the Dirty Experiment


Some of y’all are new to my updates and to you I say Welcome. My ramblings are expositions on the little things I've noticed while deployed here.

Some of you regulars have responded in the past for which I am grateful. But honestly, y’all have been awfully quiet lately. Either you're not getting the updates, not enjoying the updates or aren't reading the updates. Now I understand that this day in age we get way too much email. Many of us sit at a computer for work and definitely don't to look at one at night. Again, I understand. Please let me know if any of you would like to be taken off my distro list. It won't hurt my feelings in the slightest and will make the process quicker for me.

Although not as descriptive as the last update, it is yet another insight into life for a deployed Soldier in Afghanistan. Enjoy!

Dirt & the Experiment

Afghanistan is primarily an agricultural society with 80+% of its people making a living from the earth. While the soil must be different throughout the country, I mean how could it not be, there are a few standard characteristics which I have found transcend location. Unlike the Plains, South or Midwest – Afghanistan has no deep, rich soil in which to grow crops. Somehow these poor souls eke out a living from some of the most tired, arid, dry, dusty dirt I have ever seen. And that particularly low quality dirt is everywhere. I’ve travelled all over this country, from Mazar-i-Sharif in the northwest to Taloqan in the northcentral, to Chah Ab in the northeast, to Bamiyan in the center, to Kandahar in the south and finally to Khost in the southeast. The common denominator is what we call Moondust.

Moondust is just what you’d imagine it to be – dry powder. I remember it at every location. The stuff has the consistency of talcum powder or powdered sugar. It’s an ever present layer above the concrete-like hard earth on which we work. Imagine a tan or taupe colored flour and you now know what we deal with here. It gets into everything, through cracks in the window & door frames, into the housing units, in the shower areas, in the vehicles, hell – no place is immune. And man, is it useless.

Often people will pour out the coffee pot remains just outside their office doors. People are lazy and avoid walking down to the bathroom building to pour the dregs of coffee into the sink. What amazes me is the inability of moondust to absorb any liquid. It hit home one morning when I discovered the partially unabsorbed puddle of pee I had left behind one night when I was in the middle of something and didn’t want to walk to the bathroom. (Don’t worry, it wasn’t right outside the door. I do have some standards ya know.) I wasn’t alone in the office so I couldn’t pee in a bottle – thus, a trek outside in the dark. Come on, we’re guys remember – the entire outdoors is a potential urinal.

Yeah, a partial puddle of pee. That possibility had never crossed my mind. Pee absorbs right? Well it damn well better, in my reality. I mean – that’s evidence ain’t it? If I was on Bagram there’d probably be a senior NCO snooping around with a DNA kit, taking samples to compare to the ones in our files in order to hand out punishments. Thank God I’m not there.

So, after a day or two of deliberation I decide to embark on my experiment. There is an orchard of some kind located almost directly behind our office building. Someone said there are oranges growing on base, but I’ve never seen them in the trees behind us. I think they might be olive trees. I’ve been to Greece and seen olive groves. Yeah, maybe they’re olives. At any rate, there is no fruit of any kind growing on the trees. Maybe because it’s the winter season? Who knows? What is certain is that the grove is pretty neglected and there are plenty of bone dry weeds which had sprouted from the bedrock soil in better (rainy) times. Do you see where I’m going with this?

I located a clump of three small weeds set back from the edge of the orchard. It’s hidden enough that the casual observer shouldn’t notice a guy standing there. It’s open enough that I should be able to find it at night when the moon is at least half full. My experiment began in earnest four days ago, about mid-morning, when I had to get rid of the morning cuppa Joe. I purposefully walked over to my obscured clump-o-weeds, unzipped, and began “watering.” And sure enough, nothing really absorbed into the ground. I picked a site that had as little moondust as possible – to (hopefully) ensure maximum absorption. Nothing doing. Yeah, the weeds kinda absorbed some liquid, but the majority of it drained off and pooled in a small depression next to the clump (the clump was on higher ground).

Yuck – but I expected as much. Over the course of four days, I dutifully “watered” my charges as frequently as Mother Nature called. Believe me, they got enough water! However, the ground around my precious experiment never became dry. It appeared to be in a perpetual state of semi-submersion by day’s end. It’s disappointing to say the least. I hit the weeds only a few times today, most recently about 10 minutes ago. It’s 8pm so I have no idea what the ground looks like out there now, but I’m sure that come morning – when I check it again, there’ll still be abit of liquid not quite yet absorbed. And to think this is an orchard! I’m amazed. Think I’ll continue until I see the weeds begin to turn green – unless of course my “water” is toxic and they remain in their catatonic state of death. I’ll keep you updated.

Lucky you, an update

It’s been awhile since I first wrote about my experiment. Nothing has changed that much, especially with the plant. It still looks desiccated and lifeless. However, we’ve had some rain recently and it’s changed the ground everywhere. It rained for about 18 hours starting 27 January, not a torrential rain, more of a Seattle mist rain. Well, come 2 February there were still puddles on the ground in places where the water didn’t soak in or evaporate. (The temps don’t promote evaporation just yet.) Today is 5 Feb and we’ve had rain off/on all day. Those puddles have just gotten bigger and more have appeared. And my plant still hasn’t changed form. I’ve come to the conclusion that growth is less predicated on how much water something gets than the ambient temperature. I’m still gonna “water” my plant – mainly because I think it’s a worthwhile experiment. Well, sorta.


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