Because I am an eternal optimist and glass-half-full man, I’ve got five reasons why this weather is not all bad.
First, the plough is back in fashion. Received politically correct wisdom tells us the plough is evil, the tool of the devil, wrecking soil structures and hastening climate Armageddon.
(Unless, of course, it’s being used on an organic farm, when it miraculously becomes a shiny silver multi-bladed diesel-powered fairy wand, sprinkling unicorn droppings as it gently nurtures the soil back to health.)
This autumn, ploughs and power harrow drill combos have been retrieved from the hedges and put to work up and down the nation, grabbing opportunities between the showers to get a few more freshly turned and slightly drier acres sown.
Of course, some daft farmers traded their combos in years ago, sure they’d never need them again…
Second, the one-upmanship of pub harvest yields has been replaced by a grim comparison of rain gauges (and outrageous beer-fuelled exaggeration still applies), and a one-downmanship of acres sown.
An old acquaintance rang from Worcestershire. I told him how many acres I’d managed to get in over the two good October days – 80. “I’ve done six,” he replied. He won that one.
Third, it gives a chance for us all to play the “wise old farmer” game. Think this year is bad?
How about ’87, when the plough team got too far ahead of the drill team, the heavens opened for weeks, and an unsown strip had to be left, and an ailing Cessna tried to land on it the next summer.
Or 2000, when the River Itchen moved its source a mile ESE up the valley and the grain store elevator pits flooded. Or 2015, when the last acre of winter wheat went in in March dust – respectable yield, and cheap to grow.
And old floods happened (yes, they did, kids) before we’d heard of the Environment Agency or the dreaded European Water Framework Directive.
Fourth, it gives me a chance to ensure the new drill is working properly – give it a “raincheck”, if you like. I’ve done those 80 acres, but there’s no guarantee all the seed went in the right place, or even the right way up. (Old farming witticism no. 35.)
Yes, I’ve scrabbled around in the mud to check depth, and looked hard in the tramlines to check for no seed, but there’s nothing to replace the feeling of relief as the field finally greens up, with no overlaps and the 24m tramlines clearly visible.
With a fresh machine, there’s always a feeling of unease – especially as mine measured the two fields I did manage to finish as about 5% down on the old drill.
Odd, considering both machines are radar controlled. Does that mean I was “underlapping”?
I’ve measured pre-em lines at 29 easy paces, and it seemed right… Time alone will tell. At least I’ll get a chance to put things right if and when the green rows emerge.
Own up – we’ve all done scores of acres with a blocked spout.
Fifth, and best of all, if this weather goes on (and bearing in mind that my predictions are normally 180 degrees wrong, I’m predicting that it will), there will be a lot of seed stores still full of seed next summer, and grain stores chock full of not a lot.
That’ll make things interesting. And if North America continues to freeze, and the southern hemisphere continues to parch, and the “Oh, we can bring it all in from abroad” becomes a bit unconvincing, we might see a bit of a redefinition of “public goods”. Happy days.