Monday morning maintenance (402)

by Max Akroyd

If you did a pie chart of the smallholder’s day, I suspect a large section of it would be apportioned to running to stand still. If this morning goes according to plan, it’ll be entirely devoted to maintaining things.

Unsurprising, the biggest time burden is keeping the animals fed and reasonably tidy but, as Spring intensifies, a lengthy battle with unwanted greenery is joined. The sound of mower and strimmer becomes a daily grind. I aim to replace these noisy things completely with animals and a scythe in the near future, just as the pigs have superceded the rotavator, but at the moment I’m still trapped into the time-saving myth of minor mechanisation.

Next on the list of time consumers has to be weeding. When the vegetable seedlings are as small as they are, most of this process has to be carried out by hand. It’s a job I really enjoy in small doses, but it takes an iron will to attend to it daily when there are larger, and seemingly more pressing, matters to be getting on with. Once cleared of weeds, the potential crops need thinning out, watering, checking for pests and feeding. It’s the turn of the broad beans today.

The last, and most neglected, area of maintenance concerns the effective upkeep of the smallholder him/herself. I had little idea of the bodily stresses and strains I’d encounter doing this work full time. Not a day passes without some obscure area of one’s anatomy being bruised, or strained or hurting in some way or other. The sheer diversity of movements involved in the partially successful beating-into-submission of six acres of land seems designed to enhance generalised strength/aches and pains! I understand fully now why a stereotypical peasant is slow moving, has terrible posture and is prone to lubrication with alcohol – it just goes with the territory…



The rewards in terms of freedom and great food are massive and I wouldn’t do anthing else. But, unlike most ‘normal’ jobs, those rewards are completely commensurate with effort and I’m still getting accustomed to that!