Monthly Archives: April 2014

I was looking at all the life

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About 2 and a half hours south of Tel Aviv you will find yourself in the Arava.  The desert plains of Israel.  A thin strip of seeming nothingness but rocks and sand, jutting cliffs and mountains that appear to have been swept in on the last wind.

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Every Passover my family and friends go to the desert to make the most of the holiday, spend time with the childers and discover another little part of Israel. Spring is in full bloom in the desert, in fact in another week or so the evidence of the little rain we had in Israel this winter will dry up in the water holes and the plants and trees with the short roots will wither and dry until the desert is drenched again next year. If you look closely what on first glance appears to be miles and miles of rocks and sand actually reveals so much life.

The butterflies as ever did not aid my amateur photography skills, I did however find this little fella baking in the sun and he obliged by staying still.

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It made me wonder at how this little caterpillar and probably all his friends, found one of the few flowering plants, albeit a prickly home.  Nature is indeed a mystery.

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Deeper into the Arava heading towards a water hole the road ran alongside a riverbed.  Of course the water had long since gone but the evidence of its path was obvious.

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And what beauties I found here.  I drove the childers mad by stopping the car every few minutes as I spotted another colour, another shape, the chance of the elusive butterfly picture.

Perhaps my interest had been piqued by the book I am reading at the moment, The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (which by the way is fantastic). The central character of the book is a botanist so my fascination with how things grow and where they grow was possibly slightly higher than usual. I am only sorry I have never learnt how to photograph my findings better – the yellow flowers are so terribly out of focus that I can only apologise but to get a full idea of the colours I have included it.

I have always had a slight fear of the desert.  On my first trip to the Negev in the days before I lived here my future husband decided to take us off roading, trekking and exploring and when night fell he pulled out a sleeping bag and we slept in a huge open valley with only the stars and the sand for company.  I say slept but I think I finally dropped off as the sun was rising and I could see where the scuttling noises were coming from.  The sheer enormity of open space, open air, nothingness was overwhelming and the thought of snakes, scorpions, spiders and other desert freak creepy crawlies added an edge of Indiana Jones.

Luckily on  this trip I didn’t see any snakes, although one of our friends almost ran his stroller over one as he pounded the dirt tracks to encourage his baby twins to sleep.  I did spot a grasshopper20140423-090935.jpg

and by a water hole, a frog (can you spot him?)

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Of course it being the desert we saw the camels – pregnant or feeding their young, the goats eating the scraps from the pepper farmers and I won’t shame myself with the dots in the sky photos of the massive preying birds.

So have I changed your view of a desert?  Not so barren after all. The desert in the spring is brimming with life, the sun burns but the heat not so intense, it’s dry but you can find water and where there is water there is movement and life and colour.  Try it, you might like it, I do.

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Coat of Many Colours

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At the side of the main coastal highway, wedged between the railway tracks and the noisy traffic there is a field.

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Israel has donned its Spring time coat of many, many colours.

The red stretches as far as the eye can see.  The poppies in this field have not been in bloom for 3 years ( I know, I check every year after being blown away by its beauty 3 years ago), and then the earth, the climate, the time was right and they made a re-appearance in their full glory.

Mother Nature, not satisfied with one colour added a dash of yellow,

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a smattering of white,

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and a surprise clump of purple just for the hell of it

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IMG_1829Fluttering in amongst the blooms and resting on the dry earth were hundreds of butterflies.  We tried and failed to capture them with the iphone camera (no.1 son was convinced he could catch one) but failed dismally.  This is the best we could do. You just have to trust me that there were a lot and they were beautiful.  I don’t know what’s happened this year but the sky is swarming with butterflies.  At a red traffic light the other day I counted 28 fly past my windscreen and I don’t like to think how many my windscreen killed once the lights turned to green.

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In  corners of the field we found nature’s hedgerows in the form of enormous thistles and the prickly pear cactus. Ah! Here’s another butterfly.

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The colour overload continued even in the dirt paths skirting the edge of the field,

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so the view back towards our neighbourhood provided welcome green relief for our irises. (The field is avocado trees which you may be able to see are also in blossom)

IMG_1833One day, when I grow up, I will own and know how to use a proper camera and not rely on the snaps from my trusty phone to capture such images.  I apologise to all photographers. I know that I cannot even try to do the field justice but I wanted to share.  In the words of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber;
It was red and yellow and green and brown
And scarlet and black and ochre and peach
And ruby and olive and violet and fawn
And lilac and gold and chocolate and mauve
And cream and crimson and silver and rose
And azure and lemon and russet and grey
And purple and white and pink and orange
And red and yellow and green and brown and
Scarlet and black and ochre and peach
And ruby and olive and violet and fawn
And lilac and gold and chocolate and mauve
And cream and crimson and silver and rose
And azure and lemon and russet and grey
And purple and white and pink and orange
And blue

 

Sponja

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question

Don’t you know what sponja is?  Or maybe it’s sponga with a soft g. Who knows how you spell it, or do it for that matter.  Yes it’s something you do.  Any guesses?  Well I had no idea what so ever all those years ago when we moved into our first apartment in Tel Aviv.  I was faced with a lot of dust and boxes from shipping all our crap belongings, from the UK and once everything was unpacked I had to clean up.  There was no mop, neither at home nor in the shops.  Instead I had a cloth and a window washer on a long stick.  This is sponja.

As in most hot countries there is no carpet so all the rooms need to have their floors washed and the way to do this – I have since learnt – is to throw a bucket of warm soapy water on the floor, swill it around with the squidgy on a stick and then push the dirty water out to the balcony or down the hole in the bathroom floor, shine the tiles with the cloth which is then wrapped around the squidgy thing and voila; shiny clean floors.  Or not.  In fact I just had pools of dirty water collected and never quite had the foresight to pick everything up off the floor – rugs, furniture, shoes etc. etc.  As the years went by and the homes changed (to the one we live in now where there is no hole in the floor and with a step to the garden and no balcony) sponja for me became pushing rag around with soapy water and hoping for the best.

For those of you not from the UK you may well be thinking I am somewhat of a dunce.  Who doesn’t know how to clean tile floors?  Ummm, people who live in the UK and have carpet and vacuum cleaners? This was before the fashion for laminate floors and cleaning wooden floorboards by throwing a bucket of water and swilling it around was not a good option.

IMG_1777Luckily yesterday my life changed with the arrival chez nous of a Shark steam cleaner.  You may have read a previous post and are already familiar with my love of my Shark floor sweeper.  Now I have the electric mop too.  Ah yes I can swivel the steam around and clean the floors in no time.  No grimy water, no toxic smelling floor cleaner, no slippy patches and forgotten grey puddles.  I feel like I am writing copy for an ad but believe me it has, just like it’s sister, changed my life. I have already washed my floors twice in 2 days – a first in my house. I am now wondering if I can somehow use it to clean the rug, sofas, cupboard doors and bless me I even considered using it to wash the outside patio.

Was I just an undomesticated anti-goddess (my husband could sponja the floor successfully in minutes) or is it another culture thing?  English – can’t sponja, Israeli – can.  I know a lot of my readers aren’t from the UK so tell me, was it just me?

 

NB: Israeli readers, the Shark steam lite is on special offer in Home Center until mid April!