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…

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

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

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

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…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…

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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…

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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…

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…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…

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…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!”

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?

We visited the local farm machinery and supplies store. We had a shopping list compiled by Claude Gerard – “You’ll need a tractor – a small one to begin with, eighty to one hundred horsepower.” “You have weeds in your crop – buy a sprayer and you can earn some money back by helping with weeds on other farms.” It all seemed very simple written down in my notebook! But when we saw the array of equipment available, we were at a loss to know where to begin.

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 😉” Pre-equipped for a front loader and fitted with narrow wheels ready for crop spraying, it cost us €86,500.

Now we needed a sprayer – “I suggest one of the back-pack types like the Hardi over there – easier to store on a small farm than the ones you tow.” We wandered over to the sprayers… “If I had a one second-hand, I’d suggest that to you, but I don’t and I believe you need one now. In the circumstances I suggest either the Hardi Mega or this Kverneland iXter B” We pondered the specifications and the prices. After much deliberation we decided on the iXter B and a spread of 24m – “That’s the size most of our small farmers tend to use here…”

“Now I have a difficult choice for you.” said Jean. “You can choose to fit spot-spraying technology to the iXter – It will detect weeds and only spray herbicide when a weed is below the nozzle.” “It can really do that?” I asked. “Yes, and it works well. You can save a lot of herbicide by using the system and that means less environmental impact.” “It saves you some money each time too!” “The downside is the cost – it will double the price of your sprayer.” “But if you want to get good sustainability scores for your farm, then you should consider it. – I can fit it now ready for you to collect tomorrow or you can buy it later.” We discussed this over a cup of coffee in the office before deciding that we could afford the upgrade. “The benefits will take a while to show but I think you have made the right choice.” said Jean.

The next morning as promised Jean had everything ready for us to collect…

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…We parted company, shaking hands with Monsieur Armand. “Good luck with du Vieux Chêne and come back when you need more equipment – I’ll try to see you alright 👍”

I decided to continue in story mode, and I’ve introduced you to a second main character. In this post we’ve met the main tractor for this version of Ferme du Vieux Chêne – a bit smaller than our first tractor last time. I’m going to be playing differently this time with a lot more emphasis on hiring equipment when helping out our neighbours. View it as a demonstration, when seen alongside my original Ferme du Vieux Chêne posts, of the variability of play options for the Farming Simulator gamer😎

I’ve mentioned Precision Farming here in the form of the spot-spraying tech that I can add to the iXter B sprayer. In the past, we were often amazed by technologies that appeared in Star Trek, only to appear in reality a few years later. Often it all looked a bit far-fetched – until it was suddenly there. I was a bit sceptical about this spot-spraying technology, but it is already here in the real world! Cameras placed above each nozzle reference a database of weeds and activate the nozzle every time a recognised species is detected. Because the nozzle is only on for a brief moment in time rather than continuously, there is a significant reduction in the use of herbicides on a field where this tech is used. In game you can see the spray being switched off and on as you drive over the crop! Look at the image below and you can see that some nozzles are not spraying…

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Currently, you can only fit it to this Kverneland sprayer or one of the John Deere towed sprayers. However, I expect that community modders will be adding it as an option on their machines soon. Remember that you don’t have to activate the Precision Farming mod – If you don’t, then the spot-spraying option will not be available, but your choices and overall farming will be simpler 😉

I’m playing catch-up with this post as my farm is moving forwards quite rapidly. I will probably need to do a follow-up over the weekend to bring you fully up to the present. I may even decide what my partner’s name and gender is by then 😂