Friday, January 20, 2006
WISHING AT THE WELL
Out at the farm "Simon's Water", there is an old convict built well, which has faithfully served the needs of generations of occupants and users of the property . It goes down 90 feet, and one cannot help but wonder about the logistics of digging something as deep as that without modern machinery.
In recent times we have been asking rather a lot of this old well....irrigating coffee trees and vegetables, watering cattle, supplying water for a few pigs as well as regular flushing out of the piggery. As little as 6 months ago, there was still a good level of water in the well, even though the water table generally on the island has been showing the effects of many years with below-average rainfall.
However, problems have been apparent over the last week or two, and the fellows went out to investigate this morning. They naively believed it was just a filter problem. Sadly it was not so.
The water level has dropped dramatically. We will have to go "back to the drawing board" with our usage.
It brings into focus the whole sustainability issue. When we talk about ever-reliable old wells, which have never run dry, we are talking about decades of raising single buckets of water laboriously by hand, or operating pumps with no other source of energy than human muscle. This water was then just as laboriously- maybe with the help of a beast or two-carried to the troughs or crops.
I was reading an old diary written by a Norfolker who farmed nearby a century ago. He wrote about fetching sea water from the bay (about 11-12 kms away) to water his onions, which evidently thrived on it. But what a physical effort.
But introduce external energy sources...electrical and petrol driven pumps....and you may increase your yields for a while, but at what cost?
Think of little fishing communities, operating small boats with paddles and oars, using hand-held lines and nets. There is always enough to feed the community. But introduce large fuel-driven boats, nets operated by winches, and all sorts of high tech gear that replaces simple human effort. Suddenly there are enough fish to export, you have a cash economy, but when it becomes fished out, and is no longer sustainable, some of the old skills have been lost, and your fishing community is in a far worse position than before.
I am not making a political statement. And I know there are sustainable strategies to manage these things...which is what we are going to have to do. But these realities really hit home at a time like this.
Likewise, the cartoon I am using is not meant to make any serious statement about gender issues. I am sure I have actually seen the same cartoon with the genders reversed! Just a light-hearted touch, because we must continue to laugh and be positive. We have so much to be thankful for.
Which makes me wonder about the traditional "wishing well". Where did that concept begin? Did people toss money into the well to propitiate the spirit that inhabited the well, and to plead with it to continue to supply that good fresh water that their lives and livelihoods depended on?
If I had a wishing well now, I know I would be wishing for a year of really good rains.