Nine weeks without rain and the fen seeks liberation. Outriders of rain came for six minutes mid-afternoon yesterday, hissing into the ground and vanishing. Within three hours the weeds in the dead grass have formed flower-buds, ready to liberate their patch of earth from the tyranny of the lawn. Night falls and long barrages of thunder in the distance signal the start of the invasion. The water wants its waterland back. They work all night in the fen fields to gather the crops before the rain comes, like resistance fighters making secret runways. The distant thunder continues all night and not a drop of rain falls on the Night Planted Orchard. The sun has parched the earth to the point that there is no added moisture to hold up the wet air coming in from the sea. The low ridge is not enough to trigger the upsurge of air. Dawn comes and the barrage ceases. The sun breaks out and a curious haze like diluted milk blurs the distance, a mixture of crop-dust and yesterdays pitiful rain evaporating. But the armies of wet air are regrouping over the North Sea. Re-enforements are brought in. They go again at sunset. There is a total lunar eclipse tonight, perhaps they will come then, under cover of darkness, paratroopers of rain come to save the dying garden. The garden quivers in anticipation.


Amber Waves of Grain

The wheatfield near to the house is like the lounge wall in some forensic procedural: faded beige, pale as sand, spattered with poppies in sparse swathes, waiting for some agricultural pathologist to decode its secret tale. The Mighty Hunter snuffles his annoyance at the cut stems in the path, sharp as scissors and pokes his nose into the crop although he knows not to enter. Lady Snoutingdingle suddenly expressed sadness that she had seen and not been able to capture the crop weeks ago, lush green and waving on a day of stiff and restless breezes. I realised that I had captured precisely that scene on precisely the same day. So here they are, the wheat in the green, stirred by rain and a motile breeze, and the same field still as a rock-face, thirsty as the desert, begging for the blade to set it free.



The Lair of the Water Dragon

The jealous water spirit mocked me as I dug my drain, swearing that no rain would ever fall again in the Night Planted Orchard. It has been eight weeks and each day that passes brings heat, more cracks in the Earth and not a hint of water.

Unbowed I decided to take advantage of the deep dryness of the Earth to hack another drain this time in front of the house where there is always damp against the end wall. Lady Snoutingdingle and I suspect that in the winter, the cold water sleeps under the house, rendering part of it eternally cold.

As I dug in the heat, I found nothing but hard packed gravel and dust for most of the way and then, as I progressed along the wall, I noticed that the dust was damp. Not very damp, but distinctly less dry. The house is just below the springline of the low ridge. Perhaps there is wild water running down towards us. Perhaps the main is leaking in the road, because the road is always being dug up by the water company. Perhaps our own water pipe is leaking. Or perhaps I've found the muzzle of the water dragon, peeking out. 



A Cluster of Galaxies

This year, perhaps because of the heat, cow parsley has dominated the wildlife portion of the garden. Through the viewfinder, late in the day, I saw their flat heads, arranged at all angles, against the dark of the hedge and I saw a cluster of galaxies, higgledy-piggledy, white on dark. The Universe, it seems, reflects its patterns on every scale.



A Long Visit From the Fire-Spirit

I'm not sure whether I have fallen in love with the desert, or if the desert has fallen in love with me. Perhaps the latter, because its spirit has followed me home. The earth in the Night Planted Orchard has cracked open and the cracks are so deep that I cannot find a stick long enough to touch the clay below. The apples are small but their sweetness sings in the branches. The new mulberry has decorated itself in crumbled leaves and has surely died. The three trees that we planted in the cold, wet, late spring - because they were bargains and we would surely have a poor summer of course - are on life support. The heat is so exhausting that my clauses fall into each other's paths like wilted leaves on a wilted vine. The pond is a dusty wallow beloved of the blackbirds. I spent weeks digging a new drain for the orchard because in the winter it becomes a quagmire at its lower end. It gapes at me like a dessicated beggar and laughs like a loon at my folly. Foxes, badgers and muntjac share the water that we have put in the tree under some eternal truce. Butterflies fill every bush. Columns of whites dance like flames. Tortoiseshells hide where peacocks parade themselves. Commas confused by the early blackberries bask like little burning embers. The blues are in short supply. The gatekeepers are more richly coloured than I have ever seen. The dragonflies are as fat as sparrows and we spotted a rare male metallic green banded demoiselle at the riverside, bigger, fatter and braver than its plain blue brothers. The lawn is as thirsty as I am, running out of moisture as I run out of commas and dashes and colons: the grass has surely died.