Last week, Anne (my wife) read me Guy Singh-Watson’s latest ‘News from the farm’, which we receive in our Riverford organic vegetable box:
‘The reservoirs are all but empty. We have kept back just enough to water our five acres of tunnels; the outdoor crops will have to fend for themselves. Without rain, the shallow-rooting, quick-growing and water-demanding crops like lettuce, spinach and rocket will start suffering within a week and be unmarketable in two. Prospects for broccoli and potatoes aren’t much better…’
I said, ‘You’re reading it as if it comes from Amos!’ (Amos being one of those doom and gloom Old Testament prophets).
But some things are growing well in this weather (tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, sweetcorn and basil). And Guy goes into some of the strategies they use to get as good a crop as they can (‘plant as deeply and as firmly as possible… invest in more winter fill reservoirs…). To end, he writes:
‘Despite the impending disaster, everyone seems remarkably calm, relaxed and even happy. Like our World Cup team, there is a feeling that we have done our best and what will be, will be. It could be the sunshine or the move to employee ownership; it could be that we have our best team ever and increasingly are leaving them to make their own decisions. Whatever the reason, we are making the most of our chances, which is all we can do in a year like this. In an act of defiant optimism, we are still sowing and planting salads; there seems to be some hope of a change in the weather towards the end of the month.’
There is hope! And those Old Testament prophets also had bags of that. Amos writes: ‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when the reaper will be overtaken by the ploughman and the planter by the one treading grapes… I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them.’
The people of those days lived so close to the land that it was natural for the whole of life to be viewed in agricultural terms. If the crops didn’t grow, it really was a disaster – people starved! They still do in many parts of the world. But for many of us, that’s a bit more distant. If the allotment has a bad year (that’s if you have one), you can always go to the supermarket! But that’s no good if there’s nothing to put in the tins. During this extreme weather we need to spare a thought for our farmers and realise that what they do is more relevant to us than we often think. And assuming the weather’s due to global warming, could we do something to offset that?
But perhaps there’s an even better prophet than Amos. Near the end of his prophecy, Habakkuk writes: ‘Though the fig-tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the sheepfold and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.’
Yes, this is about the whole of life… In this hot weather it’s especially easy to get grumpy. I’ve heard quite a few people moaning about things over the past few weeks. I wonder if it is the weather… Whatever it is, we can learn something from Habakkuk about being joyful – or from Guy: ‘Despite the impending disaster, everyone seems remarkably calm, relaxed and even happy.’ (The article was called ‘Smiling in the face of calamity’.)
Whatever the weather, I wish you a very joyful summer.
With every blessing