Meadow appeares to be an appletree garden, July and August 2012

It is July – a time to make hay. I am still a learner in how to use a scythe and will be for some time more. Reading Jaunsaimnieks un Velns (Settler and devil) destroyed my stereotype about grass cutting traditions in Latvia. In the book they cut grass also before summer solstice. I always thought that tradition was to plant and clean your graden before summer solstice, then after the solstice until day of st.Peter everyone cuts grass. If grass is cut before summer solstice, then it might rot because it is too juicy. However after Peter it becomes like a metal wire. Thats why cutting had to be done quickly, then only drying and gathering remains. So I have mixed knowledge now and must figure out things by myself.

Last year I cut 0,5 ha in two months, which is too slow. I also destroyed a skythes metal handle. Something is still wrong, I practiced to find out more, and realized that scythe is getting unsharp very quick. I tried to sharpen it every 5 to 10 minutes. It helped, but still, it has to be sharpened even more often. This makes me think, only cutting wet grass, that is, in the night, is alright. I shall try it in summer 2013. I also never hammer my scythe, so the blade is thick and hard to sharpen. So cutting grass is not so much about cutting itself as sharpening your instrument. This year I was cutting grass for two weeks in a row and managed to do 0,5 ha, so I am getting faster.

I would do more but I overstrained my back again. In addition to that I was barefeed and stresssed of being short on time. So I stretched some muscle, in the evening it swelled and turned into neuralgia. This was stil one of my first neuralgias so I didnt know how to feel it coming. It is important, because one prevent it just by stopping the work and having some rest. Instead I keep on going for many hours more. Anyway, I could completely avoid it by going to church on sunday and observe the 7th day. I didnt, so I lost two weeks of time in bed afterwards.

This small 0,5 field then appeared to have a lot of small trees. If I would cut here with a machine, I would have never noticed them. Among those trees were many wild appletrees planted by birds. I was always dreaming of a big appletree garden. I was making up plans how to get young trees to may land and how much work is it going to be to plant them all there. I even ordered 30 trees from a breeder once, but he could not tell when he comes to Aluksne in advance. He called me when he was already in Aluksne market, but I was at healing plants seminar in Loja. Not a destiny. But here they were, a gift from God, apple trees came to my field themselves. I may risk and wait if maybe they give good fruits or I can use them as rootstocks and graft branches of the trees that I already have on them. That is a job for March.

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I am trying to receive direct payments for land. Approximately 30 ha. Some of my fields, that still have young trees, I cancelled in electronic application system of a payment agency. Those fields, that had less trees, were cut by machines. I had to loan money from my father for that. Tractor guys take half of the usual EU payment amount. I replanted trees from the fields as much as I could. Since many of the trees are big, it was a very time consuming process. I made a mistake by not removing the leaves, so some trees dried out after replanting.

Later in autumn I met a friend, who told me he had cut his 5 ha field with just a trimmer mashine in full two days of hard work. Afterwards you don’t want to do that at all, he said. And he had to practice 3 seasons, that is, years, to be able to do it that quick. This ways is not good for health, but in the sense of money and having no other job, it is better than hiring tractor guys.

Next year I plan to do following: I wake up at 4:00 early morning and cut with traditional scythe until grass still has morning dew. When grass dries out and thus becomes hard I use motor brushcutter (my fathers Stiga) with iron blade. And I must start cutting not later than middle of June.

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About Pavels Melnis

Independent ecology activist, family farmer, gardener and forestkeeper. Musician: violin, guitar, singing. Hobbies: traveling by bicycle, learning to play different music instruments - accordion, piano, recorder flute, harmonica, drums; languages, theology, prehistory, logbuilding, repairing and recycling. Religious. Ecological. Love all things ethnic and traditional.
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