Two Weeks into the Omer

farike making 1We are now almost two weeks into the Omer – the 49 plus one days that are counted between Passover and Shavuoth.  In a region that has basically two seasons – winter and summer, the Omer, which bridges between them, has always been a period of tremendous climatic uncertainty, with drastic implications for agriculture.

So far this has been a textbook Omer – Sweltering days followed by drastic drops in temperature. Thunderstorms, lightning and pounding rain, then dust storms that leave a yellow scrim over every surface.

Yesterday we joined Balkees and went to visit our friends who still practice traditional agriculture outside of Nazareth.  They had told her that, although they wouldn’t be out in the fields, we could go on our own and pick the peas that are now in season.  The matriarch of the family, Um S., whose domain is these fields, was home recovering from a torn cartilage, and her absence was obvious when we searched for the rows of peas.

dead peas

Dead peas in the pod

Amidst the undergrowth, all of the pea plants were dried up and dead, the result, Balkees explained, of the heat, followed by rain, followed by more heat – and of course, no greenhouse protection.  We salvaged a small pile of pods, but the peas inside of them, while still green, were bitter.


not yet mature chickpeas


fava beans

Nearby, rows of chickpeas seemed to have withstood the climatic onslaught unscathed.   Heartiest were the thick-skinned fava beans (ful), and we each filled our bags with them.

Following a plume of smoke, we drove across the rutted dirt roads to the wheat field where a man and woman were in the midst of preparing farike.  As I understood it, they had leased the field from our friends and were making their way through the green wheat, harvesting, drying and roasting the green ears at their own pace.

farike making

roasting farike

charred wheat in field

green wheat field and charred wheat

What had all this late rain signified for them, I asked.  For the wheat that’s still in the ground, no problem, they answered.  But for what was cut and laying on the ground waiting to be roasted, getting wet meant disaster.  They had had to spend 1000 Shekels on plastic sheeting to cover the wheat, just to protect their investment.  “I knew the rain was coming.  I look at the 3-day forecast,” the man explained.

We left the farike-roasters and continued to where our friends keep their cattle and goats out on the rocky open hillside.  Abu S. was milking the goats, by hand, taking over for his wife who usually does this work.  I was struck with wonder at the primacy of this way of life, based on unmediated interaction between indigenous animals and foods and intensive human effort, with only the barest traces of technology.  It was absolutely clear to me that this symbiotic and fraught relationship between humans and the land, maintained for thousands of years on these same hillsides, will not endure much longer.

We followed Abu S. back to their family home, where we sat in the living room, Um S.’s foot wrapped in bandages.  Besides the damage to the peas, what did the rains signify for the rest of her crops, I asked.  They are good for the tomatoes, she told me.  This profound soaking of the earth, I could imagine, boded well for summer vegetables that would rely entirely on groundwater for their growth.


  1. Lucretia Schanfarber says:

    Hi Abbie: How intriguing to hear what’s going on in your amazing part of the planet. I love your posts. Our garden here on Quadra Island is lush and green. April showers have done their duty and now we await the sun which is (thankfully!) forecast for most of next week with temperatures up to 20 degrees Celsius. The Brazilian Snow peas which I have saved seeds from for the past 10 years are 8 inches high & starting to climb. We’ve had several harvest of rhubarb which I have given to family and friends. Tomorrow I make my first batch of rhubarb-strawberry jam (using fresh rhubarb & frozen strawberries from last year’s harvest. Yesterday I spied the first strawberry blossom of the year in my garden. The Mache, kale, sorrel, red mustard and chickweed continue to fill the salad bowl. The fig trees appear to be putting out fewer fruit nubs than usual; probably due to the heavy pruning we gave the mother tree after a bear had his way with her. She will recover, survive and ultimately thrive. On another note…Did you know that 2015 is International Year of the Soil?
    How WONDERFUL that people all around the planet are awakening to the glories of soil and celebrating its fascinating, life-giving qualities! Here is a link to a fabulous film about the intrigues and blessings of soil. Watch it soon. It is only available to watch for free until April 26, 2015:
    Let’s spread the good news of this “soil revelation.” The more people who learn to love, nurture, heal and respect our soil, the healthier & happier we will all be!
    Happy Gardening from Lucretia on Quadra Island in BC Canada.