…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!”

When I last reported from the farm it was the first week of October and I laid out my future plans. At the time I had €60K in the bank and I needed to push that up to €160K before making my move to purchase Field 23. So here we are in the first week of December and I’m cultivating a neighbours’ field…

20220510100107_1

If you look in the top rh corner you can see that I have almost reached my target! How have I done that in just 2 months? Have I, perhaps, been hunting for collectables again to boost my cash?

No, this time I haven’t resorted to an official cheat – It has all been achieved by genuine work and a little RNG luck. I continued my start to October with some fertilizing. Then I picked up a Corn harvesting job in Field 15, right next to my farm. As I don’t have a corn header myself, I borrowed the equipment to do the job. I had the pleasure of trying out the Case Axial Flow 7150…

20220504154921_1

…This is a wonderful piece of kit. Here’s a view from above as it chomps the corn…

20220504155534_1

…and from the side…

20220504160335_1

…For a big machine, it feels very compact. I liked it so much I’ve added it to my wish-list although I’d need around €400K to buy and equip it🤨 The job surprisingly gave me a big cash bonus for the delivered corn and additionally completed while I still had nearly 5000l in the harvester’s tank – that went straight to my Silo as a very welcome bonus for a job well done! 😎👍

My next large job saw me doing a Star Wars impression…

20220505200929_1

…It’s actually a Hardi self-propelled Sprayer and I was hunting weeds in the second largest field on the map with hired equipment. I made a lot of money on that job. And that’s where the RNG comes in. If you’re lucky, the jobs just fall for you, and you can make a fortune very quickly 😎

Mid October and I was doing harvesting for another farm and when rain stopped that activity, I did some fertilizing for a different neighbour – the money was starting to rack up. The pattern continued through late October and early November. Then I hit the RNG jackpot – Fertilizing jobs for the two largest fields on the map. Even after buying the fertilizer to fill my spreader, I was guaranteed a payout of around €25K! I was able to knock those jobs out by midday (roughly equivalent to 5 day’s work). Then I picked up a Cotton harvesting job using hired equipment, I had the pleasure of this rather nice John Deere CP690 to do the picking…

20220509174128_1

…A beautiful piece of kit and it needs to be at around €850K! For such a large machine it is amazingly agile – it can turn within its own body length! The cotton bales are deposited wrapped and ready. I subsequently had one of the Case cotton harvesters for another job and didn’t like it. Ultimately it just compresses the cotton into a large block, but at half the price of the JD, I guess that’s what you get. At the end of the harvest job, I delivered one of those large blocks to the spinnery and it should have closed off the job and given me a percentage of the bale as part of my payment. The bale is still sitting there…

20220509223414_1

…and I’m accruing €1 every minute as the bale gradually is taken in 1l at a time by the spinnery. There’s around 17000 litres to go – I think that’s a Bug! 🤣

Back to where we came in… I now have my target money to buy Field 23 and I’m going to do just that. I shall see you all back on Ferme du Vieux Chêne very soon 😎👍