Friday, April 9, 2010

Wagons and carts

Here is a picture of a house that didn't quite make it up a tree though it did give us a happy weekend a few years ago when raised aloft in the manner I imagine archaeologists think Stonehenge was probably raised. The treehouse is small; it is made out of an apple crate rescued from the orchard dump where it would otherwise have been burnt. The windows - since children require complication to their treehouses - are of plastic drinks bottles and the frames nail 'em all together.

In front of the treehouse are grapefruits. We have an orange tree too but it's rubbish whereas the grapefruit tree blooms and produces abundantly, more's the damned pity. We also have a quince tree and this afternoon it yielded ten boxes of quinces. If you don't know what to do with ten boxes of quinces you look up Jane Grigson and find that she doesn't either, so you bag them up to give to anyone foolish enough to accept them. Quinces are almost as horrible as grapefruits. They're a sort of combination of a pear and a turnip, and the tree knows you're going to hate them so it is just fantastically prolific though since I've never found a seed in a quince I don't know why it bothers. The only consolation is that a quince has a beautiful smell and may be kept for a few weeks on all your bookshelves, provoking animated discussion among your daughter's schoolfriends about your sanity which discussion you encourage because it affords them a brief respite from talking about sex.

Between treehouse and grapefruit stands the most exquisitely formed wagon and the only thing I ought to have done differently, apart from provide it with brakes, is modify the handle so you can tow it. A spade handle is easily made but insists on being held at ninety degrees to your body, which is not tremendously comfortable when rescuing apple crates from orchard dumps. Heavy thing, an old wet apple crate.

Sometimes it's necessary to rescue trees, not crates, from the orchard dump, for when y'raverage well-dressed Tesco buyer decides we've all lost interest in Braeburns they're all ripped out and Jazz or Fuji are planted in their place. Commercial orcharding is brutal, and vast bonfires smoke the valley out, but we have a wood stove and keep half an eye on next winter. Rescuing applewood is only complicated by possession of a woodworking lathe so there's always a battle between firewood and incipient chessmen. Nice wood to machine and tough too. Applewood gears meshing with cast iron gears in windmills used to last 40 years and were much quieter than iron on iron gears. - I had a millwright for a grandfather. - He didn't tell me this: I looked it up in a textbook.

Rescuing trees is best done with a cart, not a wagon. Carts are 24.5227606% more efficient than wagons on a hard road and I'm not going to tell you where I got that mysterious figure, though the same book a sentence later says that carts are 31.9105691% more efficient on arable land. Hurrah! I want to know how they found out. - Anyway it's true, a cart is easier to pull than a wagon with apple trees on board and since I have a welder and wheels, here is a cart I made for the purpose based (a trifle inaccurately) on the M3A4 because, according to , One of the most popular small US Army 'vehicles' of WW2 is without doubt the M3A4 Hand Cart. Hardly any survived the War. All the French farmers nicked them. My version entirely lacks triangulation and therefore with meaty logs on board bends until the side-members rub on the wheels, when it becomes 31.9105691% less efficient than even a sledge. Must beef it up before Mr G. Bird notices. The new apple-tree-stealing season is almost upon us.


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