The Golden Night; in The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

The stormy night's cloud cover reflected the light from Riyadh over the farm

The golden night, mysteries in the greenhouse, dancing with gastroenterologists and bulbuls in the rear view mirror.

Two nights ago it rained.  First the wind came up blowing dust in front of it, obscuring the sky.  Under this cover, clouds quietly assembled until at 7:00 pm, thunder announced the storms presence and lightning lit the darkened sky, illuminating the jagged leaves of the palms.  Lightning and thunder continued for  an hour- strike after strike down the wadi.  Like the rain that fell- huge wet drops,  that felt like they would soak you- but didn’t quite.  The thunder and lightning were similarly just out of reach down the wadi among the palms and not overhead but absolutely dramatic nonetheless.

With the storm came a golden night.  The soft contours of the limestone bluff, the road, the eroded slopes, the crumbling ruins of Diriyah, were gold and it was so light one could have  worked in it- no problem. The world was bathed in heavenly light.  It was not cold and we walked around the farm in our pajamas with the raindrops. The rain cleaned the sky  which was sparkling clean the next day, but deposited its dirt on the plants.  Such is life  on the Arabian peninsula in the desert.  One cannot have everything.

stunted and diseased tomatoes and completely failed peas that the goats and sheep next door found delicious

The greenhouse was full of problems.  In one greenhouse sections of the tomatoes were  stunted, others were diseased.  I initially imagined that the discrepancies in height and vigor were all due to diseases like Early Blight and Tomato yellow Curly Leaf Virus.  The workers had obviously not pulled out the diseased plants, nor pruned off the diseased leaves to keep levels of the Early Blight fungus down.  But, when I started pulling out plants, I noticed that the soil, while wet on the surface, was dry underneath.  Looking further I realized the drip tape was not pressure compensating and the water was accumulating at the end of the bed,  where the plants were big and healthy.  Further investigation showed that about half the plants had root knot nematodes, eroding their ability to take up water and nutrients and predisposing them to diseases and pests. In the other greenhouse, the soil was wet and the plants were very healthy.  We are working on instructing the fellows- (is this possible?) in crop rotation to help diminish the nematode problem and are replacing the drip tape with new- PC of course.  The farm is full of mysteries like this.  Another was- why are some beds of potatoes dying in the lower garden? Was it frost, as it appeared to be?  We tried to solve this problem from home and couldn’t but as soon as we arrived I realized That the white potatoes (origin China) from the market in  Diriyah were dead and the others (origin Egypt) , from the Tamimi market were healthy.  Cause- disease.  We hope the disease is not now transplanted on the farm.

Last night a friend invited us to the gala buffet for an international meeting of gastroenterologists that she worked to organize.  It was held in a huge hall at the al Faiselia hotel where I had given a talk last year.  The evening began with traditional Saudi dancing and singing with a rababa. The docs were encouraged to get on the stage and dance with the Saudi dancers and were each given swords.  Mr Benjamin Frey joined them with a sword of his own. Can you imagine a more dangerous experience than dancing with gastroenterologists with swords?  We met one from San Francisco- a Dr. Emit Keith, one of the main speakers.  If anyone is looking for a good Dr. this is a recommendation.  We discovered among other things that there is now a Saudi journal of gastroenterology that took quite a bit of effort to establish.

Bulbil love birds

The bulbuls- my favorite birds- to be precise, the yellow-vented bulbuls, are courting.  A deeply in love pair  was sitting  on the truck door, feeding each other a tidbit of tomato and fluffing up and preening in the most self satisfied way.  They were both sitting where they could see themselves- or 2 other birds in their minds- and the male would fly at it frequently while his lovely wife would chitter and fluff with adoring approval.  They would fly to the top of the mirror and perch and fluff and preen each other and kiss as if they had conquered the barbaric invaders below them.

The swallows arrived today and flew high above the ruins of Diriyah.

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