In my head space, it certainly wasn’t a happy harvest, but neither did I think it particularly difficult. Yes, it was a disappointment from a yield point of view, and the weather was certainly tricky, but we’ve seen that many times before. And I know it’s been an expensive year in terms of input costs. However, nitrogen is now back to much more sensible money. Grain prices are shaky and much less than last year, but we’ve seen a lot worse.
In the deep recesses of my mind, the harvest of 2023 is not logged as one of the really bad harvests of my time, the most recent being 2008, 2009 and 2012. I do appreciate for you it may have been worse but, as ever, I’m talking personally. Perhaps we were fortunate. With good combining capacity and a fine few days, we can make a serious impression on the harvest workload. With the weather messed up, that’s important, but I think it always was.
Besides, this harvest was pleasantly different for some unknown reason. Grain moistures were unusually low for the weather we had. This made a big difference in terms of output, costs and stress levels. And while field conditions were soft, we never actually got stuck. That’s always a relief. I’m scarred by memories of towing the New Holland combine out in reverse with a short chain in the dark on the first round.
So, I usually look forward to the autumn. There’s the obvious relief of the harvest being over and I love the subtle seasonal changes. The sweet aroma of wood smoke billowing from chimneys as the evenings draw in, the changing chatter in the crows, the shrill song of a startled blackbird and of course the autumnal colours and misty mornings. However, I found myself less upbeat about the arrival of autumn this year. The summer had clearly taken its toll and I was unknowingly slipping back into depression. I need the therapy of seasonal field work to keep my head right. If this doesn’t happen, when it should, I can slide down a slippery slope. That’s sort of me now. But I’m one of the fortunate ones. I have good people on speed dial who keep me steady. Sadly, there are others who, with no apparent help around them, can slide into a dangerous place, sometimes with tragic consequences.
I can’t emphasise enough the importance of seeking help when you find yourself slipping. You must talk openly to someone and it may be wise to see your doctor. Gravitate to people who can make you smile, or maybe have a bit of craic. Don’t underestimate the value of a few friendly words to someone who appears to be down in themselves.
I was lying in bed one morning last week, thinking about getting up. Then Green MEP Grace O’Sullivan came on the radio urging Minister McConalogue to vote against the upcoming glyphosate renewal. She trotted out the usual green agenda about glyphosate being toxic and probably carcinogenic, forgetting of course, to include coffee and shampoo in this category.
As someone who has had a crash test dummy level of exposure to glyphosate (perhaps foolishly, but often without gloves) for 45 years, I’ve had no side effects that I know of. Neither have I noticed any negative changes to the farm’s soils or biodiversity. If glyphosate goes, it presents an unsurmountable problem to Irish tillage farmers (and dairy farmers for reseeding). Carbon-friendly, non-plough crop establishment isn’t possible.
On the other hand, if glyphosate gets a 10-year renewal licence, happy days ahead indeed. I’ll even have a pre-harvest roundup of friends to a barbecue next summer to celebrate.