First signs of winter.

Living in the north of Saudi and 2000 feet above sea level we experience a few cold months usually from November through til March. This year, the temperature has stayed unseasonably high but now there is a definite chill in the air and signs of the approaching winter months are all around.

The leaves on the pomegranate tree have changed colour.

The leaves on the pomegranate tree have changed colour.


The mandarine oranges are ripening.

The mandarine oranges are ripening.


And in the downtown shops the traditional Arab coats, called Farwa, are on sale.
This year's range include some bright colours.

This year’s range include some bright colours.


I went with the intention of buying 1 to take home and ended up buying 2!
My bright Syrian farwa.

My bright Syrian farwa.


And the back view.image
And also from Syria a more conservative farwa.image
I doubt that I will ever wear them out and about in UK unless it’s to a fancy dress party but for summer evenings in the garden they will be great to keep any slight chills at bay:)
So how cold does it get in Tabuk? Today it was a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 19, but later in the week they’re forecasting 0 degrees! Time to put the sandals away for a few months I think!

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In my garden

Even after living here for many years I’m never totally confident about when to successfully plant seeds and get results. This morning I tended my little herb/veg patch with the hope that in a few weeks I might have some fresh salad leaves to pick. This would be very welcome as apart from long lettuce, very occasionally iceberg lettuce and sometimes rocket there isn’t much choice in the salad leaf department to be had in the supermarket.
Whilst preparing my small patch for planting I dug up some insect larvae. I’m not exactly sure what they are- beetle things maybe? Any suggestions welcome:)

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When I went to get some potting compost I remembered the tiny gecko eggs I’d found there a few months ago. Here is what I found.

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🙂 they’d hatched. I was so pleased that I hadn’t caused them any harm last time. When I moved the canvas covering the potting compost bag this gecko ran out.

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Perhaps it was one of the hatchlings? It looked a bit big, but then I don’t know how quickly they grow.
My garlic chives are flowering at the moment and are proving to be very popular with the bees.

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As well as a beetle that I haven’t noticed before.

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Although it’s still 35 deg C here it’s lovely to find a shady spot and enjoy a little time noticing the wonderful nature that exists here.

iPhone gizmo.

My husband surprised me with this funny little gizmo called an Olloclip a few weeks ago.

20130902-224630.jpg it’s a 3 in 1 lens attachment to use on my iPhone, like this.

20130902-224817.jpg When turned one way it works as a fisheye lens; turned the other way a wide-angle and if you unscrew the lens piece it becomes a macro lens- very dinky! I hadn’t had much chance to play around until the last few days but so far I’m liking the results and extra possibilities it gives for taking photos using my phone. The only down side is that to fit it in I have to remove the cover I have on my phone and I just don’t seem to have the knack to do that easily! Anyway here are a few photos I took outside my house.

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20130902-230153.jpgjust realised I was having so much fun with the macro and fisheye that I took very few with the wide angle and it was getting dark so they weren’t very good and I deleted them! Oops!

Gecko

I’m not much of a gardener but I do like to try to grow a few things in our patch of garden. It’s been very rewarding recently to go out and pick a few salad leaves, herbs and tomatoes to add to the salad for our dinner, and know exactly how they’ve been grown and enjoy the lovely, fresh taste. A small area of the veg patch had got past it’s best and after some procrastinating it was time to take action. My husband kindly cleared the old tomato plants and I dug over the area, adding some of my homemade compost. After rummaging through my bag of seeds I thought I’d try some beet root. As I said, I’m not much of a gardener so apologies to any knowledgable gardeners reading this who might baulk at the idea of planting beet root in July in Saudi! Ignorance is bliss, as they say, and I will happily leave the results in ‘the lap of the gods’ or as they say locally- Inshallah.
When I went to get some shop bought potting compost to sprinkle over the seeds I was surprised to be met with this sight-

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2 tiny gecko eggs:)
I don’t mind these small lizards at all. In fact I think they’re quite sweet and am happy to have them live around our doorway as I’m sure they do their best to keep the mosquito population down. My husband likes them too, but has told me a few tales of Saudis at work killing them because they’re dangerous. Intrigued, I looked it up and found that it’s all tied in with Mohammed’s teachings. In Islam, the house gecko is regarded as a pest and like other pests a carrier of disease. Which, I suppose, equates to how mice, cockroaches, ants etc. are regarded in my culture. Here is the link for the info I found-
http://en.islamtoday.net/quesshow-152-607.htm
Have I changed my opinion of geckos? Although,yes, I can understand that geckos are possibly germ- carriers, I still think they’re cute and don’t really think that they should be killed so senselessly- but then I haven’t been brought up in the Islamic faith.

Spiders!

Today I took my class (yes , in my other life here I am a primary school teacher!) to see some spider webs in a garden near the school. For nearly 2 years we’ve had a spider web frame in our school garden and its failed to attract a single spider to spin a web for us to observe. One of the mothers knowing about this had noticed lots of webs in her neighbours garden so arranged for us to walk over and take a look.
Now although I am very keen on nature and encouraging a love of it into my class spiders just aren’t my thing- I tell a lie – there are one small jumping type that we get here that I think are quite cute and don’t fill me with panic like most if the others.

Our visit was very successful, I don’t think I showed any fear at all to the children! The only spider I saw was quite small and delicate and in fact I was so fascinated watching it wrap up its prey and then squirrel it off to its ‘spider cupboard’ to the back of the plant that I didn’t really think about feeling anxious at all.
Some of the children were a bit uncertain about getting close to the webs or spider but although I was happy for them to overcome their fear I was also keen that they remember that some of the spiders they may encounter may do them harm.

The red back spider is one of the spiders that is most likely to cause injury. Many have been found in people’s gardens and luckily no-one has been bitten. Interestingly, some of the children at school have been the ones to spot them and warn others- including some adults who were unaware of the danger lurking in their garden!
The infamous camel spider- which isn’t technically a true spider, aren’t that dangerous- they just look threatening, can be as big as a hand and totally freak me out! They’re nocturnal so unless I’m out in the garden after dark there’s little chance of an encounter, thankfully.

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The dreaded camel spider!

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20130522-234733.jpgthe cute little jumping spider.

Oasis

18 years ago the compound I live in was built on the edge of town in what had been a farmer’s field. The area is blessed with underground water reservoirs so there are a lot of fields in the surrounding area.
Initially, the compound was a concrete, soul-less place but over the years trees have been planted, grassy areas, flower beds, bushes and hedges added. Most people spend a little time on their gardens and there are various garden-styles to be appreciated as you walk around.

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It has been interesting to observe how the bird-life has grown over the years. In the beginning there were some pigeons and sparrows resident on the compound. Now, there are lots of bulbuls, spur-winged plovers, hoopoes, bluethroats and palm doves regularly in the gardens.

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Hoopoe.

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Spur-winged plover.

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In Spring and Autumn migratory birds including bee-eaters, parakeets and various birds of prey can be seen flying around the area. So now, our compound has become a welcome haven for many varieties of birds, big and small.

Off with their heads!

Yesterday I walked to the compound shop and was cheered up by the grassy area outside the shop. The whole area was a beautiful carpet of yellow and orange daisy-type flowers – an uplifting sight:) I had my phone with me so took a few pix.

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Today as I approached the shop I could hear the sound of a lawnmower and my heart sank- as I got closer my fears were indeed confirmed – the daisies were no more- they had fallen foul of the grass cutting gardener.