Audrey's and Alberto's home on the kibbutz

Audrey’s and Alberto’s home on the kibbutz

As a wayfarer in foreign lands, I saw myself as a pilgrim.  But I was not on a religious pilgrimage, even in Israel, where holy sites for three major religions — Islam, Judaism, and Christianity — anchor the many diverse communities.  I went to Israel to stay with my sister and her husband.  They’ve lived on Kibbutz Gazit in northern Israel for nearly 30 years, raised three daughters there, and were the perfect hosts and guides for my stay.  It had been 25 years since I last visited them (they travel to the United States to see us every few years), and back then they lived in a tiny apartment and ate most of their meals in the communal dining hall.  On this trip, I got to see their “new” house (it was built for them 8 years ago) on the kibbutz.  It was spacious, airy, and had a full kitchen — we ate only one meal at the communal dining hall on this trip.

The kibbutz and Israel in general were pretty green in April — their dedicated tree-planting efforts have resulted in a much greener landscape than I remembered from my previous trip.  It was the end of harvest season.  Flowers and trees displayed showy blossoms.  Birds sang and trilled and cooed.  Storks passed by the kibbutz on their yearly northern migration.

The kibbutz is a hybrid of farm and village and natural area.  Its agricultural roots still hold strong.  They raise sheep and cows and chickens.  They grow organic produce and big crops like wheat.  They also have a plastics factory on site, which helps to diversify their income.  And some residents, like Alberto, work in jobs off the kibbutz.  But unlike the isolated farmsteads in the U.S. midwest, the residents of the kibbutz live in clusters of houses and apartments and dorm room-like dwellings, offering the benefits of community and support.  There are on-site day care and elder care, for example.  And while most people now cook at home and eat as a family, the communal dining hall is still in operation for those who need it.  At every meal and social event, the area outside the hall is a virtual parking lot of golf cart-like “vehicles” used by the elder residents to get around.

And you could see why mechanized transport is needed by the frail and elderly, because the kibbutz covers a big area.  There are the residential clusters, the barn and livestock areas, the orchards, the fields.  And surrounding all that is a huge natural area of rolling hills and wadis (creek valleys).  It was a beautiful setting.  Here are some photos:

Mount Tabor seen from the kibbutz

Mount Tabor seen from the kibbutz

Feeding time in the sheep barns

Feeding time in the sheep barns

Sheep (who is this stranger looking at me?)

Sheep (who is this stranger looking at me?)

Some of the earliest trees planted on the kibbutz were these pines.

Some of the earliest trees planted on the kibbutz were these pines.

Field across the road from my sister's backyard (the air was full of sand from Libya)

Field across the road from my sister’s backyard (the air was full of sand from Libya)

Harvesting hay on the kibbutz

Harvesting hay on the kibbutz

Almonds growing

Almonds growing

Flowers, Rudbeckia Tiger Eye

Flowers, Abutilon Tiger Eye

Rolling hills with Jordan in the far, far distance

Rolling hills with Jordan in the far, far distance

Migrating storks

Migrating storks

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

Grapefruit blossoms from one of the orchards

Grapefruit blossoms from one of the orchards

We saw this baby donkey just moments after its birth

We saw this baby donkey just moments after its birth

Kibbutz fields

Kibbutz fields

One of our daily walks on the kibbutz

One of our daily walks on the kibbutz

Hay bales in the field, Skagit Valley

“Thus harvest ends its busy reign
And leaves the fields their peace again
Where autumn’s shadows idly muse
And tinge the trees with many hues.”
— John Clare, “The Shepherd’s Calendar”

Successful marshmallow harvest!!

The final hay harvest of the year

I was captivated by this Skagit Valley field in the late afternoon light.  The plastic-wrapped round hay bales look so much like giant marshmallows!  Delightful!

 

 

 

“A seed hidden in the heart of an apple is an orchard invisible.”
— Welsh proverb

Just-picked Fuji apples, Manson, WA

Chelan and Wenatchee are in the heart of Washington apple country, and the harvest has been underway for some time.  But we still saw many orchards laden with fruit, and hundreds of windfalls beneath the trees.  The rows of trees were a beautiful sight.

According to this Seattle Times article, “Washington state is the nation’s top apple grower and produces about 60 percent of the fresh apple crop.”  And this was an exceptionally good year.  We were driving the rural roads around Lake Chelan on a Sunday, so we didn’t see any pickers at work.

Here’s a look at what we did see:

Orchard supplies along Hwy 970 near Cashmere

Orchard along Hwy 97 nearing Chelan

Looking down the rows of apple trees, Manson, WA

Lots of fallen apples

“When the fruit is ripe it falls of its own accord.”
— Peter Loudon, Drawing Closer to Nature

Boxes of harvested Fuji apples, Manson, WA

Orchards along Hwy 2 near Wenatchee

Orchards along Hwy 2 near Leavenworth, WA

“Consider what a vast crop is thus annually shed on the earth!  This, more than any mere grain or seed, is the great harvest of the year.  The trees are now repaying the earth with interest what they have taken from it.  They are discounting.  They are about to add a leaf’s thickness to the depth of the soil. . . . We are all the richer for their decay. . . . It prepares the virgin mould for future corn-fields and forests, on which the earth fattens.  It keeps our homestead in good heart.”
— Henry David Thoreau, “Harvest”

The maintained trail through our woods

My family’s farm is bordered on the south by a small woods.  When I was young, our dairy herd had free run of the woods and adjoining pasture, and it kept the ground well cleared of brush.  It’s been many years since cows have trod through our woods, and the wilderness is taking over.  The woods are brushy with tangled undergrowth, which makes walking more difficult.

My Dad and brothers do maintain a groomed trail that loops around and through the woods so that we can enjoy our walks there.  The cleared path is quiet and sheltered.  This time of year, the path was blanketed with fallen leaves, mostly brown.  The threadbare trees have their own kind of beauty.

“The woods now going threadbare show us the forest’s inner strength.”
— Allen M. Young, Small Creatures and Ordinary Places

I took this week’s Thoreau quote, not from Walden, but from another of his published writings because it reminded me of my walks through the woods at our Minnesota farm.  I invite you to accompany me on a virtual walk through the woods with these photos:

Stalks of goldenrod

The fall colors have muted to browns and greens

The woods are tangled with new growth and brush.

Looking up into the canopy

Looking down onto the leaf-strewn path

Pine cones amidst the pine needles

Fox squirrel

Stripped bark

My brother's hunting blind

“After the leaves have fallen, we return
To a plain sense of things.”
Wallace Stevens, from “The Plain Sense of Things”

Watercolor sketch of red oak leaves from Glenn's memorial tree

Watercolor sketch of white oak leaves

Another watercolor sketch of white oak, red oak leaves and acorns