Saturday, November 6, 2010

Harvest Time

Here we are at the beginning of November. The rain has ended and it is harvest time here in Burkina Faso. When the millet has ripened, people go out and cut the grain bearing part off of each stalk. You see donkey carts or big bowls balanced on people’s head going from the fields to the courtyards, where the grain is dried in the sun, removed from the stalk, and stored to be used later in the year. The peanut plants are pulled up and carried home in the same way. As I mentioned before, there were beans growing up the millet stalks, which were harvested a while ago. In some fields you now see the gourds, used to make the calabashes for eating and drinking that have also been growing among the millet.

After the grain is removed, the stalks of the millet plants are cut down and left to dry. They can be used as animal fodder during the dry season, when nothing grows, or woven into mats to be used to create shade, like the hangar I showed you in the demystification entry. To build a hangar you need poles. Because it is against the law to cut down trees here I wondered where they were coming from. Then I heard chopping from semowhere down one of the paths by my house. I looked out to see a neighbor up in a tree, cutting off a couple of branches. It is really just pruning the tree, and it will grow two where one was removed, I guess. Below is an example of this kind of pruning. I did not get the top of the tree in the first picture because I had no idea they were going to prune it. I was get taking general picture of the countryside. I am standing in front of this tree in the picture in the pagna blog, so you can check it out there, too. The top used to be much higher than the part that is left. Maybe you can get an idea from these pictures of how much was “pruned” to get wood for the fire and for a new hangar.

Another thing that happens is that the animals, which have been carefully tethered to stakes pounded into the ground, away from the crops, during the growing season are now set free to roam and graze at will. One day I was surprised to hear cattle lowing and a loud rustling sound. I looked out my window and saw a herd of 50 or more cattle wandering through the millet field behind my house. I had not seen many cattle here, but there were a lot that day! I did not see any cows, only “beef” as they say here. They sure do make a lot of noise!

I asked a neighbor about whether people were upset to have the animals grazing in their fields, and he told me there is a person who tells the village when it is OK to let the animals graze freely. I guess if you are slow getting your crops in, it is just too bad for you. Now there are pigs and piglets of various sizes, goats and sheep with lots of baby goats and sheep, chickens and guinea fowl with their chicks, as well as the cattle and donkeys, roaming everywhere.

Bats are gone

It appears that the poison gas attack was successful in getting rid of my bats, that is to say, killing them all off. They removed the dropped wooden ceiling in one of my rooms and the smell from the attic is terrible. Now I am waiting for the carpenter to go to the nearest big town to make the lath that will hold up the bigger pieces of light plywood that form the ceiling. Interesting to have to make lath! I have to keep the door to that room shut and hold my breath when I walk past it. Hopefully it will have a ceiling and the smell will be confined to the attic soon.

Now that the bats are gone, I thought I could sleep at night without being awakened by critters, but the other night I was awakened by the rustling of paper. Yikes! What was that? I knew it could not be a person because my house is very secure. I told myself to go back to sleep, but that wasn’t happening! I got my flashlight and checked out the room. I found a toad (I love the French name for toads, crapaud, pronounced crap-oh) sitting on my package of toilet paper that was on the floor. I think it perceived the plastic wrapping as water and was trying to go for a swim. In any case, I threw a pair of slacks over it, captured it and put it outside, only to be awaked in another hour by the same sound. This time the toad (the same one or its friend, I don’t know) trying to swim on the wrapping of a small pack of tissues that was on the floor. Another toad trapped and put out and I made sure there were no more attractive places for the toads to try to swim in my room.

I told a neighbor about the toads and she said, yes, the toads come into the house this time of year and hide in the corners. Now that there are no puddles for them to swim in, they try to find cool places to go to ground. I think that they burry themselves for the dry season and re-emerge when the rains return in June or July. I don’t think I have told you about the racket they make. During the rainy season they were very noisy, singing to each other all night long. I got used to hearing the sound, and had not noticed that they are no longer singing until my recent toad encounter. As every perceptual psychologist knows, it is easier to detect the presence of something than the absence of something, unless the change is abrupt and here is a good example of that. (Sorry, I can’t quit being a dispenser of information.)

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