Today, I narrowly avoided another melt-down.
Oh Boy! It was a close shave.
I believe every bug in Egypt, plus a few visitors from outside, has made straight for our garden. Anything that creeps, crawls, slides, slithers, flies – and all the babes that hatch from them – appears to have settled among our plants. And who’s to say if they’ll ever leave?
And then, everyone who visits or works with me in the garden immediately and without fail wants to SPRAY them into submission.
To which my responses are:
– The situation is manageable, the bugs are not out of control. Yes, that’s right – until I saw the scale of the mealy bug invasion of a bedraggled sage bush a couple of days ago.
– There are natural predators. OK, not effective, I’ve counted about five ladybirds so far for a guesstimate of several thousand aphid.
– I can deal with them. Well, up to a point. In truth I don’t know what some of them are: take the pests that cause leaves on the orange and lemon trees to curl up and dry out, yet never seem to make an appearance in person, so-to-speak.
– They can be relocated. I collect snails by the hundred, bag them up and put them outside the gate for shipment outside our green oasis. But there are just as many again hiding in every available nook and cranny: inside the holes in bricks used as pot stands, under the metal framework supporting the covering on the raised beds, and – cunning creatures – all around the edges of the water bowls and even inside the dog’s dish…
Just as I bag the little horrors up, along comes my yogi daughter with a reminder of “ahimsa (parammo dharma)” – “non-harming is the highest principle”. I grit my teeth: gardeners are exempted, in extremis, I mutter.
But the immediate catalyst for today’s near-melt-down was the irrigation system. Nothing new there: Installed two years ago this month, it has never worked properly. Now that we are about to go away for a break, when we need to rely on the timer to operate the system automatically, it has taken to working – or not – without reference to the settings.
This has happened just as the daytime temperature hit 30 Celsius. Not yet very hot, but no longer cool enough for more tender plants to survive without watering.
We have been battling for weeks to get the system straightened out. I have gone over the whole garden with a fine tooth-comb identifying where problems with the pipes are most acute, nagged the Engineer to sort them out, checked and re-checked the adjustments made.
But we still don’t have a reliable system. The raised beds are either over-watered or dry as a bone; the drip-feeding pipes spray water in all directions in some spots and deliver none in others; on occasion, the sprinklers for the grass don’t even make it above ground level, but simply leave a puddle all around – assuming, that is, they have not been decapitated by the lawn-mower.
What makes it worse is that I am often on the receiving end of an accusatory “You can’t leave the grass like this – it must have more water!” So: I should fix the system, or do the watering by hand, or maybe just pray for rain as they used to do in Qatar?
Another futile attempt to sort the system out this morning left me truly disheartened.
But then, as I set about soaking the garden at sunset, with a prayer that the heat will hold off for the next week, I had a moment of Epiphany. A flock of bee-eaters appeared from nowhere, circling and swooping to feast on the bees, even picking some of them off the wall of the house as they rested en route for the hives. Yes, we were losing some of our friends from the roof, but I watched, entranced, as these lovely birds flew full-tilt for the house, picked off their prey, and then swept upwards over the roof.