Going for Water

The well was dry beside the door, /And so we went with pail and can / Across the fields behind the house / To seek the brook if still it ran. From ‘Going for Water’ by Robert Frost

We recently had a power outage. The electricity company gave notice before setting to work replacing old telegraph poles in fields nearby. It was only a couple of days later we (literally) woke up to an unwelcome side effect. With no electricity to run the internal pump that shifts our spring water up to header tanks in the loft we’d unknowingly exhausted supply through the usual round of baths, showers, laundry, dishwashing etc. Cue buckets, filled from the garden water butts, lugged up and down stairs, boiling of kettles and neighbour’s help filling containers.

This little emergency prompted us to consider getting a borehole sunk in our own field or getting an engineer in to check the pipe between home and the spring in the neighbour’s field opposite that supplies us and the family households at Southridge. Ominously, in recent years the supply tank that retains the water at source has had a reducing average capacity. Hence our neigbours move in sinking a borehole to secure enough supplies for their sheep and cattle. Our own problems stem from airlocks in the system, either generated by stop/start issues like the recent outage or from overuse where demand outstrips supply. The latter reason was the case in the wake of this Summer’s garden party, compounded by hosting a houseful of overnight guests. At least we’re now adept at running off water from the pump in the kitchen out onto the garden gravel in order to free airlocks before reconnecting the pipework.

Our scattered rural community is not unduly plagued with theft so it was a bit of a shock to hear that Southridge had had their quad vehicle stolen overnight from the home barn. The National Farmers Union (NFU) Mutual Insurance company reported in August that rural crime in 2020 was down by an average 20% as Covid-19 effectively locked thieves out of the countryside. (Dog attacks on livestock and rural fly tipping however soared during the same period, which saw a surge in pet ownership and countryside visits alongside the closure of recycling facilities). Thieves are back this year with new tactics and targets. Top of the ‘must have’ nick list are Global Positioning Systems (GPS) fitted in tractor cabs, while the latest means of criminal access and escape are silent electric scooters that can speed off unheard along quiet country roads.

Last of the apples are being gathered for juicing. From the pink colouring bestowed by sweet red Katy & Discovery varieties to the sharper notes of James Grieve they all make for simple welcome refreshment. In previous years we’ve shared our crop with ever opportunistic blackbirds. No peck attacks from them this year but much increased attention instead from gangs of wasps who mine the produce while still on the bough. They scramble from their burrowing to fall earthwards or fly drunkenly off when I (very gingerly) pluck the fruit to drop into my basket.

Utilise a size two Devon stave basket for this task – my birthday present for Kim this year – made to order by John Williamson, a charcoal maker and woodworker who lives and plies his craft in the Teign valley. Fashioned at the work bench from locally grown ash (handle & trim) douglas fir (staves) and oak (bottom) these heavy duty baskets were traditionally used across the county for the carriage of goods produced in kitchen, dairy, garden and orchard.

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