Don’t panic!

keepcalmandfarmonBritish people tend to see the art of “muddling through” as a virtue. We laugh along at “Dad’s Army” and we admire their spirit. Not that we don’t do efficiency and organisation, but just that when the unexpected happens we follow Corporal Jones’s maxim (if not his
example) “don’t panic Captain Mainwaring”.

This is a helpful trait for farmers and is amply demonstrated by the numerous repairs achieved with the aid of baler twine, six inch nails and that odd bit of fencing wire (hidden in a special place as someone is always nicking it). Whether it is animal breakouts or machinery breakdowns the farmer has to “keep calm and carry on”.

This phlegmatic attitude is also needed with regard to, and is perhaps due to a familiarity with, our favourite topic of conversation, the British weather. From mid-February when we might have started planting the spring crops, we have had continual rain, snow or drizzle with the ground constantly waterlogged. Then “summer” arrived and we had two glorious days followed by a thunderstorm in the third week of April. Actually there were several dry, if cold, days in a row in that week which began for us with further strain on Corporal Jones’s maxim, when the main tractor, which does all the planting and main cultivations, had to be taken on a lorry into Middleton Stoney for repairs. The problem was quickly found –a rat had chewed the wiring – why he (or she) had such tastes when there are hundreds of tonnes of nutritious corn and pig food all around, only a rat might know. In the end, with Nick on one drill and John reunited with his tractor and main drill, 450 acres of spring barley were drilled in three days, with John finishing late Saturday evening in the thunder and lightning. It was a more costly exercise than usual, as we had to use more seed; this is because there is less time for the plant to send out extra shoots (tillers). At least it is planted and the land will be productive.

More positively the winter wheat and oil seed rape all survived the winter surprisingly well and look in good heart, and after another week of reasonably dry weather we have nearly caught up with all the field work. Even the prices for cereals are on the rise.

So although it has been a time for muddling through, things do turn around if you don’t panic, even the British weather.

Mike Hartley

June – July 2018