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Lost in translation: is “kompoost” the same as “compost”?

Yesterday, we got the final major work of the autumn done. The hedge was cut down to size and trimmed all round, our hedge cutter standing precariously on top of a wooden ladder to attack the unruly heights. He did a good job, though I’m afraid there’s nothing to be done about the neighbour’s side. He even appeared to enjoy himself!

Following on from the events of September, described below in “Cairo Serendipity”, we received a first delivery of compost – 30 sacks of “kompoost el-haiawy” or bio-compost from the farming company SEKEM out in Belbees.

But, frustratingly, this has added to the confusion: I think of compost as layers of veg, fruit and garden waste, aerated with dried cuttings and twigs, all bedding down nicely into a sweet, dark, friable mix. But this is more complex stuff, described as “nabaaty hayawaany” and thus presumably consisting of vegetable matter (“nabaaty” means vegetarian) and animal fertiliser (“hayawaan” – animal). It is friable but also powdery, with texture and feel different from the compost I am used to dealing with.

So something has been lost in translation here, even if I am not sure what. Perhaps my definition of compost is over-restrictive; perhaps the “bio” bit is what really counts. At any rate, about 25 sacks of the stuff went onto the garden yesterday, including all the raised beds, which must have let out a collective sigh of relief as they have been starved of compost up to now. I can only say we have tried our best to play by the rules…

Of the recent sowings, salad leaves, marjoram, beans and morning glory are all beginning to appear, which suggests a reasonable rate of germination, though nothing spectacular. I read in “The Gardener’s Folklore” that, ideally, planting at the full moon should be complemented by rainfall, to help draw the seeds on to germinate. This seemed a tall order here in Cairo but, believe it or not, that’s exactly what happened – the day after I planted the seeds, it rained quite hard!

Now also, we are in the ancient/Coptic month of Hator, named for the goddess Hathor: a time of year when the land is lush and green, and when early mornings are frequently misty, the ground heavy with dew, before the sun breaks through and we have the brightest, sunniest days of the winter. Citrus fruits are beginning to appear on the market in abundance. Our little satsuma tree has produced four fruits this year; utterly and completely bio (I think!), they taste wonderful.

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