Finally, we had a day and a bit for some drilling. It was the end of the first week in February, and I know Crusoe should be in by the end of January, but there comes a time when you just shrug your shoulders and say, “What the heck – let’s give it a go”.
There’s an art to resuming a farm job that had to be abandoned four months ago. The first job is to find the tractor; luckily, it was still in the yard, complete with a full tank of diesel and battery still attached.
In these days of rural crime, that’s no longer a given.
You spend five minutes of idling to check everything seems fine – I’ve never forgotten a similar year when Mr and Mrs Rat moved in, and then fell out of the radiator fan area in several gory pieces at start up, and the plastic cowling needed some repair work.
See also: More from Charlie Flindt
Once happy with fluids and pressure, you drive slowly out to the field, all the time fully aware that in half an hour or so, you could well be driving straight back in yet another monumental sulk after getting stuck or utterly clogged up.
There’s a moment or two of head scratching as you try to remember how to actually use the drill; after all, since buying it and installing a Heath Robinson selection of diverter valves and solenoids to run four hydraulic functions off three spools, it has done all of 80 acres.
Hardly enough for all those unwritten instructions to spring easily to mind again.
Luckily, it folded up, got filled up and unfolded again without issue, and along comes the key moment: will it be too wet, and have to be abandoned?
Will it be too dry, and I’ll be furious that I didn’t get going a day earlier? As it happened, Big Field was in Goldilocks mode – just right.
You turn over the rotor manually and check seed’s reaching all the spouts, do a couple of turns and check for depth and consistency. And then push on.
Slowly, confidence returns. The first 500kg bag ran out at 1.9ha, which was perfect, and after a refill, you could see that the moved ground had dried a bit. Perhaps a roll, tomorrow?
The turns got longer (I’d started in the short work), the grip improved, and next step in the process is feeling relaxed enough to turn on the hi-fi.
What’s in the CD player after all these months? Snarky Puppy. Perfect. Dig those groovy 15/8 time signatures!
Sulk and pray
The last job? During mid-afternoon tea-break, out came the window cleaner and the cloth, and an autumn’s worth of grime and seagull poo was cleaned off to cut the glare from the low February sun.
Things slowed down when I reached the curious springs at the top of Big Field and had to resort to one bag at a time – but squelched my way through them with only a few skylark plots.
It slowed me down enough to ensure that Big Field would be the sum total of the day’s work.
The next morning, full of enthusiasm, I set off to have another go on the proper heavy land at Clump – the site of October’s abandonment.
I managed two full turns, realised I was once again dragging a small tumulus across the field, and headed home in a minor sulk. And then the heavens opened again. Still, 50 acres sown is 50 acres sown.
Which leaves one more final task: praying for vernalisation. And if that isn’t a new album title for Snarky Puppy, I don’t know what is.