Jean was laughing at me… Tears rolled down his cheeks… His overalls were draped over his hips and he was drenched in sweat. So was I, which is why he was laughing – if anything I was worse than him and I’d taken off my shirt and cargo pants. It felt odd and yet normal, in the circumstances, to be sitting in his office in just my boxers!

Since the middle of summer it had been obvious that we needed a more powerful tractor for our farm to handle the jobs that were beyond the abilities of the Massey Ferguson 5S with its 105HP engine. Don’t get me wrong – that little tractor has worked miracles. It’s been the mainstay of our farm throughout the first year. I think we’ll always be grateful to Jean for recommending it in the first place. But, when we got the water tank for the greenhouses and the Anderson bale loader, it was clear that we were asking a lot more from her than the designers intended. We could see it in the increased maintenance bills. You’d think that Jean would be happy with us spending more money but when we started looking for a second tractor with more horses, he couldn’t have been more helpful. He pursued his contacts, chased the local farmers and generally harassed anyone who might have a larger tractor for sale that would meet our needs.

While Jean was drawing a blank, I approach Claude Gerard – maybe the Farmers Cooperative had a member who needed to sell an older tractor? There was no response. No one, it seemed, had or knew someone who had a larger old tractor for sale.

In the interim, we ground away at helping with the harvest on the farms around, leasing the equipment to get the job done. We were making good money and getting close to the level where we could buy an older tractor. The trouble was that if we did find a tractor it would probably leave us with no funds.

On one of the summer harvest jobs for Hugo, as he and I were chatting after completing the final cut and getting ready to deliver the grain to the market, I mentioned our predicament. He raised a finger… stopped for a minute and then spun around in a circle… I was bemused! “Antoine! Antoine!… Why didn’t I think of this earlier?” he exclaimed.

It turned out that Hugo had a Brother-in-Law over in Mirande. “I need to ask him if he still has his old tractor.” He disappeared into the farmhouse and that was the last I saw of him! I thought no more of it until the next day when Hugo rang me. He was excited – almost out of breath in fact! “Antoine still has it!” When he’d calmed down – I’d never seen Hugo excited before although I had noted that his hair was always a mess! He explained that his brother-in-law had an old Fiat tractor that was quite powerful and might be what we were looking for. It was available for sale, but we’d need to go and collect.

We had to go and look although it was quite a way to Mirande. Mark said he’d look after the farm – keeping the chickens fed and taking the vegetables to market while I went to look at this tractor. Jean Armand volunteered to come with me to check out the machine. So, in mid-September, Jean and I caught a train east to Auch where Antoine agreed to collect us. Antoine was almost the spitting image of his Brother-in-Law, same tousled hair, same lopsided grin – you’d have thought they were twins!

The tractor was a surprise – It looked barely bigger than our Massey Fergusson. I was initially disappointed – “I’d expected something larger.” I said. Then Antoine fired it up… “Merde Alors! – Cela ressemble à un dinosaure” Jean laughed – “It is a Dinosaur!”…


…We were invited to drive it around the farm to see if we liked it. It drove well apart from having bad brakes – “You’ll get used to that.” said Jean. What I wasn’t getting used to was the manual gearbox and clutch with gear levers just behind the steering wheel. Jean squeezed into the cab as best he could and talked me through changing up and down. After an hour or so we had it in hand…


Jean said that it looked in good order but he also warned that getting spares might be a struggle. I went to see Antoine to discuss the price. He started at €45k and that felt too much for such an old tractor. I called in Jean for advice. He said “€11k and no more…” Haggling eventually got us to a price just over €26k and I was thankful for Jean’s help – I would never have had the knowledge to beat down the price like that!. “Nothing’s changed” said Jean after we’d agreed the sale, “Still going to be an issue getting parts…” With a shrug, he wandered back to the tractor.

Getting back home was a marathon drive and we spelled each other. Unlike the modern tractors, the Fiat didn’t have a jump seat so we took it in turns to squeeze into the corner of the cab while keeping the doors ajar and the rear window open to get some air through.

So there we were – 5 hours later in a state of undress in Jean’s office. We were both very tired and, frankly, sweating gallons. It was a good job, well done. We’d brought the tractor home and it had performed well during the journey. Jean had found a small exhaust leak and applied a temporary fix but, apart from that, it was a sound machine. We looked at each other across the office and shared a sense of achievement. We hugged to celebrate and then, before either of us knew it, we were kissing…

The first year of virtual farming is behind us. When we started out we had €500k of which €200k was a loan on which interest was payable. We had to buy a plot of land and a farmhouse. This is how a Start from Scratch game begins in Farming Simulator 22. That I chose to locate somewhere other than the game’s default location on the Haut-Beyleron map did not really alter the initial stages of the game. The cost of the land, farmhouse and modifications to create the farmyard came to a similar amount to the cost of buying the ‘approved’ starting farmhouse and associated pre-paved area and field.

When you start out afresh in Farming Simulator, you have an initial plan for what you want to achieve in the first game year. It is partly dictated by the state of the field you start with. If it has a crop already growing your initial target will probably be to get a suitable tractor / trailer to move the crop and a combine to harvest it. If, as in the case of Ferme du Vieux Chêne, you get a recently ploughed field then you are immediately into making a key decision – whether to farm sustainably or traditionally because that will seriously impact your subsequent equipment choices. I made this decision a part of the storyline at the beginning. The experience has proved an interesting one. Opting for the direct drill seeding route means I haven’t had to buy a plough or a cultivator – two of the tools I would normally purchase early in the game. It also means that I have been able to get by so far with a small tractor.

From a practical gaming point of view, if you decide to go down the traditional farming route then you should probably disable the precision farming mod because the game will penalise you financially for ploughing, etc. If you opt for going sustainable then you need to check out the mods that are available as the direct drill seeders that come with the game are large expensive tools that would normally be associated with endgame farming rather than when making small beginning steps.

Talking about the decisions made early in the game leads on to why a game that most gamers would view as intrinsically boring, holds so many of us in thrall. In many ways it is about the decisions that have to be made as your farm grows. You start with a plan for the year and possibly a longer term plan too, but you are reliant upon many random factors in the background that can change the circumstances in often subtle ways and force a rethink. That happened in spades during the first year of Ferme du Vieux Chêne and there was nothing subtle about it! – I cannot recall ever seeing the surrounding farms on a map with so many fields in a similar state of cultivation. I discussed the situation in both the storyline and a gaming note. It meant I could not rely on the contracts market to give sufficient income for my farm to grow. I was forced to look for other ways to earn money and that brought a couple of future projects into the immediate. I hadn’t planned Chickens or Market Gardening for the first year but circumstances forced my plans to change.

Being able to get enough money together to buy the second field was critical – without it the move into Market Gardening would not have been possible. Remember that the jobs market was still very quiet at the time – it played a part in my decision to sow grass in that field too. I could see that buying a larger tractor was beyond our reach and grass is worked with small machines. With luck I can get 3 harvests of Hay or Silage from that field every year. As for the greenhouses – that’s €21k well spent. They will have paid for themselves by the end of next year after which they will be producing a pure profit.

The Chickens were initially a financial burden and I was glad of the farm subsidy and income from the solar energy each month to carry us through that difficult period. Both these items are mods and worth using as a way of generating some income without resorting to blatant cheats – Subsidies are a part of real world farming life in Europe. Now the combination of egg production and the sale of adult birds is bringing a steady income and we’re currently well set for chicken feed from our Barley crop.

Farming Simulator is a game that flies in the face of the ‘instant gratification society’ – nothing comes easy and there are no short cuts. Even if you play on the New Farmer level where you have all the tools you need to get the job done, you cannot avoid the daily grind of working a field for often more than an hour in-game time. Ploughing a lone furrow is a part of the life. Again, people may wonder why we do it. One thing that Farming Simulator gives through the periods of grinding monotony is a moment of pause – a time when our thoughts can be our own without the interference of others. Those thoughts may be about the next steps in the game or they could be about the wider cosmos – the time in the tractor trundling up and down the field allows for that internalisation between the turnarounds at the finish of each row. Looking for inner peace? – Try Farming Simulator and you may find it there!

One game year ends – another begins on Ferme du Vieux Chêne. In the coming twelve months I hope to buy another field and to get a larger tractor and trailer. If possible I’d love to get our own harvester too. For those things to happen I need the jobs market to hold up for a while! Time to get back to work and sow our overwinter crop 🙂

ps – In case you’re wondering why we’ve had so many Ferme du Vieux Chêne posts in such a short time, it’s because I know there are 2 more map DLC’s coming in Truck Simulator with associated events and because I want to write up about Way of the Hunter. It was time to put the first year to bed!

The rains forecast for most of the last weeks of June never really came. We had light rain on the 19th and again on the 30th but apart from some clouds, it was good farming weather almost all of the time and we were able to get on with some jobs for our neighbours. We put together enough funds to be able to afford a mower for the tractor. And that meant I was able to make the first grass harvest of our field…


…It was the first time all the tools we’d been collecting were used together including the Windrower…


…Then it was time to bale it all up. I collected an amazing 24 bales using the Claas Rollant…


…and that was a full load for the Anderson trailer…


…Fortunately it’s downhill all the way to the animal dealer because this is load is too heavy for our tractor. We will need to get a more powerful machine soon.

July was forecast to be dry and sunny and it stayed that way throughout. We were suddenly deluged with harvesting and cultivating jobs. Every morning we went to the farmers market to see what was on the board – Mark set up a spreadsheet on his tablet where he categorised the possible work as Will Do, Could Do and Won’t Do – Ploughing went straight in the Won’t Do’s 😉 We prioritised the harvesting jobs as these had the potential to give the best returns even though we’d have to borrow the equipment. I found myself driving some of the largest harvesters on the market and we worked late most days during the first week…


In the middle of the month, there was a hay harvest to do for Jean Cuvier. We had all the tools we needed to do that except for a tedder. But, as we were going to want one of those for our own grass-work and had the cash in the bank at last, we decided to buy one. Then, having everything we needed, we accepted the contract on the basis of supplying our own tools for the first time since deciding to be farmers! Here I am turning over Jean’s wet grass to dry it for hay…


We had one eye on our own field – if we wanted to plant a crop for next year’s harvest, we would need to have it ready to sow in August. The trouble was that we could see weeds sprouting in early July and I estimated that by the end of the month they’d be too large to plough in with the seeder. The cost of getting a sprayer was beyond our means, especially if we were going to equip it for selective spraying. We talked it through, decided to buy an Einböck weeder and took out the offending weeds in the middle of the month…


…Now our field was ready for sowing and, as I said to Mark – “If we get any weeding jobs we can take them and get paid a lot better for using our own equipment!”

Having harvested the wheat crop earlier, I spent the last day of the month cultivating the field on the other side of the railway for Amelie Bourdon – one of the local heart throbs that Jean Cuvier had told me about…


…That was a final ‘grind’ of a job to close out July and I was glad to get home. More so when I found that Mark had prepared a very special meal for us. He whipped out an ice bucket with a bottle of Champagne too – “Compliments of Monsieur Gerard… He says we must celebrate our first year as members of the Haut- Beyleron Farmers Cooperative!”