24 July 2012

Fun and games on the farm

We have planted our first commercial crop - garlic.  It is already sprouting, despite the very cold weather.

The climate can be relied on to deliver enough moisture for now, but irrigation is necessary to ensure optimal growth to maturity.  We will pump water up from a stream to a big tank and from there gravity will send the precious fluid to a second tank and then to the garlic.  The water tanks were delivered this afternoon.

One of them is to be placed near the house and the other on a little hill we call "The Knoll".  There is a 170m made track to the desired position on The Knoll, but it had become overgrown.  Eve and I went out yesterday afternoon to clear a path for the delivery truck and discovered that it was very much more overgrown than I had realised.

Problem one: we have a good quality scrub cutter, but had only previously used the nylon line for cutting grass.  The instructions for changing the whirly bit were very clear, but could we get the blade for tougher undergrowth on?  We must have spent about an hour before Eve finally got all the components in the right order and (the difficult bit) stopped the shaft turning so that the all important nut could be properly tightened.

It worked very well for several seconds, but thereafter either loosened itself or tightened up so much it wouldn't turn.  So much for labour saving technology.

So we attacked the broom with loppers, secateurs, a saw and a hatchet.  Plus a lot of muscle.

By the time it got dark we had done roughly half the job.

This morning we were back at it, heedless of the rain, and cleared all the serious obstacles.  We hoped that the stumps were cut down low enough to do no damage.  Wet and triumphant we hurled all our work gear in the washing machine and settled down to lunch.

A morning phone call had advised that delivery would be between 3 and 4 in the afternoon.  Lots of time.  Did we drag all the big branches out of the way?  Um, no.  So Bill rugged up against the elements in his sailing oilskins and properly finished the job.

At 3:30 pm the delivery truck driver phoned to say he was at Kohatu and would be with us in half an hour. We reminded him that he would well advised to leave his trailer unit in the bottom paddock and just bring the truck with our 2 tanks up the drive.

Problem 2:  At about 4 o'clock there was a tap on the door.  It was the truck driver.  His mighty machine was stuck in the paddock.  Do we have a 4WD to give him a tow?  It would only need a little extra to get him moving again.  Yes, we do.  This is what we bought  the 'beast' for.  3 litres of Mitsubishi no-nonsense grunt.  Did the driver have a tow rope?  Yes, he had plenty of straps.  It was the first time I had engaged '4WD Low'.  In the beast's lowest gear I set off and, hooray, the truck followed.  A figure of eight course put us in the right position to unhook the trailer and now we are in business.

Problem 3:  The truck driver was adamant that his steed would not go along the Knoll track.  It wasn't wide enough, and he was concerned that it was a bit slippery, too.  Tank 1 was unloaded at the start of the track.  We are promised that it is easy to drag to the other end of the track.

Problem 4:  The truck could not manage the steep corner below the house.  This time it was easy to tow up to the corner by the orchard where Tank 2 is to do its duty.  The first tank was fairly easy to nudge over the side of the truck.  The tanks are plastic and not terribly heavy when empty.  But our drive here is on a bit of a slope.  The driver and I wiggled the base of the tank over the side of the truck, but the slope was too much for the chocks and we couldn't stop the tank from rolling back over the end of the truck.  You probably have never seen a runaway water tank.  It is very round and rolls. It is also rather squashy and bounces.  So Tank 2 rolled and bounced with exuberant freedom down the hill.  It just missed Tank 1, and came to rest fair and square on the Knoll track, still on its side.  Nothing Dion's tractor and a team of strong men can't fix.

The driver produced the paperwork and I signed for delivery.  Well, the tanks are on our land and not in the factory.

He reversed all the way down to the bottom, since our turning options all include driving off the drive onto the grass.  That's no problem in dry weather but ....

Problem 5:  Back in the paddock we had to re-hitch the trailer.  I don't think I'm very good at giving directions.  Mind you, the second attempt was a bullseye, but the locking mechanism didn't work.  After about 10 goes he tried a different angle - and got stuck in the paddock's mud again.  The beast to the rescue for the third time.  The driver then removed a metal bar from his tool kit and did mysterious and noisy things around the towing mechanism.  He didn't swear, but you could see it was only by prodigious self-control.  Now he played his trump card.  I would drive the truck and he would give directions.  The first attempt wasn't quite there, but the second produced a clang that announced the trailer was "on".

After that, it was all quite simple really.  The truck pulled the trailer back onto the drive without another tow.  It was then necessary to untie the 2 tanks on the trailer and roll them onto the truck.  Sorry, there were no more mishaps.  All in all, I'm glad that I didn't see another tank make a bid for freedom.  From by our gate it would probably have plunged into the river, which was quite high enough to whisk it away, at least to the next bridge if not to the sea.

The driver thanked me for my help, which was mighty generous of him, and set off in the gloom of the cloudy evening to deliver his remaining charges.

Now I have to phone Dion and ask when he and his tractor can come to clean up the mess.

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