Elastic Bands and Good Intentions

Hello again. The last time that we met the weather was unseasonably warm and the fields were drying their way up nicely and well on the way to a summer state of something approximating dry land. I have noted that the Cricket World cup is about to start in England, and as you cannot play cricket in the rain, it has therefore taken a bit of a nosedive. I have everything crossed that we don’t have the horror show that we endured the last time that we were churlish enough to attempt to stage an international sporting event (in 2012 for the Olympics); the second the news readers start banging on about “Barbecue Summers”, I’m taking four months off and giving it up as a bad job.

No matter, as long as the weather starts to behave itself by the start of next month when flowering happens, we should be fine. The mildew might be fairly tricky to deal with and it might put the harvest back a bit, but we should be fine.

Last week we made it half way through an allegory about why you should never buy things that are suspiciously cheap. Now, you may not have the dubious pleasure of owning a vineyard, but this is also a good lesson for life, as it will almost certainly prevent you from causing unnecessary harm to the environment by having to buy multiple inferior products and scrapping them willy nilly. It should also help to prevent buying things that are demonstrably rubbish.

Never one to miss an opportunity to load up on junk or to fail to learn from history, I had carefully ignored all of the warning signs. I had bought countless tools from our local hyper discounter that weren’t fit for the job. You know, the sorts of things that they reject for being “gifts” in Christmas crackers because they would be more of an insult than a gift, and obviously less useful than a packet of improbably small playing cards or that mind reading plastic fish thing.

I’d had the lot. A hacksaw that wouldn’t cut through a single bolt and now had a perfectly smooth blade, check, a set of snapped bolt removers that go in your drill and appear to be made out of some sort of grey butter instead of metal, check; and that was just for one job. They are all now rusting away in the garage, not teaching me any life lessons. When it came to the new mower for the tractor? You can bet your mortgage that I bought that sucker on eBay. I would obviously have bought it locally, but the range at the turbo charged pound shop down the road doesn’t stretch as far as agricultural equipment.

I can still vividly remember – all those years ago – coaxing the driver of the delivery wagon up our overgrown lane and watching him unload this magical device. A device that was going to give me the opportunity to boot the strimmer into the literal long grass and save me masses and masses of time. I ran my uncultured eye over it and it looked okay. It had big old blades for destroying the most obstinate of weeds, a wheel on the back and it was green, which is a nice sort of colour. See, I told you that we didn’t really know anything about this sort of thing (bitter experience has been an excellent tutor).

I had this suspicion that it might not be the Rolls Royce equivalent of mowers when the chain thing on the back fell off on our very first outing. Logic told me that this wasn’t an indispensable part of the unit as it was still cutting the grass quite nicely, so it went off to live with my collection of useless rusting tools. Some more bits have fallen off it since then, and yet it continued to cut the grass in an almost entirely straight line. We have even performed a little maintenance and repair on it since then too, which seems quite indulgent on a machine that is (presumably by some sort of divine will) still almost entirely working normally, but we all have our little foibles I guess.

You will no doubt imagine my surprise when it jettisoned something for the hundredth time and it actually stopped chopping the grass down. Okay, beating the grass into submission, we have a lot of stones on the land, and no amount of time assaulting the blades with an angle grinder makes them look like anything other than a pair of clubs. The mower had stopped cutting the grass because it had dispatched one of its blades and was proceeding to have some sort of fit at the back of the tractor.

Had this much-abused and low cost machine finally had its day? Was it time to go out and buy a proper one that would retain all of its parts? Not a bit of it!

In the last ten years we have become pretty canny at putting things back together after they fall apart and fostering relationships with useful people who are prepared to offer advice in return for alcohol. After spending an increasingly incoherent lunch with one of these excellent people, we discovered that all I would have to do was buy some new blades for the mower, buy a welder, learn how to use that welder and devote several days to the project and I could have the old girl back to her former glory. By simply spending approximately the same amount as we would have on a proper mower and paying myself nothing in the process, I could have a not very good mower, that’s not the sort of deal that any normal person can back away from.

After just a couple of false starts, we managed to get the mower operational and the vineyard looks absolutely resplendent with its new haircut. I think that I might even be able to weld the chain thing at the back back on, whatever that’s for.

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