Guy’s news: A temporary reprieve

Three months of dry easterlies ended last weekend with a westerly gale sweeping in off the Atlantic, accompanied by persistent, anxiety-quenching rain. Even our drenched pickers were relieved. Should we thank our cosmically attuned farm worker Raph and a few other rain dancers? Did a butterfly flap its wings somewhere? Whatever the cause, it feels like balance and benevolence have temporarily been restored; even the cooing of our pigeons sounds pleased.

The rain was patchy and localised, but we got lucky, with 44mm showing in the rain gauge. The water disappeared without trace, sucked down into the thirsty ground with no run-off. Within two days the surface looked almost as parched as before – but, critically, digging shows that the moisture from the surface soaked in to meet the moisture at depth. The effect on our plants’ turgidity, leaf colour and growth was almost instant. Most fields could suck up another 3-4 inches of rain before any soaked away to the subsoil or ran off to water courses.

The rain has saved many crops, giving them time to develop the root systems that will find moisture at depth. We have now finished planting the leeks, cabbage, kale, cauliflower and broccoli that will provide most of the greens in your boxes through autumn and winter. The more demanding summer crops will be okay for a fortnight, but once they have a full canopy of leaves, potatoes will draw an inch or more of water from the soil each week… We are not yet out of trouble. For now, it is a pleasure to walk the fields and see crops growing without stress, in ideal conditions. The gale accompanying the rain damaged delicate crops like courgettes and pumpkins, and lodged (bent over) some sweetcorn, but this was a small price to pay for the water.

It is too soon to count the cost of the drought. The bolted lettuces, yellowing spinach, stunted cabbage, failed peas and so on have put us £200,000 behind budget. More rain within a fortnight and a favourable autumn could see us catch up on the veg, but many dairy farmers have already had to feed a good part of their winter forage rations to their cows. With luck we will have a long back end (autumn stretching into early winter), allowing cows to stay out grazing fresh grass for longer, and forage to be preserved.

Guy Singh-Watson


4 responses to “Guy’s news: A temporary reprieve

  1. Johnnie Simpson

    We are the same in Ireland but have had a good soaking on several occasions this week. The Peregrine peaches were looking a bit stunted and bullet-like but they are starting to glow and ripen. The Black Hamburg grapes look better than they have been for several years. The figs are always abundant but a bit watery and tasteless in a wet Irish summer, so the flavour may be more intense this one. My hens absolutely adore the bolted lettuces. They were throw-out battery ones and were very confused when they first arrived but they now behave like chickens and bring a smile to my face every morning when I feed them. Which I am off to do now!

  2. In my part of North Hampshire we have had only a couple of showers; all the good rain has passed us by, unfortunately. Back to the hot and sticky stuff today. I would love a good storm.

  3. I did wonder if you had a local shaman to assist in the calling in of the rain and so glad to hear that Ralph and the rain dancers (ooh that could be a good name for a group) worked their magic! Feel it is time we as a culture recognised and honoured the messages nature is giving. Love the grit and honesty of your news Guy. Tricky and challenging times for the reconfigure business. Keeeep dancing!

  4. We had 11/4 inches here in N Herefordshire but the chops in the valley look parched and meagre.Short , thin corn with no body means bedding for stock this winter will be in short supply. Yet, every now and again I see some farmers are still watering their potatoes.All the rivers are down to a trickle .
    We are more fortunate in that the springs which supply our domestic water are still running yet in recent years have disappeared by now.It is hard to believe that in earlier times those springs were the source for most households in the valley.

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