I don’t think I’ve ever gone for a walk through the fields – be they in grass or crops – and not returned feeling the better and wiser for it. I always learn something and find it a rewarding experience, whether it be a crop issue which needs attention that could otherwise be overlooked or maybe just something simple in nature.
Low but intense rays of spring sunshine can bestow a particular and unique beauty on an otherwise insignificant tree resplendent with emerging foliage. Or a willow covered in newly formed catkins fluttering in the breeze which never came to my attention before.
Easter Monday was a case in point of the more mundane type of observation. Max and I were out for the weekly walk through the crops. While he hasn’t been officially appointed, he has become the farm’s chief agronomist but I would occasionally seek the advice of two other more experienced old hands, not least of whom is Joe “CCC” Conroy.
Anyhow, rambling through a wheat field we noticed what were clearly unsprayed, 6m strips, full of mad-alive volunteer oats and cheeky charlock. “You’ve made some sort of a major cock-up here,” said the young agronomist to the seasoned and older sprayer operator. Silence.
Now you can accuse me of most things and I usually won’t take offence. Ask Bruno. But when it comes to spraying, I think I do a good job. Sure wasn’t I a finalist in the Ciba-Geigy Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year, second only to the venerable Martin Hoste? Nothing’s changed and, if anything, I’m even better now so I couldn’t take this accusation lying down.
“What do you mean cock-up?” I said, belligerently. “Things like that don’t happen here – they probably happen all the time down the country. The chemical clearly didn’t work. It’s obvious. That’s the tricky auld herbicide Pacifica for you. As Joe says, you’re lucky to be able to mix it with water.”
But I could quickly see that my argument was going nowhere.
I had, very obviously, done something wrong. A 6m section of the boom was clearly off when it should be on. Why, I don’t know, still don’t. I’d have to spray these strips. Discovering them made the walk worthwhile before I become the laughing stock with the local gurus.
Despite this faux pas, whether it was the man or the machine, I have had 15 years of sterling service from the Bateman sprayer. But it wasn’t new when I bought it and it’s now 18 years old. The hours aren’t high but she’s been up and down a lot of tramlines and as a result now not as reliable as I would like. The running costs are rising. I would hope to knock a few more years out of it but I’m not that optimistic.
But good secondhand self-propelled sprayers are crazy money and I couldn’t go there. Besides, TAMS don’t do secondhand. So, very regrettably, I fear this could be my last self-propelled sprayer.
I’d hate to have to go back to a trailed sprayer but a fresh Bateman would be too much of a luxury.
But a self-propelled sprayer is so superior to a trailed sprayer. Quite aside from being lovely to drive, the visibility is fantastic, the ground clearance is brilliant and it’s lighter and always ready to go.
Remaining with spraying, it’s T1 time on the winter barley. I’m not overly happy with how our crops look; rape is a disaster, barley is average, wheat is OK, oats are good and beans are emerged and in toxic shock (not me this time, that’ll be the agronomists). Spring rape has yet to be sown – the soil’s still too cold.