For the past month, I’ve been trying my best to get everything ready for winter. I’m not exactly sure what that really means in the country, but I’m pretty sure something important needs to be done. Back in the suburbs it was taking down the mosquito screens, tidying up the garden a bit and getting the furnace checked. Out here, I’ve got a gargantuan pile of uncut wood stacked accusingly beside the house which despite my fervent expectation, hasn’t been cut and split by ninjas in a surprise guerilla assault before dawn. It’s kind of important I get most of it done before the snow arrives since we’ve recently fitted a rather expensive Empyre Elite Wood Gasification Boiler to run all our heating and hot water. It ignites a jet of super heated smoke to 2000F and is in every possible way, one of the coolest pieces of kit we’ve bought. If you have a penis, you have to see this thing in action.
If that was all that was on my Prepare For Snowmageddon list it wouldn’t be so bad. Unfortunately, I’ve got to grease my machines, top up oil, get the tractor repaired with a new alternator (Nelson The Farming Man to the rescue), bush hog the bottom field (not going to happen), paint almost every room in the house and perhaps, finally, begin fitting out my Brew House but only once I’ve fitted some shelves and worktops in the laundry room. Oh, and made some book shelves for the library.
But the most pressing task of all was to plough the field. This year we started from scratch and to not beat about the bush (sorry for the pun), it was a monumental pain in the arse trying to cut through years of accumulated weeds and trash. I chose Bonus Field for our vegetable plot (so named because we didn’t realise it was ours when we purchased the land) because it seemed to be the most “tame” of our fields. Unfortunately, the weeds weren’t ready to surrender. Stallone-style, if they were going down, it wasn’t without a fight and we grudgingly agreed to call it a score draw in September and say no more about it.
Next year I was determined would be different. Like the A-Team getting ready to tackle the bad guy, I would Be Prepared, even if that involved welding metal plates to a 1984 Dodge Caravan and scouting out the neighbour’s pastures for signs of a small town gangster hideout.
In particular, I really wanted to have the field ploughed and ideally seeded with a green cover crop. White clover sounds like the business and was my crop of choice, but first I had to tidy up the aftermath of my vegetables.
It shouldn’t have been a hard job. There’s maybe a half-acre to turn over and considering I have a 6′ heavy duty rotary tiller attached to George The Tractor, you wouldn’t have been beaten for expecting the task to be no more than an enjoyable afternoon’s work. Oh, how you’d be wrong.
It all started to go awry with the hay bale. We’d used hay in the summer to mulch between the 274 tomato plants and strike a devastating blow to the weeds in that zone. It worked like a charm but unfortunately, I wasn’t vigilant enough and the kids constructed a “ninja spider’s web to catch the coyotes and samurai” from sticks and baler twine. Of course I’d cleared it up and gathered the twine before setting out with the tiller, or at least that’s what I thought. The tiller found the hidden twine, span it around the shaft and tied everything up tighter than a Belgian’s money belt. I had my back turned to make the corner at the edge of the field and didn’t see what was happening until the smell of burning clutch and plumes of smoke illuminated me to the fact that I had in fact, just toasted my slip clutch. Bugger.
After giving it a chance to cool down and doing my best to unwind the twine, I tried again but the clutch wasn’t having any of it. One circuit later and it was smoking once more like a blues singer in Paris. Another cool down and on the third attempt the blades wouldn’t even spin when they hit the soil. I was pretty sure all that was required was a bit of tightening of the bolts on the clutch, but how tight should they be? The farmer answer is apparently, not clear. Tight enough to work, not too tight that the slip doesn’t slip. Really helpful.
Then when I tried to tighten the bolts, I discovered my 3/8″ socket spanner was bust. In fairness, it was a cheapo from Canadian Tire bought many years ago and by rights it should have crumbled to dust when used on anything except my son’s bike. But it meant a trip into Winchester to find a replacement. I discovered that Winchester Home Hardware actually doesn’t really do much in the way of hardware. Their tool section is even more pathetic than my own. So, I tried MDG which is apparently where the world’s tools all go to die. Staffed by lobotomized automatons all with suspiciously similar facial appearance and one-syllable names, I was astonished to find what I needed in a dusty cupboard at the back. To be honest, when I was being taken there, I did for a moment wonder if there was a white-coated outcast doctor waiting for me with a syringe and a smile and my fight or flee instinct was certainly aroused.
Instead, Bob From Aisle 4 guided me to the cupboard which was open.
“Huh, shouldn’t be open,” remarked Bob with a shrug before shuffling away.
“Shouldn’t be open,” echoed a leaden voice behind me and involuntarily hunching against the jab of a syringe any second, I came face to face with Big Jo From Aisle 12B. To say she was ugly would be an insult to all Belgians. In the words of Dylan Moran, she looked like a bulldog licking piss off a nettle. Big Jo eyed me suspiciously for a moment, weighing up whether the offense of Cupboard Opening Without The Proper Permit could be levelled on me and made to stick. As her remaining neurons feebly fired with the speed of continental drift, she must have come to the conclusion that it was best to just ignore the whole thing and shuffle on.
I found what I needed and tried not to flee in too undignified a manner. My walk to the cash machine probably resembled a 10 year old making for a monster water slide: an ungainly combination of walk-don’t-run-boy and the famous bottom-run (characteristic loping gait of miscreants everywhere, used exclusively for trying to escape parents wielding a slipper. There are no recorded instances of it being successful). I practically hurled my debit card at Amy The Cashier In Lane 3 and relaxed only when Winchester was dwindling in my rear view mirror.
Fortunately, the trauma of my MDG experience was worth it. The spanner did the job perfectly and with newly tightened slip clutch, I was able to complete another pass on Bonus Field. It’s not as neat as I’d like, but compared to where we were last year, it’s a million percent better. One job down, a lot left to do. Here’s hoping for Christmas Chainsaw Ninjas…