(For my email subscribers: Remember to read this on the website – better design, more information, updates included, altogether a better experience!)
Weather-wise, January has been a month of contrasts. It was cold until the new moon on the 13th, with most nights falling below zero and a low of -6°C on the 8th; then the rest of the month was very mild with overnight temperatures of 11° or 12°, and a high of 19° on the 28th. It was reasonably dry at the start of the month (13mm rain) but the mildness later on meant a lot of rain (114mm) and very unsettled weather in general. January went out with a bang, with a thunderstorm, gales and heavy rain late evening on the 31st!
The swales filled up very nicely as you can see above! This photo also shows the principle of the swales very well. Rainwater running down the slope is caught by the ditch and because this follows a contour line, the water is evenly distributed and slowly infiltrates the soil. Biomass is also placed in the swale; I have in fact added more since this photo was taken. The trees planted on the bank then benefit from moist ground with increased bacterial and mycorrhizal activity.
The weather has to be the main topic of this month’s blog. It has been very dry, but we have also had heat peaks of just under 40°C. These have stressed my plants considerably, but it is the underlying dryness of the land which is the main concern; in sum, we have had three months of drought, and it will be interesting to see if we get any significant rainfall in September.
We have had 50mm of rain, but half of that fell in the last four days of the month, plus a further 11mm on the 22nd. We had a short canicule (Blog post, August 1st) during the second week of August, but after that it became cooler and by the last week it was time for trousers and shoes again.
I would like to dedicate this month’s blog post to James Lovelock, who celebrated his 101st birthday a few days ago. By any measure an extraordinary person, this independent scientist/inventor/engineer has been publishing original and challenging ideas on the future for our world and the planet for half his life (yes, 50 years), shows no sign of letting up, and just keeps on getting better! The paperback edition of his latest book Novacene (2019) – my bet is that the name will stick – was published on Thursday, and he is already working on the next one.
With two doctorates and innumerable awards over his lifetime, he was employed by NASA in the 1960’s inventing equipment for space exploration, and famously designed and built a ‘homemade’ gas chromatograph in three days (the Electron Capture Detector), a highly sensitive instrument which measures industrial poisons in parts per trillion, signalling the dangers of CFC’s in the 1970’s and revolutionising our understanding of the atmosphere and pollutants.
Summer is here at last, although for the first three weeks of June, I was beginning to wonder! Then the cool, wet weather we had been having turned warm and sunny just in time for the official start of summer, and the season has definitely changed. Despite the dull weather, we didn’t have as much rain as in May, around 60mm.