Monday, September 15, 2008

Brush strokes

Yesterday I did some gardening. It's very rare that I've ever been in a position to proclaim such a thing, so I'll just ponder it for a moment...

...Ok, that's done. Yes, me, gardening. This wasn't, however, the gentle and sedate clipping the heads off roses or picking tomatoes type of gardening that my mother does, but more your kind of slash-and-burn industrial strength gardening.

On Saturday I went out and purchased a tool that is described on the box as a "brushcutter", and I suspect that's as good a description as I could come up with - basically a lawnmower for people who don't have lawns, but have brush. Serious brush. We basically have a bit of land which is covered in fast growing vegetation ranging from what I suspect are young trees to clumps of thick grass to nettle plantations to some kind of creeping vine like thing and everything in between. It's not, shall we say, suitable for golf. Anyway the brushcutter is a machine in which a two stroke engine powers a rotating drum from which two lengths of plastic wire protrude, which as you might imagine whip through the vegetation with some force. It's quite fun, though also fairly noisy and somewhat physically strenuous - my muscles are complaining bitterly this morning, and it may be that soon my arms will seize up altogether curtailing all blogging until further notice. (Nettles, by the way, are great fun to slash to death, vanishing in a deeply satisfying blur of shredded greenery. The vine thingy and the grass are much trickier, being tough and unyielding and requiring repeated butchery to cut them down to size).

As I cut, I uncovered vast troves of ripe plums. The trees which are all over the garden are heavy with fruit, and as we've been away (coupled with the whole nettle thing) , harvesting has been neglected, and so we have a garden full of plums buried in the vegetation. One branch on one tree has actually broken under its own weight which seems a bit excessive - that tree must be feeling very foolish for having miscalculated so spectacularly.

In a bit of fortuitous synchronicity, though, we had discovered on Saturday what we could do with all these plums (other than making enough jam to flood the market and bring the price of plum jam plummeting to its lowest levels since records began). It seems that in Csíkszentgyörgy (the next village, which is effectively the same village - Ciucsângeorgiu in Romanian), there is a palinka distillery. We haven't fully worked out the system yet, but it seems that it works like this. You pick your plums and stick them in barrels and mash them up a fair bit. You then leave them like that to ferment until sometime around Christmas at which point you take them to the distiller and he converts the fermented plum mush into palinka for you. (Not free I presume - I guess we either have to pay him in palinka like farmers used to pay the miller in sacks of flour, or, as this is the capitalist 21st century, possibly in cold hard cash). So, at some point in the not too distant future we will have our own palinka, which is a very exciting prospect. (Lest I get too carried away with how exciting this all is, apparently a 100 litre barrel of plums produces about 10 litres of palinka, so we're not talking about massive amounts of the stuff, but I reckon we'll be able to fill 2-3 such barrels, so it's not nothing - as people round here are fond of saying)

Our neighbour, from whose well we are at present getting water (until such time as we have our own), is 95. Yesterday she and her young (probably around 80) friend engaged me in what might be described charitably as conversation talking about Csikszereda (a full 16 km away) like it was the other side of the world. Telling me about people they knew who had been to Csikszereda and even someone they knew that lived there nowadays. It occured to me that when she was born, Bankfalva wasn't even in Romania, and I would love to sit down and talk to her and ask her loads of questions about her life and how stuff has changed, but the fact that (a) she's pretty deaf; and (b) while my Hungarian can stand up in predictable situations like in restaurants and shops, it's not even close to being adequate for the task at hand; means that the communication difficulties will probably be insurmountable. I'll have to stick to brush clearance.

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