This month, Roger Evans confesses to losing the war against the ever-encroaching thistles and nettles, and tells us how one day he found himself a prisoner in his own tractor cab.
I feel just a bit guilty this month, going on as I did in my last article about getting the first cut silage done in good weather. I got mine in good dry conditions but I know it was a struggle in the following weeks.
If it’s any consolation, I put a field of kale in, assumed it would be okay because of the showery weather, and there is not a kale plant to be seen today, and we have to do it all over again.
I’ve been out most days with the topper recently, and it’s a job I enjoy. There’s something satisfying about smashing down all those docks and thistles. Up to now the cows are eating the grass well, so all I’m doing is knocking off the weeds, but as the grazing season progresses and we get some grass rejection, we will cut paddocks with the mower before the cows go in and they will clear it all up. This is what the proper grazers do!
It’s particularly frustrating because I’ve worked hard over the last two years spot spraying weeds in our grazing fields which are mostly permanent pasture. Well, that’s not strictly true, I haven’t worked hard, but I’ve put the time in. I’ve got one of those tanks in the back of an old 4x4 and me and the dog drive around slowly with a hand lance out of the window. I’ve been around every field, sprayed the lot and they are all still there, putting two fingers up at me.
Years ago you could go around with a knapsack sprayer on your back, spray a clump of nettles and you wouldn’t see them again for years. Today’s sprays only seem to work for a season. I raised this issue in the pub and everyone had had similar experiences. When I asked why, the consensus was it was because ‘of all these do-gooders’ making sprays less effective. I think next year I will hit the weeds a lot harder, spray the whole field, and if I want to put some clover back into the sward, I’ll put some clover seed in with the fertiliser.
Anyway, I’m off every day with the topper to teach these weeds a lesson, and one day my journey takes me to the grass keep we have rented next door and which is now a part of our grazing platform. The fields may be next door but I’ve never driven to them on the tractor before. To get to them I have to drive down an unclassified council road. That description doesn’t quite do it, better to call it a very unclassified council road.
It’s only when I’m driving down it that I realise just how overgrown it is with its overhanging branches and it’s very much a case of carefully threading your way through. But care doesn’t suffice and a low branch sends one mirror slamming back into the door. So when I get to the field and want to get off to open the gate, I can’t open the left-hand door because the mirror arm is tight against it. However, the right-hand door will still open, but it’s not quite as handy because I have to squeeze past the gear levers.
So I top the field okay and I’m driving back up the same lane but not seemingly carefully enough. That’s because I have to pass a house, and I’m looking over the hedge at the washing on the line (another little weakness of mine), and I hit another branch and this time the mirror on the right-hand side bangs back against the door. As soon as I can I stop, and by putting my hands through the tiny gap in the side mirrors, try, in vain, to push both mirrors back to where they belong, but I can’t budge them.
This is getting serious. The only way out of the tractor now is via the back window. I only give this option the briefest consideration though. It’s not a big window, the back seat fills most of the space, and even if I did wriggle through my knees might let me down (which they often do), and what would I land on and how much would it hurt? I decide that my days of wriggling through tractor windows, well any windows for that matter, are long gone. I also decide unless I can get someone to put the mirrors back to their proper place, I am trapped in the cab. This is very serious.
I know there is only one person at home and that’s my son. I also know he likes to get his head down at midday because he gets up very early to milk. So I race back to his bungalow where he’s just on his way through the door to lie down, but he comes out to move the mirrors.
That was a close one. Ever since I’ve driven carefully to make sure the left-hand mirror doesn’t hit anything. Which means the right-hand side of the tractor is getting a bit worse for wear.
I was very pleased my two eldest grandsons were keen on sport, and quite good at it. There’s three generations of us now that have played rugby for the 1st XV of our rugby club. But I never encouraged them to play cricket. They disappear for two whole days at the weekends playing cricket. Boys should be putting tyres on silage pits at weekends, or cutting thistles!