Thursday, September 22, 2005

Lowlights of Autumn

It's the first day of autumn and the temperature outside is 35 C or 95 F. Everyone I know is taking the afternoon easy if it's possible. But it is the time to get the fields ready for the winter berseem crop and the date harvest started last week. All over the countryside there are cornstalk shelters and walls being built to protect the drying dates from the predations of crows, rats, and youngsters, not to mention wandering cows who might like them too. And the cows are wandering in Egypt right now. We were riding in the desert an noticed a dark crowd of something on the sand about 100 metres ahead of us. As we got nearer, the horses' eyes almost bugged out of their heads because there in front of us was a herd of dairy cattle meandering along in the shade of the garden trees at the edge of the desert. My horses see cows all the time, but usually one or two or maybe four tied up in shelters next to their owners fields. They see cows being walked home in the evenings as the sun is setting, or they see a few cows walking out to the fields on the days when we go out riding early in the morning. But to see a group of about 30 cows walking along was a stunner to them. I have to give them credit; they didn't go nuts, spin and run off into the hills at the sight of all the bovine flesh on the hoof. But it was obviously a startling sight. I guess it's the first time I ever realised that horses can sort of least in the sense that while one to four cows is fine, thirty is definitely overdoing it.

This is the time of year when visitors to Dahshur will see tents set up along the filling lake shore and flocks of cows and sheep grazing on the grass that will soon be covered with the water of the Nile. The authorities open the canals to the lake in the fall to provide water for the migrating waterfowl that travel south along the Nile, landing in the lake at Dahshur. This action is less out of concern for traveling ducks and geese than out of concern for the duck hunters from the military who use the lake in the late part of October. Still, they don't manage to shoot all of the birds by any stretch, so we can give them a bit of credit. This year I noticed the same herd of cows grazing in an empty field next to my land as I was visiting the site to sign the cement on the foundations of my house. I mentioned that I'd seen them in the desert just the day before and was told that they were visiting from Damietta. Now that is a stunner. Damietta is on the Mediterranean coast east of Alexandria, an easy 300 kilometres from here. And what are they doing here now? Apparently at the end of summer the cotton farmers spray their fields and to protect the dairy cattle from the spraying they send them walking the 300 kilometres north to Cairo where we don't grow cotton. As the spraying is done at the end of the summer when many of the summer crops are being harvested, the cattle have plenty to eat in the fields that have just been harvested. They make their way from field to field grazing on the stubble along the way. They'd been tidying up the fallen leaves and pruned mango branches from the gardens along the desert when we'd encountered them there.

For the rest of us who aren't harvesting dates, it seems to be the season for a summer flu, something wonderful that begins with a sore throat and turns into a nice chesty cough. I've had it for the past couple of weeks and the only way I can make headway is to stay home and be inactive. The riding trip where we saw the cows was just a simple walking tour out to the Japanese Hill to check that we could still see Dahshur, Sakkara, and Giza from the top (we could) and back, but the next day I felt like death warmed over. Even the dogs seem to be getting it or a canine version. Two of the Rat Terriers have been coughing at night so that the house sounds like a TB ward and now the Dalmation is kind of mopey and coughing a bit. The vet is sympathetic and has offered suggestions to help the poor canines, but basically this is something that we have to ride out. Now how am I going to get the dogs to drink warm lemon tea?


Crystal said...

Wonderful wonderful post, and I like your blog a lot, the pictures are fantastic! In Chicago today it's about 80F I believe, but in Germany (I found your blog linked too "Germany Doesn't Suck" by J.Bitner) it is already freezing cold, 50F. Egypt is hot year round I guess, and I wouldn't mind that one bit, though I'm sure I'd miss the seasons.

Eyes for Lies said...

You might want to let the dogs lick a little honey :)

Anonymous said...

Great pictures. I have set the one with the horse and palm trees as my wallpaper for this month. Thanks.