Sunday, April 20, 2003

Mulberry Season

I decided to stop reading the news...or at least to forget about it as soon as I read it. There is nothing I can do about the political insanity, so I might as well concentrate on saving my own sanity. So I went out to ride today in the countryside. It's toot season in Egypt. That means that the mulberry, or toot, trees have berries that are becoming edible. My first encounter with mulberries was in Canada where our neighbours had a couple of lovely mulberry trees that formed small bowers where my children would cover themselves in purple juice. We soon had a set of special "mulberry clothes" each year that simply became more and more stained until the season was over. When we lived in Alexandria, our villa had an absolutely enormous mulberry tree in the garden outside the kitchen and I learned about the true joy of mulberry season. I've never had so many flies in the garden in my life. The trees were too tall to harvest the ripe berries and they would fall to the ground where they would form a sticky past on the patio. The gardener spent most of his time picking up the good berries and putting them into a bowl to take home for his children and the housekeeper's. Even so, there were plenty for the birds and the flies.

When we moved to Cairo I was relieved to see that we didn't have a mulberry tree in the garden. We have four mango trees and those have proven interesting the time that the top half of one broke off bringing down an easy 100 kilos of unripe mangoes in the garden. Luckily no one was under the tree at the time. However, May rolled around and lovely white mulberries began dropping onto our car as it was parked outside next to our garden. We didn't have a mulberry tree but the neighbours did. At least it wasn't purple. But I believe that all the children in Egypt go slightly mad during toot season. While riding today, my usually calm bay gelding was rather shattered by the sight of arms and legs up in trees and little voices calling out greetings from a point way higher than he would usually expect. At one point, as we passed a boy of about 10 years standing on the back of a donkey to pick berries to high to reach normally, I really expected poor Bunduq's eyes to drop out of his head.

Now it's dark and the children can't see the berries, so we have a bit of peace in the house. Afternoons, however, are chaotic as children on their way home from school stop at every known mulberry tree, including the one outside our garden gate. My dogs spend the entire afternoon warning me of encroaching intruders, while the children begin barking back at the dogs. Not really much I can do except to hope for a light crop this year.