Derek – Friday 20th January 2023

It has been icy cold for the last week, but dry. This weather is bad for birds, many will freeze to death, as will many insects including bees. We keep our bird feeders full, doing what we can. Nature is an uncaring parent, the trials of her offspring are of no concern.

I am reminded of the ancient Roman myth, taken from an earlier Greek myth. Ceres, the goddess of agriculture and fertility, is grieving because Proserpine (aka Persephone) had been taken by Pluto, ruler of the Underworld, to his land of the dead. While she grieves, the world starves as nothing will grow. Jupiter, ruler of the Gods, intervenes and negotiates with Pluto. Pluto reluctantly says Proserpine can leave the Underworld but only if she has eaten nothing in her time in the land of the dead. She has though eaten six pomegranate seeds. So it is agreed, she can spend six months of each year in the land of the living, but six months, one for each seed, in the Underworld. Right now, Proserpine is Queen of the Underworld, with her mother mourning for her, giving us dark, cold days.

There are only two flowering plants in our cold, frosty garden: marigolds and Viburnum tinus. They brighten our winter a little but what do the plants themselves get out of it? The purpose of flowers is to attract insects to take pollen from flower to flower and so fertilise the seeds. But there are no insects around. They are cold blooded and either killed off in the frosts or dormant. It can only be the plant’s strategy is to keep on flowering, and so catch the first insects in the spring.

Through the winter months, we have had lots of rain, with little drying off in the low temperatures. We catch as much as we can in our water barrels. They are all full to the brim, so any more rain is no help. The water butts are our reservoir for the hot, dry days to come. Past summers have had weeks of drought. 2018 had two months of it, documented in the garden’s publication, Summertime.

I calculate how much water we have in reserve. There are three metre cube containers, (called IBCs – intermediate bulk containers). A metre cube is 1000 litres, which weighs one tonne. Two are in cages to help with the weight, one isn’t and bulges under the pressure. We hope it doesn’t burst.

The three IBCs give us 3000 litres. Our other butts give us say another 1000 litres at a rough estimate. That’s 4000 litres in all. A watering can holds 6 to 10 litres, so let’s say 8 litres. Dividing 8 into 4000 litres gives us 500 watering cans.

Imagine a drought, and all our butts are full. How long will 500 watering cans last us? If we use 30 cans a time watering the plants, that’s roughly 17 sessions. Not that many, when you consider that in 2022, the highest temperature was 40ºC. No wonder we need a tap.

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