Country Smallholding - - Inside This Month -

AS I write, clouds the colour of slate are rac­ing across the sky bring­ing the rain small­hold­ers have dreamed of for weeks. It will take pro­longed drench­ings, though, to go even half way to mit­i­gat­ing the dam­age done to the agri­cul­tural and hor­ti­cul­tural sec­tors and peo­ple’s liveli­hoods by this sum­mer’s heat­wave, some­thing we touch on in our newly en­larged News sec­tion (page 5).

Many small­hold­ers who do not have the lux­ury of mains wa­ter and who have found their usu­ally gush­ing pri­vate pipes dwin­dling to a trickle or a drip (read Joyce Brock­le­bank’s wry ac­count on page 19) have been en­dur­ing daily strug­gles with bowsers. Plenty have also been forced to make emer­gency calls to bore­hole drilling con­trac­tors.

I have it on good au­thor­ity from a neigh­bour that th­ese con­trac­tors ran out of parts, such was the de­mand in July and Au­gust. This is the same wa­ter­less neigh­bour who filled his bowser daily from our mains sup­ply un­til his own new bore­hole was in ‘full pro­duc­tion’ in ex­change for a bale of hay, some fra­grant home-grown flow­ers and de­li­cious sal­ads, a type of trade that has been go­ing on in ru­ral ar­eas since time im­memo­rial and which is part of what makes coun­try liv­ing so spe­cial (see page 24).

Wa­ter was my late, much lamented fa­ther’s neme­sis. As a farmer, ex­tract­ing his cheque book from the drawer to pay the lo­cal wa­ter com­pany a huge sum, not only for wa­ter con­sumed but also wa­ter lost as it leached out of an aged halfmile pri­vate pipe (car­ry­ing mains sup­ply) came par­tic­u­larly hard. I can still re­call him, head bent to­wards the kitchen ta­ble, neon strip light over­head cast­ing an in­tense yel­low glow, slowly com­pos­ing let­ters in his exquisitely neat hand, po­litely re­quest­ing a re­fund for the wa­ter lost. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Look­ing back I can see the funny side of try­ing to wash dishes in 4in of wa­ter, hav­ing to ne­go­ti­ate for the lux­ury of hav­ing a bath and div­ing across the room to turn off a tap left run­ning by a clue­less vis­i­tor, a sport also prac­tised by Joyce Brock­le­bank.

I am pleased to re­port that said leaky pipe was re­placed long ago, but I am still fru­gal with wa­ter and it has been an es­sen­tial trait re­cently and could well be go­ing far into the fu­ture.


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