Tunisian Nature Walk
Since we don’t have a yard at our little beach bungalow, Tony and I decided to re-institute the classic Charlotte Mason practice of nature walks. I take the children out for an hour every morning, and we look for “nature.” Somehow, we always find it. And a few days ago, I took the camera out to document.
Our first step was our favorite anthill. Yes, we have a favorite anthill. Dominique spends at least fifteen minutes watching it every time we walk down our dirt road. Tunisia is quite a haven for ants. There are the tiny black “normal” ants we are used to, along with a couple of similar species in larger sizes. Then there are the medium-sized ants with the red heads, who like to live in trees. So far, although the children love climbing trees, they have not been bitten. The strangest ants to me are a tall, skinny red kind, with abnormally long legs. They don’t just walk along like regular ants. They are always darting and parrying. I’ve never seen them actually attacking something, but I’m sure they must be some kind of martial ant. But our favorite ants are the truly gigantic black ones in the picture. Every day, we see them bringing up little round dirt balls in their jaws, enlarging their underground home.
If I were a really good Charlotte Mason mom, I would know the names of all these plants and animals. I need a field guide. Every time we move, I think that. I still have a field guide to seashells of the Irish coast, but it’s not much good here.
I do know the name of this one. It is Opuntia ficus-indica, aka prickly pear. It is actually a domesticated plant in many areas of the world, including Tunisia (and southern California). It produces those funny red fruits called “tuna” that can be found in Mexican markets. But this picture shows tender new green leaves. Now, doesn’t that just say “spring” to you?
Any guesses? I don’t know this one either. I think I saw it in Ireland too, though. It must be a hardy weed to be able to survive in both climates.
Is this barley? Barley is the only whole grain I’ve been able to reliably find in Tunisia. Cracked barley is used as a form of couscous here, and also features in some soups. We eat it every morning cooked as porridge, since oatmeal is a virtual unknown here. I’ve also made a fairly successful bread using half white flour, half barley grits.
A dandelion! Or possibly a false dandelion. I had no idea there were so many types of dandelions before I looked them up on Wikipedia. There is even a California dandelion (Taraxacum californicum), which is actually endangered. Who would have thought?
By this time, we had reached the beach, where we interrupted our nature study to watch the fishermen pulling in their boat.
And then to watch these gallop by.
The best “nature study” moment of all, though, came that afternoon. After I had taken my camera home, unfortunately. We were at the beach again when a couple of British tourists excitedly called our children over. They had found a baby sea turtle! He had the cutest little turtle face I have ever seen, and he was small enough to fit in Dominique’s palm. After watching him for several moments, we carefully let him go in the shallow water. Now when we hold on tightly to our helium balloons so that they don’t escape and get eaten by sea turtles in the ocean, we know can picture exactly which little sea turtle is happily snacking on jellyfish rather than balloons.