! 2010 IS A DISASTER !
Yes, you read that right 2010 is officially a disaster. It's the last half of August and the first angustifolia harvest should be done and distilled but instead we have a single table of dried flowers and a thin dribble still coming. No purple haze this year.
It's more or less the last week of August and the spica harvest should be well under way but instead great chunks of the bushes are dying or dying back . That's right - dying back big time: a drought tolerant lavender is dying in parts. In all areas of the farm lavender is dying back and we have been irrigating since April.
The olive trees that have had a set, and those that haven't too, are spotted with yellow leaves. Olives are wrinkling and dropping from the lower branches even while the trees put on ridiculous thin top growth.
The ground is like concrete. The wild carrot that dominated the fennel this year is dead. There is scarcely a wild flower or grass in sight.
The plants are exhausted. The soil is exhausted. We are exhausted.
Autumn 2009 was warm and unusually dry. Winter 2009 was warm and unusually dry. The olives did not swell fully. Our olive harvest was one of the few in our valley - most people didn't even bother. Spring 2010 was short, hot and dry. By the end of April 2010 we had started to irrigate the lavender weekly - the stress was showing. Summer 2010 started early and has been consistently hot - the daytime temperatures have been over 30º for months. It has not rained since March. The UV readings have been over 11 on a regular basis and there has not been a dew for longer than I can remember. Night temperatures have been in the mid to high 20s save only when they too have been in the 30s. We have had heatwaves too, with 40+ temperatures for a week or so at a time every few weeks. And almost no breeze. No wind.
Weird shit has been happening all throughout 2010. Hindsight is amazing but we did notice all of this weird shit as it happened it just wasn't possible to predict what it all presaged.
Some of our olive trees flowered in January - and set. In january one of our dogs was attacked by ticks and fleas that should have died in the winter. At the end of January our avocado tree - the one we had nurtured from a stone some years ago - turned brown and died in only 3 days.
The rest of our olives refused to flower. The walnut tree failed to put on leaf and I took it for dead. Months after they were due both sprang into some simulacrum of life but the olive blossom was sporadic and sparse and the walnut lacked any real conviction. By this time we had noticed a scarcity of both pollinators and wild flowers. The main crop olive trees had a small set eventually and the walnut finally took on a lightweight coat of paler green leaves but none of it was terribly convincing.
The mulberry trees produced almost no fruit and so did not carpet the ground with mushy fruit and buzzing bees. And so it has continued: some things are months early and some months late. All is spindly and weak and the weather refuses to vary. And now the cumulative effects are killing things off.
I was really hoping that I wouldn't have to write this. I've been, we've been, denying it for weeks but now it's written it's time to move on. We are fundamentally optimists. At heart we try to find the positive in life's buffetings but this really has us scratching our heads and looking at what looks dangerously like a glass that's more than half empty.
There's a lesson sure enough and that is that you should never assume you have mother nature's number - she always has a curve ball left but we knew that already!
And there we are - digging to the very bottom of that half full glass there is a possible upside: any plants that make it through will be ideal for propagating as the only stock that is fit for prolonged drought conditions. It isn't much but it'll have to do for now and we shall have some sort of olive harvest albeit much reduced.
! 2010 IS A TRAGEDY !