33 weeks to go…

by Max Akroyd

As I was saying, these animals are wonderful. In my mind’s eye this small farm is, in waking hours, a Gaugin-vivid picture of animal industry.

The surrounding hedgerows are kept in check by the goats. The land is patrolled by our dogs to keep the foxes and other undesirables out, and a similar relationship pertains to the ducks and slugs and the cats and mice. As I relax prematurely with a cup of tea, the pigs keep digging the soil contentedly, the hens dutifully scratch away the thatch, and the geese ready the next bit of ground for mulching. If this system is qaint – archaic, even – I’d hate to dream of efficiency and progress.

Of course no reality is that idyllic. Goats always want to do the exact opposite of the thing on offer. I’ve had my gooseberries exfoliated by a goat recently – and I can tell you – it’s a painful experience. Injecting that much mischief into the heart of your fruit and vegetable production is fraught with risk. Same with pigs: their respect for the kick of an electric fence can be borderline if another pig of the opposite sex is calling…

Sometimes, other mishaps occur. Up very early the other morning I let Lucy Dog out for her morning constitutional. Someone forgot to tell her that the daddy pigs’ electric fence had been re-configured. A few hours later, vaguely wondering where on earth she’d got to, I eventually found her on the wrong side of the wires being sniffed and oinked at by two very puzzled pigs. The look on her face resembled that of a nun who had wandered into the footballers’ changing room…

But generally speaking, thanks entirely to the animals, the rotovator is redundant, the hedgetrimmer rusts on a shelf…

However, the one piece of machine tyranny I still can’t shake off decisively is that of the lawnmower. This despite the fact that I don’t even need lawns, I need hay. So what’s the point? If there is a logic to a nice ride-on mower, one that would cost more than our car (and bind me to hydrocarbons and the bank manager’s whim) it would be to recoup some of the many hours wasted mowing instead of sowing. The issue is pressing because, like its owner, my present little mower has given great service to the garden but is, well, a bit knackered as a result.

So, gentle reader, help me decide. Do I exchange freedom for order? Or is it possible to have access and visual acceptability in a garden without the sharp cut of the mower, to have a field without short grass? Is there an animal which could do the job for me??

To the left of the buildings is the area where the fruit and vegetable beds are now, although they only occupy three-fifths of the space. The rest comprises grass paths and plenty of rough meadow either being tamed by our animals or left to make hay.

If Google’s drone should pass overhead today it would record an unruly maze of beds, docks as tall as giraffes and a prematurely-geriatric tramp lying in the long grass pondering this and that and hoping for ingenious, time/money-saving suggestions…

(Only one dog was slightly electrocuted in the making of this post.

Inspiring reflections on evil machinery here

This time last year…)