Heatwave & holidays for some, hard work for others
As far as I'm concerned, my move out of the city was impeccably timed. Since the removal chaps decanted me and 5 years worth of stuff into my new abode (with the chipper removal men making the astute observation that it was a 'wee bit different fae Leith') it's been wall to wall sunshine, which is pretty much what my daydreams of life in the country looked like.
When not unpacking boxes I have been lunching on the lawn, paddling in the river, exploring country lanes and generally living the life of slightly sunburned riley. This seems to be the summer I and the rest of Scotland have fantasized about for decades.
But it isn't peaches and cream for everyone. June was deemed the driest on record, and last night a friend who knows, told me that this is having as negative an impact on farming as the 'Beast from the East' last winter. Even in the perpetually lush Rule Valley, the landscape has taken on a golden brown hue. I'm informed by Farming Today that in other parts of the country, farmers are having to crack into winter feed as pastures have stopped growing in the heat. Equally, keeping crops watered is increasingly time and resource intensive and water services are under huge pressure as everyone tries to cool down. These are things I probably wouldn't have given much thought while in the city, especially in Edinburgh where water shortages are practically mythical. But here, there is an undeniable feeling of autumn in the air as everything dries up. This lack of rain will undoubtedly have a knock-on effect for farmers long into the winter, potentially pushing up prices of local food and making it less competitive against imports.
In Edinburgh, water keeps coming out of the tap and there's no reason to consider what the drought might mean for food in a few months time, or what it means for producers now. But my parents and many of their neighbours in this valley who are on a private water supply, face the very real prospect of their water running out, and have to ration their water use just when the veg garden needs it. My mum pours considerable effort and love into getting their veg garden to production point, and they look forward to the squash, strawberries, beans, peas, herbs, potatoes, kales, cabbages, herbs, and more, that nourish them well into the late autumn. At this crucial moment, having no water could be the end of those carefully tended veggies. And of course, the parents are on holiday somewhere even hotter and drier and so have to rely on their newly relocated daughter to keep their prized larder alive. No pressure.
Without being able to use the hose, watering their garden currently involves carrying approximately 60 gallons (300 litres) of water from the river, up their terraced garden, and balancing precariously on boards and bed edges to douse the plants. The dry earth (my mum refuses to mulch - something I shall be discussing with her when she returns...) resists the first watering, so everything needs going over twice. Along with the 5 miles to cycle there and back, I think I've found a good temporary solution to my lack of gym membership. And in some tiny way, I get a sense of the seriousness of the situation for food producers around us and the struggles they are likely to face.