When I visited Colombia several years ago, I knew that there was only one gift that I could bring back to then-boyfriend-now husband-Andrew: a machete. All the men in rural areas seemed to have one. They wore them casually, slung by a belt, like a much bigger, much cooler Leatherman. Once, visiting some friends at their country house, I noticed that a neighborhood kid had been hired to mow the lawn with his machete. Watching him squat, slashing the grass to a respectable height, I thought to myself, “only in Colombia.”
I finally found my own machete at an agricultural supplies store in the tiny, distant coffee town of Rio Sucio. There were more than a few raised eyebrows when I made my purchase, but the man behind the counter laughed and made the sale to the crazy gringa who kept talking about her novio granjero.
As I’ve mentioned before, starting a farm is a capital-intensive project, no matter how you slice it. We’ve been fortunate to have dodged the tractor bullet thus far, thanks to our fantastic landlords, who are allowing us to rent theirs. Nevertheless, we need a truck, a greenhouse, a walk-in cooler, animals, feed for the animals, and fencing. Add to that the fact that neither of us has accumulated much in the way of tools (other than a machete) until now, and you’ve got a recipe for many a Home Depot trip. As much as possible, we make do with what we have, or buy second hand from Craigslist or fellow farmers. We toyed for several weeks with the idea of simply grazing our lawn to avoiding the purchase of a lawnmower, but decided that clipped grass with cow patties or knee-high pastures were probably not what our landlords had envisioned when they included a lawnmowing clause in our lease. So we bought an old, used mower in Middletown and felt lucky to have solved our problem so quickly.
Lawnmowers, I have since learned, are not bushhogs. While our mower does a darn good job on the tame grass near our house, I discovered the limits of its powers this weekend, as I worked to set up Patou’s fence. We’re fencing Patou in with the same portable electric fencing that we use for pigs and cows, though we need three strands for him rather than two or one. The poly wire will ground out if grass or weeds touch it, so I needed to clear a path along the perimeter of Patou’s territory. Everything seemed to be going well, until I reached the lowest point, near the creek that cuts through our front yard. There, the grass and thistles had taken off as though planted in straight Miracle Grow, and after 10 feet of miraculous progress, our mower threw in the towel.
Enter my machete. What an amazing tool! It sliced through the thistles as though they were ice cream and it beheaded the tall, stalky grasses with ease. Best of all, it was amazing therapy. Twenty minutes of macheting brought me back to my lawnmower’s trail, where I stood sweaty, tired, and triumphant.
Mindful that I would need to maintain this trail that I had cut, however, I bought a string weeder the next day.