Two R’s… I did think about a close-up of our late Queen’s Royal Cypher – EIIR – but thought that might have been a bit too cheeky😉 Anyway, let’s get on with participating in Cee’s Midweek Madness Challenge. All these photos were taken yesterday in London👍

Here’s an obvious double R – Harrods…

Harrods

Another double R is Farringdon – you’ve seen lots of shots from this station in the past, so here’s a Chiaroscuro effort for a change…

Farringdon_Chiaroscuro

Stations have an Arrivals Board – this one is on Blackfriars Station…

Arrivals Board

…And just outside the station is The Black Friar…

The Black Friar

…Photo-bombed by a Pigeon😂

There’s always people going about their work in London. Delivering barrels of beer to The Founders Arms…

Beer Delivery

…or using a wheelbarrow to move bags of cement across Trafalgar Square…

Wheelbarrow

…and they’re clearing the fallen leaves in Green Park – here’s one of the Tractors…

Kubota M5

…Of course, with all that work going on, someone has to stop it – here’s the Protesters on Whitehall…

Just Stop Oil

In central London there are many bridges. This one is Hungerford Bridge…

Hungerford Bridge

…which carries trains from Charing Cross over the river to destinations in Kent and Sussex. I’ve mentioned the River, so here it is…

River Thames

…the River Thames in all its murky glory with an outgoing tide.

Jean was laughing at me… Tears rolled down his cheeks… His overalls were draped over his hips and he was drenched in sweat. So was I, which is why he was laughing – if anything I was worse than him and I’d taken off my shirt and cargo pants. It felt odd and yet normal, in the circumstances, to be sitting in his office in just my boxers!

Since the middle of summer it had been obvious that we needed a more powerful tractor for our farm to handle the jobs that were beyond the abilities of the Massey Ferguson 5S with its 105HP engine. Don’t get me wrong – that little tractor has worked miracles. It’s been the mainstay of our farm throughout the first year. I think we’ll always be grateful to Jean for recommending it in the first place. But, when we got the water tank for the greenhouses and the Anderson bale loader, it was clear that we were asking a lot more from her than the designers intended. We could see it in the increased maintenance bills. You’d think that Jean would be happy with us spending more money but when we started looking for a second tractor with more horses, he couldn’t have been more helpful. He pursued his contacts, chased the local farmers and generally harassed anyone who might have a larger tractor for sale that would meet our needs.

While Jean was drawing a blank, I approach Claude Gerard – maybe the Farmers Cooperative had a member who needed to sell an older tractor? There was no response. No one, it seemed, had or knew someone who had a larger old tractor for sale.

In the interim, we ground away at helping with the harvest on the farms around, leasing the equipment to get the job done. We were making good money and getting close to the level where we could buy an older tractor. The trouble was that if we did find a tractor it would probably leave us with no funds.

On one of the summer harvest jobs for Hugo, as he and I were chatting after completing the final cut and getting ready to deliver the grain to the market, I mentioned our predicament. He raised a finger… stopped for a minute and then spun around in a circle… I was bemused! “Antoine! Antoine!… Why didn’t I think of this earlier?” he exclaimed.

It turned out that Hugo had a Brother-in-Law over in Mirande. “I need to ask him if he still has his old tractor.” He disappeared into the farmhouse and that was the last I saw of him! I thought no more of it until the next day when Hugo rang me. He was excited – almost out of breath in fact! “Antoine still has it!” When he’d calmed down – I’d never seen Hugo excited before although I had noted that his hair was always a mess! He explained that his brother-in-law had an old Fiat tractor that was quite powerful and might be what we were looking for. It was available for sale, but we’d need to go and collect.

We had to go and look although it was quite a way to Mirande. Mark said he’d look after the farm – keeping the chickens fed and taking the vegetables to market while I went to look at this tractor. Jean Armand volunteered to come with me to check out the machine. So, in mid-September, Jean and I caught a train east to Auch where Antoine agreed to collect us. Antoine was almost the spitting image of his Brother-in-Law, same tousled hair, same lopsided grin – you’d have thought they were twins!

The tractor was a surprise – It looked barely bigger than our Massey Fergusson. I was initially disappointed – “I’d expected something larger.” I said. Then Antoine fired it up… “Merde Alors! – Cela ressemble à un dinosaure” Jean laughed – “It is a Dinosaur!”…

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…We were invited to drive it around the farm to see if we liked it. It drove well apart from having bad brakes – “You’ll get used to that.” said Jean. What I wasn’t getting used to was the manual gearbox and clutch with gear levers just behind the steering wheel. Jean squeezed into the cab as best he could and talked me through changing up and down. After an hour or so we had it in hand…

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Jean said that it looked in good order but he also warned that getting spares might be a struggle. I went to see Antoine to discuss the price. He started at €45k and that felt too much for such an old tractor. I called in Jean for advice. He said “€11k and no more…” Haggling eventually got us to a price just over €26k and I was thankful for Jean’s help – I would never have had the knowledge to beat down the price like that!. “Nothing’s changed” said Jean after we’d agreed the sale, “Still going to be an issue getting parts…” With a shrug, he wandered back to the tractor.

Getting back home was a marathon drive and we spelled each other. Unlike the modern tractors, the Fiat didn’t have a jump seat so we took it in turns to squeeze into the corner of the cab while keeping the doors ajar and the rear window open to get some air through.

So there we were – 5 hours later in a state of undress in Jean’s office. We were both very tired and, frankly, sweating gallons. It was a good job, well done. We’d brought the tractor home and it had performed well during the journey. Jean had found a small exhaust leak and applied a temporary fix but, apart from that, it was a sound machine. We looked at each other across the office and shared a sense of achievement. We hugged to celebrate and then, before either of us knew it, we were kissing…

As promised, our direct drill seeder arrived at the start of September. Equally, as warned, it looked very big to our untrained eyes. Jean explained the workings and handed over the manual. Driving it back to the farm was a challenge and it was good that Mark was with me to keep an eye on where the rear of the machine was on the road. When we got back we parked it in the shed. The tow bar stuck out but the main part of the machine was sheltered…

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…We read the instructions again then, next morning, filled it with seed. Then we started sowing Barley…

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…Taking turns to drill a couple of rows each. It was time consuming and the seeder was very difficult to turn and line up again at the end of each pass…

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…There was plenty of room at our end of the field but, at the other end, the neighbours field was close to ours and we had to reverse back a bit before commencing the turn so as not to damage their crop. Then it started raining and we took a break for a couple of hours until it cleared. After we’d finished sowing, we put the seeder back in the shed.

Inspection of our field revealed that it was going to need fertilizing soon and that it needed rolling to push the stones back into the ground and compact the soil to reduce erosion…

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…I took it upon myself to buy a 6m Güttler Matador roller and got on with rolling the field…

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…Afterwards it became clear that Mark was annoyed. “Couldn’t you just have hired it?” he fumed. Our first disagreement! It took the rest of the day for things to simmer down and a sensible discussion revealed that he was thinking about other possible ways to use our small plot. Honey or Eggs were the options he wanted to look at and we could have used the money I spent on the roller to get started in one of those areas. It was a good idea – There was some land between the trees and the house that couldn’t be put to normal farm use. I agreed we should investigate and ask Claude if there was a market for either product. We also thought about Glasshouses and Tomatoes, but the area looked less suited to that idea. We both agreed on one thing – none of the trees were going to be chopped down!

I spent the end of the first week of September doing a couple of contracts for neighbours. I was able to use our Bredal spreader on a fertilizing job – though there was only a small profit because I loaded up more fertilizer than I needed. It will keep though and we’ll be able to take more jobs like that without buying additional fertilizer. Then I did a cultivating job on a small field down past Armand Moteurs – for that I loaned the equipment and left Jean fretting about how I would get on with the much larger tractor. He needn’t have worried, I brought all the equipment back in one piece. Two contracts done and a small amount of money earned. Let’s hope we can get some more next week…

Neither the roller nor seeder used in this episode are available in the base game – only some much larger versions that are physically unsuited to our field. That’s where mods come in. Both the Güttler Matador pictured above and the seeder were downloaded from the modhub in game. The seeder is a Vaderstad Rapid 300C…

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…Technically this is the 300S version as I opted not to include fertilization.

In the second post of this story series, Sustainability was mentioned and we decided we wanted to go down that road in our approach to farming. It’s worth taking a quick look at the initial effect of the soil sampling, measured lime application and direct drilling. Here’s our Sustainability score…

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…There are still areas where we can improve that score – correctly fertilizing our field for example. But already, if you look at the small print below the blue sliders, we will be gaining a 4% improvement on the price when we sell our crops. The story of Ferme du Vieux Chêne will continue soon😎👍