Last week was hopefully a turning point in the on going drought here in The Netherlands. We finally picked up about two inches here in the Haarlemmermeer polder and the rain amounts varied on other parts of the country. It has rained off and on all weekend and today (Monday) we again have had a nice Dutch rainfall.
Is it enough? Well, we are right now about 10 inches short. In my garden the two inches we got only just made the top inch of the soil moist and when I dig down in the garden it is hard and dry. I am not comfortable with this situation until we are back to normal.
I saw first hand the drought across the entire country as I took the train and bike to the province of Limburg last Thursday and Friday.
My trip started at the Nieuw Vennep train station close to Schiphol airport. I loaded my bags for two days of travel and hopefully relaxation in the South of the country. I always enjoy the two and half hour train ride and then the bike ride to where I usually stay at a local B&B (each time I pick a new one to visit). I was also going to do a bit of American shopping at the American military base so I brought an extra empty bag to place all my goodies in for my return trip.
The train ride costs an extra six Euros when I take the bike. This time I travelled on a discount card that I got through a local store making my normal trip about half what I normally pay for this route. When I take the bike on the train I have to plan on sitting and riding next to my bike the entire way to make sure no one steals my stuff and so that my bike doesn’t fall over.
The special areas on the train that have bike parking areas this time of the year are pretty full and so my policy is to start early. Something in the universe was working against me as I tried starting out at 0600 from the Nieuw Vennep station. A power outage on the section of train track where I wanted to start caused the train not to be running at 06:00 am. I had the feeling this trip was going to be an adventure.
I slowly rode back to the house and waited, wrote a blog, waited some more and finally the track was open again at 10:30 am. I was now stuck in the busiest time of day traveling on the trains South to Limburg.
Vacation time train travel in The Netherlands means that you have to deal with lots of vacation travelers. These can be Dutch or tourists traveling with large suitcases, families with small children traveling (also maybe with tons of suitcases and backpacks), and trains full of bikes and shopping bags. Not always easy to get a loaded bike on and off the train in these conditions. But, I seemed to manage as I always do with a great deal of patience.
As I crossed the country by train I could see that the drought was far worse than what I could even imagine. The train passed kilometer after kilometer of dry parched land. Fields were brown, pastures contained animals with nothing but short brown grass to eat. The river levels were lower than I had seen on the many trips I have taken over the years on this route. This drought was not isolated to our small section of the country. It was scary.
The rivers are regulated by the National Dutch Waterworks (Department of Water Management) and they have been monitoring and adjusting river and canal levels for the past few weeks. The government asked that people stop all unnecessary use of water. No baths, no washing cars and no watering our gardens. The government (I always love this statement) “there is no need to panic there is plenty of drinking water.” As a former government employee whenever a official comes out and says “don’t panic” then that is when I am really concerned. I had already started water management within our house in order to water our garden so that things would not die.
The farmers that raise our food, is a whole other story. They have to wait for the rain or spend money on expensive irrigation equipment in order to get water to the fields. Either way it could be financial ruin for many as the Dutch government has already told farmers that they must rely on crop insurance. This is sure to lead to higher food prices for the rest of us in the future.
When I arrived in Limburg I found that the landscape there was also parched. Looking from the top of the hill in Puth (the small town where I stayed) I could witnessed brown fields in every direction. A nice glass of wine helped fend off the feeling of dread from all I saw in the Dutch landscape.
The next day I passed this vinery and wondered how the drought will effect the wines this year. I worry about that as I like wine and it is cheap here in Europe. That could change with one bad year for grapes.
I rode my bike to the local bakery and drowned my woos in baked goods.
I then loaded the bike back on the train and headed back across the dry landscape home.
When I arrived at the house the sky opened up and the rain came pouring down.
“Ahhhh my plants are finally getting a good drink of rain water!” I thought.
How long will this last? Is this hot summer without rain the new normal for this country? If so, will I need to rethink what I have planted in my garden?
How are the weather conditions in your area?
Do you think this summer is hotter than other summers?
What sort of water conservation do you use when there is a drought in your area?
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