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Seeking life in the desert, on the deserts terms (oldie but goodie)

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jpak Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-23-06 09:17 AM
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Seeking life in the desert, on the deserts terms

As the global climate becomes more harsh, Elaine Solowey is a botanical pioneer trying to develop ultra-low water crops before its too late.


My first stop is the orchard of Elaine Solowey. I arrive in sandals, ready to thrust them aside and sink my bare feet into the sandy earth. This foolishness is quickly apparent. "Where are your working boots and gloves?" is the immediate greeting received after hello.

My first morning with Elaine was spent transplanting a variety of cactuses from one bed to another, making room for a significant enlargement of the compost pile, now that her community, Kibbutz Ketura, is separating food wastes, sending them her way.

We used a tractor to pull out the plants, with a thick rope tied around the base of the stalks. It took four people to carry each one. We had some problems with a spiny, 300-pound, 5-foot tall stenocereus thurberi (Organ pipe cactus) from Mexico.

As we struggled, Elaine explained. "The plant produces fruit with intense medicinal properties, dilating the blood vessels and cooling off body temperature at a rapid speed. No one wants to experiment with this stuff. The fruit is closely related to peyote, just without the hallucinogenic side effects."

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