The Owl’s Den… Diriyah, Saudi Arabia

September 18
Yesterday, our first day we slept through the day and got up when temperatures had moderated in the evening.  It didn’t feel too hot.  Today, we were out early on the farm and through the day in the heat.  Tonight it feels very warm.  Mosquitos are hovering in clouds outside our door.  Both events contribute to a feeling of being besieged in our house this evening.  A number managed to sneak in and we are busy swatting them.

We had a lovely dinner of chard, silak, arugula, and mouloukhia with red lentils and lemon basil.  I put a tomato sauce over it all.  It would have better with garlic and onions, which we don’t have yet as both vehicles we usually have at our disposal are getting fixed.  We also don’t have our very refreshing, good-as-the-real-thing-non-alcoholic beer.

Today the farm had a visit of 22 Chinese people who are here on oil business.  They apparently wandered into the farm last week, lost, and asked for a tour.  The Prince happened to be here and spoke to them.  He offered to set up a tour of the farm and Diriyah- and today they came in a bus.

We spent the rest of the day going over the farm tasks and practices with the new farm manager, Paul.

The most cheerful aspect of the farm is all the lovely birds singing and carrying on from the earliest hour before the sun touches the top of the palm trees and all life slows.  Sparrows, bulbuls, doves, pigeons, a mynah like bird, a flycatcher, an all black fly catcher like bird, a warbler of some variety and others frequent the premises of the farm.  The sparrows are the only ones who eat plants, and they are like winged locusts.

The 19th
At noon today, when the workers had gone to lunch, the atmosphere was palpably quiet, with only the thistle down of the Calotropis procera flowers (like milkweed down) floating through the still air. Its common name is Sodom’s apple, a stern name for such large and soft inflated pods that burst open ad deflate in the hot sun to reveal its seeds assembled as perfectly as fish scales with the down neatly folded in anticipation of silent flight. The shrub has striking, oblong, white felted leaves that stand out in a statement of white against the prevailing desert taupes and an abstract modernism in a conformist land. Nothing eats its leaves as they contain toxic white sap.

We are cleaning up beds and planting seeds, trying to get the farm in order.
We planted cauliflower purple of sicily, romanesco broccoli, pac choi, red pac choi,  bok choi, mizuna, red mustard, ruby streaks mustard, red carrots, purple carrots, white carrots, leeks, lettuce, spinach, red spinach, red, and gold chard, sunflowers, alyssum, cosmos and more.  It is about 102 or more in the afternoons.  It peaks around 3:30 and the temperature falls to the low 90’s at about 6:00.  Dark comes quickly and so so millions of mosquitos.  Apparently it has been too hot for them until now and the cooler nights allow the eggs to hatch.

As we were finishing planting around 6:00, I noticed what looked like a tiny figure watching us from a small cave in the limestone bluff above the quarry garden. It was so still and the light was dim inside the cave, that I wasn’t sure it wasn’t a  rock, but looking closer I could see a small head, torso and legs, all perfectly still.  I realized it was the Pharaoh Eagle Owl we had seen the other night.  We ran and got our cameras- and we stared at it and it stared at us as we swatted legions of mosquitos.  We moved off so we didn’t alarm it and could then see its little head above the rock where it had walked outside and was watching us.  Dusk was seriously descending and the mosquitos were attacking so we left.  We never saw an owls den before.

The best from us,

Kate and Ben

This entry was posted in Main. Bookmark the permalink.