For the last four days, we have seen little sunshine. Saturday was hazy. Sunday, dark and brooding. “Please put the tractoui – the rotivater – through the vegetable patch,” I urged Best Beloved. “I really hope that it will rain, but if it does, I can do no work for at least a week and if the earth isn't turned we'll lose a lot of time on the spring crops.”
On Sunday morning he did the vegetable patch, and we finished pruning the vines and the trees in the field. Then he put the tractor through the field, as well, turning under the newly sprouted weeds that had given the lanes between the trees a soft dusting of green. He did the olive grove, too, and we started pruning the long suckers that have grown from the trunks and branches that we cut back so radically last year.
Usually we start pruning at this time. This year, because of the unseasonably warm winter, we are struggling to finish before the trees blossom, and as I cut the apple branches, sap bled from them. Some of them had started blossoming already – although they are usually a week or two behind the peaches and nectarines which have yet to break into bud. “The weather's going bananas this year, Manamou!” Best Beloved called from his seat on the tractor.
I cut some apple branches to take into the house so that we can have blossom on the table. The almonds are already out, a pink and white veil floating over the hillsides.
On Sunday night, the wind woke me as it screamed around the house. In the morning, it was still blowing – from the east – heavy with dust, and warm. A grey haze covered everything.
The wind blew throughout Monday. In the Middle East, this wind is called the khamsin, and is said to drive people crazy. When I lived in Israel I heard that a man can be forgiven the murder of his wife after seven days of khamsin (but could a woman be forgiven the murder of her husband? I wondered.)
Last night the wind backed and became chilly. I had just snuggled into my down duvet, slightly muzzy from a glass of wine, when it hurled handfuls of huge water drops against the side of the house, and one of the french doors upstairs slammed. A white flash lit the sky, followed at once by an infernal crack of thunder
I pulled on my dressing gown. The hall light snapped on as Alex threw open his door to see what was happening and if I needed help. We raced up to the sitting room and wrestled the blowing door shut, then I opened the front door to check the car windows. Within seconds, my hair was plastered to my head.
Throughout the night the storm woke me intermittently, but I snuggled deeper into the down quilt. I knew that today there would be no work in the field. There will be no work in the field for at least a week: I am free to plan, to order seeds. To buy another fifty metres of twenty-millimetre hose and six sprinklers for the new lines that I will put in when the earth becomes workable again.
In a lull between showers this morning I went out to the back verandah and looked toward the mountains. The air had an edge, the brittle bite of snow. Chains will be needed above Platres for the next week.
The rain is still falling. On our fields and above them. In the hills, into the dam. We need more, much more to see us through the summer without water rationing. But for now this is what we have, and we are grateful.