Charlie Flindt: A return to my ‘spiritual home’ – the tractor cab

I started planning August a few months ago. For the first time in decades, my August will be harvest-free.

In fact, it got me thinking; when did I last spend August not in a tractor (or combine) seat?

Was it 1975, when my 13-year-old legs finally reached the Super Major’s pedals, and that was good enough for Dad? (No traffic on the lanes back then.)

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About the author

Charlie Flindt
Charlie Flindt is a National Trust tenant in Hampshire, now farming 40ha of recently “de-arabled” land with his wife Hazel – who still runs a livestock enterprise. He also writes books and plays in a local band.
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Apart from a debauched post-A-level jaunt round France in a Fiat 127 in 1980, my Augusts have been dedicated to harvest at Manor Farm.

But now, the fields at Hinton Ampner look somewhat different (it would be “weedist” to say what’s out there now), and my traditional pre-harvest shopping for masks, grease and wetwipes hasn’t happened.

But what’s an ex-arable farmer to do? My first thought was travel.

I’d top up the tank of my retirement present (Mazda3 saloon in Soul Red with yummy cream leather) and set off on the open road to explore the highways and byways of England.

“Don’t be so bloody daft,” said Boy No 1 when I aired my plan at a family gathering.

“You’ve always said that the best thing about farming is sitting in a tractor cab on an August Friday listening to the traffic reports.”  

He’s right, of course, although now that Steve Wright has been replaced by an AI DJ, I don’t bother with Radio 2.

I could pick up my pen again. There’s a couple more books brewing, just waiting to spark into life.

There’s a comprehensive analysis of the jaw-dropping claims of regenerative faming, but it will take the whole of the month just to explain how the nutrient cycle behind digestate means it isn’t the magic fertiliser that one reads about every single week.

There’s a tome to be written about the land management philosophy of my landlord, now that I’ve seen it close up for the best part of a year. That, too, will run to several hundred pages.

The lovely Mrs Flindt had to remind me we had made a pinky promise that no matter what the National Trust does on our old land, we were going to smile and say: “It’s theirs now; they can do what they want.” 

Any other attitude would provoke a death spiral of negativity. I’ll just have to make do with trying to correct the bewildering errors they’re publishing about the history of the estate.

Luckily, in early July the phone rang. It was neighbour Robert Jnr.

He’s had a bit of a staff shakeup, and might I be available to do a bit of corn cart?

I gave it half-a-second’s thought and said I’d be delighted to. After all, he and his gargantuan combine have popped over to us countless times over the years; the least I can do is return the favour.

So, if the rain stops, and neighbour Robert Jnr agrees to my terms and conditions (11am start, long lunch and tea breaks, plentiful wetwipes), I might be spending August in my spiritual home – a tractor cab.

I’ll be near the main road, too, so I can watch traffic jams instead of hear about them – which is lucky; I’ll never be able to find the radio in his fancy tractors. In a way, it’ll be just like the Super Major.

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