I spent the other evening in the company of a Billy Goat. No, I haven't gone all goaty on you, between you and me people who keep goats are a bit weird. A Billy Goat is a self-propelled petrol-powered brushcutter, and as is my custom at this time of year I was using our rather venerable model to mow my parents' orchard.
The growing season for meadow grass starts in early May. Ground nesting birds move in, the flowers come out, and for a while in June it all looks like a scene from a Timotei shampoo advert, except one featuring apple trees.
By July the vegetation has reached out-of-control proportions. We don't have a handy baby elephant, but I'm sure some of it would be as high as its eye if we did. The birds have all flown and the wild flowers seeded, so it's time to reach for the Billy Goat and tame the jungle. It's hot work, but the machine makes a good job of it and lets the light in around the trees. More importantly the air can get in and keep the damp away, otherwise there are all sorts of mildews and other entertaining afflictions that can strike down your apple crop in its prime. In a few weeks a little bit of new growth will see the orchard carpeted in green velvet, just in time for the odd bit of casual scrumping as the early varieties ripen.
Mine is a tenuous connection to the land these days, that of a hobby farmer who works shifting words at a desk in an air-conditioned office in the big city.