Here begins a slightly biblical tale of dry soil that cannot heal itself and of the cracks in a couple’s pastoral dream. There’s mud and scorching sun, men bellowing and a woman crying, stone walls collapsing and cisterns leaking.
Of course we see rain here, but increasingly it’s not enough. We worry about branch death and brown foliage in the woods. And we’ve lost countless young fruit trees just one year after planting. The rain gods continue to disappoint, or to warn for a grim future perhaps. So, Thomas started working on a plan to capture even more rain water than we already do, to use it for orchard irrigation. With unbridled ambition, ideas went from a lake to a swimming pond, to a 40.000 liter plastic tank. On a tight budget.
Spring last year, we agreed on a ferroconcrete cistern, underground.
Now, imagine me holding a challenging pose in the chateau’s yoga room. Not to the whistling of birds and the humming of insects, but to the sound of machines and human conflict. A boss swearing at a co-worker’s daft mistakes, Thomas shouting over the incessant noise of concrete mixers and excavators, trying to avert structural failures. I often flee the ongoing tensions. Sometimes I add to them, exchanging fiery emotions and reproaches with Thomas. From squabbles over side issues to existential stress, there’s enough blame to go around.
Several weeks later, we’ve exhausted the workers, each other and ourselves. Well beyond the agreed deadline, we’re alone on the estate again. I feel as parched and barren as the dry land. And we’re forced to face our biggest construction fail so far. There’s damage to a couple of fruit trees, there’s debris all over the estate and after an unexpected bout of torrential rain, we discover that the walls of cistern are not water tight. The many leakages cause a stone wall to collapse.
I worry about the ongoing renovation troubles, the mounting tension between Thomas and me, the daily reports of nature and culture unraveling in the world. My dreams are filled with violence and the fear of loss.
Still, I wake up every day with a sense of regeneration and gratitude for the beauty that surrounds me. This chaos is also pregnant with creativity. We clear the obstacles and repair everything ourselves. New possibilities open up and excitement begins anew: we start landscaping this wounded part of the orchard, discovering new shapes and lines we would never have seen were it not for the destruction. We imagine a gently curved staircase in the wall and create a wildflower area to add softness.
It’s the hot and dry summer of ’21 and we blissfully think we have fixed our problems. Until…