gardening

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Short Circuit

With autumn well under way and winter fast approaching – Christmas decorations anyone? - it is time to prepare the garden. I must admit that Mrs. B is the one with the green fingers, my services are only called for to do the heavy work such as pruning things and digging out old shrubs and things like that.

So this weekend I pruned our grapevine. Almost all its leaves had gone, and the bugs had left nothing from the last grapes but a few dried-out and rotten corpses. Previous years, I just cut off the long branches and tried to stuff them in the green container. But this year, I had a secret weapon in my arsenal: granddad's Ultimate Destroyer. A handy machine that allows you to feed whole branches one way and turns them into small slivers of wood.

So instead of having three containers of branches, I ended up with half a bag of atomised grapevines. Super!

Then I attacked the mountain of pine branches that lies next to our neighbours garden shed. If you remember, last spring we took out the 25 meter long/4 meter high/1.5 meter wide hedge that separated our garden from our neighbours. They kindly offered to stack the branches in their garden, and when we were done they had a mountain of pine branches so high in their garden that planes need to make a detour. Ever since, the next door neighbour and I have been taking tours at pushing those branches in the GUD (Granddad's Ultimate Destroyer).

It's an annoying task, because the flexible small pine twigs sooner or later make the cutting disk inside grind to a halt. Which means you have to open the GUD, remove the twigs and shavings that didn't come out and close it again. On top of that, there is this security mechanism with an interrupter that keeps getting clogged by the pine needles. All this makes for a fun afternoon in the garden.

So I was happily feeding the GUD with pine branches, until I had a couple of them that were too large to feed in one piece. No problem, because I have some mean pairs of cutting scissors. And while the machine was turning in the back I was cutting happily away at a big branch on the ground.

However...

The GUD's electrical wire was also on the ground. Under the branch I was cutting. And then the inevitable happened. SNIPFlash! - and then the cutter ground to a halt. It was a good thing those cutters had plastic handles (and I was wearing gloves of course). I had taken off a good 50 cm of wire.

Half an hour later I'd put the plug on the remaining end of wire and I was back in business. But I decided to cut those branches a bit further away from the machine.

Delicious pink raspberries

Delicious pink raspberries

Raspberries

Not only did we have plenty of grapes this year, our first experiment in cultivating raspberries turned out better than expected.

And we had plenty of apples too. And some gooseberries, but not nearly as many as we had raspberries. So sweet and delicious, mmmmmmmh.

Berba Grozda

When I was involved in peace-work in Eastern Croatia, September was definitely the month to visit the region. Berba Grozda is the harvest of the grapes, and during that times grapes are consumed in large quantities. Fresh grapes, but also by-products such as... oh, let's see... wine?

I don't know how many times I was invited to visit the three big wine producing companies of the region (and various privately owned cellars). I'm not much of a connaisseur, but I did like the white wines of the Croatian Danube region.

It's been five years since I last participated in the traditional celebrations of Berba Grozda. But now I can have a party of my own. After years of careful pruning – nothing short of slash and burn agriculture – our grapevines have produces an excellent harvest this year. Small but very sweet grapes in the thousands!

There are so many grapes that I've been carrying whole baskets to all the neighbours, my family, friends and anyone that happened to pass by, while gorging myself in the process. Wolf too is fond of the grapes and likes to munch them away with me in the shadow of the vines. If I had any kind of commercial feeling I could have set up a small shop in the front garden to sell them. I could probably start my own export business.

And of course, I'll have to start my own wine cellar!

Caber Toss

The Scottish are famous for their Highland Games, amongst other things – such as drinking strong beverages in women’s clothing. One of the disciplines in the Highland Games is the ‘Caber toss’, or throwing a long wooden pole as far as you can without making it land on your own head.

I’ve been trying out this sport myself lately, but of course wooden poles are a bit wimpy for a strong Belgian lad like me. No, I prefer to hoist a concrete pole in the air. One that has one end buried five feet in the ground.

There were five of these concrete poles in our backyard, in fact they really were there to hold up the washing line. It must have been the sturdiest washing line in the world: each pole measures up to 12 ft and ways about 150 kg. Add to that about 27 cubic feet of concrete to set in the ground. With five to six iron bars in each post, that washing line could withstand a nuclear war in its day.

In my initial optimism, I wanted to wiggle them around a bit (I didn’t know about the concrete foot) and lift them out of the ground. In fact I did manage that with the first one, which didn’t have that much concrete. I even managed to break it in two with my bare hands – I really don’t know my own strength. Fortunately for me, I didn’t catch me in its fall because it would probably have killed so. It landed on a plastic box and crumbled it to little pieces.

The next two were even harder. I had to dig a big hole next to each post, four to five feet deep. Lifting them out still was impossible, let alone doing a caber toss. I brought out my brand new pneumatic drill to chip away the concrete block at the bottom and break each post in three pieces. Even then, I was barely able to lift the individual pieces, although I did caber toss them – making big dents in our lawn and ripping parts out of the hedge. Collateral damage, but it was satisfying to see those bastards plummet to their death.

And This Little Piggy Went To The Hospital

When people get older, they tend to shrink. My father is 62 years old now, but he shows no signs of this phenomenon.

So he decided to take matters in his own hands.

He had offered to help me again with the bedroom on Thursday, but he called me yesterday to say he couldn’t make it. He cut off the top of his finger with garden scissors, you know the ones that can cut through 1cm thick branches. Only a teeny bit of skin still connected the top to the rest of his finger.

So they rushed to the hospital and the doctors sewed it on again. He will be fine, but he can’t use his finger for a while.

The man is really careless with his hands. When he was still studying (to become a pharmacist), he rammed a glass tube through the tendon of his right index finger. Ever since he has a crooked index finger that he can’t move, except where it joins his hand. The ultimate mouse-click finger if you want.

But he really should be more careful (and wear gloves!)

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