The last week of September was a dead rubber – there were no jobs to do on other farms. I saw Claude in the bistro on the Tuesday and joined him for a chat. As we shared a Kronenbourg, he shared his thoughts on the lack of work. “I think many of the farmers have winter crops in their fields this year, so there’s not much to do for them.” “Harvest season is just around the corner so there may be some work then. And after harvest, there will be fields to prepare for the next crop, so I think October may be a little busier.” He asked about our Chickens. “They’re settling in well and are laying – Mark is spending a lot of time with them.” I grinned. Monsieur Gerard laughed – “Be careful, he will be wanting Sheep next😅”

The predicted increase in work began in the first week of October with a job to plough a field just past Jean’s garage. That was ok pay and although I knew it would take a while to complete, I decided to take it with a loan of equipment. Jean supplied a Deutz-Fahr tractor and a Kverneland plough for the job and I set off for the field. I was surprised to find a standing crop where I was supposed to plough but the farmer had anticipated my hesitation and was there to meet me. “Xavier…” He introduced himself and we shook hands. About the same age as me, he had inherited the farm when his father passed on unexpectedly the previous year. It wasn’t what he had intended to be doing – a degree in architecture and design should have seen him working in the city somewhere with a well paid job. But here he was living with his mother again and trying to keep their heads above water. Lack of time and money had led to this crop failing – no one was around to harvest for him at the time it was ripe. I sympathised and offered our help in the future if needed. He set off back to the farmhouse and I got on with the ploughing…

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By the middle of the 1st week our own crop was poking through, so I hooked up the Isaria crop sensors – they’re supposed to measure the fertilizer needs of the crop from the nitrogen content of the leaves and adjust the spreader to suit…

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…It’s the little white box on the mirror – there’s one on the other mirror too! Over a period of time it should save us money be reducing the amount of fertilizer we use and that’s good for the environment as well. Off we go with the Bredal…

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…and when we finished, our crop should be a lot happier with the optimum amount of fertilizer applied…

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The jobs were coming in quite fast now. I picked up a request to weed a crop. It wasn’t paying very well, but I’ll take whatever money is available at the moment to boost our finances. I thought Jean was joking when he presented me with the tools for the job. No problem with the weeder (That can also sow!) but what was that tractor?! “I’m looking at stocking a new line – Kubota.” he said and added “As you’re one of my best customers at the moment I’d like your opinion on this mini-tractor – you’re going to be my official test driver😅”…

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…It really struggled on the uphill while weeding the field and it was a pain to change gears too. I reported back – “It might be ok for the grass at Lords.” “Lourdes??” said Jean. I realised there was a cultural difference in play – Jean probably knows nothing about Cricket so I changed sport – “The groundsman at Perpignan might like it – but I don’t think hill farming is its forte.” Now Jean understood. “Ok – so better for looking after lawns.” he said.

The next job I took on was to cultivate the large field next to Armand Moteurs. Perhaps wishing to rebuild any lost trust, Jean did me proud with the supplied equipment this time – a huge John Deere 8RX tractor and a Knockerling cultivator…

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…Another ploughing job and a nice New Holland tractor supplied…

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…It was great getting experience on all these tractors because, sooner or later we would need a larger tractor for our farm too. At the start of the 3rd week of October, I got another cultivating job and this time Jean loaned me an older Valtra from his stock…

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…This is actually a nice tractor too 😎

By the last week of October, the Chickens were laying well and Mark hinted that we should be selling some eggs. We discussed how to deliver them and quickly decided that some sort of runabout was needed. And, that’s how we became Jean’s Kubota ‘launch customer’ 😅 We compared spec’s and looked at the options and the Kubota Sidekick looked to tick all the boxes for what we needed. I picked it up on a Friday morning. Loaded up with eggs and drove them over to the farmers market – 400 eggs = nearly €600 👍 Then I enjoyed a thrash along the tracks back to the farm…

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…before parking up…

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…and going indoors for some breakfast 😎👍

Giants Software added a Kubota DLC to Farming Sim 22 at the end of June – I received it as part of the Season 1 Pass. It includes some smaller tractors and telehandler type equipment along with this off-road utility vehicle. It is a good alternative to the John Deere and Mahindra offerings already in the game. If you’re looking for a vehicle of this type, remember to check out the mods for utility vehicles too – There are some other options there like the JCB Workmax.

Continuing the tale of Ferme du Vieux Chêne with a rewrite of the original 2nd post. This should bring us up to date and allow the story (and the gameplay) to develop in future posts…

We visited the local farm machinery and supplies store. We had some advice from Claude Gerard – “You’ll need a tractor – a small one to begin with, maybe eighty to one hundred horsepower.” “Then you’ll have to decide how you want to farm. Sustainability is very important and most of the appellation d’origine contrôlée producers now look for good scores when they buy your product.” “Being sustainable puts up some costs and it may be difficult for you to farm like that in the beginning with just a small field. Other costs can be reduced though, so it’s something you should consider.”

We mooched around the tractors, bemused by strange model names and numbers. “I thought cars were bad…” Our musing was broken by the appearance of a tall man in grubby overalls and boots who emerged from behind a very large tractor. “Bonjour” he said in the manner of a question rather than greeting. “Can I help?” “Umm, we’re just looking at the tractors…” was my lame response. He took the lead – “Ahh! Anglais – you are from du Vieux Chêne?”, “Yes”, “Claude said I should expect you.” He smiled, rubbed his hands on his overalls then shook ours – “I’m Jean Armand, call me Jean.”

It turned out that Monsieur Gerard had briefed him on our needs. “You need a small tractor – I think I have a good choice for beginner farmers.” He led us over to a small modern red tractor. “Massey-Ferguson 5S.105. Very modern tractor, easy to drive, good visibility – ideal for a novice farmer!” “Should we buy new though?” I asked. Jean smiled, “This is going to be your only tractor for a while I think, so you should buy new to keep down the repair bills. It will be going everywhere with you – even the supermarché!”

We discussed sustainable farming. Jean stuck his hands in his pockets, looking a little doubtful. “Most farmers here are stuck in the old ways.” he said, shaking his head, “Sure, they want to move forwards – but all that investment; the machines they bought in the past… It will take a long time to change.” “But, you, you have nothing – you can choose to do that from the start.” He suggested that we begin by getting our field’s soil sampled – “I can hire you a sampler.” So we set off with the new tractor along with instructions on how to use the sampler and drove up to our farm. The sampling was so simple that the job was done in no time…

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We had a few days wait for the results to come back from the lab which was just as well as we had a lot of reading to do about nitrogen and ph levels, seeding rates and crop types. Finally, though, we got the results…

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…Most of the field was a good Loam soil. The ph level was a bit low so we’d need to apply lime. Off we went to visit Jean once more. “Ahh – yes, you will need a spreader.” He smiled and led us round to the yard at the back. Once there he showed us a couple of possible types and explained a bit about their use. “The spreader can be used for applying lime and also solid fertilizer.” he said, “That makes it a very useful tool for farmers in this area. There are few dairy farms around here so there’s not much manure to use on our fields.” We discussed whether to buy or hire… “You should buy!” said Jean, “This tool will make you money when the other farmers need their fields fertilized!” We sat down and talked over the available spreaders and the various set-up’s. We decided on one of the Bredal range and agreed the spec. Jean promised to have it ready for collection at the end of the week…

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On the Saturday, we took the spreader to a grain store facility where Jean had told us there was a lime supplier – it was just across the road from ‘du Vieux Chêne’ which was really handy…

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Jean had estimated the amount that we would probably need to completely lime our field – he was about 400ltr over but that was better than being short and having to go back for a refill! With the field done, we would have to decide whether to sow a crop immediately or wait for next year. We could possibly sow canola – a crop that would grow over winter…

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…Or we could choose Wheat or Barley. We also had to consider our finances and the difficult equipment choices around sustainable farming versus the traditional ways. Perhaps we should wait until the spring and see what work came our way from other farmers?

When we left the farm last time, I was completing clearing stones from Field 14 as I continued preparing the soil for the next sowing. I started September by applying Fertilizer to my Canola in Field 17…

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..If you look in the bottom left corner you can see that the map now gives a useful indication of coverage as you fertilize. It also works for liming but not for weeding.

By the time I returned later that week to sow the Barley in field 14, I was greeted by a sea of weeds! Time to breakout the Weed-Whacker…

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…fortunately, these small weeds are easy for the Einbock weeder…

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Weeds back under control, I proceeded to sow my Barley crop…

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Of course, that stirred up the weeds again, so I had to run the weeder over the field once more🙄

It’s not just weeds and mushrooms that appear overnight…

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There is now a mobile phone mast on my land! I had to prepare the ground which cost €1300 but the phone company will be paying me €480 per month so it will soon pay for itself👍

Early the following week I applied the roller to field 14 to bed my Barley in. Then the rains came and I had to call a stop to any further work…

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Looks like the rain is here for the rest of the month…

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Time to do some stock taking. I sold 4 pallets of Honey for €1600. I have some stored grain,..

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…Oats and Sorghum, that I can sell when the price is good – probably in November. If it’s going to keep on raining, I guess I can try out those computer games I found 😂..

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More from Ferme du Vieux Chêne next week 😎👍