Early February in the 2nd year of the farm seems an opportune time to look at the finances and see what they tell us about the difficulties the player will experience when in ‘Start from Scratch’ difficulty mode. The finance screen is a bit of a pain as it can’t be easily covered in just 1 or 2 screenshots – it’s just too long and the summary stays at the bottom as you scroll up or down. Let’s start at the top (You may need to have the screenshots open in a new page to see clearly what I’m talking about)…

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…The first row details the cash I’ve spent on new vehicles. It includes all types of farming implement, so what you see there is the money spent on the equipment to allow me to manage the grass field and do grass work for other farmers. That’s a long-term investment that will probably be recouped over three years or so. The €1k in December was two carrying crates for Chickens. You can see (4th row) I started selling Chickens that month to increase the amount of cash I was earning from them.

Vehicle Running Costs (9th row) – normally one of the biggest outgoings on the on the farm and one that is unavoidable. December saw the last regular use of the tractors and also the end of season maintenance of the grass machines. In Jan/Feb the only real activity was moving eggs and vegetables to market and that was all done with the Kubota runabout. Property maintenance (11th row) is another consistent outgoing – it will be much the same at the end of Feb as it was at the end of Jan.

Property Income (12th row). This is a combination of money generated by the solar panels I have dotted around the farm – note that it fluctuates with the time of year – and the Municipal Subsidy I receive. The Subsidy is a regular €8400 each month. Some players call the Subsidy mod a ‘cheat’ and I would agree in the case of the ‘Government’ subsidy which gives you €8.4m per month. That has its place for players like content creators who need to be able to get equipment quickly for their demo videos and the like. The Municipal Subsidy is an attempt to recreate the realistic subsidy situation for farmers in the EU and US, so I believe its use in my gameplay to be legitimate. These sources of income are helping to keep my head above water in difficult times.

The last row, Production Costs, is the maintenance of the two large greenhouses. Now, let’s scroll down a bit…

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…I haven’t chopped down any trees, so nothing in the top row 🙂

Sold Bales (2nd row) should speak for itself but there is a hidden element to the values shown. Every field has an estimated output for each crop and when your harvest reaches that threshold, any additional crop is paid to the harvester. When I mow and bale grass, hay or silage for one of my neighbours, there are usually quite a few more bales than expected. The same applies to Cotton. That explains the large amount of money I made in October and November – this payment is over and above the base payment for the contract.

Sold Products (5th row) – this is the money made from Tomatoes, Lettuce and Eggs.

Fuel costs (6th row) – varies according to the amount of work done and what machinery was used. In Jan/Feb only the Kubota runabout was used so the costs were low.

Fertilizer Costs (8th row) – When fertilizing my own fields and doing contract fertilizing for other farmers, I have to supply the fertilizer. Fortunately, fertilizer goes a long way! I have the precision farming Isaria equipment fitted to my Massey Ferguson 5S, which reduces the amount of fertilizer applied on my own fields too.

Harvest Income (11th row) – Money earned from harvests on my own farm and any harvested crop left over from contract harvests, much the same as with bales. This was the excess from a late crop of Soya harvested under contract.

Contract Income (13th row) – The most important form of income for my farm currently. Unfortunately, also the least reliable! The old saying ‘Make Hay while the Sun shines’ holds true – If there’s a contract available, I have to take it. I think, in this hardest level of play, the yearly field cycle of sowing, fertilizing, harvesting and lying fallow is most accurately portrayed. The field work shuts down completely over winter and we are left relying on the produce and the subsidy to see us through until the spring. Of course, if I were to turn seasons off… 😉

Time to scroll down and look at the last rows of the spreadsheet…

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…If you look down near the bottom, you’ll see a row called wage payment – all zeros because I can’t afford to hire farm workers!

One above bottom and we have Misc – Income from environmental bonuses appears here. But it is also where expenses not covered by the other categories appear. These include animal feed, lime and herbicide.

The last row is interest repayments on the loan – we currently owe the bank €215k and should probably find a way to start reducing that amount to cut back on our outgoings.

The summary at the bottom tells that in early February I currently have a balance of €84k in the bank. Not enough to get a harvester or any of the fields close to the farm. I need to keep working and building that balance to get the things I want for the farm but, there will be choices to be made along the way – expect those to be part of the ongoing story of Ferme du Vieux Chêne 🙂

The work for other farmers collapsed in December with all the harvesting done for the year and most fields either lying fallow or ready-sown with the next year’s crop. I knuckled down to looking after the production side of the farm. I was looking closely at the finances and although I was making a profit from the market garden work and from feeding energy back to the grid, I could see that there was little real income from the chickens. I decided to give them another summer to show a good profit – otherwise they would be going to the animal dealer and I’d be re-purposing that land. With Mark gone I had no need to salve his desire for ‘pets’.

I wanted to see more of Jean and had the perfect excuse with all the grass machinery in need of maintenance. Each visit to the workshop allowed time for getting to know each other better. In mid-December Jean suggested that we go for a meal in town. I agreed and we had a pleasant dinner in Les Quatre Saisons – The waiter kept giving us odd looks and I noted that we were the only single-sex table present that evening. Nothing was said though and we had a good time together. On another occasion we had lunch in the local bistro where we bumped into Claude Gerard as he was leaving. He smiled and greeted us but, again, no questions were asked. Even so, I guessed that there must be talk among the farming community, at least about Mark’s absence.

The question was finally asked when I met Jean Cuvier at the farmers market just before Christmas – “How’s Mark,” he asked, “I haven’t seen him recently.” I had to explain that Mark had gone back to London and that we were no longer a couple. Monsieur Cuvier was sympathetic and invited me to Christmas Day dinner with him and his Wife, which I gratefully accepted.

After Christmas, I hooked up with Jean Armand again and we went to lunch once more. I may not have tried out the bed in Jean’s office since that time in November, but I did find out how it came to be there. Not, as I had suspected, a pre-planned tool for an act of seduction. Jean’s landlord had put up the rent and Jean had decided it was too much. He’d moved out and had been sleeping in his office for just two days when I came along with my tractor problem. Jean admitted it had been too good a chance to miss. I asked him if he was still without lodgings. When he said yes, it seemed only natural to invite him to live at the farm – “Why don’t you move in with me? I have a spare room.” He seemed a little unsure, but I talked him around over a post lunch glass of wine.

Jean moved in on January 3rd. He dumped his gear in the spare room, but he slept with me that night. In the morning, after we had showered, we sat down over breakfast to lay down some ground rules. Our businesses and finances had to be kept completely separate – neither could subsidise the other. There would be no cheap rates for maintenance. Jean was concerned about what the local farmers would think of his coming out. “They weren’t worried about me in the past.” I said, “Why should that change now?” “I’m just worried that they may take their business elsewhere.” said Jean.

Our relationship settled into some sort of normality with our mutual long hours not causing any friction between us. We were often seen together, and there were a few nods and winks, but we were accepted as a couple quite quickly. Jean’s fears of lost business never materialised – once Monsieur Cuvier came to know of our liaison, he signalled his approval and that seemed to set the tone amongst the other farmers.

I continued working hard at getting the best out of the chickens and greenhouses. The bank balance was slowly growing but as I looked around, I still couldn’t see where I’d get the cash I needed to buy another field or the two items of equipment that I was missing, a large trailer and a harvester…

The tale has rather taken over from a standard gameplay series over the last few posts. Now we’ve found our way through the ‘love interest’ section, I think I can continue the story in a more traditional play through manner. But the next post will show the real in-game finances of Ferme du Vieux Chêne at the start of February of the second year and I’ll try to explain them! Thanks for your patience 🙂

Middle of the Month and it’s time to join in with Clare’s Share You Desktop Challenge 😎 Clare’s got a rather nice Orchid adorning Her’s which you can see when you follow the link above. I have two desktops, so let’s start with the Gaming PC.

This time, instead of a shot of one of my trucks in the scenery, it’s the view I get from inside the cab of Azyet, my DAF XF 105.460…

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The shot is taken as I pass through the tunnels of the Pyrenees on the Spanish side of the border with France. It was an overnight leg of a long-haul trip from Cordoba to Amsterdam with a load of Carrots, so it was darker outside than it was in the tunnel 😉 At the end of the tunnel, the lanes merge before joining another autoroute, so I’ve positioned myself to allow room for the ‘Bear to come across in front of me. There’s the usual array of ornaments on the dashboard and screen. Pennants including Le Tricolore – we are a French company. There’s also Monsieur Bibendum – the Michelin mascot – and a DAF mug for my tea. I’ve got a satnav stuck on the screen – the lady speaks to me in French – and I’ve got a pair of Michelin shades next to the wheel for when it’s sunny. Unfortunately, you can’t put them on in game 😉 As you can see from the gauges, we’re cruising at 80kph – that’s a good economy speed in top gear so, although much of the road network in Spain and France permits 90kph for trucks, we rarely go faster than 80 🙂

The Photo PC has something altogether more simple and also somewhat prettier…

7-spot Ladybird

A Ladybird, or Ladybug if you wish, on a Fresia leaf. There are many variations of Ladybird and this is the 7-spot. These are a friend of the gardener as they consume large numbers of aphids while in the larval and adult stages of their lifecycle. They’re also one of the most attractive of insects you come across regularly in summer.