Monday, 14 June 2010

Quagmires and puddles

Drainage down the side of the polytunnel
The ditch down to the pond
After a week of dry weather and no significant rainfall for even longer we eventually had a long lovely overnight drenching downpour, the sort that waters everything beautifully giving our newly planted trees and bushes a much needed boost - saved me a job anyway! I was not looking forward to watering over a 50 bushes and trees. Unfortunately the rain also leaked into the polytunnel under the floor. It looks like we have a spot that turns to swamp even with a fairly light shower. This meant that Ian had to start digging a trench to drain the water away from the polytunnel with his tractor, he dug about 2m of the trench then realised this was not a good idea as ideally he needs a ditching bucket which will make a narrower ditch. He can then put in a pipe with lots of holes and covered in fleece in to the narrower ditch to drain the water away from the foundations. If he carried on with the wider trench he wouldn't be able to put in the narrower trench later without risking the tractor falling into the polytunnel - not a good idea. In the end he sloped the soil away from the polytunnel to see what that would do. Well we found out, big time as we had a terrific thunderstorm with so much lightening that it lit the whole area, as if someone was switching a gigantic light, on and off rapidly. The rain came down in sheets and was so bad at times I could barely see up the hill and the wind was tearing at the trees and our rhubarb (had to mention that as it is looking fairly sad at the minute). The next morning we set off to our land with trepidation, there were trees on the road which didn't bode well but to our relief the polytunnel was still standing, even the doors were still closed.

You can see the damp patch on the left but the tomatoes on
the right seem quite happy.
Swimming anyone? The place our barn will go!
Sloping the soil away from the polytunnel did work and the water inside the polytunnel was not as bad as it had been, just means we haven't had to water that side of the polytunnel all weekend though. There was still a lot of water and so we decided to dig a small trench by hand and direct it towards our pond. It was great fun, I do love digging ditches in the mud and watching the water drain away, the problem is that there was so much water that we were now worried that it was going to overflow our pond. If that was to happen then it would wash over the side eating away at the bank leading to a devastating

collapse of our pond. Not what we wanted! I remembered that in the forest were some clay drainage pipes lying about and amazingly Ian was able to locate them amongst the new undergrowth. Wonders will never cease! These were installed high up the side of the pond and would hopefully lead the water away without eating into the bank if necessary. As it was the water didn't quite reach the level of the clay pipes but it was close. I had so much fun digging the ditches by the greenhouse that I went and did the same for the levelled area that will eventually be the barn. Why is it though that we just get an area level for building and then it rains?

Ragged Robin
The thunderstorm also left us without electricity for a while and early the next morning, power was on but at a much reduced ie 70V not the normal 230V. The problem is that at this low voltage the new-fangled energy saving lightbulbs wouldn't power up, the halogen ones in the shower room and toilet worked but it was like having a wash by candlelight as these rooms don't have windows. We weren't even sure if the freezer would work at this voltage and waiting for my cup of tea took ages! The water did boil - eventually! At least when we got back from the land in the evening the electricity was up to full strength.

Ox-eye daisy
I was sent a book, How to make a Forest Garden by Patrick Whitefield, from a lovely lady I met through the cottage smallholder forum (such a friendly bunch!) and it has made me think how we could utilise the forest we already have and some of the new growth that will be a forest if we don't do something with it soon. I hate digging up trees anyway and so being able to incorporate something and make it productive is a challenge. Last week I was wondering "if God commanded man to fill the earth and tend it, what would that look like?" and one section in the book really caught my eye

Even the humble clover is beautiful. This was such a vivid
colour, it was incredible!
"A forest garden does not need a lot of work, but it does need attention. Though it can stand the odd spell of neglect, if it only gets attended to in occasional bursts of energy a few vigorous plants will take over the lower layers and much of the food will go unharvested. It needs someone to wander through it regularly to see how it is getting on, to cut back a rampant plant here, add a little mulch there, pick those tender little leaves or juicy berries before they go past their best. In short it needs someone to inhabit it"

Greater butterfly orchid
Isn't that how God designed the earth? We are not meant to hack away everything and exploit it but to wander through the land and inhabit it. Live with it! Look after it! Care for it! Inhabit it! I love that phrase, it really seems to resonate with how God intended man to live on this planet and what we feel is part of our purpose here in Latvia. Well I won't be converting the whole lot to a forest garden, as that would mean the open meadowland would be lost too and with that would be lost the corncrake but also some amazing orchids which we found in our wanderings this week. There are loads of them! We tried retracing our steps so that we could locate the orchid we found last week as it should now be flowering, but we had some difficulty remembering where we saw it but as we wandered about we realised there were lots of purple orchids and then we found a whole glade of the butterfly orchids which we had only seen in bud last week but only the odd one dotted around, it is such a treasure!

Marsh orchid - not sure which one yet
in the process of finding out from my
friendly experts 
So how do we get the message across that it is a sheer delight to inhabit our piece of the world, to wander in it and see how it is getting on? Or rather it should be a delight! The problem is that so often we only hear the frightening version of events "unless we change we will be frazzled in sweltering heat or be battered to death or drowned by freak weather. One thing that has often struck me on my course is that environmentalists are giving out the wrong message for all the right reasons. They are right that there is a danger that we will damage the earth beyond repair, I don't happen to believe God will actually let us do that and he is the healer of the land too, but that does not absolve us of our responsibilities to look after it. An article "Can hotel towels save the world?" on Forum for the future suggested that instead of harping on at people how wrong their lifestyles are they start to tell people that other people are doing the right things and so imply that it is socially acceptable to reuse your bath towels, in fact if you tell them that the previous occupiers of the room they are in, reused their bath towels then the reuse rate went up even more.  Interesting! What other messages should be changed to help people make right choices? Will it change the world?


Mavis said...

That is an interesting article about the hotel towels and how a positive slant on things gets better results.

You certainly seem to be enjoying your work on the land but I couldn't help thinking that many of us have to relearn things that our forefathers knew and we in our modern society and way of doing things, have forgotten. Hope the ditches have solved your rain problems.

Joanna said...

It certainly was an interesting article Mavis, makes you realise how most folks will just follow the herd really.

I am enjoying being out and about on the land, quite a contrast to being inside studying, but I enjoy that too.

It is funny you should mention about having to relearn things our forefathers knew, as Ian and I were talking about that over lunch sat in our polytunnel.

We had a really heavy shower today and the ditches worked beautifully. :o)

Diane said...

oh Mavis has got in before me and said what I was going to say! Ohh just as well she's my friend too

The whole positive reinforcement is brilliant. I do wonder how much more we could do of that with other things!

Glad the ditches and pipes all worked

Joanna said...

Great minds think alike then! :)

I am pleased the drains worked too