The last week of August was very quiet. After spreading the lime on our field we were checking the farmers cooperative notices daily to see if there were any jobs we could do but there were none. Instead we gave a lot of thought to our own field and assessed our finances. We were still doing quite ok and it looked like we wouldn’t have to take out an additional loan over and above the €200K we already owed. So we started formulating plans to sow a crop. Canola looked a good option but we decided to go with Barley which we could sow in the first week of September, right at the beginning of the planting period. Time to go back to Jean at Armand Moteurs…

We’d decided that we wanted to go down the sustainable farming road – that meant minimising the disturbance of the soil. Ploughing and cultivating would be out of the question for almost all scenarios (we’d done a lot of reading!). Once more we had a long chat with Jean, about direct drill seeding this time. “Finding a small machine that can do direct drill seeding will not be easy – I will have to check through the catalogues.” He pulled down a large folder from the shelf behind his desk. “You’ll have to leave that one with me – I’ll call you when I think I’ve found something suitable.”

I was thinking we would need a shelter for our new machinery and to store seed and fertilizer once we started buying those things, so I went back to Claude at the Farmers Cooperative. “I think Jean Cuvier has a dismantled shed for sale – let’s go and see him.” said Claude. It proved to be a worthwhile trip as Monsieur Cuvier also had an old trailer that he was looking to sell. We loaded the shed onto the trailer and towed it home. The local builder, Jacques, was happy to come out and assemble it for us. “It’s not very big.” said Mark as he surveyed the two berth shed. I knew he was disappointed but it was very cheap and I’m not sure we had room for anything larger on our land. “Wait until we take over the valley!” I joked and he laughed .

I took the old trailer down to Jean Armand to get seeds and to ask about his progress in finding a direct drill seeder. “I have found one that will meet your needs and it’s not too expensive.” What might not seem expensive to Jean was probably still pricey to us, I thought. The direct seeders Jean had on the premises started around €75K and got more expensive very quickly. “Ah – You worry too much!” he exclaimed as I expressed our concerns. “It’s an older machine that a friend still has in stock – it will cost half of the cheapest one you see here!” That sounded like a good option. “It only does 3 metre rows at a time – but it will be ok on small fields and your tractor is powerful enough to drive it.” “But you will find it very difficult to manoeuvre.” He added as an afterthought. “I can have it here at the beginning of September if you wish?” A quick call to Mark confirmed that we’d go ahead. “Ok – I’ll get transportation arranged.” said Jean.

Buying our first load of seed was problematic – what form of packaging and how to load it onto our trailer? “How you buy seed” said Jean “is usually about what loader you have available. I suggest you fit a front-loader to your tractor and go for a big bag hook to start with. You can always get pallet forks later if you need them.” A quick chat and I was sold on the idea – big bags were a bit cheaper and easier to handle for a novice tractor driver like me. I bought 2000ltr of seed – “You won’t need anything like that much,” said Jean, shaking his head… “I’m taking your advice about helping other farmers!” He laughed and made a ‘go away’ hand gesture as I climbed into our tractor from the run home.

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Loading Big Bags of seed onto the old trailer that we bought with the new front loader and bag handler.

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Home in the new ‘second hand’ shed… Job done. Now we wait for Jean to call us about the seeder.

The tale of Ferme du Vieux Chêne continues. We’ll be seeding our field in the next episode and probably finding some more expensive pitfalls as we go down the sustainable farming route. This post tells that I have a male partner – not sure if that means we’re in a romantic relationship though. Again, see let’s how the story develops😉 Until next time👍