At last the temperatures began to fall a little on the 26th August (the day we celebrated the feast of San Fiacre (the patron saint of gardeners, he also the saint of haemorrhoid sufferers!) The days following continued hot but with promises of rain and cooler temperatures that never arrived. Then on Friday 31st August it was overcast and cloudy all day and the temperature dropped by about 10° centigrade. Sunday and Tuesday it rained wonderful gentle rain, I call it English rain because normally Italian rain is torrential. But this was perfect garden rain, slowly, very slowly soaking into the ground. Already the drought tolerant plants that had curled their leaves to help avoid water loss have uncurled them and the garden looks ‘fuller’. The night temperature has also fallen by about 10° C, this means I can sleep and that the plants get further respite from the heat and sun. In August the temperatures at night were between 24 to 28°, now they’ve fallen to a comfortable 18° C.
Thank goodness it did rain as on Friday night evening we discovered the pump in the well wasn’t working, in fact every time the pump tried to switch on it blew the main fuse of the house! We isolated the fuse for the pump and called the plumber. He came on Saturday morning and appeared to wave his magic wand and the pump worked for half a day; then during the afternoon the same thing started happening again. So we had a third of a tank of water to last us until Monday morning when the plumber could return.
I’ve always valued water and been grateful for it and careful about how much I use. When all your water, for the house and garden comes from a well you are very aware of its value. We had been told that our well was 100 metres deep, this means a very powerful pump and an autoclave are needed to circulate water all around the house. So, the plumber arrived, realised that before the arduous job of lifting the pump from the well it would be good to check all the electric circuitry. Monday happened to be the day when Viterbo celebrates its Saint by carrying a ‘100 foot high tower’ around the town; my electrician is one of the 100 men who carry the tower (they’re called Facchini or porters) so he couldn’t come, every number we called was busy doing something for the BIG day. Finally my electrician found someone he trusted who could help. But he couldn’t fix the problem. The pump was hauled out of the well, at this point we discovered that it is, in fact, 54 metres deep rather than the 100 we’d been told; the men were pleased about that! The electric cable needed replacing and the pump itself was corroded by the minerals in the water. However the plumber thought he could clean it and that it would work for a year or so longer and it was his advice that we didn’t need to purchase a new pump just yet. He tested it above ground, it was working WRONG! The pump was lowered back down the well, switched on – the main fuse blew again!!! Oh no! they’d have to heave it out of the well again and we needed to buy a new pump – it was lunch time so of course all the shops, including trade shops were closed until 2.30 (this is Italy – everything closes for lunch!) The men went to eat (lunch time for them too, of course), there was virtually no water left in the tank at all now. But at least with Sunday’s rain the garden didn’t need watering for a couple of days.
The new pump was fitted after lunch and hopefully all is now working properly. But those 3 days with only the minimum amount of water really demonstrated that without water it is impossible to live (of course we all know that in an abstract way but actually LIVING without water SHOWS you).
If the pump had failed just a week previously I would have lost every plant in the vegetable garden and many other plants in the garden might not have recovered a further reduction in water. I FEEL SO LUCKY!
Here are a few images of the 100 foot ‘tower’ that is carried through the streets of Viterbo. The design of the ‘tower’ is changed every 5 years or so. This is not my favourite design but seeing the beginning, when they lift the tower in the air is very emotional. The facchini take the last rites before beginning; as it has been known for a facchino to die during the transportation.