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– Making an effort

July 16, 2012

Who would have thought that making a garden in a warmer climate would be so challenging?  I suppose those wise people who’d given the idea some thought before assuming that sunnier weather would just mean an end to all those wet summers in Yorkshire and bring only lovely warm days.  Of course, nothing’s that simple.  To have more sun we have to have all the horrible stuff too, which means weeks of really hot sun to scorch and dry the plants into pale versions of themselves.  Summer really is the worst time of year in our garden.  We water every evening purely to keep the plants alive and they, being superior beings, don’t get all agitated like us but wait patiently, biding their time for better, cooler weather.

This week I’ve been reading a weird old book, written around 1940 by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, called Cross Creek.  It’s a fascinating story about life on an orange plantation in Florida and bizarrely there are similarities between our climates, although they suffer colder times in the winter than we do.  There was an exciting description of lighting fires amongst the orange trees to stop the ice from freezing the fruit.  I do enjoy books like this one, full of passionate ambition to follow dreams, of moving from a life in the city and making a new one in a rural place, of triumph over adversity.

Older books are fascinating because life in those times seemed more intense and the challenges bigger, the difference between rural and urban life wider, so reading about it is all the more inspiring.  Cross Creek is packed full of social history and personal battles as the writer makes a life for herself in a place she loves but has no experience of.  I suppose then, as now, there were plenty of people who told her she was taking too big a risk in leaving her comfortable life in the city for certain disaster in the country, but then, that’s people for you!

I wonder if doom merchants advise us from the best or worst intentions.  Are they really concerned about us or is it that some people feel the ripples of change from the lives around them, bumping up against their own too disconcerting.  Sometimes when I talk to people about how our life is unfolding here I can tell they feel uncomfortable, and not just for us and our lack of toilet or bathroom, although I can see that might get them started, but more my talking seems to make them want to either consider their own life or, conversely, our conversation makes them NOT want to think about their own life at all, to close the door tightly and preserve everything as it is and make sure no outside influence can reach it.  Is that fearfulness?  Maybe it is, but I reckon securely bolted doors make for a lifetime at the barricade, trying to keep out whatever weirdness or strange possibility that might come knocking.

Talking about our adventure in living here people often want to know why we’re doing this to ourselves, I really do try to explain that we’re not suffering in any way and that having no toilet isn’t the difficulty they imagine.  Life here is grand and, I say, I’d like to think that by living in this green, well, for part of the year, natural place we’ll live long and well.  But most people don’t think it’s possible to live any longer than anyone else by trying to avoid dying.  They tell us that we’ll be happy to leave here as we get older and greyer because that’s life.  You get old, you get ill and then you die.  Maybe they’re right and I will change my mind about all this at some point, but currently I like to imagine that by trying to live well and as healthily as possible maybe I will live longer or, at the very least, live without regular trips to the doctor’s surgery or having to be supported by a battery of drugs and health checks.  I don’t want to hand over the responsibility for my health to anyone who won’t take it as seriously as me.

I suppose all these thoughts sparked by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings are about living a life which requires a bit of effort and as far as I can see, there’s nothing wrong in that.  Not everything is supposed to be easy, just imagine if it were, there’d be no need for invention or creativity and life would be extremely dull.

In our life here on the hill there’s always something to take us to the edge of our current knowledge and ability.  Today the temperature in the shade is 40 degrees and our pressing need is for a bit of cool air.  As luck would have it this morning’s trip to the post office revealed a parcel from our friend Dennis, inside which were two little fans salvaged from an old computer.  So, today’s bit of effort has been in wiring them up and building a case for them so that they don’t dance across the table when we switch on.  Of course, by-products of effort are frustration and satisfaction.  On good days, and they increase with experience, satisfaction outweighs frustration.

We still have masses of work to do outside to make our garden, but we are beginning to understand the changing seasons a bit better and now know that eventually the hot weather will fade and cooler times will arrive.  Then we’ll be able to get on with our continual struggle to introduce different trees and plants to the hillside.  Yes, it’s definitely important to make an effort and never to lose sight of the reward for that, which in our case will be a beautiful and diversely planted garden.  However, we all need short term gratification and ours is the frequent indulgence in cups of espresso coffee, speaking of which…….

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