Hard to believe looking back at this that Irish fields resembled Tuscan ones. After the worst winter in 72 years, we had the hottest one in 42. Ten weeks of drought where 40 shades of green turned to 40 shades of yellow and burnt umber. The pigs struggled with the heat and spent most of the day in the hayshed or out behind the mound of building rubble in a shady nook created by it and overhanging trees. The poultry were the same hardly venturing out of the hayshed during the hottest part of the day. We got used to waking up to blue skies and intense heat.
What’s rare is wonderful but with everything there has to be a downside and mine was water. The old well was running really low and I was worried. I contacted the council to see was there a grant to connect the deep well sunk in 1990, 200 feet deep and costing £750! How did I know all this? It was written on a piece of cardboard hanging on the back wall of the big shed. We had cleared it of all it’s junk and the sign was there.
The previous owners for some reason had emptied the contents of the house into it during renovation. It was a huge higgeldy piggeldy mess. I had asked an antiques shop owner from New Ross if he wanted to take a look in it. To be honest it was difficult to see anything in it. For all I knew there could be some gem hidden in there that would pay for all the work I had to do. Wishful thinking. It was rubbish and falling assunder from woodworm. The antiques guy valiently climbed over it all and found two wooden boxes he was interested in. He offered me €100. I bit the hand off him wondering was he slightly touched. He dragged them out and I’m still convinced he was. Actually he promised he would let me know when he’d done them up so I could see he wasn’t……… !
But back to the well. I was approved for the grant and I found a company to give me a price. Pump experts I was told. After weeks of pestering he arrived one really hot evening to sink a submersible pump, pump out the water for a few days then get it tested.
He connected the pump, connected the power and sailed off telling me to run the water for 15-20 minutes every day. Unfortunately he had barely cut the cable to reach the socket in the shed and I had to pig proof it outside from a pair of nibbling terrorists. So it had to be extended using an extension lead. It ran for a few minutes then cut out. Great. The excitement at finally having water was short-lived.
Up to this I had been sparingly using my own water for absolute necessities like toilets and showers. I had stopped using the washing machine and dishwasher, trawling up to the washing machines in the village and washing up in a small bowl in the sink. My neighbour had connected me by a series of pipes running from the well in his stable yard, down his fields and under the road in a drain. These pipes were all connected using connection pieces that in the intense heat burst apart so I had no water. I had assumed he had switched me off for some reason. When I finally got desperate I rang him and he said to my utter horror that this must have happened and that the water was running down the hill. We went to investigate and it was. He put something over all the connections to keep them cool and I ran the water at intervals so that the heat didn’t build up. The water coming through the black piping was warm enough to wash up with!
This water was then filled into two barrels which I used for watering the animals, the tunnel and the flowers in the containers I had nurtured before the poultry ate most of them. They were desperate for greens.
Eventually we figured out why the new well was cutting out. The extension lead had a safety cut out as it couldn’t cope with the power required for the pump. However, it soon became apparent that the water was absolutely manky in the well. The tests came back high in manganese and iron (explained the brown colour), and high in coliforms. He connected the UV filter installed previously and said the water wouldn’t kill me. Good to know. Even looking that unappealing the smell of hydrogen sulphide was the deal breaker. I decided it wasn’t even fit for the pigs.
Then I had to go back to the council and ask could the grant cover a filtration system. I was told the grant was just over €2000 so it would cover connection and half the cost of the filtration installation. Better than a kick in the arse anyway. Now I’m waiting for him to come back to finish the job. To date I’m using that well for the house but not for drinking or even cooking with. Thank God for Larry’s well.
The rain finally returned. All around the country people were saying it was raining but there was no sign of any here. I was watching weather charts and it would look as if we would get it but we seemed to keep missing it. It was really disheartening. But then it did eventually. Even now coming up to the end of August the fields are still bone dry. It will take a good few weeks more of heavy rain to improve the situation and traditionally September and October are when the water table is lowest even after a normal summer.
The heatwave is well and truly over and it suddenly began to feel very autumnal a couple of weeks ago. The summer and drought of 2018 will forever be etched in my mind though just as the past winter is.