Friday, April 13, 2007

“Experience is the name every one gives to their mistakes” Oscar Wilde (Irish writer 1854-1900)

We’re at home to “Mr Cock-Up” again! One the field adjacent to our house, and next to the maincrop vegetable patch (a work “in progress”) I planted three false acacia (Robinia pseudoacacia, also called Black Locust) trees, a large one and two tiddlers, no more that 50cm (20inches) tall. They are nitrogen fixing (see my last blog) provide fodder for bees, drop seeds for the chickens, provide quick-growing durable hardwood and are also beautiful to look at. We’d arrived home late in the afternoon and decided to cut the grass—a job that we hope, before too long, will become unnecessary, when we’ve assembled enough grass-eating animals with fences to keep them in. Gabrielle chugged round on the sit-upon mower while I used the more precise walk-behind one. Already fearful of unwittingly mowing down one of the saplings, I took particular care to carefully cut a swathe around them before continuing. My concentration dropped for a moment and, in a flash, I spotted an un-mown tussock and rubbed the mower back and forth, so scything off one acacia just above its roots. Just how stupid can you get?

Meanwhile, Gabrielle was having technical problems with her mower and decided to stop. Already disappointed with myself and sad about the dead tree, I got the toolkit out. The second nut I tried to unscrew just spun around without undoing and, as it had a “captive bolt” which means you don’t have to put a spanner on the other bit as it’s held in place and prevented from turning (allegedly!) the solution wasn’t simple and involved getting even more tools out and me getting ever more frustrated and tired as the afternoon turned into evening and jobs weren’t getting done. When I finally got it sorted, I decided to finish the mowing so that at least one job was complete. The noise brought our neighbour Kysinia out. Also English, she’d seen that there was live football on the television and with a boyfriend and dad both avid fans, thought that I should be in front of the telly with a beer and not out cutting grass on a field: how very thoughtful. Tottenham were playing in a European cup match and, as they are arch-rivals of my team and my team have already been knocked out of Europe this season, you might understand that I wasn’t really missing anything, but it’s the thought that counts.

I told her about my mistake with the acacia and the mower and she told me she’d done exactly the same thing with a little tree in her own garden, which made me feel a lot better. Why though? The Germans have a lovely word, schadenfreude, which means taking pleasure in someone else’s misfortune. Now I wasn’t at all glad that Kysinia had lawn-mowered her tree but it was somehow reassuring that some other intelligent person could have made the same mistake. The following day, Nigel and Penny, currently holidaying with us in our gite, told us how they had cut down a whole row of gooseberry bushes in their orchard while cutting hay one year. Even more reassuring, as they have loads more experience of smallholding than us: the experts also get it wrong sometimes. So, whilst these tales of others misfortunes were good to hear, they are not examples of schadenfreude, whereas hearing that Tottenham had gone on to lose their match was!

Pic is of leaves and seedpods of a false acacia.