Christmas come early


… or at least mid-August did. It is folly to hope for rain between June 15 and August 15 here. The forest goes hot and dry as a tinder box, and we all hold our breath until we can reasonably expect rain. Most years, there are forest fires that break out, and of course many of those are caused by humans. The shepherds spit into their hands to extinguish their cigarettes, knowing how easy it is for an ember to grow into a hungry fire.

In the garden, summers have always been a time of struggle between this heat and relentless dryness and the need to keep plants alive and quenched. This year is a huge change for us because of the drip irrigation lines. Suddenly, it is always spring under the surface of the soil. We spend less time watering, yet the garden is doing better than it ever has. We’re eating peppers and eggplants months ahead of when we used to, and the heat actually seems to help things grow rather than slowly killing everything. Of course, there have been casualties, most notably among the tomatoes. I have some plants that have just up and died. Or more puzzlingly half died. I am still not sure why. Did the heat zap them? Were they under watered? Over watered? Scratched by the chickens? Peed on by animals? Should I have pruned them? Luckily there are enough healthy plants that we have plenty to eat, but the questions are always at the back of my mind. Like I’ve said before, though, this is the way we learn — through disappointment and confusion!

Although the drip irrigation has changed our relationship with heat and water, this did nothing to dampen our amazement at having not one but two torrential rain showers last week. Our mountainside (for it did not venture all over, this rain. It seems to have gotten snagged by the mountains) was drenched. A sweet smell of pine and dry vegetation newly dampened filled the air, and the garden seemed washed and brighter afterwards. It was such a pleasure to walk through wet grass, to feel the earth beneath our feet give way gently as we walked, and to see leaves and flowers weighted down, hanging their heads with droplets of water.

The weather has snapped right back, and it’s 38 C (100 F) again today. But it was lovely to have a short reprieve, even if, as my mother remarked afterwards, it almost instantly felt as if it had been a dream.