Since I started gardening in Egypt, I’ve developed a sixth sense for burst pipes.
In fact, I think there’s a kind of vibrational link between myself and the irrigation system. When I got up around 7 o’clock this morning, I knew there was a problem: something sounded wrong, somewhere at the back of the house. And that usually means trouble not so much at t’mill, as the old English expression goes, but among the raised beds.
Dead right: not for the first time, a pipe at the corner of raised bed 1 had burst its closure collar sending a spray of water at least 3 metres (say, 10 feet) into the air, way above the level of our newly downsized hedge.
The Indian laurels and kumquat trees were getting a soaking; part of the raised bed was being sprayed with a jet of water like a fountain at Versailles.
Compost bin lids were awash, but only the lids as none of the bins is open to the air. Happily, when we moved them back into place last Sunday we raised them above the ground on brick bases, so my precious compost sailed through the drama relatively untroubled by the storm around.
Not so a bucket of clay removed from the raised bed the same day. After leaving the bed without irrigation for a fortnight, most of the soil and sand, which had formed two separate layers, was dug out on Sunday . Then we gave it the hugelkultur treatment: Piles of dried tree branches, stems of basil and honeysuckle, and dead leaves from the herbaceous borders were placed in the trench before re-filling with mixed soil and sand.
One bucket of pure soil was left out: Full of lumps of clay-like earth, jammed with roots from the Indian laurels, I was leaving them to dry out before bashing them up, removing the roots and returning the soil to the bed.
Well, it’s going to take a while for that lot to dry out, now…
Oddly enough, the bed itself isn’t too badly affected. This could be on account of a generous top-dressing of dry compost and horse manure, which acted a bit like a layer of blotting paper and soaked the water up. The flood may even have been useful, sort-of, watering the bed after the hugelkultur treatment and before we get it going again.
Well, that’s what I like to think. But I rather hope there aren’t any more surprises in store. Although, on that note, there was another one this afternoon in the air above our house: A flock of European bee eaters, passage migrants between northern Europe and East Africa, very likely doing a recce above the hives on our roof. They are my favourite birds of passage, but I’m so attached to our bees and so grateful for the honey they produce, that I feel guilty every time I welcome the birds’ arrival.