Monday, 16 August 2010

Can't get this stupid thing to work

Offending jamming part!
Ian fettling!
Can't get this stupid thing to work go the lyrics to a song by MIC and it was a bit of a theme tune in our home when the kids were still around and was sung when anything didn't work, especially if someone was losing it over the non-working item. The song has been going round my head a bit just lately, firstly when Ian's computer died, not sure if there is a possibility of a resurrection or it is permanent but we will have to go into Riga to find that out and we have to wait for a rainy day and secondly when the two-wheeled tractors grass cutting unit kept jamming. The little tractor had probably done around 30-40 hours work and we are not sure if the barbed wire hiding in the grass caused the cutter bar to jam or just the fact it got stuck in so many pig holes but the end of the cutter bar became unpinned causing it to spin round. Fortunately Ian did get that working again but we are perplexed with the presence of barbed wire as it is not that common in Latvia, the only barbed wire we have found on the land is embedded in a tree and quite possibly been there since World War II, not so sure this has been around that long though.

A days work shifting damp grass into neat piles and it
rained on me!
I was using two-wheeled tractor one day to cut a steep part of our ski hill (yes we have a ski hill, well it was a ski hill in Soviet times and if you live in the alps you would barely consider it a ski hill at all except maybe for toddlers but here in Latvia it is a ski hill) and there was a point when the whole tractor unit sank into a rather deep hole made by the wild boar now overgrown with grass so I didn't see it. The problem was that this was the second time it happened and it occurred after several hours of hard physical work and I was shattered. I could have cried at this point as I wasn't sure whether to leave the unit running or not but figured this would lead to a grass fire so thought it was best to switch it. It did mean though I wouldn't be able to use the unit to drive itself out. Ian was oblivious in his tractor but finally he stopped and I waved wildly at him, he appeared to notice but then got back in his tractor. My flabber was gasted  and I would have slumped on the floor at this point but the presence of so many ant hills sliced through by the cutter kept me on my feet. I then realised that Ian was coming and hadn't abandoned me, he was just taking his tractor up the hill in my direction. It would seem we are making a habit of getting tractors stuck, fortunately this one didn't take 6 hours to dig out, just 10 mins of huffing and puffing.

A hand rolled bale! Okay so this is not perfect but it was
quicker than trying to pile it up with a hay fork
Corncrake from Wikipedia
We had hung on and on to start cutting as we knew there were corncrakes in the field last year but we weren't sure if they were there this year as they had been rather quiet; I have only heard them twice all summer. August 15th is supposed to be the date when you can cut if you have corncrakes but we started in areas we had never heard them on the 11th taking advantage of the prolonged good weather. We did take the precaution of stopping before cutting the last swathe just to check to see if any animals or birds were still hiding but we never saw anything. Saturday (August 14th) Ian was cutting the largest section still left to cut when he spotted some rapid movement in the grass and so eased off the throttle a bit, suddenly a little bird popped its head out of the undergrowth with a look of panic on its face, Ian slammed on the brakes of the tractor and the little bird, which tuned out to be a corncrake, darted out startling a stork into the bargain, both birds took fright the stork flying backwards slightly and the little bird ducking back into the undergrowth before flying off. After a short discussion we decided to leave that section just in case there were any young ones still left in the undergrowth and cut elsewhere but aiming to leave large square patches of hay in case there were any other groups of ground nesting birds. Ian was going well and was just cutting another section when either the same little bird or another of the same kind darted out of the undergrowth and was swiftly followed by a stork, the wise little bird ducked back into the undergrowth and Ian abandoned any cutting in that area with the larger tractor for two weeks until we are absolutely certain they have all flown off to warmer climes and if they haven't gone by then we will pack their bags for them. If the weather turns bad we can use the two-wheeled tractor since Ian had fettled it (mended it) to cut the rest or if this good weather holds we can use the big tractor. The big tractor tends to churn the ground up pretty badly in wet weather, even if it is only a dinky little tractor compared to many of them.

Don't mess with me! Okay! 
Corncrake summer residence! These three patches have been
left until we are certain they are gone. They are a protected
species after all.
Having cut the grass on the hay ski hill the other day and the weather still being hot means that the hay is tinder dry and we have just spent all day raking it up with the chain harrow and making big piles of it. I have a great deal of respect for those guys who make the nice neat hay ricks we see dotted about the place, they work so hard and they have to do it, we have the option of not collecting it as we are only going to compost it this year. In future we might consider baling it now that we know that it consists of what seems like good grass unlike the majority of our land which is riddled with raspberry canes and ground elder - not exactly very palatable for winter fodder or useful for bedding. Nearly forgot to mention in my befuddled state - I blame the hot weather - that I actually got to drive the tractor today for part of the time anyway. Ian was feeling very sorry for me as I was piling up the hay in the heat while he was sat in his nice air-conditioned tractor raking it up. I have been reluctant to drive it as it has so many gears and sticks and things plus you have to watch out for all the pig holes that I was frightened of tipping it; Ian managed to convince me though that harrowing was the easiest job to start with, on the flat that is. Well I was going well but Ian was hanging around waiting for me and eventually stopped me and asked me if I was using the throttle? Throttle? Whoops! I had been using the tractor on tick over which as you can imagine is slow, nice for getting used to it but not very practical while raking a field. Oh well! Only another hectare (2 1/2 acres) to go.

Our pond is beginning to look very pretty now with all
the vegetation growing around it. Pity about the piles of
soil still waiting for a new home.
The neighbours we got to know last week invited us back for a barbeque and we spent hours chatting around the table until it was so dark we couldn't see. We have learnt such a lot from them and their farm, we found that cows on chains can get fed up of staying outside and make their way home. I always wondered how they tethered the cows to stop them wandering off around here and now I know that it is really just symbolic, the cows know that is where they should be and stay put, unless they get forgotten about in which case they take off anyway, chain and all. We also found out that it is possible to hand roll bales of hay. I wondered why there was a change from square bales to round bales. Square bales always seem much more practical as they are not so huge and are easier to stack. I also wondered who thought to roll grass into bales anyway and what I have discovered this week is that it is actually quite easy to roll grass into some sort of bale and if you have a barn set up for it then it is easier still. I found that it was far quicker to roll the grass that had been lying around a bit and was damp than to try lugging it about when it had been rolled into long tight sausage shapes by the harrow. Dry hay though is easier to shift with a fork. I bet you always wanted to know these kinds of little factoids, just the handy piece of information next time you are in a field full of grass that needs collecting.


Gina said...

Hi Joanna, Thanks for visiting my blog. Your embroidery with the leek flowers looks lovely. Your life in Latvia certainly sounds like an adventure.

Joanna said...

Hi Gina
Thank you, must admit it is one of my favourite pieces. I just love the leek head shapes.

The last few years of travelling around has been quite an adventure indeed but unfortunately hasn't given me a lot of time to be creative but it has given me lots of inspiration for when I do have some time or get more organised.

Bex said...

I came across this because I wanted to hear that song you mention at the top. Love the tune, can't find it anywhere though!

Your writing is very readable and I've been intrigued by your writing about being in Latvia! Wow! Lots of struggles but you're giving it your best!!


Joanna said...

Hi Becky, glad you like the blog. Ian my husband has managed to find some details

Its from MIC’s “Millennium gone and beyond”. It’s a track (No 9) called Julia’s Prayer.

Looks like you can still get it on Cross Rhythms.

Bex said...

Hi Joanna, thanks for your response!

Here's a youtube for it now:


Joanna said...

Great thanks for that