Monday, 20 April 2020

Pandemic, then drought [updated]

It was an unnaturally warm winter; there was no snow to speak of. The rain has not fallen properly for weeks. I fear that Poland will be hit hard by a drought, a double whammy of natural catastrophes. Around Chernobyl, forest fires rage, although the prevailing winds won't blow radioactive smoke this way. We have not been good to our planet, it feels like our planet wants to be rid of us - a pernicious, wasteful, dirty species. The Medea hypothesis? Or the Gaia hypothesis?

The drought is here already. Jeziorki's ponds are in a pitiful state. Most mornings I open my window blinds to be welcomed by a bright sun in a clear blue sky - great for lockdown samopoczucie but an increasingly worrying sight for the soil and everything that grows in it.

Below: the western side of the middle pond. Gabions erected to retain floodwater now stand dry; to the left, some water is visible in the pond by ulica Trombity. Scene looks like something out of WWI.

Below: this wooden pier once projected far into the pond; now its sandy floor is visible. Until recently it was impossible to walk from here to the gabions above with dry feet - I've done this several times this year. This is (was?) the southern end of the middle pond.

Below: the same view, July 2017. Bullrushes are notoriously difficult to uproot.

Below: the reeds are choking the pond, exacerbating the lack of winter snow cover and of April showers. This is the northern end of the southern pond; about a third of the surface of water has gone. The swans and ducks are still here, but there's no sign of the diving birds - grebes and pochards, and only a few coots (once prevalent here).

Wildfowl are suffering as water levels fall. These two swans (judging by the ring number, offspring of the two swans who return here each year) haven't enough water to sit down in.

The same goes for this coot - one of a small number present here this season. Usually, the coots are the most numerous species of waterfowl on Jeziorki's ponds. Right now, not enough water to get this guy's ass wet.

No rain today, none forecast for tomorrow, nor Wednesday, nor Thursday.

In early spring, the southernmost ponds are full of croaking frogs - not this year.

Below: looking north-west across the southern pond. The border between the reeds and the grass marks the former shoreline.

My bigger worry than the local pond is Poland's agriculture; a sustained drought will damage it just as it needs to be functioning properly. A poor harvest will result in much higher food prices. I long to be able to get on a train and head down to Jakubowizna to see how things are - as soon as lockdown is lifted, it's the first thing I'll do. That and a little rain dance.

This time four years ago:
Polish India Pale Ales - the taste of Now
[Update: Lidl is now has a few Polish craft beers on its shelves]

This time five year:
Lublin - pearl of Poland's East

This time seven years ago:
70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

This time eight years ago:
Tarkovsky's Stalker: a zone of my own

This time nine years ago:
Warsaw's big billboards

This time 11 years ago:
Pace of development falters

This time 13 years ago:
Unusual formation of mammatus clouds over Jeziorki

[Still unmatched!]


Jacek Koba said...

I had a water well deepened last summer. This well was originally dug to 7m in the early 50s and deepened another 3m 10 years later. Despite the bucket scraping the bottom, until about 4 years ago I’d be able to draw just enough water for the veg patch, when it ran dry completely. So I sank a borehole, against my higher principles and spectacularly against my bank account, and struck water at ... 44m! Iron contaminated, slimy stuff.

Yesterday I dug over an onion patch. Like something out of Steinbeck’s. You lift a spadeful of soil to turn it over and the wind blows it away to your neighbour’s. Nothing but dust at two spades deep.

Land owners with land abutting the river, with all the help from the council, vets and relevant organizations, are fighting the mighty beaver who has turned the riverine landscape in a manner a fleet of B52s would in a carpet bombing raid. So far the beaver has carried the day.

What was not lost to the drought, the beaver, or the virus this year was killed off by the frost. In the warmest of years I remember!

I’m the opposite of you, waiting for news of railway services resuming so that I could get back to Warsaw, where I haven’t been for 7 weeks, to check if my flat is still standing. With the job in Warsaw down the drain, paltry internet connection in my Kraśnik home, and the plagues of Egypt unfolding under the glorious blue sky, the mind is reeling with incomprehension.

Michael Dembinski said...

Wow - Jacek - really bad down your way! "You lift a spadeful of soil to turn it over and the wind blows it away to your neighbour’s. Nothing but dust at two spades deep." - A terrifying image.

In Warsaw, the legal professions seems in ruddy health at the moment, particularly employment and corporate.