January 11, 2012

On Soil and the Beqaa Valley

In the middle of the Beqaa Valley, looking west (Lebanon mountains)

I’ve been plodding around the Beqaa Valley quite a bit these last two weeks. Quite against the advice of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (scroll to onveilige gebieden), who believes most horrific things might befall upon me, due to criminal activities over there of a serious degree. Specifically Hermel, Brital, Ersal, Majdel Anjar en Anjar. Hmmm. I think I’ve driven through there just last weekend, although we avoided Brital, out of fear for my car, not my life.

Why the Beqaa Valley? Courtesy of hubbie, who has decided he is in need of a piece of land on which he is going to build a little shack where he can sit and contemplate life. The mountain house won’t do. He wants something more . . . I don’t know what. Isolated, I think it is.

Working outdoors; the shoemaker and the tailor.

I have stipulated I want to be able to see the sea from my chair. He has decided it is going to be somewhere in the Beqaa Valley. I have mentioned that I wouldn’t mind having a supermarket nearby. He’s set on having a herd of sheep next door. I want the hills, he wants the valley floor.
I think it has to do with the fact that he’s fed up with people and clutter, two things the Beqaa Valley is quite void of. Relatively speaking, of course.

My prospective neighbors? I think not.

But as a good wife, I slug along, stare intensely at plots of land, and then give some well-thought of advice. Such as; “If it floods, you’ll need a boat here.” Or; “So how are you going to hook on to the main sewer system?”, and “Do you think you’ll have much in common with your neighbors? What are you going to talk to them about?” nodding at some Bedouin tents in the field.

But as he is quite set in his ways, and as I know him, he will throw all my well-meant advice into the wind. That doesn’t really matter. I greatly enjoy driving around with him and looking at things. There’s just so much to see in the Beqaa Valley.

An odd sight; this guy had all his plastic household stuff in one color only.

This week I had a conversation with a soil expert. He specializes in soil chemistry, and helps farmers improve their soil and crops. He mentioned that he was a very poor driver (his wife confirmed that) because everywhere he drives, he looks at soil. He is fascinated by soil. So passionate in fact, that in a one hour conversation, this passion was passed on. I learned about young soil and old soil. That is takes a 1,000 years to make just 2 centimeters of soil in Lebanon, that the soil in the Beqaa Valley is some 90 million years old (I might be a few million years off here) and that of the 12 different types of soil in the world, only 2 of these exist in Lebanon.

Olives (the new harvest is in. Lovely spicy)

Forgive me if I cannot cite the exact names, but one of them has to do with something ‘verti’. This soil expands and contracts with moisture, and as a result develops vertical cracks, which then are filled-in again with soil. And there’s only one patch of it in Lebanon; on the right side of the road as you drive into the Beqaa Valley, just above Shtoura.

\That patch of vertisol (if I got the name right)

I could go on for quite a bit, but I realize that you as a reader may not be necessarily very interested in soil. But when you drive around this country, and you see so many things, it becomes all fascinating. A life time is just too short to figure it all out. I still need to study geology, and archeology, and I don’t know enough about the ancient history of this place, particular the Roman and the Neolithic times.

Part of the Beqaa Roman ruins.

So much to learn, so little time. Maybe this Beqaa valley project is not such a bad idea. I could sit next to this contempating guy, and study in peace.


Turquoise Diaries said...

Hello there,
I was looking for some photos from Beirut and I come across to your blog. I think I looked so many of your photos and love them..Thanks to your blog I rather know what to expect from our coming trip in March. I will be following..

ingrid thornton said...

contemplating.....we could all use a little more of that I think. I too have a long standing wish for such a place; it is my hubbie that needs convincing!

Becky Gregory said...

"This week I had a conversation with a soil expert. He specializes in soil chemistry, and helps farmers improve their soil and crops." I wondered if I knew this soil expert and his wife just sent me some photos. Years ago he presented a science lesson at my daughter's 4th Grade class here in Bloomington, IN. Once a teacher, always a teacher.