Ferme du Vieux Chêne

Winter, when it came, was quiet. The last contract jobs ceased just before Christmas and we settled into a period of getting-by. The Chickens were costing us money at this point because we had to feed them and the eggs weren’t covering the costs. We were glad of the municipal grant to keep our heads above water in this period. The good news was that the chickens were now producing young…


…and as long as the flock grew , we’d get increased egg production and be able to sell some birds too. According to Jacques, the builder, the pen could hold up to 360 birds, so we had the space to grow.

Between feeding the chickens and taking eggs to the farmers market, there wasn’t a lot to do. It snowed on Christmas Eve and we built snowmen in the yard…


With so much time on our hands I took the opportunity to visit some of our close neighbours. They were politely friendly – wariness just below the surface of their demeanour. It seems that visiting is not a common thing around here. On one visit to the farmers market, I bumped into Jean Cuvier and we sat down to drink a coffee together. We’ve done a couple of jobs for Jean and he also sold us a shed and trailer back in August, so we were not complete strangers. I asked about the lack of contract work out there. “Most of us have either got next summer’s crop in the ground or we’ve already ploughed the field ready for sowing in the spring.” he said, adding.. “It’s a little unusual this year though with so many fields already planted or ready to plant. Usually there is still some ploughing to do in the winter.”

We spoke about farming methods too. “You are being watched.” he joked, then making his point more seriously, “Everyone wants to see how your sustainable farming turns out – if you’re getting good yields without doing it the traditional way you may convert some of us.” “There won’t be a rush though – most of the smaller farmers would need new seeding equipment and we need to understand how you are handling the weeds.” “So far we haven’t seen any in our Barley.” I said, “Maybe in the spring?”

I guess sooner or later we’d broach personal subjects and Jean asked the obvious “I assume your partner is not just a business associate, yes?” “That’s right.” I answered, wondering if this was going to be an issue. Monsieur Cuvier looked quite happy and with a twinkle in his eye said “A couple of our younger farmers will be pleased!” I was non-plussed at that so he explained. “Have you not met Amelie and Rebecca? Our two local farming beauties. If you are gay then there will be less competition for the other young farmers to, let’s say, amalgamate farms?” He burst out laughing and I laughed with him. With that we parted company.

Much of January was spent planning. We needed to expand beyond a single field. I had driven around much of the valley on the dry days and I came back with a short term plan. “The field up by the Grain Elevator.” I said, showing it to Mark on the map. “It comes with a small parcel of land between the access track and the road…


…”I think we could buy that and sow it with Grass. It would give us regular income.” Mark tugged his ear and asked the obvious – “Won’t we have to buy a lot of equipment?” “We’ll have to see how things go with the money but we can probably get some of the things we need and hire the rest to start with.” “We already have a seeder and roller, so we can start by sowing in March.” Mark gave a non-committal nod and I decided to press on with the suggestion. I showed him a photo of the adjacent land…


…”I think we can build on this area – I’m thinking Greenhouses to produce salad crops?” That got his attention! “Oh! Now that sounds like a good idea!”

With agreement reached, we approached the farmers cooperative to see if the field was for sale and were able to agree a price that was affordable. In late February we took ownership and I applied lime to prepare the field. Come March, and some good weather, I was able to sow the grass…


…and follow up with the roller. A visit to Jean Armand for some maintenance resulted in a lucky find in the second-hand department – a windrower which is one of the implements we will need for our grass harvesting…


…Now we wait for the grass to grow and we carry on selling eggs.

In the course of the chat with Jean Cuvier, we talked about the reason for no contracts. Here’s the map of the field status at the end of December…


…and I think that illustrates the point – only two fields potentially needed ploughing or cultivating at that point. I have also found that when playing the game at this high level of difficulty, the jobs appear and disappear really quickly and the best chance you have to grab them is at first light. It adds an interesting level to the gameplay!

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