Its that time of year again. After the olive harvest, when winter kicks in and the grass slows down, I start pruning the trees. Every day I cut a trailer load and haul it out into the sheep's paddock. They love it, and come running, getting in the way as I untangle it and lay it out in a long row. In six months it'll all get mulched as woodchip, and its best to align it neatly to make the chipping easier.
That's the idea. But with the sheep climbing all over it, dragging it here and there, sometimes the branches get a bit tangled. With spring grass growing through the piles it can get messy. This year there was a pile about 150 metres long, two metres wide and a collapsed metre high. It took three guys about four hours to chip it all.
Last year I focused on the middle paddock, about 110 trees. The pruning was quite harsh, and it knocked the stuffing out of the crop in that paddock, but the trees have since recovered well and look promising for next year.
This year I have started on the bottom paddock. Initially I am doing the row underneath the powerlines. A line inspector was here a few weeks back and noted a few trees growing too close in height to the powerline. The power company will do it in a month or two when its not so wet. They do a good job, but I prefer to do it myself.
The big trailer is a double-wheeled car trailer. Great for taking a good three cubic metre load of prunings, but very wide, and only gives me about 20cm clearance on either side of the gate. The gate is at the top of a five metre embankment. Its very steep, and the only way up is to take it with a runup.
However, its been raining a lot in the last week. With all the rain its turned into a mudslide.
I lined up for the ascent and went for it. The car gamely revved its way up the hill, churning a bit, and in low gear it was doing ok. As I got to the top I slid a little in the mud, and it pushed me too far to the right. No way I was getting the trailer through the gate. I stopped, and gingerly reversed a little, then tried again.
And that's what happened to my morning. No matter what I did, every time I got to the gate the car slid sideways and re-aligned the trailer for a collision. Finally, it slid a longer distance, and wedged the trailer around the gate. No way forward or back, only sideways would get me unhooked.
Defeated, I walked back to the house and had lunch.
Over lunch I decided to try another tack….try and reverse all the way down. But first I had to untangle the trailer, which involved unbolting the gate and lifting it out of the way. I got back in the car and started to reverse back, but now it was moving under its own gravity. In slow motion I watched in horror as we slid down, the trailer jack-knifing at glacier-speed. The back of the trailer was lining up the nearest olive tree. Once it connected at the rear it would turn into the fence at the front and the whole disaster would drag itself along the barbed-wire fence until it wedged tight.
Honestly! Sometimes things are so hard….
The car stopped sliding. Using a lot of force I managed to unhitch the trailer, and then was able to turn the car down and sideways and limp clear. I then manhandled the trailer by bouncing and sliding it and got it to face away from the fence. I dragged it around enough, then used gravity to slide it down to the lower paddock.
There was another option. Like a lot of small farms we seem to have too many gates. This bottom paddock has another gate that fronts the river. There's a lovely small flat area and we often sit there and watch the river go by. Its big enough to turn a car. I can also get a buggy and small trailer down there and turn them round, which I've done a few times after cutting up a fallen tree.
But not big enough for my car and big trailer. As I turned, as tight as I could, I ran out of space. Another embankment was behind the trailer, and I couldn't back it out.
In the end I unhitched it and left it there, and went off to do something less infuriating.
I came back the next day with a clearer head. It was easy. All I did was use a winch to spin it around and face the gate, hook up and drive out.
I won't be pruning in the bottom paddock again until it dries out a bit.