Monday, July 23, 2007

Strawberry day…

There are actually many golf courses with the word strawberry in the name but there is no Russian translation for the word golf.
I am a little late with this post today but I am not going to beat myself over it. Probably the reason I will not is simply that I was physically too tired to focus my mind on making words last night. This has been happening a lot lately. Usually I can get the job done but last night was simply a no.

I understand the reason for it; Anya is completely to blame for everything. Anya is in kindergarten, or maybe preschool is the way to say it. She loves it and when the school is open, she is with her group in the mornings during the week. But this month the school is closed while the teachers enjoy a vacation and the result is that I have Anya with me all day. Earlier, when we were discussing Tanya going back to work, we talked about what would happen with Anya. I was very strong in my desire to be with the girl and looked forward to the opportunity of having some quality time. And I do like having her with me. But the difference between having her at preschool in the mornings and having her with me all day is that I lose about five or six hours of during-the-day quality time with my work that is very hard to make up. Annie doesn't mind sitting at the computer with me but when she does, we sort of need to look at pictures of cats or jungle animals or listen to music and dance; sitting there watching poppy type is absolutely not something she enjoys.

So I end up pushing that work day into the evening and therefore for the last month my days have started a little before six in the morning and have ended somewhere around eleven or midnight- with of course a couple of days of hoeing and grass cutting mixed in there every week. I would not say that playing Mr. Mom is a bad thing and without blowing my horn too much, I think I have managed to keep things moving for Egor and Anya. Certainly I am a bit more soldierly than Tatyana, whose style is more like a balancing act between complete acceptance of the whims of the fates and hysterical accusations about who is responsible for things going badly. This is not to be insulting but I think they stopped actually allowing children to lead around the time of Tutankhamen and for good reason; children might know what they like but they absolutely do not know what they are doing. A good example of this was yesterday at the farm when the first tool Egor went for was an axe and the last thing he managed to do was to get his boot stuck in a tree 20 meters off the ground! I am sure you can imagine what it feels like to see a twelve year-old boy come marching, wild-eyed from the house, wielding an axe.

"What is that you have?"

"An axe."

"What the hell are you planning on doing with it?"

"I don't know."

"Aren't we transplanting strawberries today?"


"Then why did you take an axe out?"

"Prosto…" The word means 'simply'; it implies the phrase "I just did it" or "It was only a physical action without any particular, logical explanation behind it. I stared at him for a moment waiting for him to come to the same logical conclusion that I had. That moment however never came.

"Uh… no?"



I think there was a good reason probably for Tutankhamen dying young. I guess you could also think of Bush the Younger back over in America about now; he also went of the axe first thing in the morning and got his boot stuck in a tree later on. And of course you can see where this has gotten us!


But anyway, yesterday was one of the more waited-for days I have ever had in the history of our farm. Yesterday was finally the day we got transplant our strawberry patch.

When we got the farm the strawberries were in place but because the plants were interspersed with garlic, it made keeping them clean from weeds very, very difficult. There are very good methods of weed control available such as spreading mulch or chemicals, but you must remember that we were very, very money poor for those first two years and so acquiring or transporting materials was very difficult. The results have been that though we received a nice amount of strawberries every year, it was a bit like Tarzan fighting his was through the jungle to get to them. This last year was the worst and basically, rather than caring so much about how much fruit we got, we mostly we have just waited for the opportunity to move the plants. This is what yesterday was.

Last week Andrei came by and helped us by plowing a nice sized patch out on the left side of the field. After he plowed we went in with three-pronged digging tools and tried to pull as many grass roots out as we could. We also sprayed the place twice earlier. The grass will come of course, the wind sees to that, but with a little help of modern technology and an hour a week keeping things soft and clean, gathering strawberries in June might not be the trial is has been. And believe me, when strawberry time means two buckets of sweet, red strawberries hitting your table every four days rather than one or two crummy little cartons which cost $4 each, well, you have to take it when you can when you live in Belarus.

So as you can imagine, I was more than a bit stunned and tired from yesterday when we finally made it home. We also didn't all get along very well and this also drained a lot of energy; I needed rest and didn't get this post out. I think if there was a high point to my day though, other than figuring out how to get that boot down from the tree (I tossed a block of wood with a length of material tied to it over the branch which held the boot and then shook it free), it was when I got to take the Kassa out and start cutting down all of the weeds and grass where the strawberries used to be. I don't know that I had any particular anger while I was hacking down those weeds, yob tvayoo mat, but I was probably feeling a lot like Egor was in those moments before I took the axe away from him. I had been waiting a long, long, long time for that.

A little later we will remove all of the weeds and then plow it all under. Next year will be maybe cabbages or onions. For the moment though I am just going to cut the greens short and let it be a little patch of trimmed crab-grass lawn. Why? Prosto. Perhaps this is not the most useful use of land, but maybe sometimes being useful is not what is wanted. Maybe sometimes what you want is simply to relax and have a little rest. Maybe I will stick a flag and a cup in there and hit some golf balls. That's something I haven't done in a long time. In fact, there is another green patch in the middle of the fruit trees which might also make for a nice golfing target. I guess the distance might be 130 years or so. What is that, a wedge? I don't think there is a golf course in the Republic of Belarus. Mine would be the first. We could call it "The Orchard at Strawberry Fields" or "The Big apple Farm Golfing Links". There would only be two holes of course and it would be very, very, very Scottish. But as the book said: If you build it, he will come. And you never know…

Just a second: I just looked it up and there are actually many golf courses with the word strawberry in the name but there is no Russian translation for the word golf. So there you go.

More soon…