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?

Last week of July and the month of August – the busiest time on my farm. I have to complete preparation of field 17 and then sow the Canola in the first week of August. In field 14, I have to harvest the Sorghum, then do soil samples. After that I will need to prepare that field for a Barley crop which I intend to sow in the 2nd week of September. With so much to do on my own farm, I won’t be showing any work I do for neighbours in this post.

Last time you saw me cultivating Field 17 after liming. Cultivating has stirred up the weeds as suggested in the Precision Farming mantra – see the box by the mudguard…

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…So I had to buy a Weeder. I went with the cheapest one from Einbock which cost me €9500. It’s a simple tool…

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…but it does the job and the Precision Farming score agrees – field score up to 60! The problem is that I’m hemorrhaging money and I know that I will need another piece of equipment once I harvest field 14. I’m going to need a Mulcher! So I spent the rest of the week doing some work for other farmers to boost my funds a bit. Then I went to the bank manager to get a €10k increase in the loan – actually putting it back up to the €200k I started the farm with!

The first week of August and I can harvest my Sorghum…

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…It’s a lovely sight to see as we pour it into the trailer…

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The yield pattern for the field is interesting (remember that this field was prepared under the old method) and hints at what lies beneath…

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I guessed that the southern half of the field is a continuation of the loam from field 17 and the northern half is silty-clay – Time to take some samples…

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After wading around the Sorghum stalks, here’s our results…

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…Pretty much as expected 😉

In field 17, sowing the Canola stirred up the weeds again, so I had to run the Einbock over the field once more🙄 Then I was off to get the Mulcher so that I could chop down the Sorghum stalks in field 14 ready for liming and cultivating…

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At the start of the next week I rolled Field 17…

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…That’s the last of the preparation and sowing work done on that field. Now we wait for the crop to appear before we fertilize.

Back to Field 17 and I applied the lime to bring up the ph levels…

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…Then, after fitting in some work for other farmers, the last week of August saw me cultivating…

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…and removing stones 🙄…

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…I think that I’m going to get a dedicated stone picker before my next field preparation!

We’ll visit Ferme du Vieux Chêne later in the week for more crop sowing😎👍