Jean and I usually arrived home at odd times and regular evening meals were out of the question. But, with Jean needing to work the same hours as his clients, us farmers, we invariably were up at the same hour and had breakfast together. I used to have tea with my breakfast, but Jean hated it, so I got in the habit of making strong coffee to kick off the day. Sometimes, we’d talk through the day ahead and sometimes there wasn’t much to discuss.

One morning in mid-February, I was once more looking over my finances and muttering to myself about the cost of the local fields and how hard it was to get together the cash I needed to buy one. Talking to myself helps rationalise my thoughts. The thought-train was interrupted when Jean coughed to attract my attention. “You’ve been playing with those figures for the past week…” “I’m just wondering how I can expand the farm – doesn’t feel like I’m getting anywhere at the moment.” “Have you thought of looking at the fields along the road just down from my shop?” Jean asked, “There are several near Xavier’s field that might be available for less money than the fields up this side of the valley.” I must admit that the idea of having another field so far from the farm hadn’t occurred to me and I knew that in Mark’s time hands would have been raised in horror at the idea. I did raise mild concerns but, as Jean reminded me, all the farmers had plots of land dotted all over the area – no one had all their fields in one place!

I took up Jean’s idea, having not much work on that morning. I drove down to Xavier’s field and was pleased to find him at work. When he’d finished a row of cultivating, he shut down the tractor and I went over to have a quick chat. He told me about the fields either side of his – “That one belongs to Maurice – he’s not likely to sell. The one on the left… That belongs to Alexis – she might be willing to sell… I don’t see a lot of her.” I looked at Maurice’s field anyway – it was well kept and looked like a crop had been sown. I would check on its estimated value. Then I looked at the other field. It had been dusted with lime, though whether the amount was enough for the soil I couldn’t tell. What struck me was the boulders scattered all over the ground. It was a mess and that got me thinking – maybe Alexis doesn’t really need this field and would be willing to sell? I set off to hunt down Claude to find out more.

Things happened pretty quickly – the field was available to buy, and the price was within my available budget after some vigorous negotiation. With a bank payment agreed, I was given permission to access the field and begin working it on 18th Feb with the deeds to follow soon after. The first job was to get rid of the rocks – Jean hired me a stone-picker…


…It was a pain to use but I cleared all the boulders. I finished February by applying more lime to get the field’s ph right. Then, in the first week of March, it was time to set about sowing a crop – I decided on Oats for a quick return. Jean bent our rules slightly by bringing down the Massey with the roller attached on his way to work – I promised to drop past with his van later when the sowing was done. It was unusual to see both of my tractors out and about at the same time…


That was the end of winter on the farm. Spring brought some good times – several fertilizing jobs earned me the money to buy a trailer and to repay the extra €15k that I had loaned 🙂


…That’ll reduce the outgoings. But I still don’t have my own harvester and I think I may have to continue hiring for the foreseeable future 😦

By the beginning of April, the Oats in the new field were ready for a dash of fertilizer…


…And by the middle of May, the Canola on my home field was in bloom…


…Things are looking up and, with luck, both fields will be ready to harvest at the same time – That will save on the Harvester hire costs! It’s been a busy Spring on Ferme du Vieux Chêne 🙂

The work for other farmers collapsed in December with all the harvesting done for the year and most fields either lying fallow or ready-sown with the next year’s crop. I knuckled down to looking after the production side of the farm. I was looking closely at the finances and although I was making a profit from the market garden work and from feeding energy back to the grid, I could see that there was little real income from the chickens. I decided to give them another summer to show a good profit – otherwise they would be going to the animal dealer and I’d be re-purposing that land. With Mark gone I had no need to salve his desire for ‘pets’.

I wanted to see more of Jean and had the perfect excuse with all the grass machinery in need of maintenance. Each visit to the workshop allowed time for getting to know each other better. In mid-December Jean suggested that we go for a meal in town. I agreed and we had a pleasant dinner in Les Quatre Saisons – The waiter kept giving us odd looks and I noted that we were the only single-sex table present that evening. Nothing was said though and we had a good time together. On another occasion we had lunch in the local bistro where we bumped into Claude Gerard as he was leaving. He smiled and greeted us but, again, no questions were asked. Even so, I guessed that there must be talk among the farming community, at least about Mark’s absence.

The question was finally asked when I met Jean Cuvier at the farmers market just before Christmas – “How’s Mark,” he asked, “I haven’t seen him recently.” I had to explain that Mark had gone back to London and that we were no longer a couple. Monsieur Cuvier was sympathetic and invited me to Christmas Day dinner with him and his Wife, which I gratefully accepted.

After Christmas, I hooked up with Jean Armand again and we went to lunch once more. I may not have tried out the bed in Jean’s office since that time in November, but I did find out how it came to be there. Not, as I had suspected, a pre-planned tool for an act of seduction. Jean’s landlord had put up the rent and Jean had decided it was too much. He’d moved out and had been sleeping in his office for just two days when I came along with my tractor problem. Jean admitted it had been too good a chance to miss. I asked him if he was still without lodgings. When he said yes, it seemed only natural to invite him to live at the farm – “Why don’t you move in with me? I have a spare room.” He seemed a little unsure, but I talked him around over a post lunch glass of wine.

Jean moved in on January 3rd. He dumped his gear in the spare room, but he slept with me that night. In the morning, after we had showered, we sat down over breakfast to lay down some ground rules. Our businesses and finances had to be kept completely separate – neither could subsidise the other. There would be no cheap rates for maintenance. Jean was concerned about what the local farmers would think of his coming out. “They weren’t worried about me in the past.” I said, “Why should that change now?” “I’m just worried that they may take their business elsewhere.” said Jean.

Our relationship settled into some sort of normality with our mutual long hours not causing any friction between us. We were often seen together, and there were a few nods and winks, but we were accepted as a couple quite quickly. Jean’s fears of lost business never materialised – once Monsieur Cuvier came to know of our liaison, he signalled his approval and that seemed to set the tone amongst the other farmers.

I continued working hard at getting the best out of the chickens and greenhouses. The bank balance was slowly growing but as I looked around, I still couldn’t see where I’d get the cash I needed to buy another field or the two items of equipment that I was missing, a large trailer and a harvester…

The tale has rather taken over from a standard gameplay series over the last few posts. Now we’ve found our way through the ‘love interest’ section, I think I can continue the story in a more traditional play through manner. But the next post will show the real in-game finances of Ferme du Vieux Chêne at the start of February of the second year and I’ll try to explain them! Thanks for your patience 🙂

Mid-November was busy – the jobs kept coming and I was out in the fields late almost every night. Most of the time I was driving other farmers gear but, occasionally it was our own. The money we were making allowed us to buy a bale wrapper after which I was able to do a silage job for Jean Cuvier with our own equipment. That earned us some good money but as I was driving the Fiat down to the animal dealership, I noticed a bit of a cough from the exhaust.

The cough continued the next day and I was concerned. It wasn’t like the Tractor had flu or anything… It was just a muted sound from the exhaust that didn’t sound right. That evening I decided to check the manuals to see if it was something that I could fix. Then I hit a snag. I searched through the internet looking for the Fiat 1300DT super and found it. But it was just a 150HP tractor with no mention of turbocharging or 185HP! I was baffled and I spent quite a lot of time searching that would probably have been better spent out in the fields. In the end I gave up and rang Jean. “Bring it down tomorrow evening and I’ll take a look – It’s probably nothing serious.”

Late afternoon the following day, after doing what I could to clear off the workload, I drove down to Armand Moteurs. Jean was waiting with a small toolbox in hand, the last of the normal customers having left for the day. I stood around looking guilty of breaking something while he delved away in the engine. Then he stood up and asked me to fire it up… It purred – if a loud growl can be considered a purr. What I mean is it sounded wonderful again. “Come into the office” said Jean “and I’ll show you why you couldn’t find the right manual.”

The Office was cosy – not too brightly lit and the blinds were down to keep out the chill of autumn. Jean motioned for me to take a seat at a table and produced a set of folders. The first I recognised immediately – “That’s the Fiat manual I found!” Then Jean started talking me through things – “This is for the 150HP 1300DT Super” he said. What you were missing were these…” He produced a couple more folders with manuals inside. they weren’t Fiat manuals at all. “These are the manuals that go with an after-market upgrade which is what you have. This is the Turbo manual and this other one is for the intercooler. They will boost the engine power up to somewhere between 175HP and 180HP. The rest is down to tuning. When it started coughing; that was because the tuning was a little out!”

Then Jean started telling me a lot more about tractors, engines and more specifically our Fiat. As we sat there and I listened to him talking, I found myself staring deeply into his eyes and suddenly realised that we were holding hands. He was looking into my eyes too and it felt right… We stood as one and hugged, then Jean stepped across to the door to lock it before guiding me back to behind his desk where I was surprised to find a bed. Sinking onto the bed together and making love was only natural. This time it felt much more than the sweaty evening in September – this time I knew I had found someone with whom I could share my life…

I left the dealership very late that night and drove the tractor back to the farm. I now knew that I couldn’t sweep this under the rug – I would have to talk honestly to Mark. This was no longer a fling and had probably gone beyond being an affair too. I really didn’t know what I would tell him or how I could explain things. Whatever, I would have to bite the bullet and talk to Mark in the morning or…

Of course, I couldn’t talk to Mark about it in the morning. In fact, I ducked the issue the next day too. It was only on the third day that I finally arranged my life to sit down with Mark over dinner and talk. I told him everything; how it started by chance and how it was now something I no longer had control over. He looked at me through moist eyes as I spoke. I was waiting for the angry outburst, but it didn’t come. Mark just looked very sad, and I felt worse than if he’d berated me. Then he started to tell me his side of the story…

“I’ve not been happy here for some months. You’re out in the fields all day and we never seem to spend time with each other. I’m so lonely here, some days I never see anyone. I thought that we would be running a gite with guests but here we are with a farm. I miss our old life too… I was going to ask you if I could go back to London over Christmas and the New Year – I wanted to meet some of our old friends. Have a good time once more…”

He was crying now and so was I. I was trying to recall when we’d last had some quality time together and some fun and I realised that it was probably during the previous Christmas when Mark had built snowmen. Since then, it had been nothing but work, day in-day out except for the first anniversary of the farm meal – and that had been engineered by Monsieur Gerard otherwise it probably would have passed us by. It dawned on me that where I had been able to adapt to the change of lifestyle, Mark could not – He had always been the party animal, engaging everyone in conversation while I stood quietly by. There was more quiet tearful conversation and then we went up to bed where we hugged each other to sleep.

The next morning, we talked long over breakfast. Mark had decided to return to London. “Will you be back?” “I don’t think so” he said. All that was left was for Mark to book his train journey. We decided to make as clean a break as possible immediately, so I moved my things into the spare room to give him the space he needed until his departure. Four days later, the cab turned up early in the morning to take Mark to the station. I bade him farewell and safe journey, a stiff handshake sealing the moment. I was left on my own to ponder…

I made sileage from our field – strange how I was still thinking ‘our’ when Mark was gone! Then the snows came and the work dried up on the surrounding farms…


…I settled into quietly looking after the chickens and the greenhouses. I had the time now, but it was time alone…

This lengthy story post fits in with a very quiet period in game. I know where the farm will be developing in the future and the story is going to take us there. What started as a simple story of farm life has gone through a sordid period. There is still a little more to this chapter, which I will tell in the next post from Ferme du Vieux Chêne.