Friday, 31 October 2008
Whether to Get a Czech Lawnmower
There is a German phrase “Like a Czech village”, meaning ramshackle and untidy. Whilst it certainly is true that Czech village buildings are usually in a less than pristine condition, often with peeling paint, channels cut in the walls to take cables left open and with old floortiles (because someone will use them one day) stacked outside under corrugated iron sheets, generally the garden lawns as well as the grass in the orchards will be cut. Capek in his book on gardening talks about the Czechs aspiring to English lawns, but they are not graced with English weather (summer rain) to permit this perceived perfection. It must therefore be a cultural shock for my Czech neighbours to see the overgrown grass in our yard and orchard.
I have singularly failed to get on top of it. The orchard is full of tall weeds and requires scything – something the Czechs are good at and I have no experience of at all. The garden slopes up away from the house and still is littered with builders rubble, ready to blunt anything that tries to cut it. My friend keeps on at me about it. First she suggests I get a powered lawnmower, it was seeing hers when I was helping her move some compost that reminded me to blog about it. And there are loads in the local shops in all sizes and types.
Then she comes back to her favourite suggestion – get some sheep or a goat. The Czechs regularly have sheep or goats on their smallholdings and, not being squeamish about such things, eat their Czech lawnmowers at the beginning of winter. We have space enough, that much is certain. But I have my objections, firstly I can't believe it is that simple. My mother's family were farmworkers by trade and many of my childhood days were spent with my Uncle John at the farm where he was cowman and shepherd and I certainly did not get the impression that keeping animals was that easy. Another objection is that I spend too much time in England away from the place and so have a vision of returning home to discover my sheep has died through lack of water or garotted itself on the wire fence, or perhaps worse still has made a bolt for it and eaten its way through my neighbours' vegetable patch. As for killing it at the end of the year, at the moment I think I might manage to bear it but it seems a palaver and we would be eating mutton for months. Ah well, it is too late to do anything about it this year, the grass will die back without help from me.
On one point of note, there is one house in the village which is impeccable, freshly painted, with not a weed to be seen and the lawn manicured to the last inch. It is of course owned by some Austrians.