Finally, I escaped…

…escaped from that procrastination flu, you know the illness…

got too much to do today, I’ll take a walk tomorrow,

besides it’s only the first week of autumn.

I escaped yesterday…

…to the autumnal heights…

…to the autumnal heights…

Cheesed

I was born in and grew up in large cities–Detroit, Chicago and Cleveland. With that big-city-supermarket-only detachment, I still look at farm life as a Disneyland attraction. City soft hands vs farm rough hands–same mentality.

But last week I, by chance, attended an Alpabzug held in a village in the Berner Oberland, Jungfrau Region, Switzerland.

…stars of the show…

Alpabzug und Chästeilet! says with exclamatory enthusiasm, we are having a party to celebrate our cows’ return home from the Alpine summer pastures and their cheese distribution.

The Alpabzug is a village festival where the people in the village come out on the main street to a parade of cows that welcomes the cows back home after their season up in the mountains. It is a jolly time.

The parade, led by trychlers (bell-ringers) finishes on the edge of town for a day long festival where people take photos of the cows’ head-dresses, enjoy each others’ company, jodelers, traditional music, eat chäsbraetli (raclette on bread) and buy the cheese made that year on the mountain.

…observing the decorated cows…

The parade through the village reached the festival ground where the residents gathered to appreciate the cows with a party.

…feted cows…

Village families make close relationships with the cows.

…head dresses…

Farmers make decorative head dresses for the cows.

…craftsmanship…

Decorative craftsmanship demonstrates human respect paid to the cows.

…raclette on ruchbrot…

Open-faced raclette cheese sandwiches enjoyed by more than a hundred people.

…party time…

The cheese from this summer has been brought for distribution to the village residents.

…un morceau s'il vous plait…

Each farmer has summer cheese displayed and ready for taste testing.

…good times…

This season’s cheese, muetschli, for sale at 22CHF/kg is sold alongside jellies and jams made from local fruits and berries.

I like how the production and consumption of food is an intimate part of village life. I am amazed that it is still occurring as a village event—not a tourist event.

In my idealistic interpretation, I see the people thanking the cows for the milk given to produce the cheese that will be eaten throughout the wintertime.

What is the way it is said—local food by and for local people. 🙂

Lenihan, Stories, Landscape

Can you feel this? Give it ten minutes.

About people who have lived their lives in a living landscape…and seen…and heard…those things that most of us don’t want to hear or talk about.

Tell me if it is not so?

Eddie Lenihan

And what about your garden, your neighborhood, your nearby landscapes?

Spring Sun Glory

…glories fill my soul…And I woke up to this glorious sunshine–these huge dancing displays of spring green foliage–an ebullient reality…freshly mown patches of domestic lawn in the air…freshly cut first hay of the season in the air…all those smells, fragrances, Syringa, Philadelphus, aromas…weaving in and out of each other…rubbing over each other…exuding…resonating…deeply…again and again…

Filled my lungs again and again until I became inside out dizzy with its sweetness…then I made a mistake.

I read a newspaper. In the article, I was warned that too many cow farts would doom life as I was enjoying it. Naw…ain’t gonna believe that am I? Spring is here. I’m going out for a walk before I miss it!

…too busy…I almost missed Spring…12 of 12…beginninglast

Plentiful Water

…water everywhere to drink…Glacial and snow melt for forests, farms…

…flower parade begins…

…and then the big time flowers begin their parade…

…voluptuous leaves…

…voluptuous tease…since the new year, Viburnum bodnantense, despite its naked stems, had teased me with its winter flowers and their fragrance. Then finally with the correct combination of warmth and sun, its leaves began to show…and the closer I looked, the more the foliage detail entranced me…voluptuous?

What is the energy flowing through its leaf veins…oh, we have names for it…we call it blood in humans…we call it xylem and phloem in plants…but what is it really?

…too busy…I almost missed Spring…10…nextlast

Spring: yes, it’s here now…

…the apple tree……the cows are out…but, it is always the apple tree–I pause–I look–I inhale…apple blossoms, so fleeting, so delightful in color and fragrance.

Then fruit–off the tree, taken by stealth, enjoyed to the fullest–oh those joys of youth…of anytime. And Johnny Appleseed–share the fruit, share the beauty, share the health. Look at that tree–walk over to it…

…glacial waters…

Mountain water–glacial rivers, snow melt–collects in the lowlands…bathes the farm lands, the feet of the plants. Look at the rich mixed forests. And look, if you will, at the gap between the two mountains in the background–it is the portal through which has emerged and withdrawn many times the Lower Grindelwald Glacier–massive ice flow–paintings by Caspar Wolf, 1735-1783.

…too busy…I almost missed Spring…9…nextlast

Desert Street Trees

…dates…food…life…

The founder of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed, understood the hardships of the sand desert landscape. His intent for trees along all major routes of travel was eminently practical–his selection of drought tolerant, evergreen and fruit bearing trees more so.

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     The 23 Club

Immersed in the contemporary culture of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, against the backdrop of the Empty Quarter, The 23 Club tells the inside story of how an iconic project gets built in the oil rich, Gulf region of the Arabian Peninsula.

Table of Contents

  • Desertification
  • It’s 2AM
  • Spike Lounge
  • The Walk
  • Rub Al Khali Coastal

               Desert Street Trees

The weather in combination with the landscape, overwhelmed. Winds and sand swept continuously. Urban development anomalies in this desert were embarrassingly exposed in this kind of weather. Driving along Sheik Zayed Road in the Emirate of Dubai, Chalmers observed a noteworthy absence of any trees, any street trees, anything green. Nothing impeded the winds and sand flowing across the road.

After he and Jean-Claude passed the signs marking the end of the huge empty Waterfront site, they entered the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Immediately street trees began–actually a planting thicker than street trees, more like a shelterbelt planting began–two rows of trees up the median and four rows on either verge.

The big infrastructure of irrigation water provision–hundreds upon hundreds of kilometers of pipes, valves and tubes with emitters, with controllers, with electrical supply, with pumps, pump stations, reservoirs, desalination and sewage treatment plants–always broke down at the lowest common denominator, the last meter before arriving at the plants. Chalmers looked carefully. He could see irrigation lines–the thin tubes of generic poly pipe running between the trees.

Poly pipe tubing may be UV resistant. It may be buried at the time of installation–but the incessant blowing sands always uncovered it–and the value engineering often saved money by suggesting a supplier that did not provide the best rated tubing. The flexible tubing looked like a snake rising up out of the sand and going down into it again and again. Sun exposed brittle and splitting pipe–then partially clogged outlets–both and more contributed to an irrigation of impossible efficiencies and irregular applications–wastage everywhere.

Recalling having seen these problems for more than twenty five years, Chalmers sighed with disappointment–as if he had just been kicked in the gut. At the same time, Madge’s comments about the quality of local contractors’ work and materials came searing back into his memory. Before he could sigh again, he looked hard at the trees, trees obviously straining under the wind and drought conditions.

Chalmers roughly estimated 90% of the trees were alive–that could only mean two things:  that drought tolerant tree species were used, and that laborers were regularly walking these lines to assure delivery of water to the trees. Spaghettis of pipe ran for kilometers to drip out that life giving fluid–so fragile was life for plants in this region.

On previous projects, Chalmers had seen tens upon tens of huge water tanker trucks rumbling 24/7 to supplant failed irrigation water infrastructure–causing untold stress on resources, on transportation networks and on the plants themselves. This issue would be a major point that he must control on his new project.

Offering historical background, Jean-Claude interrupted Chalmers’ thoughts, “When you mentioned Electra and New Dubai, you hinted there might be some kind of competition between Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Well, that’s true. On every level there’s competition between the two emirates, even street trees.

“Listen, throughout his life, Sheik Zayed of Abu Dhabi, the very same Emirati who united the Emirates in 1970, was a major supporter of the practical benefits of shade trees and fruit-bearing trees, especially the date palms. So he chose the most useful and tough trees, Phoenix dactylifera, Ziziphus spina-christi, Prosopis cineraria…and with supporting irrigation, planted them for desert shelterbelt buffers, along all major highways. And that, that’s what we’re seeing out there right now.”

Chalmers said, “It’s pretty clear Sheik Zayed not only had common sense, but also the wealth, resources and will power to apply it.”

“Exactly, he was special. He and those around him have been quoted numerous times on the subject of trees, saying things like…farmers grow date palms in hareems…a date palm must have its feet in the water and its head in the fires of heaven…dried dates and camel milk on land–dried dates and black tea for the pearlers. C’est vrai, it’s clear Sheik Zayed had the intelligence to demonstrate the better of human qualities–humans caring for plants that in turn themselves serve humans.”

  • Rub Al Khali Inland
  • Liwa Qsar
  • The Nursery
  • Finding Majlis
  • Library Majlis
  • Villa Majlis
  • Long and Short
  • Pilgrimage
  • Wanderweg
  • Appendix 1:  Berner Oberland Back Story
  • Author’s Notes
  • Plant List
  • Colophon

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(to be continued)

© 2015 Edward Flaherty

**Blatant Plug: If you find this writing about humans and landscape intriguing, please share it with your like-minded friends. Thank you.**

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Wet and Dry

Wet and dry can describe a lot of situations in life.

the joy of wet

Wet: These snow flakes can not wait to reveal their moisture–it flows.

efficient nourishment

Dry: These dates protect their moisture–they shelter it.

Lots of ways to understand wet landscapes from dry landscapes–the landscape of the humid temperate northern slopes of the Berner Oberland from the arid tropical sands of the Rub Al Khali.

Wet is not equally distributed on the Earth’s surface. Wet and dry have to be managed. Please permit me to offer a tenuously linked digression, just for fun.

In the big picture:

Wet: water, if you just measure surface coverage, makes up 70% of the Earth’s surface or 70% wet.  Ignores the underground water table wetness.

Dry: the land surface coverage makes up 30% of the Earth’s surface or 30% dry. Includes the land permanently covered by snow and or ice.

If we generously average the area covered by a standing human, averaging babies and adults, we can say each human covers 0.5 square meter. The number of humans in the world is 7 billion, therefore humans, standing shoulder to shoulder cover much, much less than 1% of the Earth’s surface.

Is there truly a shortage of water on the planet? Plentiful water or water paucity? I wonder…if someone, in the Berner Oberland flushes the toilet with less water, will more dates grow at the edge of the Empty Quarter?

Summary of numbers:

  • 510,000,000 square kilometers=total surface of Earth
  • 350,000,000 square kilometers=wet surface of Earth
  • 160,000,000 square kilometers=dry surface of Earth
  • 2,600 square kilometers=7 billion human shoulder to shoulder surface of Earth
  • 500,000 cubic kilometers=rainfall per year on surface of Earth, or 70,000 cubic meters per human per year.
  • Each human uses an average of 200 cubic meters water per year.

Shortage? Hardly seems like there should be a shortage of wetness does there?  Am I on the edge of an enigma here? Or is ‘water shortage’ just another nuanced imperialistic push by the globalizing Western world on others…they won’t find me…I am tucked away in an enigma.

!!!Ah–but the population growth projections! Ah–but the climate change projections! Ah–but the software programs that are without fault or human error or human political influence! Ah, yes, we are sure we can control climate and weather, right?

Another glass of water, please…I know a place where the tap water is really good!

An ancient saying comes from Bharat Varsha, known these days as India–‘austerity is the wealth of the brahmanas’.

That is an intriguing concept–a lack of material possessions as a source of wealth.  It does indeed respond as a balance to the obvious excesses of material acquisition, does it not?