Monday, May 12, 2008

Upupa epops

My dear, indulgent husband agreed to let the new gardener put a lawn in over the dust bowl that was the backyard of the Crumbling Villa. It’s thriving, and I love it. We had originally intended to have a desert garden -- cacti and aloes and various plants that need little water -- but between the last gardener watering the cacti to death and the neighborhood cats deciding the sand box was a perfect, well, sand box, we decided to go a bit more conventional. Or rather, I decided, and he didn’t object. Well, not until he saw the first water bill.

Our new gardener a bit of a madman. He’s Afghani, I think, and speaks about six words of English; however, he has a brother who speaks a bit more, and we manage to communicate more or less. His jaw dropped at the sight of his new charge. I think he expected we “English” to have a veritable forest in the back garden, and was shocked by the desolation of the dust bowl. Indeed, our few scrubby aloes weren’t terribly impressive.

The first thing he wanted to do was carpet the yard with camel dung (or whatever the foul smelling stuff they use here is) and put down sod. We let him. Who was I to argue (and how?)? Besides, without the sand box, the nasty neighborhood cats might find another toilet-cum-bordello to hang out in. Bonus. Once the lawn was in, the gardener decided we needed flowers along the borders. He ignored the spiky plants that were already there and merrily stuck in purple and white petunias. Very cheery for a month, but then they started frying in the sun and smelled worse than the cats or the camel dung. He moved on to some brightly colored, rather ugly zinnia-type-things that grow way too high and attract bees and gnats. At least most of the cats stay away.

But the bit I love is the grass. I know it’s silly to want to grow grass in the desert. I know I should be concerned about the atrocious wastefulness of keeping a garden green during the 45C+ heat of the summer in the middle of a desert. I also know that the Crumbling Villa came with two trees that are perfect for hanging a hammock between, so I’ve got my grass. It’s marvelous to run my toes through. Even the Grumpy One joins me under the trees when the evening is cool enough, so he doesn’t dare complain (much). And the cats don’t like it nearly as much as the sand, so most have moved on to other, drier gardens. Bonus.

Friday morning I was making breakfast (which I do from time to time) and went to the sink to wash up a couple of dishes (which I do somewhat less frequently). I looked out of the kitchen window to enjoy the newly mown lawn and saw this lovely fellow strutting up and down and flexing his wings, looking for all the world like he owned the place. I was wildly excited to think that something so rare and exotic had been drawn to my precious lawn, and nearly burned the sausages gawping at him.

I made the Goat get his camera and take photos of it so I could ask the Natural History Society people whether they’d ever seen such a magnificent bird, only to find when I proudly showed them the pictures that my rare, exotic treasure is as common as muck, at least around here. So common, in fact, that Upupa epops, or the hoopoe (as he is called) was the bird that the Queen of Sheba (which is right next door) sent to chat with King Solomon in the Koran,according to my students. Kind of the messenger pigeon of his day, I suppose.

Still it would be nice if this little hoopoe moved in. Perhaps he will if we can keep the last of the neighborhood cats out of the yard. I wonder what the Pashtu is for "Go ahead and turn the hose on the cats if you want to"?


Blogger dubaibilly said...

Common as muck, but none the less splendid for all that.


7:15 PM  
Blogger Grumpy Goat said...

If the hoopoe is as common as it is alleged to be, why is the one in the photo the only example I've ever seen?

11:47 AM  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

Cyn/GG: maybe they're common in West Dubai only. I'm not good on nature stuff (ask MamaSwanLadybirdDuck), but even I recognised the hoopoe. Great photo, BTW.

6:20 PM  
Blogger Jayne said...

I recognised the hoopoe straight away - sorrrrry! When I lived in the Magic Kingdom, I made it a priority to have grass. I was lucky enough to actually have a garden, but I wanted the green stuff too. It took months of effort & several lakes worth of water, but I managed it in the end. I had to do it from seed though, which was a blood mission, as the birds would eat the seeds the minute they were laid to ground.
I envy you, crumbling villa et have a garden.
*very big sigh*

1:35 PM  
Blogger Mars said...

the hoopoe is so pretty.

12:04 PM  
Blogger EyeOnDubai said...

Am delighted to have a bee-eater building (weaving?) a nest in the fig outside my front door. Ain't birds wonderful?

10:23 PM  

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