Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Farm Report.

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Got half of my potatoes in the ground yesterday. There was no chance to do all of the work because I had to wait to get started until I had actually acquired the last of the seed potatoes from KalHoz (the local farm collective office). Now, I don’t want to make this sound like it was all that big of a deal, because it isn’t. I am only planting about 400 square meters of potatoes- I don’t know, 2500 plants? My goal is to raise between 1000 to 2000 lbs, enough to feed everybody and with enough left over for next year’s seeds. Last year we were not so good about things and so consequently I had to buy a couple of sacks from Nikolai at CalHoz. No big deal but for the feelings of failure for having to do it.

So at about noon I rolled my hand-cart the mile or so to the office and then rolled it back again after shoveling about 150 lbs of seed potatoes into sacks. Then I started filling baskets and digging my trenches. My "back saving" method was simply to draw a small trench the length of the field, drop in the potatoes on a second pass, and close with a third pass using a long rake. This is different from the normal “by hand” method in which you drag a basket, dig a small hole and bury the potato in one movement, all the time bent at the waste. My method takes a little more time, but there is almost no working bent over and so for my “never-has-been-very-good-anyway-and-certainly-doesn’t-like-farm-work” back, this is a great deal indeed. “Spina boleet” is what is it called in Russian. Back ache. No thank you.

However, regardless of my very rational fear of unnessasry pain, I did elect to plant by hand this year, bucking the local custom, which calls for planting potatoes on the day you plow your land. What you do is you follow the horse as he cuts a new furrow, and then you stick the potatoes into the fresh cut earth and then the horse covers them on his next pass. But I didn’t do this by choise for several reasons. Firstly, as I said last year was sub par and so this year, as I am want to do with pretty much every failure, I am overcompensating to the point of overkill. My feeling is you can control the planting much more by doing the work by hand and therefor the situation is not as arbitrary as with plough planting. The second reason is that I really don’t see that there is such a difference in the amount of time it takes to do things without the horse. I was at it for about three and a half hours yesterday afternoon and I will need about as much tomorrow when I finish and I think it took about five hours to plow the whole field the other day, so there is really not that great a difference. Thirdly, as far as work goes, you have to do all of the same bending and placing whether you are working with a horse or not, so the work is the same as far as that goes.

But the real reason was that I knew I would be working alone. In order to do the horse deal, you have to have several people working together to make things right. The lines are simply too long to do it all yourself. And in my case, I knew damned well that a team would be the last thing I would have. Tatyana is with Anya, but even if she wasn’t you need to threaten her with a baseball bat to get her to do any gardening. Egor straight out kills things when you ask him and grandma… well, grandma knows her shit and really works hard, but I can’t stand to be in the same room with her and so she is out of the deal entirely. And of course that only leaves my oft mentioned local group of alcoholics for help. And, though this is a reasonable enough thing, and also of course this is what they do, I neither have the back, the vodka nor the patience for that. Working with Vassa the other day gave me a headache that is still with me. And as far as inviting more drunks onto my land, well, let’s just say that I have had enough for now. I have enough problems and miseries and don’t need any more. So, I did it myself.

And I am glad I did. In fact, I have been feeling remarkably good lately. Planting time is a delightful time to be out and amidst it. The energy is wonderful and being able to putter about at my own pace is like a healing gesture. I can hear myself think and I can see the results of that thinking as I go on. This is much better than wrenching what is left of my back trying to keep up with a drunk who wants to get the day over with. If I want to work slow, I work slow. If I want to change my approach, I change my approach. And the results were remarkable as last night I had my first decent night’s sleep in I don’t know how long. And don’t discount sleep depravation due to too much pressure as being yet another actuarial mark against you. I am sure I am already well past the red and somewhere into the ultra violet range of the stress table as it is, so I will take my respite where I can get it, thank you very much.

And as far as those stressful things go, I have a meeting with the cops today this afternoon to discuss the situation regarding my status and schedule for departure. One never knows, does one, but according to the guy who is in charge of my case, they are taking a lot of things into consideration so at the least they are dragging their heels rather than driving me out to the nearest border and throwing me over it. Don’t get me wrong, I have no real hope but I at least feel I have the time to do some fishing for work back in the real world. Wherever that might be.

And I guess that is all. No poetry or stories about drunks today, but I guess having your hands full of dirt potatoes and horse shit for a while kind of trims one’s desire to be glib. I think I will need to wait until Sunday this week before making another installment here. Beans, peas, beets and carrots all need to go in. And the garlic needs to be weeded and softened. This’ll be a busy (and a happy) week, and so I think I will take the extra day to allow it to be.

And in case you missed my message, happy birthday dad.

More soon.