It was a peaceful afternoon. Then a big rumble was heard. Ah, Ron. Popping in on his way round and about France driving his big transporter. Stirling Trooper Ron, of Ron and Val, both of whom had already helped transport our two caravans to us from various locations, and set them up for us so we could live in them. And now here he was again, come to visit us. And this time he had this:
Le Tracteur, no less. Plus other assorted bits: log cutter, plough, topper.
So: time for a cuppa. 'Twas hot. All were sweaty. But excitement was in the air, so no time to linger. The tractor was woken up from its nap under the oak tree, and out into the Side Field Ron drove it.
Man Pow-wow time:
This lever does this, that button does that, those pedals do this, that, and the other. Le Tracteur was started and off Ron sent Lester. Round the perimeter of the field at a gentle chug-chug he went, with a grin a mile wide on his face.
Oh, and by the way, this is the field in which the Dock Wars are still in motion. You can see their front line in the background. The ground I have won is the green bit.
And then Ron got on board Le Tracteur and had a run up and down himself. With great enthusiasm written all over his face he ploughed through a line of dock weeds. Lester had already done quite a trim. A problem: the field would have been entirely cut of all dock weeds, judging by the enthusiasm which these two tractor drivers were showing towards the task of cutting them down. But then, all those millions of seeds would have been put into the ground. And I felt a fear that this should happen. That by cutting them down, they were winning the day.
So I did stop those two men. Said "Enough, come inside for something to eat". It worked. The remaining docks, of which there are thousands, still stand tall. Most of the seed is still on them, apart from a small percentage which stick to the fleece of the sheep when they push through them. I suspect that next year, when the fleece is cut, that when I start working on the fleece to spin it, that I will be having to get those damn seeds from out amongst the fibres of the fleece.
And so I continue to manually cut those docks down, putting them into big bags which are then carried out into the back where they are burned. No-one can understand why I do this. Sometimes I can't either. But my instinct says that if it is not done that the field will be lost. That the docks will hold full sway over the grass.
So: The plan is that I cut them down, then hand the field over to Tractor Driver Hubs so that he can then use his machine to keep all vegetative growth to nine inches, which according to John Seymour, the guru for all smallholders, is the right height of grass. This should also stop the onrush of the docks, because they will be kept clipped so that they can't send up large seed heads ever again. Oh I know that they will still try, even perhaps managing to get some small sprouts to flower, but they will be tiny and therefore not a threat to the overall welfare of the field.
Therefore, Trainee Tractor Driver Hubs has to practice for the day when he has management of the Side Field.
A trial run in the Back Field, which he has been mowing with an ancient petrol lawnmower. It was a nervous time. Would Le Tracteur start? Would he manage the plethora of knobs and things? Would he mow down the young fruit trees? Would he fetch up in the river?
And here he is. One very happy man, trundling off into the distance, mowing his first field, enjoying being a Farmer Man. It was grand day for him. It was a grand day for me as well because he also managed to cut a wide path almost down to the river so it is easier for me to reach the mewly emerging river beach.
Things I have learnt: that the Universe will provide you with what you need, even if you have to then find the money to pay for what is provided! That there are some very special people around in this world: immeasurable thanks to Ron (and Val).