Teamwork has always been important in farming. Everyone strives to achieve a common goal – we work together beat the weather or get a particular task completed or occasionally to solve a problem. It's a great feeling.
As a family, we look forward to the "marking out" of the maize maze every year. It means that the design is finished and the crop is in the ground, growing. The setting out of the shape itself has become a great family team effort.
To set out the design accurately, we employ a firm of land surveyors. They use GPS (Global Positioning System).
The general idea is that they can establish precisely where each point of the maze design should be on the field. I try to understand exactly how the system works, but some kind of technophobia creates a mental block. We have used the same two guys, Darren and Steve, ever since our first maze five years ago. They have become synonymous with the "maze marking out" occasion.
We arrive at the field, feeling a little worse for wear (they stay with us the night before, armed with bagfuls of sweets for the children and several bottles of wine). Dave's mum points out that we were all in the same groggy condition last year. Darren and Steve produce backpacks and long poles from their big yellow van, which is full of computers and technical equipment. They invariably dress in black T-shirts and black combats. We all feel like we're about to do something very important and high tech, possibly save the world from alien forces.
In reality, we march around the field sticking canes in the ground. At each given point of the design, its exact position is identified and we mark it with a number written on a cane. Very technical. Dave has the more difficult job of returning the next day with a small tractor and rotovator to cut out the paths by joining up the numbers, a bit like a giant dot-to-dot.
The marking out is all done in a couple of hours (Darren is very energetic despite having a sore head), the team has achieved its goal and we all head off into Southwold for a family lunch.
On other occasions, teamwork is not quite so pleasurable and certainly not planned. But the feeling of camaraderie is the same. Shortly after the marking out, efforts were again drawn to the farm at Reydon. Having had the first cut of grass silage, which wasn't large due to the dry weather, the task of fertilising the marshes was undertaken in the hope of a second cut.
Doing any kind of operation on the marshes can be tricky, with unpredictable ground conditions common place. Large, heavy tractors and marshland have historically caused all sorts of problems, especially in the area around the underground spring.
Ben, who was given the fertilising task, is very thorough and conscientious and likes to make a good job of things. He didn't like the idea of leaving patches without fertiliser if he could help it. Everything looked dry. Before he knew it, the tractor was in up to the cab on one side. Everyone downed tools. Much debate ensued. A neighbour's tractor tried to pull it out, but the chain snapped.
In the end, the trip was made back to the farm at Metfield to get the crawler. When eventually the tractor was hauled from the marsh, it marked the end of a day they will never forget. Spontaneous teamwork, equally satisfying.