Thursday, June 27, 2013

It all looked a bit staged really.

It all looked a bit staged really.

Certainly, the chainsaw, the front end loader and his father had every right (reason had long since deserted activities agricultural) to be flailing about in the dam. After all, it had been a warm day, all the sheep had been drenched and there was just cause for a quick splash before dinner.

But the skid marks down the collapsed bank and the steam drifting  from the partly submerged diesel engine, quite apart from the smoke hissing from the partly submerged Dad, all suggested another reality.

You see, his father, (well let's just call him Dad,) Dad had had (as Dad's do from time to time), an idea. Those willows overhanging the pump-house had been dropping their leaves in such profusion of late, that the foot-valve feeding the Lister had developed a leak.

 Now, as most Dads realise, a leaky foot-valve causes all sorts of problems if it is ignored. While dissertations on such annoyances enliven the occasional dinner party conversation and cause a great deal of analogous mirth in rugby shower blocks, they really are no laughing matter when it is you who has the wet boots. That's what Dad reasoned anyway.

Problem? Overhanging branches. Solution! Stand in bucket of front end loader, chainsaw at hip, directing vertical and lateral movement of bucket via biological switching package (son's brain) to hydraulics of machine. Result?.., well pretty much as described above.

You see, Son (well lets just call him Mark) Mark, unbeknown to Dad, had recently secretly developed encephalic illuminati of the accelerator foot. Even though the 'biological switching package' had been perfectly functional up until that awful mechanical avalanche, on that day, Mark's brain was numb to the knees on account of intensely libidinous thoughts involving a certain Lulu la Lingere from Longreach.

Moral? machinery and lingere don't mix.

Every farm is a dangerous place. Every day in the vineyard there is ample opportunity to feel glad I have comprehensive life and health insurance. As pruning gets into full swing for another year, and the band-aid bill mounts, I can't help but wonder why we bother with it at all.

Having had the doubtful pleasure of being garrotted by trellis wires on a cold and bitter winter afternoon, I have concluded that this activity is not my idea of a fulfilling natural experience. However, it probably does explain why I'm not enamoured of hydraulic pruning shears. Besides the noise of the compressor, or the weight if the battery pack, or the inconvenience of dragging all those air hoses through the paddock, I hold the view that if anybody is going to have the pleasure of lopping off one of my  digits, that somebody, without mechanical assistance, will be me.

But again, why do I bother?. I like order. Vines endure years of untrained life in natural disarray. Ask any lateral what agony your secateurs bring, every laborious incision, every vicarious excision means emasculation of the plant. No wonder there's a price to pay in kind.

Pruning, after all, is all about balance, maintaining the correct number of fruiting buds according to the vigour of the vine. Lop too much off, and you will grow lots of leaves and not much fruit; too little, and there may be more fruit than the vine can ripen. There's no denying it, as you nail each vine to it's particular cross of trellis, there's nothing natural about pruning.

It's all a bit staged really.

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