Confirmation that you’ve become a grumpy old man can easily be proven by the type of television programme that you like to watch.
C-list celebrities prancing around a dance floor or over-emotional people sewing clothes will have you scrambling for the remote control in search of something much more sensible (BBC 4 has lots of great documentaries, and the History channel features many wonderful programmes).
However, I am occasionally persuaded to stop complaining and eye-rolling about the quality of light (I’d say pointless) entertainment and I confess to just about tolerating the Great British Bake-Off.
I mention this particular show because it strikes me that some of the more complex recipes on display are a perfect analogy to describe the equally complicated world of farming.
To be successful, it is vital to not only possess all the correct ingredients, but they have to be mixed together in the right order, before being baked or cooked for the exact length of time.
In farming, our agricultural components might be made up by daily workload, the weather, current prices for the end product, and input costs.
Next, we have to add the “flavourings and seasonings”, and these may be age of participating farmer, stress levels and general enthusiasm for the job in hand.
And why am I ruminating over this agricultural formula? It’s quite simple really: the weather over the past two months, alongside a reduction in my workload, seems to have allowed me to recapture something that, at times, had gone missing from my list of necessary ingredients – enjoyment.
Pause for breath
I suppose it’s a case of “horses for courses”, and when you’re rearing a family, you don’t often pause for breath in the hectic world of working flat out to provide and educate your offspring. But once those weans have fledged and flown the nest, you may find that the money seems to be more plentiful, and your desire for relentless work is somewhat diminished (at least mine was).
At this stage I found myself caught in limbo for a year or two, with too much work on my plate, but without the associated enthusiasm and necessary desire.
Continuing with the baking analogy, you could say it was time to change some of the ingredients because I no longer liked the taste. (A big reduction in contract work, allied to longer downtime between poultry crops provided me with more breathing space).
During the drought in early summer, I again questioned if I had lost that intense love of farming. Rapidly disappearing grass supplies, lighter silage crops, underperforming lambs, and no rain in the forecast all combined to form a disproportionate weight on my mind (the older I get, the better I am at worrying about all sorts of things).
Fast-forward to the second half of October and that same scowling, worried, whingeing person had been replaced by an annoyingly happy chappy.
Lambs eventually piled on the weight, grass exploded out of the ground, silage stocks were built up again, and ground conditions for a range of farming activities were perfect.
And therefore, I think it is (yet again) worth reiterating the importance of kind weather, because it is so strongly linked to ease of management, and subsequently how much satisfaction and pleasure we obtain from our daily work.
In other words, of all the required ingredients to bake the perfect agricultural cake, suitable weather may well be first on the shopping list.