Up until this year the mowing has been taken care of by Ansis, the farmhand/maintenance guy we had living here, but he moved out last year and this year we decided to get the mowing done ourselves, as a family. It's hard to get help to do this kind of job, and it's getting expensive these days, plus its a big risk letting some stranger get into your megabucks tractor and drive it around. So we thought we'd do it ourselves. And like every good (post) Soviet woman, I now know how to drive a tractor. I find myself changing gears and levers with both hands simultaneously and get a small thrill of "how cool am I?!!" But most of the time its just plain hard work.
Contrary to popular belief, the tractor is a delicate little princess, and although it has the ability to drive over pretty much anything, if you do drive over anything unusual (ie. a big rock hidden in the weeds), you are likely to f**ck up the mowing machinery. What's worse, if you drive onto a slope the wrong way, you've got the danger of tipping the tractor. Kugures is pretty hilly, so I think that we are all doing our mowing with a healthy fear of big rocks and steep angles.
Then the princess also needs to be pampered. I've not only learned to drive the tractor, I can now remove the drive shaft, take it apart, grease all the relevant bits, and put it all back on again (mind you it's a two-person job). The best lesson I've learned from this aspect of farm-girlhood is that smacking things with rubber mallets can solve a lot of problems, and that I'm bloody grateful I've got a university education and don't have to make a living from tinkering with tractor bits.
There are a few interesting aspects of actually mowing, though - you learn a heap about field vegetation in the process. I would normally approach these fields, with shoulder-high weeds, from the ground - and that means a lot of bush-bashing and swearing at nettle stings. From the tractor it's a whole new perspective, and you can quickly see how the lie of the land promotes growth of different types of weeds - and pretty soon by just looking at an overgrown field you can see where the dips and ruts are, the hills and the infertile soil, all by the different kinds of weeds growing in various patches. The smell of the grass as it gets mown is wonderful. And all the storks that follow behind the tractor as you mow. They follow behind in groups, snapping and pecking at grasshoppers and field mice that are exposed by the mower. One day Jeremy had eleven storks following him, while tonight a fox was also in the fray, getting his evening meal alongside the storks.
The EU wants us to get it all finished by 1 August. And then we start the other 40 hectares down the road (another property - called Plocenieki - also a family property we need to mow). So now you know why we've been AWOL lately - don't expect me to have anything else to write about for a while!