An interesting episode cevenol

bread ovenIt has taken me two days to get the courage to write; so much news, so little of it good.

I’m going to use small sized pictures as I have a lot to show. If you want to see the story in more detail, click once on each picture and it should enlarge.

And where to start? Yesterday morning a storm broke over the mountain around 6am.  All normal, it was just heavy rain. Plus a bit of thunder and lightning.  We have autumn storms so this was nothing new. DSC00688

But what we didn’t know was that this was what is called an episode cevenol.  Warm weather fronts blow in from Africa and meet colder fronts over the mountains in the Cevennes. And after that all hell breaks loose.

We had eight inches of rain in just four hours.  That’s running out, measuring and emptying the rain gauge three times. And trying to keep count of the inches.  We usually measure our rainfall in measly millimetres. So for the metric among you, that’s around 210 mm in one morning’s work.

shade garden detailAnd what work.

At first we could see the rain pouring down the walnut path and racing across the courtyard. The rain was falling so heavily it was hard to see beyond the courtyard.

The bread oven flooded (design fault – there are no exit holes so the water just pooled and overhwelmed the drains) and the water came between the two houses in torrents.

At first we thought that was the extent of the drama, until I spotted something strange beyond the barn towards the potting shed.

A water fall. But that doesn’t quite capture it. It was an avalanche of water. Roaring down from the mountain above.  pool

avalancheThere was no way I was going to be able to reach Artur in the potting shed, but I assumed he was a smart cat and would stay put.

He usually hides when there is thunder and rain pelting down, and he did just that. Hunkered down under the staging table in all the soft nets.

Had he tried to get down the steps of the shed he would have ended up in the swimming pool on the terraces below.

potager stepsI know that as it is where the rest of the garden and mountain have ended up.

We couldn’t do much more than bail out the basement (building works outside the basement door meant that more water was coming in that flowing out) and wait until the rain let up.  damaged drive

The tarmac road between our houses ususally has a lovely gravel surface. But as we watched we lost first the gravel – swirling merrily down the road. And then the tarmac.

It crunches when you walk across it – and then sinks. One more rain storm and it will probably join all the rest of the courtyard on the lower terraces.

fallen wall front of houseThe water has to go somewhere – it was roaring down the steps towards my potager in torrents until early evening. And cleaning steps also meant washing all the topsoil out of the herb garden to the left, taking the gravel from the paths in the potager to the right and driving all the way down the hill to the road below.

In between this wall of water and the road was a wall. Not any more.

We didn’t hear it fall down, but it’s 20 metres long and now very very flat. God what a disaster.

And the rest of the bank came down, taking with it soft fruit, strawberries, all my landscaping and mulching and a tonne of rocks. steps to top potager

By this stage we were just mouth agape as we kept on round the farm.

The orchard is a sodden mess and lots of the bank has just disappeared. Our first job was to clear the road of all the soil. But here are a few more pictures of the damage.

The top potager has lost all its steps and the soil at the entrance.

former stepsThe lovely elegant chestnut steps leading from the road down to the shade garden has gone. Nothing but random logs and rubble. No topsoil, nowhere to walk.

But it’s a walk to nowhere. And this is the hardest part of this sad and sorry story.  The mountain avalanche took out my shade garden.

This is the part of the farm I have spent the last few months landscaping, mulching, digging and planting. Almost 200 shrubs, and here’s the hard part, hundreds and hundreds of bulbs. former shade garden

Topsoil? I wish. It’s all gone.

And the path leading up to the potting shed – a path I walk up at least five times a day, has been washed away in three places.

The gravel is on the lawn, the shrubs are uprooted and many of them have disappeared.

The irony is that after six years of baffling and battling, I thought I had finally worked out how to landscape this difficult part of the garden. Hot, dry and shaded.  I needn’t have exerted all that energy; the weather sorted my dilemma in just a few hours. It’s a boulder field with random plants.  So much for Andrew’s beautiful design. My modern shrubbery is a joke.

half a shade gardenIt was at this stage that I just despaired.  For a few days now I have been glued to the Australian news reports worrying about Mt Irvine and the bushfires.

I was shocked to learn that Carrisbook farm and garden was destroyed by fire. And Kookootonga was threatened. Little did I know I would lose my garden in the same week.

The hedge above the shade garden is battered and uprooted. I spent ages trying to work out where the lovely calicarpa shrub had gone (it’s the one with the fetching purple berries in winter.)

I found it wrapped around the mirabelle plum tree with a huge amount of torn tussocks of grass. And most of its branches have gone. But I saved what I could and potted it up. file damaged pool steps

This mornig it was a matter of picking through the debris and trying to save any plants that had their roots in the air and I could reach.

But what a day. The extent of the damage is just boggling.

And it’s so frustrating as  have been so proud of how the garden looks.  For the first time in six years I wasn’t making excuses, but taking visitors round and showing them walls, complicated and well established planting schemes, a settled garden.

former courtyardRight now, I’d settle for any garden.

It’s not all doom. But the damage. There’s months of work just trying to get it back to what it was. And part of me (the miserable, what is the point part) wonders how on earth it can be done. Everywhere you look there is work to do. And none of it is creative.

And what if another flash flood comes down the mountain? No point restoring the garden the way it was if it’s going to head south again. pool from a distance

And how do you get all those tonnes and tonnes of good topsoil back into the garden?

I filled ten buckets of soil just from the pool surrounds this afternoon. And couldn’t manage to carry them up the hill to the shade garden as the steps have gone.

top soilHey ho. At least we found the pool. The cover is broken, the struts have snapped, the pool liner is ripped and the bottom is covered in feet and feet of soil.

At least you all know what I will be doing for the next six months. One bucket at a time.