Year of Days January 2

Another uneventful day.  Very cold, cold enough to discourage walking outside.

I spent much of the day working on my presentation for the tree farm leadership conference, but made little progress.  This was not a complete loss or many not a loss at all.  As I prepared, I followed lots of side paths with very interesting factors.

Chrissy and I went to see a movie at Tysons – “the Post” about the Washington Post publishing the Pentagon Papers.  Good movie.

January 02, 2011

The Worms Crawl In

This is something that just never occurred to me.

I was watching a gardening show today about worms. Gardeners usually like worms. They help the soil remain fertile and aerated. That is what I always thought. But when I looked it up, I found out that worms are an invasive species. All those worms (night crawlers and the like) I remember as a kid were introduced from Europe.

Earthworms are destructive to forest soils, according to what I found at a University of Minnesota associated webpage.  Worms were wiped out by glaciers during the last ice age, which retreated only around 10,000 years ago. Without human help, worm populations move very slowly. Northern ecosystems developed in a worm-free environment. When worms arrive, they change the ecology. Evidently the worms eat the organic material too fast, taking away the layers of humus that all for the reproduction of forest floor plants and trees like sugar maples. Worms are small, but there can be lots of them and they don’t stop.

I never knew this or noticed it. The maple forests around Milwaukee already had earthworms, so I thought that was natural.  It still seems pretty strange to me that earthworms could be a threat. I suppose that when you are talking about long-established ecological relations, almost anything new that comes in can be disruptive.

BTW – honeybees are also not native to North America and neither are a lot of the flowers we see in fields, along with most farm animals and most crops we eat. Actually, I suppose that I am an invasive species, so I am not sure I buy into the native is better idea as a general construct. I will have to find out more about it.

The picture up top is one I took way back in September 2003 near the Milwaukee Airport, it shows the northern hardwood secondary growth forest.  We made a trip across the U.S. in 2003.  I kept up a webpage, it was the predecessor of my blog.  The link is here.

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January 02, 2009

History up Close

Below is the personal story from one of the blog readers about his great grandfather who came from the city of Anah.    It is an interesting and tragic family history.  With his permission I am posting it here.  I will let professional historians sort out the connections and timelines.  I just think it is worth reading and have placed it as it is.

I am going to tell you the story about my great grandfather Isaak El Eini. As I mentioned El Eini means in Arabic from Anah. The picture I am attaching is not a good picture taken in the 1930s in Khartoum, Sudan. He is the elderly man in the back alone. He was thin, tall, dark. The lady in the front was his niece whose parents had moved from Anah to Khartoum around 1900.

He was born in the 1860s. He came from a Jewish family. Anah had been a part of the ancient Babylonian Empire. The Jews had been brought over from Judea by King Nebuchadnezzar in 586BC.

Jews, Christians and Moslems lived in the town in harmony with no problems. Each in their own neighborhoods. The family were in the Caravan business. They took care of the camels, merchandise etc. Anah was an important station on the Damascus to Baghdad caravan route (it took 33 days). The caravans comprising of as many as 1,200 camels carrying textiles from Britain, sugar, tobacco, drugs etc would stop in Anah for 3 days as it was here where they would cross the Euphrates river. From Baghdad there were caravans to Basra where merchandise would continue to India and Asia by ship.

After 1888 when the Suez Canal was opened for all shipping it was quicker to transport goods by ship. This devastated the family business. So Isaak left Anah and moved to Egypt, which was prospering from the construction of the Canal. In those days there was no Iraq. It was known as Mesopotamia and like Egypt was part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

He moved to Aswan in southern Egypt and began trading with the tribes in the Sudan. In the late 1890s the British decided to take over the Sudan which was ruled by the Mahdi. Lord Kitchener headed the Anglo Egyptian Army. Isaak followed the army as a civilian trading with the Sudanese all the time. When they arrived in Omdurman (Khartoum) they put a siege on the city. However the siege was not working and the Mahdi was holding out.

Lord Kitchener chose Isaak to act as a spy, enter Omdurman  and to pretend he was a trader who had crossed the Red Sea from Arabia. He brought many gifts to the Mahdi. In return the Mahdi gave Isaak a young boy and girl as a gift to be raised as slaves. Isaak had no choice but to accept the gift.

While in Omdurman Isaak found out that the Mahdi was holding off the siege because some Egyptian Officers were giving / selling arms to him. He left the city and gave all the information to Lord Kitchener.

Kitchener won the battle and became a hero in Britain. As a reward he gave Isaak a lot of fertile land in Omdurman. Soon later he told all his brothers and sisters to leave Anah and come live in Omdurman / Khartoum. They lived there till 1967 and became Sudanese citizens. But in 1967 when Israel and the Arabs went to war, Sudan expelled all the Jews. The family then moved to Britain and Switzerland.

Now Isaak stopped working. He lived off the land holdings and every few years he would sell some acres to live on. He was a terrible husband. and playboy. His wife lived in Cairo all the time with his only daughter Massouda, my grandmother. He would travel to Cairo about once a year to see them. It was basically like being divorced.

In his 70s he had spent all his money. In the early 1940s  my father living in Cairo, heard a knock on the door and it was Isaak. He was sick and died soon afterwards.

As to the two children who were given as gifts by the Mahdi: one was a boy and the other a girl. Isaak’s wife and my grandmother raised them and sent them to school. At 16 the girl got pregnant. Because they wore long wide dresses my grandmother did not realise that she was pregnant. She tried to give birth to the baby and kill it. My grandmother rushed her to the hospital. The needle was infected and she died in the hospital; so did the baby.

The boy later got a job at a bank. His son became a very important official at the same bank.

Hope I did not bore you with such a long story.

Best wishes,
Semsem

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