What’s in a name?
Whipper snipping? Strimming? How about weed whacking?
It has always bothered me that the most heroic work I do in this farm sounds so gentle and effete. Strimming? It’s like trimming. Whipper snipping (as Australians call it) sounds too witty to evoke much perspiration.
But today as I was wading into a particularly nasty thicket of weeds I heard this American expression – weed whacking. Now that’s more like it. I was listening to the excellent Margaret Roach’s podcast called A Way to Garden. I recommend it.
Thwack, wack. Slash. This was my morning’s toil. And toil it was. A touch of altitude, a steep slope, hidden rocks, a heavy machine and recalcitrant brambles and blackthorn, grass galore and that about sums up the work.
But as hard and laborious it is, nothing quite beats the satisfaction you get when you look upon a huge area of land that you have brought back under control.
This is forest land, so the edge needs to be vigilantly controlled for self sown chestnuts, cherries and oaks.
Not to mention the annual grass that gets over head height in some areas.
I started off (for some mad reason, as it wasn’t on The List) by strimming my way all along the track that goes to the hamlet of Le Buisson down the road.
One does get tired of having to take secateurs or loppers just to walk down to the letter box to post a letter. And it takes so much longer when there are bramble snags to try and remove from outer clothing.
So I cut and slashed my way all along the track. That was good warm up work.
And then I plodded back, removed a few layers of clothing, slugged about a litre of water, and then moved up to the top of the property.
I wanted to get the entrance to the very top terrace (en route to the forest) clear of weeds. And I snuck into the top potager to cut the random grasses that have come through the thick layer of mulch. It has worked quite well. Just grass cuttings, but a perfect smothering medium.
And from there back down to the lower part of the farm. I wanted to get this 100 square metre of land strimmed just below the road. Black oats and annual grasses hide all sorts of things: verbascum plants and thyme.
I love the thyme and find that if I can cut back the unwanted grasses and expose these tufts of scented heaven to the light they will flower all summer.
So it’s fiddly, but necessary.
And then I just followed the path inexorably down the mountain.
Why do things always lead to the vineyard? I’m a glutton for punishment.
I have now done my fifth pass in that patch of land to remove the bracken. And for once I didn’t take down the strimmer. I was rather yearning for a spot of silence after the roar of the machine all morning.
The good news is there is a lot less bracken than the last four visits.
But it still took me ages to pull up the last of the plants. And for fun I paced out the area. 24 metres by 14. That’s 336 metres of vines. I was surprised. I thought it was smaller than that.
And I had plenty of opportunity to look over the vineyard to the lovely slope to the road. A bracken forest.
I learnt my lesson a few years back. It looks deceptively benign from here. But when I climbed down to have a go at strimming (weed whacking) I discovered that some of the bracken was almost five feet tall. And there are hidden stone terraces in the undergrowth. And bramble tendrils that can attach and never let go.
So I climbed back up and pulled up more random bracken in the next three terraces. There is plenty of evidence of animals on this large area of the farm – lots of soft grasses where deer and boar can lie down and rest. And tracks everywhere.
I made tracks as soon as I was done and trudged up to the house. Job done.