Sunday, April 29, 2012

water, water everywhere

So, hooray! April's sweet showers arrived in a great, intermittent downpour – 17 cms of water in the last 13 days according to my neighbour in the valley. The tarmac road that meanders along the hill crest from the Dronne river valley to that of the Isle is shedding water into ditches that drain into sodden fields. Even the soil of the woods cannot absorb anymore.

The Black Pond in the Woods, the one nearest the hill-top road, is now over-flowing, blacker than ever. The surface nearly touches the fallen cherry-tree trunk that spans it.  The inrush of water seems to have killed the clogging pond weed that appeared towards the end of last summer. Or the many kilos of expensive pond-weed eating bacteria we poured in have multiplied at a vast rate. The raft of the intake hose is straining at its ties which I devoutly hope will hold.

The Black Pond, we were told, was dug when La Chaise was built, about 200 years ago – way before JCB's, or their first creator, were born. It is about as long as our house and as deep as our house is high, say 25 x 6 metres. Apparently there is a piped connection between it and the well in front of our house which would explain why the soil in the well, (filled in some 60 years ago) was always damp. We were told there was a valve that could shut off water inflow to the well, but we never found the handle, only its support system.

The Duck Pond by the Farmhouse is full also, much to my great relief. It had been covered in scummy, moss like weed and green lentils, like a wet scene in a Dickens novel. The solar powered fountain – an exaggerated term for an upward tinkle of water – does not sufficiently aerate the pond. Two weeks ago, on the advice of a French gardening magazine, I bought four herbivorous carp (carp amor) that would hopefully deal with the problem. They were expensive, 20€ each, a lovely silvery grey.

Nervously I brought them back, two by two, in plastic bags half filled with water, lying horizontally in the car boot. At the pond, I snipped the corners off the bags and let slip the fish into the water. I have never seen them since. But nor have I seen fish floating belly-up, so I presume they are gorging themselves. The 9 x 5 metre oval Duck Pond must be a great improvement on the 50 x 20 cm tank they shared with other varieties of carp. With luck, one of them is a female.

But the greatest joy of all is The Lake in the hollow of our valley, next to which stands the Hated Pump in its little, hooded shed. The Lake, too, is overflowing. The incoming water is drowning the grass and other weeds that were growing on its banks. A male wild duck flew up off the surface as I came by, continued to circle in the sky until I passed. Perhaps a female is nesting under the new junipers.

The Lake is fed by water draining down through the woods from the road's ditches, also the winter stream that runs from the ravine (our private wild-life reserve). The stream has cleared itself of the clogging dead leaves, revealing a clay soil with the occasional quartz pebble (and golf ball). That which is just a dreary ditch in summer is now what is pronounced as a 'burrrne' in Scots. Wee, but effective.

There is only one snag in all this joy. I have seriously, but seriously, to repress my Dutch instincts. I must not, repeat not, try to channel, direct, hold back, turn into a power source, any of this water. I must just let it flow, flow, flow. And hope it is still there in the summer when it is needed.

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