We were staying with a friend, and she asked Bryan if he'd mind watering her newly planted shrubs.
This was a mistake.
Bryan can do many things, from guiding men to the moon and back in the Apollo program to keeping our 36-year-old washing machine going, and knowing what kind of bird is in the bottlebrush, is it migratory, when did it arrive and possibly it's grandmother's maiden name.
But he does not know how to water.
If your husband has not watered the garden in the 33 years you have been married, do not expect him to know how to do it. Watering is more than standing with a hose in your hand while the mozzies circle your ankles.
Imagine you are a rainstorm, pitter patter, pitter patter. If that makes you feel like you are a kid in primary school again and have forgotten to give your Mum the note that says you have to be dressed like a sheep by 9am, remember the last good rain storm you watched instead.
It takes your average ''not a deluge but just a good rain storm'' about 20 minutes to soak the garden - and it's wetting your entire garden all at once. You think you and a hose can do it in 20 minutes, too? Think again.
It takes one minute to water the lawn; at least five minutes to water a small just planted shrub or tree; 20 minutes at least to water a large tree, and preferably a lot more, because if you give it tiny surface doses it will grow tiny surface roots instead of massive deep down ones, and one windy day its roots will no longer keep it safely moored and it will fall on your house, car, or bicycle.
Step 1 in good watering is to put the hose onto trickle. I know you want to water the maximum amount of shrubs in the minimum amount of time. But if you put the hose on high it will:
a. wash off over the drought-hard ground, leaving the soil dry and possibly
b. splash spores of moulds and mildew onto your flowers.
Think you have watered enough? Take a small trowel or even a tablespoon and dig down. Is the soil wet or dry? Remember the roots are much further down than your hole.
If the soil in your hole is dry, keep watering.
There are countless tricks to easy watering. Pay a vast sum for an automatic watering system, which will become useless once there are water restrictions. Use a movable sprinkler, though that too relies on no water restrictions. A soaker hose is useful only if you have planted in a straight line or it is long enough to twist its way through your garden and to get the moisture where it's needed.
Canny gardeners build a small circle of soil, leaves, pebbles et al just outside the ''dripline'' of whatever you want to water. The dripline is when the outmost drips drop from the leaves. Go a little beyond, as the plant roots will be beyond the dripline too. It they aren't yet, you want them to be.
You can also buy a water spike for every square meter you want to water. Insert spike into the ground. If the ground is too hard to insert a water spike, you really need that water spike. Screw a plastic bottle, minus its base into the water spike, and water - as fast as you like - into the bottle. The water will slowly feed down to where it is needed.
If you lack water spikes and Santa is unlikely to leave you any in your stocking, collect two-litre milk bottles; fill them with a little sand or layer of pebbles so they don't blow away, put four tiny holes in the base then ring them around your shrubs. Fill each bottle, and you have watered.
You now have a garden littered with plastic bottles, as bad as a tropical island beach.
Or just have fun with water. Who needs a swimming pool? Take the kids into the garden. If you don't have kids, pretend you are a kid again, with the help of several jugs of something cold and delicious.
Now play ''hose tag''. Whoever gets squirted by the hose is ''it'' and has to squirt someone else. It's cool, messy, and hilarious. Invite great-grandma outside to play hose tag too. Great-grandmas with cunning and a good aim don't even have to leave the garden chair.
An hour of ''hose tag'' will water the garden beautifully. So will an outdoor water while playing scrabble, with everyone taking a turn to point the hose in a different direction. Try doing the ''hose limbo' - bend backwards to get under the water jet without getting (very) wet. This is strictly competitive, and best done by teenagers with good knees and no back problems.
''Hose ball'' requires two hoses, at maximum strength, as two competitors use the force of water to get a large plastic ball over the goal line. Hose ball results in 100 per cent fewer broken windows than backyard cricket.
You might even decide to combine watering with meditation in the quiet dusk, smelling ripening tomatoes and watching for the first star as the shadows thicken, while listening for the first mosquito to try to attack your safely covered ankles.
That night your home will smell of wet earth and new leaves and just possibly of blossom. Damp soil after a hot day is one of the best scents there is.
This week I am:
- Hoping I still have a garden next week. Gardens grow back after wallabies nibble them, unless they are young fruit trees the wallabies have torn in half while reaching for the last leaf at the top, but may not survive the two bushfires heading our way, one north-west and one south-east, so whichever wind blows they come nearer.
- Knowing if we lose this garden I will plant at least 50 fruit trees as soon as possible, the minimum to give everything from lemons to six kinds of nuts for a family, as well as year-round apples. But I will also wait to see what grows back. Our garden has deep roots now, that may take years to send out shoots to reach the light.
- Going slightly rose mad. Walk along any Canberra street just now and there will be someone who has filled their front garden with roses. And roses. And more roses. And every bush has about 1622 blooms, or it seems like it. Thank you to everyone who makes a Canberra stroll so glorious.
- Planning that as soon as the drought breaks, in three months or 10 years, I will plant a white cherry, a yellow cherry, one more sour cherry (for the best cherry jam ever) as well as four more self-pollinating cherry trees. It is impossible to have enough cherries, plus it is almost impossible now to buy the fragrant white ones.
- Waiting for the first fresh tomato, tasting of the sun.
- Dreaming of rain.