…We showered together in Jean’s workshop washroom accompanied by the smell of industrial soap. Then, after saying our goodbyes, I climbed into the tractor to drive back to the farm. It was already very late but I decided to take the long route home. I drove slowly but my mind was racing. What was I going to tell Mark? Was I going to tell Mark anything at all? It wasn’t the first fling in our relationship – we’d both had the occasional indiscretion in the early days but not recently and not since deciding to move to France. It was worse than that, I realised as the full consequences dawned on me – This time it had been with someone that we both knew and with a person that I had dealings with every week.

I arrived back at the farm and parked the tractor in the yard. I was glad to see the house lights were off – Mark must have gone to bed. I headed straight to the shower – an effort to wash away the guilt maybe? When I came out I found Mark in the kitchen in his dressing gown. “That tractor’s loud – It woke me up!” He reached into the fridge and brought out a salad that he had prepared for me. “It’s an older machine.” I said, “But it should be able to handle the heavier jobs better than the Massey.” “Well, you’ll be using it in the morning – Water at the greenhouses is getting low.” said Mark. “I’m going back to bed.” he added.

I sat down and ate the salad, then I grabbed a beer from the fridge and sat there thinking. There was no way I could stop using Armand Moteurs for our farming needs – If I did it would immediately have the local’s wondering what had gone on. That was a no-no. I was going to have to be resolute and resist any further approaches. Put the mistake behind me and hope nothing comes to light over the next few weeks, A final thought occurred to me – perhaps Jean was a straight guy who’d just taken the opportunity to try out gay sex as an experiment? We would see. But, for now I was resolved to be very well behaved in his presence. The trouble was the devil on my shoulder kept saying “It was good wasn’t it? We should do it again…”

Two days later Jean rang the farm while I was out in the fields – Mark answered the call and told me when I came home. I waited for the anger. But Mark said “He’s found us a second-hand building we can keep some of our equipment in.” I’d forgotten that we’d put out several feelers to try and find something. I rang back and agreed with Jean that I’d come and look in the morning.

“It’s half a shed from a factory.” he said, “All the frame, two walls and a roof. I think it’ll take most of your grass machinery.” There were no nods or winks, it was normal Jean and not a hint of what had transpired. I went with the flow and set about measuring it up to see if it would fulfil our needs. It looked good so I asked “How much?” “It cost me €4500, factor in transporting and a profit… Let’s say €6500?” The price seemed good so I agreed on the basis that I could get Jacques to prepare the land and erect it for us. We shook hands and I wandered back out to the runabout. It was surreal – like I’d dreamed that evening of sex…

Jacques turned up on the following Thursday with two labourers who he introduced as Alphonse and Pedro – “Come over from Spain to work.” he said. “Where’s your Son?” I asked. “He’s gone to University – thinks he’s too good for building and carpentry.” said Jacques, although I could tell by the gleam in his eye that he was secretly proud. We discussed the levelling of the land and the erecting of the shed. I knew from the previous warning that it wouldn’t be cheap and I wasn’t surprised when Jacques said €7000 with the proviso that it might be slightly more if they had any problems. I agreed the price. In the end it came out at €7500 but we had a place to store the equipment and Mark was happy because he definitely thinks along the old ‘place for everything’ line…

20220902210122_1

In the meantime autumn went ahead, the leaves turned brown and we helped out with as much harvesting as we could. In late October the Cotton harvest kicked in and it was like a gold rush for us helpers! The money we made went to buying a sprayer with the latest detection technology to deal with the weeds in our field…

20220901064344_1

…I was sceptical at first but it really did only spray when over a real weed – we used so little herbicide, it was like I’d walked around the field and sprayed them by hand!

November brought more harvest jobs and the bank balance started to look healthy as I trundled around fields in the special machines used to harvest Cotton…

20220901075654_1

..If the work held up through the winter, we might actually be able to think of getting our own Harvester and a bigger trailer. Possibly even another field! But some of my thoughts were still elsewhere… Somewhere back on a hot day in mid-September…

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…

20220826162305_1

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

20220826164832_1

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

20220826171852_1

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

20220826172841_1

…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…

20220827001012_1

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…

20220828080442_1

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…

20220828163743_1

…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…

20220828171440_1

…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!”

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…

20220727160256_1

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…

20220727165006_1

…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…

20220727165308_1

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

20220727165543_1

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😅”…

20220727170727_1

…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…

20220728092613_1

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

20220728200218_1

…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…

20220730212025_1

…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…

20220730221028_1

…before parking up…

20220730221142_1

…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.