I was living blissfully in the moment. It was a bright and dry morning in late October and everything was going along beautifully. I was at peace with the world which doesn’t happen all that often.
The fields were a picture; the low sun highlighted the hedgerow colours and the elderly ash trees were a radiant yellow hue. We’d soon descend into the dank greyness of November but October wasn’t ready to concede just yet and was still giving it her best.
We’d finish sowing the winter wheat later on this afternoon and conditions were still excellent. It had been a great autumn for fieldwork.
In addition to sowing, a few long-fingered tasks including field drainage work had been completed, which was good. We’d made the most of it. There was plenty to be content about. And with a bank holiday weekend coming up, I’d surely get out for a late season open-top blast with Mrs P in the MX-5.
The Pöttinger plough and the old Kuhn/Accord were brought out for the last 40ac. The time for min-till was over and these fields hadn’t been cultivated.
The chopped spring rape stubble ploughed in perfectly. Oddly, I was pleased that we were ploughing these two fields. All the rest had just been stubble cultivated once, sprayed off and drilled up. No hassle, low diesel, high carbon-friendly work rates and litres of glyphosate. What’s not to like? And probably if I eased off a bit on the glyphosate, even Greens like Eamon and Pippa would be pleased with me. But I need my glyphosate fix; otherwise, I start to shake.
But not so fast Gerry, I good-humouredly said aloud to myself. Was this not rented land and in tillage for the last 25 years with potatoes featuring every four or five years? This land was never min-tilled or cover-cropped or spread with farmyard manure.
This soil had been twisted and turned to the left and the right until there shouldn’t be an earthworm or creature left alive. It had been pulverised by carbon-killing power harrows like there was no tomorrow (nowadays, of course, we care about tomorrow).
But you know what? It was ploughing and tilling up beautifully, a real cracker of a seedbed and 40ac, I’ll wager, which could give us our highest wheat yield next harvest. I have little doubt that it’ll beat all our September-sown min-tilled crops.
So where does that leave us? The plough still has a relevant future, I thought, and for nice, proven and reassuring seedbeds is unrivalled. And, moreover, ploughing ahead of the one-pass is the most weatherproof method of crop establishment of all. It seldom lets you down. But it is slow and…
My phone rang, suddenly interrupting my thoughts. Oh no, it was my accountant and I grimaced knowing precisely what Siobhán wanted to talk about. The income tax deadline was fast approaching and my sense of peace evaporated in about five nanoseconds.
“Have you a few minutes, Gerald?” she asked. “Oh, I have, Siobhán,” I said, hoping my tax bill would be bearable. We did a little restructuring a couple of years ago which was meant to ease the pain of these late October phone calls.
Well, it didn’t do much. I was shocked and sickened by what I’m expected to pay. I have to look at the figures but my peace was well and truly gone. I could think of nothing else for the rest of the day. It would take more than a topless blast in the MX-5 to sort this out.
“Live in the moment, my arse,” I said crossly aloud, as I put the wiper on sowing the final headland.