Ho, hum, the weather, eh? Can’t live with it – can’t live without it. Last year, I had an almost total crop failure. I don’t count slugs as a crop and they were the only thing prospering in my garden, the merchant bankers of my veg patch, growing fat and smarmy at the cost of everything else. The only unexpected saving grace was that I had a bumper, late crop of tomatoes – by November the vines were sagging, weighed down with huge quantities of very green tomatoes which I harvested, put in brown paper bags to ripen and then feasted off as they reddened throughout the winter. Oh, I loved the pretention of serving luscious scarlet tomato salad to friends in January saying – ‘help yourselves – they’re from our garden, you know’. ‘No!’ ‘Oh yes!’
Things aren’t a whole lot better this year. Everything’s late, but at least it’s not so wet (and by the time you read this, we may well be deep into an August drought). But it’s ok. It’s not a matter of life or death; if my harvests fail, I’ll pop to the supermarket or see what local farmers have managed to drag up through the soil.
But. What if the timing of the seasons really matters to you? What if my family was relying on what I could grow in my garden? What is happening in other areas of the world where the increasing unpredictability of weather is making subsistence farming increasingly fraught?
As an Oxfam report on Tajikistan sets out, climate change ‘is affecting agriculture... and threatening the food security of thousands of people who depend on small-scale subsistence farming for their survival. Intense droughts, extensive flooding and increased frequency of weather-related shocks are becoming more apparent, and hitting poor people hardest’.
So when the birds get into my strawberries, or I’m complaining about my wrinkled beetroots, paucity of cucumbers and brussel sprouts that promise much but deliver little– I’ll try to put my lot in that context.