Sunday, September 6, 2009

On Olives and Water

Picture yourself in the Tuscan countryside. With a glass of wine in your hand. On the terrace of a small farmhouse surrounded by vineyards, you take in the beautiful countryside, the vines standing in perfect formation, just like disciplined miniature soldiers (of the peaceful kind). Your gaze wanders over the rolling hills, you watch people harvesting grapes, happily bringing the fruit in the cellar. You hear children laughing loudly, as they play hide and seek in the vineyards, their hiding places being told by their dogs which are curiously running back and forth. What a happy scenery! Then you glance at one of the old olive trees mightily lining the estate

**Screetch **

And that is when all happiness comes to an abrupt hold. Because what you see are shriveled somethings, shadows of what the olives should be like at this time of year. Weak and tired they struggle to hold onto the branches that should nourish them, feed them water, make them grow until their green skin seems to be bursting from the juice that has build up inside.

Not so. This summer of 2009 was hot. Too hot. And dry. Too dry. And it is not only the olive trees suffering. After all, these are the strongest and most independently minded plants around. Peppers have been practically burned up before they ever had a chance to grow. Eggplants dried up on the vine. Berries never reached maturation. Water is life. And without water, we are in serious trouble.
Why no irrigation you might ask? Well, yes, irrigation would solve a pressing situation in a year like 2009 has been. But what are the long term impacts of irrigating? Of lowering the levels of the ground water? Because irrigation always also means pumping water out of their safe wells. None of the water used for irrigation ever finds its way back into the depth of the soil.

What is worrying us farmers here that there are no “normal” years anymore. Seasons have merged or plainly disappeared. There are no weather patterns to count on anymore. It is, as if we had completely lost touch with nature. And nature is our vocation, our life, not just what feed us (and you).

I surely have no answer, I surely do not know where to start to resolve this problem. So if you were expecting a solution from this post, I am sorry to disappoint you. But maybe this post is increasing awareness among all those of you who live in environments that lack the intense daily contact with nature. And maybe one of you has an idea, the solution, our salvation?

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