“…and then the grass turned into soil!” (70 days to go)

by Max Akroyd

It’s been all quiet busyness at Kervéguen this week. Just plodding progress constrained by the limitations of one slightly old, slightly fat and ever-so-weary man.

The stasis caused by all this spring sunshine has extended the period available to try and get control of things. If this carries on all year I might ascend to the nirvana only known by the slightly competent gardener. What a slog though! Making a living was never this hard. But the exertion of recent years seems to be accumulating into something coherent – at last. Although the last 300 metres of raised beds still to be weeded might provide evidence to the contrary.

Even the uncultivated areas in the upper part of the big field are now parcelled neatly into large squares, each bordered by a closely mown path. These areas are ear-marked for porcine intervention later in the season. Above them, a swathe of what might become grass, recovered from the tangle of last year’s overgrowth. It’ll make a great football pitch for the kids and we can sit in the shade of the chestnut tree and look at the view.

Out of sight from that vantage point, and notably absent from my plans thus far, has been the large area the pigs dug over last autumn. I meant to put it down to green manure – I really did – but somehow that never happened and it naturally reverted to a dreary tract of nothing much. Except where big pig’s toilet used to be – where now supercharged weeds sway in the breeze. My plan bears the gentle euphemism ‘hay’ for this neglected set up…

Now look at it!!

Hitherto, I’ve been proud of the absence of mechanical interference on my field. Won it by the sweat of my brow, I did. In fact, after a rotavator almost wrecked things, I was positively averse to anything which couldn’t be swung by the human arm, or didn’t form part of the front end of a farm animal.

Funny though how such principles were nowhere to be seen when a friendly local farmer showed up out of the blue in a big, blue tractor. He wondered if there was anything he could plough for me while he had the thing attached to his machine.

Fortunately, I didn’t know the French for ” Are you kidding? Plough the bloody lot, mate!” Instead I pointed out the aforementioned area and ten minutes later it was done. Ten minutes to do 1000 square metres! It had taken me since Christmas to trench an adjacent area half-the-size. The wonder in my five-year old’s eyes as the noisy monster/tractor folded the turf into neat brown ridges of soil: c’est incroyable! He now mentions it at every mealtime.

In retrospect, I’m glad there was only this peripheral area to offer up to the tractor’s might. I saw the world/my field bend and twist under it’s huge tyres in a way that would never happen under a pig’s trotter, or even my big boots. And the suddenness of the change has left me struggling to comprehend what to with all that soil…

But that was yesterday. Today I picked up my azada, walked down the far end and started trenching.