Flindt on Friday: Big hand for grumpy farmer feeding nation

It wasn’t just me feeling the cold on the first morning of British Summer Time. My digital drill calibration scales were also being slow and lethargic.

I was trying to make a start on the spring barley, and I was now only six weeks behind with everything, instead of six months.

Of course, I didn’t know the scales were being hopelessly inaccurate until I got out to the field, and the first tonne of expensive seed shot through the drill 25% faster than it should have done.

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I did some hasty maths, dropped the seed rate on the computer by 20%, put another tonne in and hoped for the best.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the day turned into a “bad tramline” day. Every drill operator will know what I mean.

It’s the day when every obstacle in the field finds itself right slap bang in the middle of the tramline bout. I daresay on big farms where the drillman and the sprayerman are different people, only the latter gets upset about this, but here, it’s just me doing both, so I was getting a bit fed up when both telegraph poles in Folly East lined up perfectly and maliciously with the tramline.

Swiss cheese field

One day I’ll get a phone with a clever mapping app and link it to hands-free steering, and automatically choose one of the three ways to sow a field so the poles just kiss the boom tips.

Of course, that would be useless for the badger holes – some huge, some small, some old, some new – that now pepper both Folly East and West.

It’s bad enough deciding if I should go round them, or if I can slip over them without some do-gooding eco-fascist reporting me for disrupting a sett.

I reckon if badgers can dig out half-a-ton of pristine white chalk in a couple of days, they can cope with a bit of spoil caused by a drill pass.

But this year, two vast holes spookily coincided with tramlines. A horrid wobble was needed to avoid damaging the drilling tractor, and I made a note to remember where they are for the late season fungicides – and harvest.

Anyway, I was getting a bit fed up. Bad seed rates, a field like Swiss cheese, and buggered-up tramlines. What else could go wrong? Answer: the headland was too hard.

Welling up

As the day drew to a close, I started the final six turns round the whole field, and found myself cursing the dry weather for rendering my bout marker useless on a well-driven bottom bit. And the very last thing I needed at this stage was a gaggle of walkers distracting me from the nearby footpath by waving.

But they weren’t waving – they were clapping. It looked like a late Sunday afternoon family walk. There was Mum, Dad, two teenager types, and two small-ish people.

They had all lined up on the top of the bank next to the field, and were giving the grumpy farmer out in his tractor on a Sunday evening a round of applause.

It was a lovely moment, and I confess a tear or two made finding my mark even harder. Well, that’s my excuse.

Luckily, my newfound status as god-like national hero didn’t last long. My old mate Graeme the ex-vet had a different take as we chatted on the phone that night.

“Don’t be daft, Charlie. They were just clapping the fact that you’d got off your fat backside and were finally doing some work.”

Fair point well (if rather brutally) made, as they say, but I’ll stick with “national hero”, thanks.


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