“It was no thought or word that called culture into being, but a tool or a weapon. After the stone axe we needed song and story to remember innocence, to record effect – and so to describe the limits, to say what can be done without damage. The use only of our bodies for work or love or pleasure, or even for combat, sets us free again in the wilderness, and we exalt…But a man with a machine and inadequate culture…is a pestilence. he shakes more than he can hold”. – Wendell Berry, Damage
This year, my growing activity has “scaled up”, from 1/2 acre to the 12 acres at Hawkwod. How to work that much more space? Well, for one thing most of the production will be more “extensive” – perennial fruit and vegetables, and field veg – alongside the high maintenance salad leaves and glasshouse crops. Then there’s People Power, big happy gangs turning up for hard rewarding tasks like fencing, tree planting, raised bed building. We are welcoming in new hand tools, those used in broader scale horticulture, such as scythes, wheel hoes and seeders. And then there’s powered machines.
We’ve bought a Goldoni Jolly walking tractor, as used by small farmers and peasants over Europe and beyond. I like its relative lightness and the fact that when using it you still have your feet firmly on the ground.
Roger has managed to get the abandoned and condemned old council tractor up and running. It’s a beast of a machine and is unsurpassed when it comes to transporting large bulky loads, such as woodchip and compost, around the place. Huf, the “Buildings and facilities” co-ordinator, has among his rare claims the fact that he has build a biodiesel plant, so we have the potential to run vehicles off “waste” veg oil. To this end we have been patronising the local chippy, in a bid to ingratiate ourselves with future suppliers, with considerable vigor over these cold barren months.
Last week we hired a mini-digger to accomplish some of the larger earthworks. In permaculture, “mechanical solutions” like this are regarded as acceptable one-offs in setting up structures and systems which then enable more effective biological processes to continue. It made light work of digging a swale across the Entrance Field, but created a huge mess on the West Terrace, churning and compacting the sodden clay until finally, the digger itself acknowledged the hopelessness of the exercise, slumping resolutely into the mud bath.
I had visions of having to hire a bigger digger to try to fish it out, leading us into a farce that might climax with the world’s biggest digger crunching over the glasshouse to the rescue. In the event, it only took four people, one tractor, 20 jute sacks, 8 scaffold boards, 14 swear words and 2 hours for digger and hard standing to be reunited. We are just beginning to learn the limits of machines, of the land, of each others’ patience.