November 21, 2016

In which My Dad Kicks ‘A Lebanese out of the Car’

There are many things I like about this country. One of these things is its relative safety. The news, especial if you have never been to Lebanon, will insinuate otherwise, but if you’ve been here once, you will understand that this society has an overall safe feeling.

So safe, that I do not think twice of giving my car keys to a total stranger .
You see, finding a parking spot in this town is like mining for gold; they are so rare, especially in front of the premises where you need to be, that it is always an occasion of great joy when I manage to find a space right in front of the store.  
This has created an intricate industry of valet parking and abandoned lots that are turned into makeshift parking lots. But the demand is so high that they will invariably cram more cars into a parking than it can possibly accommodate, and so they ask you to leave your key. This allows them to shuffle cars around, including yours, during your absence. 

And so this evening, while buying an ear thermometer, I left my car, and keys, at aparking lot next door to a shop.

My dad, 101 years old, is visiting from Holland, and he was in the car. He had just been in and out of the supermarket, and since this thermometer thing was going to be a quick stop, he chose to stay in the car.
And as I hopped into the store, I left the car keys with the parking attendant. I told the parking attendant that there was someone one the car.

When I got back to the car, some 5 minutes later, he did not want my 2,000 pounds. He looked rather ‘odd’, I’d say. “No, take your car,” he said.

When I got into my car, my dad said, rather alarmed, “There was this Lebanese that wanted to start your car. At first I thought he might have made a mistake, but he started the car!
The parking attendant, I thought. He must have had to move my car.
So what did you do?”
“I told them to get out of the car. ‘This is not your car,’ I told him.”
“And what did he do then?”
“Well, he got out of the car.

Well, that explains it.
 101, and he kicks people out of the car. 

November 20, 2016

When Life Interferes with Blogging

Sohmor. It looks all idyllic, but this was one valley I would't hike again. They had some very interesting fossils though.

I am not really productive these days. Well, I am productive, but not on this blog. It is partially because I am also participating in a #365grateful project on Instagram, so that’s where some of my inspiration goes. I need to publish one picture a day that makes me grateful. And although I could publish many on most days, once it is out on the web, the desire to write about it has dissipated.

A horse I encountered on the road somewhere near Qaraoun
Another factor is that I have a new job, and I am really into this one. But as I am new to it, it requires a lot of preparation time. I work with a different group of clients: A much more responsive group, but also a group that requires more intensive groundwork.

I ran into some goats as well, on the road somewhere near Kubbeih

Besides that, I am busy with a number of projects outside work and blogging, so there’s goes part of my energy.  I have started a crochet course, for instance. Not that I will be a granny anytime soon, but I have always wanted to be able to crochet. My mother knew how, my grandmother knew how. But I did not. I have books, hooks and yarn, but never had the skill. So now I have found someone (a very lovely and hip gentleman, no less) who is teaching me the finer aspects of double crochet, slip stitches and waffle patterns. And I greatly enjoy it.

The weather is perfect for hiking

And I seem to be doing an awful lot of hiking these days, courtesy of hubbie, so the lounging on the couch (which greatly inspires blogging) is kind of over for the moment. Maybe in winter time again. The weather has not been exactly conducive to ‘couch sitting’. It is almost December, and I still haven’t gotten my winter clothes out of the closet.

Aregu Sisay Abateh, 3rd place on the half marathon 

It is not that I am not doing anything interesting either, quite the opposite. I did the marathon (well, 7 kilometers of it). Our housekeeper, Aregu Sisay, ran the 21 kilometers and won 3rd place. Quite proud of that. And I’ve done road trips to the Beqaa valley, Laklouq, and Lake Qaroun, and visited some mysterious fossil field in a gorge of the Litani River (which, by the way, is horrendously polluted). I hike a lot. We’ve acquired a fifth dog (!) which has caused the old aunt that lives in our house to abandon us, as she hates animals. And then there’s friends that organize dinners. And my daughter's social life. Boy, don't get me started on that.

A different view from Beirut

And then I got a little boat. I should say ‘we’. I did not pay for it, nor did I do anything to restore it. But I sit on it now and then. And it is the most awesome little boat there is. It’s a boat from the sixties, it has this huge ‘French Riviera Alain Delon James Bond’ feel to it. 

And talking about the sixties, I just heard I have another project coming up; the restoration of an authentic Volkswagen Van (T2) from that era. I saw it on the road to Rashaya, you know the ones, they transport school children I it. My daughter and I have wanted one forever - she has decided she will become a hippie. Now we will have to complete fix it, restore the inside, and turn it into an original camper van. I intend to do it myself, so there goes what's left of my weekends.

A Pumpkin stand in the Beqaa Valley

And the bizarre fossils I found in Sohmor. If anyone can fill me in on this one, I'd be much obliged.

And my father is currently visiting. At the ripe age of 101. He was here in May, but hey, at the age of 101, time is of importance. I think he is also tired of his own cooking, and since one of my sisters in-law, the one that often cooks for him, is currently on a holiday, he figures he might as well eat in Beirut for a while. So he requires some time and attention.

And yet another dog has been added to the tribe

Now you know why I have not been posting that often at the moment. It is not that I am planning to quit. I’ve maintained this blog for 10 years (!) now, and intend to keep on going for many more years. It’s just that life has been interfering with my blogging. 

November 01, 2016


My favorite street with the picket fence

The rains have come; the first of this year. They hale the end of the Indian Summer.

The rain always comes rolling in from the sea. It starts with the wind picking up, slowly at first, but soon it turns into gusts of wind, and sand and debris from the past 8 dry months are whipped through the street. I like that moment, just before the rain rolls in. It is usually very early in the morning when the wind picks up. I am on the street, and you have to squint against the wind, as you are pummeled by city dust. You hear doors slam left and right in apartments and buildings, as people are still used to the summer season, and all the windows are open.

The walnut trees in the park are losing their leaves

Plastic bags fly through the air like lost balloons, and sometimes bits of laundry soar around as well: someone forgot to bring in the laundry the night before, and no clothes pin can stand this force. And then, just as I enter my house again, the rain starts.
I like the rain.
Very conveniently the clock has advanced an hour, and so now it is dark when I come home from work. Fits with the season.

The Virginia Creeper is fabulously colored. Indian Summer is over though.

And it seems we have a president. It took a good two and a half years. 
While driving to Beirut yesterday, my daughter and I got caught in the orange traffic jam surrounded the whole process.

"Are they going to blow this guy up?" she asked.
"Well, the last few survived the job, so it is safe to assume this one will too."
I think I would make a very good president," she adds.
"You can't be president," I reply.
"Why not?"
"You've got the wrong religion."
"No, you must be a christian."
"I celebrate Christmas and Easter. Doesn’t that count for something?”

Poplar tree lanes

Not in this country it does. And so I leave you with the last fall pictures up in the mountains.

Late night walk in the park . We were lucky there was electricity. Impossible to walk here in the dark.

October 23, 2016


Civilizations tend to build on top of their previous accomplishments. At least, that was what they used to do. So there would be no reminder of what once was, unless you’d dig it up. And then you’d find the foundations, together with the kitchen midden.
These days we scrape our buildings into the crust however, and leave no trace of former styles and preferences. We’re pretty good on kitchen middens though.

Doesn’t help much that the garbage collectors are on strike. Just grant. First the government won’t pick it up, now the garbage collectors have thrown in their lot. I just read that a former Supreme Court Justice in the States is worried about ‘civic ignorance in America and the effect of that decline on the state of the democracy.’ If he’s worried, what about us?

Luckily the hot season is over, so the food is not exactly fermenting in its bags, but it is still not a pretty sight. Feral cats scratch open the bags at night, and strew the contents over the sidewalk. Due to our rather shoddy sewer system, most houses resort to throwing their used toilet paper in bins rather than flush it down the toilets. That's out there too. 
I’ve got to navigate in between that early mornings in the dark while walking my dogs. It doesn’t help much that most people do not bother to drag their garbage bags all the way to the dumpsters anymore; they just rather get it out of their front door, and then abandon it by the side walk. So it is no longer collected in one place but rather spreads all over the street. 
Add to that the fact that no one seems to have much qualm about dumping their food wrappers, water bottles, beer bottles and empty cans of coke from the local chicken restaurant right there where they have taken their last bite, and you get the picture.

 In the ‘old’ days, I’d meet a Sokleen guy in my street every morning at 6:15 , who would be sweeping the remains of our ‘civic ignorance’ of the night away, so that during the day nobody would notice our inability to clean up after ourselves. We'd look all tidy and nice and proper. Now that the government is in disarray, they’re no longer paying these guys. You get the picture.

What I find ironic is that lately, local residents have resorted to sticking papers on trees telling dog owners to leash their dogs and pick up after them. Just imagine the effort they put in finding a carton the right size, writing it in BIG letters, and then actually going out to stick them on trees with intricate designs of plastic tape. Not that I do not agree with them, but they somehow make that effort to point out the unpleasant habit of leaving dog poop on the side walk, but they apparently are not in the least bit bothered that everybody just dumps their trash wherever they happen to stand or walk.

So this judge is worried about ‘civic ignorance in America and the effect of that decline on the state of the democracy.’ Well, at least they still have their garbage collected. The trash situation is not going to be solved as long as we do not have a president. We haven’t had one for two years now, and most likely won’t have one any time soon. We have been pretty much abandoned by our government.

Another thing that is abandoned are the houses in the mountains in the villages above Beirut. I frequently walk there, and especially the areas where once the Syrians forces ‘settled’, as well as the villas purchased by rich Saudis and Gulf Arabs in better days, are pretty much empty. The Gulf Arabs won’t be back any time soon, but their houses are still maintained by a vast army of Syrian janitors, who now occupy the guard houses of prestigious properties all along Sawfar and Hammana.

What is more interesting are the houses that were once owned, or probably still are owned, but abandoned, by their Lebanese owners. There must be thousands of them. All empty. The owners do not have the money anymore to restore them, are dead, or are no longer interested in spending time up in the mountains. Before the war (we’re talking the 70’s and 80’s), families would spend their summers in the mountains. My husband still remembers school holidays that would last over three months. He wouldn’t start school until October, and spend all that time somewhere far away from Beirut. With the decentralization of the country, everyone wants to live and work in Beirut, and the summers are spent either abroad or on the beach. Very few people still move an entire household for several months.

And so all these houses just stand there, empty and desolate. You could probably house a good part of the Syrian refugee population in there. I’m afraid that might get people here up in arms though. But the garbage situation won’t.

I’m not trying to make a point here. Just observing.

October 09, 2016

On Too Many Apples

It is fall, and the harvest has started. Next week, I will be picking olives (provided there is no rain), the vineyards are bustling with activity from the grape pickers, and people should be picking apples right now.Only, apples are left hanging on the trees this year. I walked by an orchard this morning, and the place was deserted.

Courtesy of the war in Syria. Lebanese apples used to be exported all over the Middle East. But with Syria at war, transportation through Syria is no longer viable, and sending them by plane will make them too expensive to compete with other apple producing countries. Europe apparently won’t take them either due to the fact that there is no supervision on the (type of) pesticides that are being used.

The apple orchard I raided this morning

And so all the apples are now offered on the local market, which is currently experiencing an apple overload. It’s cheaper for a farmer to leave them on the tree than to hire people to pick, pack and transport them, because the earnings won’t cover the cost, and you end with a loss.

Apples currently sell at 5,000 ($3,30) a crate, whereas they should sell at 17,000 ($10.60) if a farmer wants to make any money at all. Farmers have now demanded that the government help them sell their produce inside Lebanon and abroad. Antoine Howayek, head of the Lebanese Farmers’ Association, says the state should support them by purchasing apple crates, weighing 20 kilograms, for $5.30 each.

This could just be the apple of Snow White

Well, I do not know about Howayek’s experience on dealing with government institutions, but as they’re not even capable of providing constant water and electricity, or picking up the garbage, for that matter, I don’t think his demands are very realistic.

Apparently there are some 300,000 apple farmers (which, I have to say, I find a tad bit too much for a country with some 4 million people. Really? Is it economically sound to have that many apple farmers?) who are facing either bankruptcy, or a mighty hungry winter. But back in 2013 it was already clear we had an overproduction of apples. Unfortunately, when you have an apple orchard, it is not so easy to change to another product.

Bringing home the loot

In the meantime, their apples are rotting on the trees. I can think of some interesting things to do with apples, such as apple vinegar, apple chips, apple juice, apple sauce, apple pie, or better yet, apple cider, but this requires equipment and knowledge which most apple farmers do not have. .

I went home with a bag full of free apples. I think I will go for apple sauce.

Just got this through Facebook:

I'm a priest and an apple farmer living in Tannourrine.
As you know this year was a hard one for us farmers, in terms of selling our apple stocks.
So I decided to lower the prices and sell the apples in bulk.

I invite you to come over to my fields and pick the apples you like, this week, Monday October 10 till Sunday October 16.

You can have 22kg (minimum per person) for 8$ while enjoying the view and fresh clean air of Tannourine.

Also, my fields are close to "Tannourine Cedar Reserve" (10 min away by car).

I hope you can help these apples find a home in your belly and not go to waste.
You'll be also helping local production.
For more information, you can contact me on 03 32 29 01 .

October 08, 2016

Battle Field Archeology

A Syrian fox hole (hoel in the ground with a truck tire around it. The Mudeirej Bridge (Italian built, 44 million US$,)
in the backjground.

When the Lebanese government, half-wittedly, invited the Syrians in, exactly 40 years ago, in order to help out with skirmishes between christians and Palestinians, little did they know that these guys were not planning on leaving.  Like asking for a favor from your Mafioso neighbor, and when he generously complies, assume he will leave promptly and quietly after the deed. Not in your life time.

The Syrian Army did eventually leave, in my lifetime. Although not totally voluntarily, in the spring of 2005, some 35,000 Syrian troops that had been deployed all over the place , left Lebanon, leaving behind signs of 30 years of occupation.
And these signs, I find mighty intriguing. I encounter them regularly on my hikes through the Lebanese mountains. Trenches, fox holes, anti-aircraft installations and tank placements are all over the place. Some sites have buildings, guard houses, water wells and bunkers, most of them in poor condition.

A Syrian construction to house tanks

Like this morning, when I hiked the upper parts of Dahr el Baidar, the highest mountain pass between the coastal area and the Beqaa Valley. This area was significant, as they could shell Beirut from a safe distance, while at the same time controlling the road that linked Beirut to Damascus. (Both sides of the highway; I have also hiked the other side)

Syrian built water well
For years and years this entire mountain region was basically off limits for everyone except for Syrian soldiers; you could only drive the road, but not park or go on walks. Well, maybe you could, but I don’t think anyone would take the risk. The Syrians were notoriously shifty; you never knew what would set them off, and an unfortunate encounter could easily result in a one way ticket to Mezza, which was a (now defunct) jail right under the presidential Palace in Damascus.

A house, confiscated by the Syrian army, above Dahr el Baidar, with a view on Beirut

Now the area makes for some great hiking as years of Syrian deployment did not exactly entice urban developers.  Not much of their bases are left now; Syria being a rather poor country, its soldiers left nothing of value behind.  But the signs of occupation are everywhere.
Who were they? According to one (rather unreliable) internet source, it was the was the 10th Mechanized Division, that had its main units along the strategic Beirut-Damascus highway with the 85th Armored Brigade, deployed around the complex of positions at Dahr al-Baidar. (Source)

And as I hike through the remains, I would love to have some type of explanations on the site, just like they do with World War I battlefields in Northern France and Belgium.
There they have information pamphlets and visitor centers in just about every major spot, complete with extensive libraries and museums.  Of course, that took a while to establish. WWI started some 100 years ago (1915), and although battlefield tourism took off pretty soon after the end of that war (1918), it took another 50 years before anyone even thought of writing visitor guides.  There is even an actual science, called Battlefield Archeology.

A shelter that leads all the way into the mountain, must have been great during Israeli bombings

Trench soldiers, such as Robert Graves, Wilfried Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and Henri Barbusse  started publishing almost immediately after their ordeal. Erich Maria Remarque, from the German side, published a book, some 2 years after the war, which eventually sold over 30 million copies. The book was eventually banned by Hitler, who deemed it poor for moral. 

We, however, are some 26 years after the civil war, and some 10 years after the Syrian occupation, yet  I know of no soldiers/militia members/writers (that I know of) recounting their experience in Lebanon. We do not even have a history book regarding the civil war yet, and it is a topic that is carefully avoided in the current history curriculum in Lebanese school.  Let alone provide leaflets with background information on places that were interesting enough for the Israelis to regularly bomb the smithereens out of them.

Which is a pity.

October 02, 2016

Fall & Cows

I love little country lanes (no matter that they;re only half a kilometer long)

It never ceases to amaze me how the seasons here shift according to the calendar. Like picture book magic: You turn the page, and when it says it should be fall, ‘kachingg’, fall starts. Temperatures drop overnight, the discoloration of leaves starts, and pumpkins suddenly turn orange.  In Holland, fall starts somewhere in summer, although sometimes summer can extend into fall, and you can have a spring with snow. The lines are ‘flou’, but not over here. The seasons are punctual, which is rather un-Lebanese, come to think of it.

Home on the Range: Rosa (seriously, that was her name) looking at her friends. 

I spent the last two days up in Laqlouq for work, and up in the mountains the change is even more pronounced. It’s long-sleeve weather in the evening, and nature is changing its hue.
I encountered some cows. You don’t see a lot of cows in Lebanon, other than the ones you see on the highway in trucks, being hauled from the port straight to the butcher. Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of Brahman cows being transported. I wonder where they get them from because we do not have them in Europe.

Nature changing her (its?) hue

Anyway, I encountered cows. Scrawny little fellas, they were. This is not exactly cow country, because a cow needs to eat about 3% a day in their body weight. These were about 550 kilos, so about 16 to 17 kilos of grass per cow. Except, there is no grass here because of the lack of rain.  You’ll need to feed them other things, which costs money, and so you end up making virtually no money. The cows in Laqlouq belong to a farm called La Vallee Banche, which is part of a touristic project, and I think they make more money giving cow milking & cheese making workshops then on the actual milk they produce. The Jesuit priests down in Tanaayel have a nice collection of cows as well.

Tete a tete with Rosa

But I come from cow country, and I like cows. Their smell, their warmth, their wet noses, the fact that they can stick their own tongue in their nostrils and lick their snot, I mean, what’s not to like about cows? 
Fall is in the air, my phone is (finally) fixed, and life is good. Now if only I can figure out why my Internet connection is sooooooooooo o o o o o o o o o o  incredibly slow. 
Not a sun set  but a 6:36 sun rise.

September 22, 2016

Utterly Frustrated

August 1st. My phone stopped charging.

It took me some time before I figured that out. It was 47%. 
First I thought I hadn’t put it on the charger, so I tried again.  Then it was 23%. I assumed I hadn’t plugged it in well, so I made it sure it was plugged in well. I ended up with a critical 15%.

Maybe the cable was broken? I bought a new cable. 7%.
Okay, it must be the electricity plug. So I bought a new plug. 2%
Maybe it needs to be an official Apple charger? So I went out and bought that one. Those are expensive suckers. The phone was now dead.

Nothing worked.
I called the Apple Store in Holland. Could I please make an online appointment to visit their store?
Come again? An online appointment? I needed the phone fixed right now, because I am flying back to Lebanon.
Try Apple Lebanon, they said.

I tried Apple Lebanon. They don’t do phones. I kid you not.

So I went to the local repair man.
It’s the battery,” he said with authority, and he replaced it with a new one.

That worked for a day or 3, and then we were back at 0%.
Maybe that was a faulty battery,” he mused, slightly less confident, and replaced it with yet another battery.

That worked for a day or 3, as I saw it slowly drain in front of my eyes to 0%.
Hmmmmm,” he wondered, now seriously confused, “could it be the part between the battery and the charge plug?” and so he changed that part.
A day of a functioning phone. And then it slowly drained again.

I decided to go to a more reputable phone repair store downtown. They’ve got several branches, over 6 employees in a store, people lining up and valet parking to deal with the flow of customers. That must be a sign of professionalism.

They didn’t take any half measures. The battery got replaced (yet again), the part between the plug and the battery as well, and some other small chip processor type of thing. A whopping $210! But hey, you want your phone to work, right?

And it worked a bit longer, although I could not quite understand why the phone never really charged beyond 75%. Even after 24 hours on the plug. And then it didn’t charge beyond 53%.

Back to the store. “We’ll fix it,” they said with confidence, as I dropped it off. Yeah. Right.
Today I called them. Yes, it was ready for pick up.
So I drove to the store, where I retrieved my phone with a mere 23%.

“No, I said I’d pick it up if it were a 100%.”
“But I swear it works. It was a 100% when they dropped it off.”
“That’s what you said before.”

“Ya wallah Madam it work.”
We came to an understanding. I would go shopping for an hour, and if I would return, they’d swear, it would be a 100%.

And so I went shopping.
And I came back after an hour.
And it was 26%.

The manager now took charge.
Tomorrow, you come pick it up, and it is fixed. If not, your money back.”

Tomorrow. Can’t wait.

Any suggestions?

September 18, 2016

New Hipness

There’s a new hipness in the air in Lebanon. It’s called camping. It’s been a hype in Europe since the 1940’s, but had been already a ‘thing’ among the more affluent since the turn of that century, and recently, the Lebanese have seemed to discover it. 

The scouts of Lebanon always camped out, but recently others have taken to the tents as well. 
Maybe because many have encountered camping abroad, or maybe because Decathlon has made camping gear more accessible, whatever the reason, camping is ‘in’. If you've been following LiveLoveLebanon on Instagram, all you see these days is pictures of mountain tops, starry skies and campers.

I notice it on my early morning hikes in the mountains with the dogs. It used to be just the scouts I encounter in summer. This morning, I walked along five encampments.

Some camp on their own, just boyfriend and girlfriend. Some are hunters, who are too lazy to get up early and drive to the mountains, and who - complete with argilehs and barbeques - sleep amids the birds they will kill the next morning. Others are groups of friends that just want to hang out among the stars at night, and chill. 

One of the groups looked more like a hammock convention. You need trees for hammocks, and there’s plenty of those around. It was a wonderfully colorful displays, hammocks strung up everywhere, creating an intricate spider web.

I am all for this new camping movement. Spending time outdoors should definitely enhance your appreciation of nature, and the importance of conserving it, although how these hunters fit into this picture, I cannot quite explain yet.  Apart from environmental awareness, it seems to have all sorts of other positive side-effects.  

Right now it’s mainly a thing here among the generation that is sandwiched between high school graduation and marriage - but that may be because that’s the only time in their lives in Lebanon when they have actual freedom - but taking your kids camping has ‘educational, psychological and social benefits’ , according to this study.

Camping is a humbling experience; the realization that living with less clutter is liberating, and whenever I come back from my 6-week summer camping trip, I rage through my house and get rid of things. Hubbie is now well aware of that annual de-clutter drive. He warns me in advance “Throw away what you like, but don’t touch my things.

And so camping should – in theory – function as a reminder that this consumer society we live in, is of course not a trend we can continue.

Groups of fiends camping in the forests and fields indicates there is a mentally shift in the air. There’s one thing, however, they haven’t figured out yet:  what to do with their trash? Their shit is literally all over the place. If I were mayor of a municipality that has campers hanging out in my town, I’d provide garbage cans, and signs reminding them to pick up after themselves.

But in the end, it’s the campers who should take that responsibility themselves. Hopefully that mentally shift will follow.

September 13, 2016


Found a bird up in the mountains. Found it flapping around the field, unable to get up and fly.
Hunting season is in full swing, and you practically have pellets raining down on you as you hike. They shoot at anything that moves, and often don’t even track what they shoot. Hence this beautiful
bee eater, or warwar in Arabic, shot in the wing, on the road. They pass by twice a year on their migration between Africa and Europe.

I am not into eating birds, which is a bit of a local delicacy, so I do not get the whole bird hunting thing. This one was easy to catch, but what to do with a wounded bird? They only eats insects while flying, but will ignore them as it perches on a branch.  

I found one a couple of years ago. Same scenario; a hunter not picking up what he shot. That one didn’t make it.

It's a beautiful aqua-greenish bird, with a long beak. 
"Take it out of its misery," suggested hubbie, who can break little bird necks without flinching. But I cannot. The bird shop owner in the village knew what to do; he splinted the fractured wing with cardboard and surgical tape.

“Give it water and maggots. If it is not dead yet in two days, it will live. Then come in 10 days, and I’ll renew the splint.”

We’ll see what happens.

September 11, 2016

Simple Things

A little lane with -what turned out to be - walnut trees
I come from a place where all edible things are found in supermarkets. You want to eat, you go to the grocery store. There were some orchards around with cherries, apples and pears, but those belonged to farmers and thus ‘technically’ not available. I did not grow up with the notion that of food equals nature; these were two entirely different concepts. 
When I was young, I remember once seeing an orange in the store that had the little stem with one leave still attached. I was totally mesmerized by that. “Wow,”  I was thinking, “it comes from a tree! To go out into the woods and gather your own food is an alien notion.

Now I live in a place where that link is a lot shorter. Seeing bananas and oranges just growing on trees was an eye-opener for me. On trees!!! You cannot imagine what a joy that gives you when you come from an urban consumers society where food is shipped in, as if it comes out of factories.

Walnut trees against the mountain ridge

Like this morning. As I was walking the dogs, I noticed a man with a stick in a tree along my route. Why on earth would he be climbing a tree with a stick, I was wondering, as I walked on. Reliving his youth? Something got stuck there?

Then I found a walnut on the ground. Again, this surprise. Why would there be a walnut here? Did anyone walk around eating walnuts and dropped one? 
And then I see a round green thing, the size of a prune, and suddenly it dawned on me! Walnuts! They grow on trees! These were walnut trees and the guy was gathering walnuts!!

I got my bag, and started gathering too. First the ones on the ground, than the ones I could pick from the branches myself, and pretty soon I was whacking at branches to get my stash with childlike enthusiasm.

I had to Google how to get that thick husk of the shell, but I got it all organized, and I now have my own stash of freshly harvested walnuts! How simple, yet how rich I feel.

My stash