Tag Archives: farming

Autumn Meandering

27 Nov

Today has been one of those golden Autumn Sundays, with long shadows and dreamy sheep in the meadows, and secret warbles emanating from the hedgerows. Hoping to garner enthusiasm for my university assignment due tomorrow, I took a stroll up the lane to visit the wildlife pond.

Although the fields are flooded, the pondwater was very low today, exposing its weed-covered silt. Somewhere under the surface the fish were no doubt lurking, but the water looked lifeless – except for a large grey heron standing knee-deep in it, stabbing among the weeds with its beak. We startled each other, and the heron lifted itself away and flew heavily across the field.

I crouched in a space among the shrubbery edging the pond and waited for half an hour, hoping to get a shot of the heron returning. As my pins and needles set in, I could see it waiting politely in the distance for me to leave.

A honking sound in the sky drew my eye to a skein of geese flying West for the Winter. Common knowledge dictates that geese fly South for the Winter, but here they always fly West. Perhaps they are headed for Canada.

Rapidly losing sensation in my legs, I stood and meandered back to the cottage, leaving the heron to its own devices. Under the trees near the pond, someone had been chopping firewood, and the air smelled sweet and damp.

The crab-apple trees along the lane have unburdened themselves of their fruit, and I used my scarf as a makeshift bag to collect it for the guinea pigs.

I now feel refreshed and cheerful, the guinea pigs are well fed, and my assignment calculations are looking as daunting as ever.

Advertisements

Donkeys of Morocco

20 Aug

Once you stop thinking of Mirleft in terms of streets, and start thinking of it as a desert on which groups of houses are scattered like nomadic tents, you stop feeling lost. You just drive or trot across the open areas from one stretch of track to the next.

The roads being what they are, donkeys are a common mode of transport in Morocco. Some pull carts behind them. Others trot along with clusters of small children on their backs. Others carry panniers or impossibly large stacks of harvested greenery.

I took a lot of photos through our sand-encrusted windscreen during our road trip.

The first time I saw this foal, she was assisting two adults in emptying a bin of its contents and strewing them between the buildings of Mirleft, eating anything tasty that she came across.

The following day, she was tethered to a rock. She was none too happy about it.

There was no food, water or shade nearby – but then, there never is. Even when untethered, the donkeys don’t appear to seek shade, and like the sheep and goats of the area, seem entirely capable of obtaining nutrition from the barren soil.

Up on a clifftop overlooking Aftas Beach is the shell of a disused house. I found a donkey here too – can you spot it?

That’s not a homeless person lying there. The Moroccan climate is such that it is often more comfortable to sleep outside than in, and it is common to see people settling down any old where to snooze away their hours of Ramadan deprivation.

The Secret of the Tortoise

14 Aug

Bunty and I are in Morocco. Last night, we slept in a tent surrounded by fruit trees and palms and jasmine, and crickets and stars. The tent stands in a garden called Manzil la Tortue – the Secret of the Tortoise.

We now understand what makes it secret. To find it, we drove along a long, long dirt track, past tiny hamlets of ramshackle houses where all the villagers were sitting out under the stars at their Ramadan feasts. Fearing we were lost, we stopped at a shop the size of a wardrobe, and I got out of the car and asked the three men outside its door for directions. They spoke no English and I had not managed to bone up on French or Arabic, but somehow, with a lot of laughter and a hastily-sketched map, we managed to communicate with each other.

I awoke bright and early, having slept through the muezzin’s call to prayer that woke Bunty in the dark hours. The air was still fresh and laden with jasmine, and I wandered out to explore the grounds. I found three different species of ant, an array of pill bugs, a fly, and three species of songbird. A man raking flower-heads out of the pool greeted me.

“Bonjour”, I replied.

I was bonjoured soon afterward by the camp site guard, a man wearing the long djellaba and pointed yellow slippers seen all over Morocco; and a woman, also in a djellaba, who passed me in a covered avenue of white bougainvillea.

“Bonjour.”

“Ca va?”

A bee the size of a quail egg buzzed around my purple tunic. It was black and white and red – very striking – but it didn’t stay still for long enough for me to phtograph it.

I rounded a corner and found this rabbit enclosure.

I love that they are free to dig and socialise, and have burrows. I was surprised to see that they had been given a large number of orange halves to feed on, and had clearly appreciated them very much. I must try Broccles with an orange one sunny day.

Then I stumbled upon the chooks who will be providing my breakfast eggs a few minutes from now. They look alert and happy too. No battery hens, these.