“Are you having a good day?” I refrained from telling the girl at the petrol station the full story. She would have murmured polite commiserations, then glazed over and gone quiet. So I lied. A little white lie.
Yesterday was supposed to be a full day on the farm. I was planning to do the soil work in the truffière, provided that the Roundup had done its job. It had, but there was a bit too much dead grass in one or two places. I’d have to clean that off with the weedeater before using the cultivator or it would get clogged with vegetation every few metres, forcing me to stop, back up a bit, then jump off the tractor and clear the tines. Tedious, inefficient and time-consuming, when all you want to do is drive and juggle with the lever that controls the hydraulics. The weedeating, I decided, could safely be left for John (the bloke who helps us out two or three days a week) to do in the morning. I would therefore mow the lawns (last done a week ago) and orchard (first of the season, beginning to look shaggy).
On the walk back to the farmhouse, I spotted a few rabbits in the gullies and decided an immediate diversion to shoot the bastards was required. Back in the house, I grabbed the gun and some ammo, and then hooked the iPod in its new farm-proof case on to my belt, ready for the mowing. I wandered along the cliff top and vineyard, and got three of the furry little herbivores. If you get a clean shot, they just fall down the slope – if you don’t, they can leap and squeak piteously in their death throes. I shall not reveal how good my shooting was. Three dead rabbits is only a small dent in our population, but it helps. I put the gun away, and started the mowing routine. This includes, from time to time, removing thistles and weeds from the lawn, so I did that for a while, then went to start up the mower. No iPod. The air would have turned blue if I’d done more than sub-vocalise the epithets that sprang to mind. Repeatedly. I then retraced my steps. Repeatedly. Including the peregrinations with gun (substantial), and the random tracking across the lawn. I cursed the fact that I’d chosen a farm-proof case in a sort of nondescript brown, not bright red or yellow. If it had dropped off my belt at the top of the cliff (we have a 30 metre limestone cliff down to the river on one side of the garden), it might now be at the bottom, and I would have to spend the rest of the day risking life and limb to try and find it, and if I did, it might no longer work. But silver linings also sprang to mind, involving insurance claims and a brand new iPod… until the damn thing turned up at the start of my third retracing of steps. Working perfectly.
The mowing went well. The front lawns looked quite smart, and I decided that I could make some headway on the orchard before lunch. Bad move. I managed to break a blade in the mower’s deck, so had to stop promptly. The engine would then not restart, just making a sickening, expensive-sounding clunk every time I turned the starter knob. Once again, the sub-vocalisations were not particularly inventive, but heartfelt. I had to go and get the farm bike (a four wheel drive job that I use mainly for spraying) and then tow the mower back up to the garage. And then take it down to the local engineering company that services Stigas, only to find — as you might expect when everyone suddenly discovers an urgent need to mow their rapidly growing grass, a queue of ride-on mowers requiring attention.
A week, I would guess. With luck, this flip-flop spring weather will flop over to cold, and growth will slow down. We’ve had several days in the last week with the temperature nudging 20ºC, and although there is some cold weather forecast, it has a habit of blowing past us. There’s real heat in the sun now, the soil’s warming up, and spring is moving fast. I hope the same can be said for Gordon the engineer.