Going Grey

We've had no rain at all following the sudden and unexpected thunderstorm on 16th June which I subsequently discovered killed 3 sheep and destroyed numerous electrical items in various homes in our village as a result of the lightning and power surge that occured. Since then conditions have continued benign, warm and sunny. The problem of course is that plant and vegetable species in my garden are all of varieties grown to cope with the vagaries of a typical English summer and need moisture on a regular basis.

Since the water butts dried out I have had to resort to the hosepipe and mains supply. It doesn't seem right, however, to spray high quality drinking water on a garden. In the absence of water in the butts, neither the carefully installed micro irrigation system in the greenhouse or leaky hose around the vegetable beds, can function without connecting to a mains water tap. Accordingly, in the interests of sustainability, not to mention living within nature's limits in the perma culture I have been trying to establish, I have taken to collecting and reusing grey water. Remember that mantra: reduce, reuse, recycle; well it's taken over my life again.

A handpump and hose are now emptying the bath tub on the flowerbed below; the washing machine outlet is running into a deep Belfast sink, enabling the collection of the final rinse water for pouring on wilting greenery; we have a bucket on the kitchen floor into which we transfer waste water from rinsing vegetables or crockery, ready to carry out to the garden. At first it felt like an enormous effort on top of the weeding, digging and planting that's been taking place, but it has now become routine.

Moreover there's still been plenty of time to enjoy all the wonderful sunshine. Indeed as I sat outside reading (a perfect place and activity for periods of calm between fraught World Cup football matches) I realised that retirement in the garden is about enjoying both rest and chores.

Pre-retirement, one was invariably sacrificed for the other. Sitting out amidst weeds and drought shrivelled plants is unpleasant and does nothing to assuage the guilt of neglected tasks. Digging in the vegetable patch or weeding may be pleasing for a while but if there isn't sufficient time to get on top of the job and then sit down to admire and enjoy your labours, resentment brews.

Fortunately in retirement there's time to wallow in both back-breaking toil and composed relaxation. With the sun shining too, life has never felt so good.


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