So, at last, Power Farming is back. As far as I’m concerned, that is very good news. And it’s not just because the nice people who will be in charge of this website have been unbelievably kind and asked me to supply some assorted stuff for them to post here; it’s also because Power Farming was and will be all about machinery, and there one thing that I really enjoy about farming in general, it’s the machinery.
If I’m being really honest, sometimes all the other aspects of farming don’t appeal to me at all. I’ve been in charge of my farm for twenty years, and over those two long decades I have tried to be thrilled by all the other things that crop up while running a 940 acre mixed tenanted farm in central Hampshire. For instance: agronomy. For many years I would faithfully trample the fields with a selection of long-suffering agronomists, trying really hard to be interested in growth stages, inter-nodal distances, mysterious things called strobs and fascinating facts about tanks mixes and sequential application. But now I send the agronomist out on his own (unless, of course I need NRoSo points, whatever they are). But I do know that doubling the pressure on the gauge increases flow rate by root two. Or is it the other way round?
The there’s the livestock. Nobody knows or loves cattle like the lovely Mrs Flindt, but I struggle to tell the difference between black-and-white one and the other coloured ones. And they all kick, and have a habit of getting out at night – curiously, National Trust gates have a funny habit of not staying shut. But livestock means hay, and using a basic drum mower is one of the best jobs in the world.
And don’t even start me on the wacky world of farm accounts and tax. My very long-suffering accountant has all but abandoned trying to light the fires of interest in capital allowances and deductable this and deductable that. I tend to buy machines when I need them – which, according to the tax experts, is completely wrong.
I spent three years at Newcastle in the now-vanished Department of Agricultural Engineering, in our own little building in St Thomas' Street. While the Agrics up the road were drinking themselves comatose and finding horrendous things to do with 10p pieces, we were fervently studying Fluid Mechanics, Soil Dynamics, Mechanics of Solids, Racing Post and, of course Power Farming. We would occasionally venture into the beer-and-vomit-stained Agric building to sit through a straight Agriculture lecture, but Merridew was wasting his time on us. Messrs Reece and Hettiarachi, however, had us enthralled with Coulomb’s Law and the fantastic proof of why, if a tracked vehicle is a certain length compared to its width, it will never be able to turn. The last time I did that proof was with a Major in the Household Cavalry (who also know about tank track design), on a skiing holiday at three in the morning. Boy, did we know how to party.
So, nearly thirty years after all that academia, machinery is still the most exciting thing on my farm. My office is clogged with brochures and handbooks. And I’m one of the modern generation of farmers whose distinguishing feature, compared to our fathers, is that we drive the machines ourselves. How this basic fact has affected the design of what we buy is a topic I hope to visit in the coming months. Let’s just say that things have improved for the operator; they’re still not perfect, but they’ve got a lot better. Those long sweaty hours in a 2wd 6600 with no radio and no air con seem a very long time ago.
I hoping to post here some thoughts on machinery; criticism, nostalgia, absurdities, suggestions, a bit of ‘why don’t they do this?’, and ‘why on earth do they do that?’ Even some ‘where are they now?’ I hope you enjoy them, and I hope you’re as pleased as I am that Power Farming is back.
18/10/2011 11:38 AM
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