Flindt on Friday: Back to cropping Plan B, with patience

You’d think that throwing open the lush velvet curtains and seeing the most glorious sunrise would be cause for celebration after a sowing season of nothing but grey, damp dawns.

But no; all it did was send me scurrying off to check out the farm diary from 1992, and come up with yet another cropping plan: Plan D.

You may remember Plan A – full cropping. Then there was plan B, when the heavy land winter barley was abandoned. Then Plan C – drop winter cropping, all spring.

See also: Read more from Charlie Flindt

Then we went back to Plan B in the renewed hope that we’d actually get some winter wheat sown, vernalised, and worth an extra bob or two to compensate for the low yield.

And that was where we were, until the moment when I’d finished my monster bowl of porridge (it’s under the sugar somewhere), had my third cup of tea, and noticed it was getting brighter a bit earlier than we’d been used to. Opening the curtains revealed the stunning reds and yellows of a volcano sunrise.

To farmers of a certain vintage – younger than some, older than many – volcano sunrises bring back memories of 1992, and the summer after Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines.

In June 1991, it pumped vast quantities of stuff up into the atmosphere – no Extinction Rebellion around to stop it back then – and played merry hell with the weather for some time after.

Throwback

Harvest 1992 was the culmination of a scary first year in charge of this farm. Everything stopped in favour of farming; the gumshield hardly saw the light of day, the ‘keeping gloves barely left the cupboard, and the local am-dram boards were left untrodden, darling. Farming was the priority.

After an encouraging start to harvest 1992, which seemed to make all that sacrifice worthwhile, Pinatubo arrived – or its rain did, anyway.

The diary tells that 8 August was “Damp – rest day!” Nearly eight weeks later, on 1 October, we finally finished.

Eight weeks of stop-start combining, bunged-up augers, endless broken shear-bolts (“No, don’t replace the 8.8 with 10.9!” growled the brown-coated storeman at Curtis Padwick. “Something else will break.”) And broken hearts as top-notch milling wheat grew in the ear.

So I watched the recent sunrise with a sense of foreboding. Do we really want to bust a gut over the next few weeks to catch up, and get the whole farm sown with something – anything – only for the Taal volcano to kick off big time, and wreck the lot?

Plan D popped into my head. Stop now. Sow nothing more. Have our first holiday since 2011. Spend a year blitzing blackgrass. Find those wicket-keeping gloves. (My No 3 shirt might be a bit optimistic – and tight.)

Contribute in a small way to next year’s crop shortage by deliberately not growing any. Spend more time in the Jolly Flowerpots. Utter bliss.

Patience, Son

The image of me climbing into a bargain rent-a-car in New Zealand and setting off to recreate my “gap yah” was shattered by a curious voice of reason. “Seen the wheat price? Seen the forecast – ‘fine next week’?” (Mind you, we’ve heard that a hundred times this season.)

“All that pea/bean ground unworked, thrice Roundupped, and gagging for that Sprinter? What about the cashflow this time next year? Patience, Son, patience.” Ah, I recognise that ghostly voice.

So we’re back to Plan B. I’ve washed the growing wheat out of the Sprinter, tried (and failed) to find the puncture in the brand-new press wheel, and am ready to go. All we need is a run of fine weather, even if the sunrises are scary. Patience, Son, patience.