December 2007

Unable to find my woolly headgear, I walked through town this morning wearing a Santa hat that’s only a little bit too small for me.

No one smiled.

Even the local beggar looked at me like I have no self respect.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

You can read all the books you like on fencing (my own preference is one), but at some point (as with all things) you’ve just got go to up there and do it.

Which is why I spent several hours yesterday, after my now-habitual tractor yoga, up a stepladder, carefully heaving a four-kilo sledgehammer onto the ends of several two-and-a-half-metre fence posts the previous owner had stuck in a Most Inexplicable Place.

The orchard/chicken is being enclosed.

Today, my formerly soft office-worker’s hands are feeling slightly crampy as a result and the rest of my body is feeling just a tiny bit stronger. Good thing too, as I also have a large veggie plot to enclose with even more serious fencing, before installing a couple of rotivating pigs in January.

For this exercise, you will need: one Fordson Major (1963 model or thereabouts), a grass-cutting attachment and a field of long grass sloping steeply behind you.

Warm up
Press the little wossisface on the side of the engine and climb onto the machine. Make sure the gearbox is in neutral and the attachment is disengaged. Push the thingummyjig and press the button to start the engine. Then sit for a moment, inhaling the diesel-infused air, taking the time to appreciate the beautiful scenery, the peace of which you have just shattered. (This is a good moment to put on your ear defenders.)

Yoga it must be
Engage the grass cutter, put the engine in reverse and release the clutch, then pull the gizmo to lift the attachment off the ground for the journey uphill. Turn around, placing one hand on the rollbar, and guide the tractor up the hill in an unnecessarily straight line. At the top, reduce the engine speed, drop the attachment, stand on the brake and engage first gear, bearing in mind that leaving it in neutral could send you hurtling to your death. Release the clutch and trundle gently down the hill, relieved that you are in gear, occasionally turning around to watch the long grass spewing out of the side of the attachment. At the bottom of the slope, slow the engine, brake, engage reverse and turn to the other side, ensuring an even development of the back, neck and knees. Repeat for one hour, or until the engine stalls and will not re-start.

May help weight loss as part of an intensive outdoor lifestyle.

It was the last day of term at the daughter’s school today. To celebrate, the canteen provided:

Foie Gras

Duck with pommes noisettes


Not bad for just over two euros.

Installing the orchard/chicken run has given us the perfect opportunity to test man (and woman) against machine.

Four-metre trench using pick-axe, selection of shovels and calories: four hours.

Remainder of 80-metre trench and 13 big holes using JCB and fossil fuel: two hours.

Machine wins. (You don’t get that at the movies.)

When I worked in advertising, I used to enjoy meetings.

As a “creative”, you don’t go to many. And the ones you do attend tend to break up the monotony of staring at a layout pad or computer screen, pouring your energy into coming up with original and inspiring ways to sell largely uninspiring products to people who would generally be happier to live without them.

In those meetings, you learn that the other (often intelligent and articulate) people you work with have an even less fulfilling time of it than you. Which is why, I guess, most people I know in the business spend most of their spare time getting completely shitfaced. It’s a coping mechanism. (And a digression.)

Today, we had a meeting with two intelligent, articulate and, I think, sober people in which we learned:
o The department of agriculture did not see our land before saying they did not like our project and could therefore be won around.
o The people of water could be won over with a little more information from us and a case study of other reed beds systems in use today in France.
o The mayor is unlikely to be won over and we’d best wait until the new one comes along. In March.
o There’s a good chance that we won’t be opening for business in April. Or indeed, 2008.

But that wasn’t the first meeting of the day. Oh no. We’d come fresh from seeing our friend Claude, who we paid for putting a rollbar on the tractor and booked to bring his JCB along tomorrow morning.

Work starts at 10.

I’ve spent the last week entertaining my parents on a pre-Christmas visit. And being frustrated by reports coming out of Bali.

But so you don’t feel your click was wasted, here’s an interesting article from someone else:


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