth, but it seems I have more work to do . . .

I have a hunch all this would work even better on hemp . . . hmmmm . . .


Next Step

Make a quilt! Maybe more! Twenty-eight yards is a lot of silk . . .  ;-)


Special Note

I would be happy to write and teach an online quilting class at QuiltEd Online about mud cloth, but my posts here record my experiences and you can easily follow along with your own experiments:

If you want technical information about how to harvest and clean mud, how to make soy milk, how to stamp with household and found objects or how to print fabrics in general, you can find lots of information about all that and more on the Web. Google away and have a great time – there’s some wonderful information out there and you’ll want to see it for yourself!

Then, come back to QuiltEd Online and let me teach you how to make original art quilts out of your mud cloth. In the meantime, please sign up for the QuiltEd Online newsletter to keep informed and up-to-date about what’s going on in my world.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my mud cloth adventures as much as I enjoyed doing the work. If so, how about leaving a comment and sharing with your friends?

Cheers, and thanks!

PS: If you like this post and would like to see others like it from other bloggers, check out Nina Marie Sayre’s Off the Wall Friday!


Filed under Art, Art in Kenya, Online Quilt Classes, Patchwork Quilting, Quilt Supplies, Quilt Tips & Tutorials, Quilting Technology, Surface Design