Monday, December 04, 2006

flying in to Orly

As our Air France flight from Marrakech began its decent into Paris’ Orly airport I decided my coat smelled decisively and, I must admit, unpleasantly of camel.

Before I go any further I think I need to admit that, as a well traveled tourist, yet another camel ride is not something I need for my tourist credentials.

In Egypt, half a dozen years ago, Wenonah and I participated in the mandatory tourist ‘see the pyramids on the back of a camel,’ experience.

And a few years before that there was the day long trip up and down a mountainous Wadi in Oman.

And how can one refuse to ride a camel up Mount Sinai to see the sunrise over the Red Sea?

Not to mention that over the years we’ve had our contact with camels in Australia, India and Pakistan and long since realized that if you want an animal to carry your baggage, a camel is great. And maybe if you were traveling by animal caravan for weeks if not months that sitting on a camel’s back for part of it might be a welcome rest over continuous walking.

But I need to say right here, that for short walks of only a few days that using your own legs is surely faster and definitely much more comfortable than sitting on a camel's back.

So how we got talked into riding a camel out into the Sahara to see the sunrise is beyond me.

We could have traveled out into the sand much further and much faster on foot and, additionally, if we had, my coat, coming into Paris wouldn’t have had such a distinctive Camel scent.

Anyway, so I'm now back from vacation. The farm is still here. It’s cold. All of the remaining 2006 vegetables (except for, of course, several rows of sorrel) are gone.

The animals are all doing fine. The geese spend the days eating the greens and weeds in the upper field and at night come down to the house and sleep under the protective eye of our pair of Pyrenees. The electric fence around the turkeys and chickens in the far field (what we call the cemetery field because there’s an old cemetery in the middle of it) seems to have effectively protected them from the numerous predators lurking in the surrounding forests.

Everything else out here seems fine so its now time for a brief roadside view of Moroccan farming.


First, I’ve never seen so many olive trees in my life and I’ve seen a lot of olive trees in France, Spain, Portugal and Italy.

There are miles and miles or olive orchards in Morocco, with many worked and owned by families doing what looked to me to be subsistence farming, Entire families out in the fields using horses and mules to pull wood plows through the orchards to plant vegetables between the trees, this time of year the vegetables seemed to be mostly potatoes, cauliflower, carrots and parsley.

And the farming, where there weren’t olive orchards, was still done by men walking behind mules or horses tilling the ground with what looked like home made plows or, lacking the plows and the farm animals (there were tractors to be seen, but very seldom used to till the fields, mostly old Massey/Fergesons and an occasional Ford), the men would be out in the fields working with mattocks to dig and turn and hill the small plots and then later coming back with carts pulled by horses or mules, or lacking that, donkeys loaded with baskets of manure. And the manure was then piled into the center of the previous worked plots and then meticulously worked into the soil and the beds again formed and hilled.

And the woman, they are working just as hard, carrying on their heads and backs great bails of feed for the animals (sheep, goats, the donkeys, mules and horses) along with the firewood that must be coming from who knows how far away.

And this time of year everyone was out in the orchards picking the olives. Men, woman and the children. Shaking the trees, picking olives up from the ground or off of the branches.

Talk about tedious labor.

We also did a lot of walking through Berber markets (this time we would be the only tourists) where the vegetables would be piled up on the ground. Huge cauliflowers and freshly dug potatoes along with new carrots and cilantro and parsley and dozens of herbs and spices I couldn’t identify.

Over where the meat was for sale often the animals would still be alive. The chickens running in pens and you would point out the one you wanted and the farmer would walk over, pick it up and quickly snap its neck and without delay gut and pluck it.

Speak of fresh food.

The goat and sheep had been recently butchered. (I wrote a section describing the meat stands but upon proof reading I realized that the graphic description I had written while touring would probably upset some readers so it's been edited away).

Needless to say, though, not like going down to your local fast food diner.

Anyway, that’s probably enough. I have no plans for going anywhere for most of the next month so if you want to come out to visit or go for a hike, drop me a line. I'll be happy to show you around though the farm in the winter is rather gray and bleak.

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