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…

20220623170043_1

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…

20220623170427_1

…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…

20220628195934_1

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…

20220628200236_1

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…

20220628201154_1

…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?

I’ll start this post with a reminder of what this project is about.- I’m trying to visit all the farthest points that I can reach using my pensioner’s Freedom Pass. Here’s the map…

…Additionally, I’m including all the termini for trains. The aim is to be getting out and about to improve my general fitness 👍 You’d be surprised how much leg-work is involved at stations😅

This trip was about clearing off a lone farthest point – on a chilly and cloudy day in north London, I decided to go on a trip out to Elstree & Borehamwood. It may look close to Edgware, but in real time, it isn’t! I can get a bus here from High Barnet, and I can also go to Colindale and Watford but it’s definitely not the same as taking the bus from Mill Hill East to Edgware as I did in a previous Freedom Pass outing. So this was definitely one to do on its own.

The first time I visited this station, the line was not electrified and the old Midland Railway awnings were still in place…

47xxx_Elstree_JUL79

…That was back in 1979. Sadly the awnings were victims of the electrification to Bedford. The current station is a much more modern structure. It lacks the elegance but is possibly more passenger friendly…

Elstree & Borehamwood Station

…shot taken from the road bridge over the line.

I was talking about the possibility of using buses to go between here and Barnet. Here’s a Metroline 107 service that skirts along the very edge of the TfL zone to get here…

Metroline VW1175 (LK11 CXJ) at Elstree & Borehamwood Station

…I’ve ridden the Barnet to Elstree section with Alasdair a few years back but I haven’t done the ongoing trip to Edgware. As for a run across to Watford, that is a non-TfL route. Sullivan Buses operate the 306 route and, in the past, their vehicles were painted in approved TfL red. With the 306 firmly in Hertfordshire, Sullivan’s have now chosen a pseudo London Country Buses green for the vehicles operating that route!..

Sullivan Buses AE1 (MS10 SUL) at Elstree & Borehamwood Station

…Looks Good 😎👍

One thing I missed were the Uno pink and purple buses – Uno seem to have pulled back from serving the railway station and now only run as far as the bus station.

Back on the station and I got some shots of East Midland Railway services along with the ubiquitous class 700’s on Thameslink services. Here’s a selection of shots 😎 Firstly here’s a Class 222 (222020) on a northbound service to Nottingham with the tunnel under Scratchwood behind…

222020 at Elstree & Borehamwood

…Scratchwood sits on part of the same ridge that we saw in my Hadley Wood post.

I don’t photo the 222’s very often so here’s 222014 on a southbound service…

222014 at Elstree & Borehamwood

…a fast run from Sheffield to London St Pancras – it only calls at Chesterfield, Derby and Leicester on its trip south, which makes it one of the fastest trips of the day though it doesn’t qualify for the epithet ‘Master Cutler’ – that belongs to the earlier 07:25 service from Sheffield.

St Pancras to Corby services are handled by Class 360 units. These are recent transfers from the Clacton and Walton services of Greater Anglia, released following the arrival of the Class 720 units. I think they looked good in their original dark blue but the EMR purple seems to suit them too and I like the detailing around the cab windows. Here’s 360107 leading 360109 northbound…

360107 at Elstree & Borehamwood

I guess we should also include a Thameslink service for completeness – 700046 passes through on the relief lines with a St Albans to Sutton service…

700046 at Elstree & Borehamwood

…Normally scheduled to stop here, it’s running late due to issues with a failed train in the Farringdon area and will run non-stop to St Pancras. The next, also late running, service was only a few minutes behind so passengers didn’t have to wait too long as Thameslink re-jigged their services 😎

Hope you enjoyed this latest trip out on the rails 😎👍