Stop gap solution (36 days to go..)

by Max Akroyd

Sometimes it feels like water, time and cash are the same substance. They all flow (generally in one direction – away!). They’re easy to take for granted, until scarcity requires you to be more resourceful. And a severe deficit in any defeats self-sufficiency.

Even the farmer from down the road looked worried. His normally keen and shrewd presence seemed dulled by a painful realisation: if there’s no rain within the next fortnight his farming year is effectively over, he declared. The recently-sown crops on his vast acres would wither and die, beyond the reach of irrigation, and his dairy herd would have to be scaled back accordingly.

On my small-scale, there’s still some hope. I’ve just spent 100€ I didn’t have on hose pipe and various other bits and pieces. I thus cobbled together the delivery end of an irrigation system comprising a couple of hoses that sweat water attached to very long, regular hoses. I can just about manouevre this two-headed, serpentine monster across my hillside without it uprooting all my raspberry bushes. After a couple of hours of snaking over a dusty bed, a track of moisture can be detected, sufficient to plant something into… Then I drag it on to the next bed… and the next…

Of course this expenditure of time and money represents only a fraction of the whole. The supply-side of this ‘solution’ equals a metered outside tap, open all night. Not sustainable: I’ll be in no rush to open that bill when it arrives! Clearly, if the new weather pattern means it only rains in winter we’ll have to recover rainwater then, store it and pump it around the same shoddy network of hoses. A much more significant capital investment!

But almost anything is worth it to avoid the debacle of last year when most things died in their pots. The backbone of the year’s planting is getting rolled out, albeit painfully slowly. Even yet, I’m not exempt from comprehensive failure. Half of my potato trenches still lack that vital ingredient – seed potatoes – as they remain open to receive rain that never comes. The baby roots I anticipated eating come June 1st – beetroot, turnips, carrots, kohl rabi – are still at the embryo stage. My peas and broad beans are a sparse shadow of even last year’s efforts.

I’m going to keep plodding on, not least because the effort laid down in previous months requires it. And I’m getting a great tan out there! But the chances of success seem a little slim right now…