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Thread: Diary of a part time farmer

  1. #1

    Diary of a part time farmer

    In responce to a bit of discussion on the depth of topics and participation I thought you might like to see these articles I wrote last year.

    For info I come from a long line of farming stock, to allow my parents to get away each year I take 2 weeks holiday from my boring office job and go and run the farm for them. I myself have a degree in business studies and agriculture and will one day be taking over the farm full time:

    Day 1

    Up early to see mum and dad of at 6.20 so they can get away to the ferry in good time, we arrived down in Devon at 10pm the night before so kids crabby to say the least.

    Great morning, blue skies but chilly and no wind, lots of dew and mist in the valley bottoms. Dad briefed me last night on the jobs to do and the main priority needed is to run the combine/baler to finish off the harvest, about 40 acres of oats, 60 of wheat and some 30 of barley that is looking horrid. Nothing laid though so that will help. Wheat coming off at 12% so drying is not going to be a huge issue.

    Other than that is it keep an eye on the sheep, hopefully it will be routine maintenance on their feet and watch for fly strike. The rams have done their business just about and are due a rest. Finally there is some mowing to be done on field margins and set aside, the oldest tractor is on mowing duty and she is always a bit temperamental, don’t stop her when she is warm as she wont start again until cooled down.

    10:30 and out to grease the combine, approx 20 grease points and then check the belts, chains, knives, etc. Horrid job if it has been working in barley, makes you itch all over, bit last field was wheat so not too bad. Fueled up and then a walk through the crop to see how it is and do a quick moisture check. Needs 30 mins of sun so arranged for the baler to be greased.

    Just after 11.30 combine on the go and I move trailers out for grain dumps. I then leave them to it for a bit while I run Debs into town to do a food shop. Back for early lunch and then spell the combine driver whilst he has his. Running a treat and coming off dry.

    Hand back to the driver and I then do a spell on the baler, boring compared to the combine, also get a crik in you neck from looking over your shoulder all the time.

    Back to the house for a break at 6.30 and find Debs firing up the barbeque for the kids and ours supper. Great! See the kids into bed and then watch the weather and then back out to the baler. Lights on all round and try and knock off as much as I can before the dew drops.

    Good day, no mechanical problems and great weather.

    Day 2

    Up early again, no lie in for the wicked though a little stiff from yesterdays work. Chap turned up at 7.30 for some pigeon decoying and he was soon getting a few shots.

    Morning was grey and slightly damp from a heavy due so no chance of running the combine any time soon this morning. Need to try and crack on with the last of the wheat as the combine wants to move to another farm before coming back to finish off the barley that is a good 10 days away yet.

    Combine driver turns up at 10am and starts he pre flight checks and fuels up. Worried about one of the main belts, it is a hydrostatic belt that is tapered and they do wear out from time to time, looks a little frayed around the edges and you get a whiff of burning rubber from time to time.

    Good breeze if cloudy and we fire up the combine at 11am and move into a new field. Run on 150 yards and check the sample and what grain is going out over the back, not too bad but a bit of chaff in there so increase the wind (airflow) over the sieves to blow it out the back, balancing act as too much wind and the grain blows out with the chaff.

    11.30am and it is raining!!!! Well a bit of drizzle for 5 mins. Not enough to halt proceedings so we crack on.

    I run back to the farm to fetch the baler and start to follow on the combine, rounds again, we have enough squares and this lot is due to be sold. All going well until I pick up a stray rod some kind soul has thrown over the hedge from the road!!! Lucky the combine did not pick it up as that would have been big bucks but as it is the bailer is out of action until tomorrow when I can get the parts to fix it.

    Oh well, that gives me time to put the topper on the tractor and mow some of the field margins, the weeds have got up too much and need sorting, both Benjamin and Belinda join me from a bit in the cab, one at a time, both enjoy steering the tractor and Belinda makes a good attempt at flattening a stretch of fence, luckily we missed!!!

    2pm we take the kids out to the Butterfly farm at Buckfastliegh, amazing creatures, the colours are great. Spent a great hour wandering around the large greenhouse they are housed in and then moved outside to the Otter Sanctuary. I love otters and would love one as a pet! Not to be of course.

    Feeding time was a laugh and great afternoon out!

    Back home to check the sheep, all seem fine though need to look at a few feet as some a tad lame. Will try and get them sorted tomorrow.

    Forecast fair for Monday, rest of week is looking a bit iffy so would be great to finish the wheat and get the straw baled. If it stays dry longer we can start moving the bales back to the yard or stack it in the field ready for lorries to take it away.

    Day 3

    Phone wakes me at 6am, the field engineer is on his way to fix the baler, look out the window and bit grey but breezy so the dew has not settled, good.

    Forecast is OK so fingers crossed we will clear the last of the wheat today and that will be it until the 40 acres of spring barely is ready in 10 days or so.

    Baler is soon fixed and combine greased and ready for the off but grey skies and no sun to dry of the ears, start delayed until 12.

    Get a call from the straw dealer asking if we can switch to square high density bales, he wants 150. So the now fixed round baler is unhitched and the square baler is hooked up and needs new string drums. 15 mins of fiddling and it is ready for the off, fingers crossed no more stray iron lurking in the field. I can see why the big silage boys have metal detectors fitted to their expensive kit.

    Things run smoothly and by 4 the combine is clear and done, no hic ups. Baler is running well and finished behind the combine at about 7pm, so that is the major part of the harvest done and dusted. Still need to stack the bales up but that can be done in any weather and that is not looking so bright for the next few days.

    Watched pigeons hitting next doors rape hard, sorted out the flight line they are using over some of our wheat stubble so hopefully will have some time for a decoying session in the next day or two now I have a bit more time. Take the kids up to the field and make a start at building a hide, would be nice to have some pigeon breast for the barbeque later in the week.

    Got to do some sheep chiropody at some point though, a couple need doing in the next day or two. The ewe lambs in the orchard are enjoying the first wind fall apples, fighting over them as they hear the thud of one hitting the deck, need to pick the next lot of plums and gauges for the freezer.

    Join the kids for tea and find out they and Debs have been around the caravan site selling excess runner beans to the campers, £4.50 into the kids piggy banks! Well done them. They have also taken 15 assorted courgettes down to the local Chinese restaurant in the next door village, will settle up when we go for a meal at the weekend. Only just opened but very smart by all accounts, if food is as good as décor we will be in for a treat.

    After tea take the kids up to the top of the farm by the badger set to scatter some peanuts, hope to lure them out one evening so the kids can watch them, fingers crossed I might get a picture or two.

    Here are some pics,



    Green again, this is our old girl that stays around the yard most of the time, old and rather tired but never misses a beat, might do a project on her one day!

    The last of the wheat to come in:

    Combine ready for the off:

    Oat straw all safely baled:

    Day 4

    A very wet night and a very damp morning, wind has picked up from the south south west and that means we are in for a dull damp day.

    View from the top of the farm first thing is bleak, cant even see the other side of the river:

    Weather ideally suited to the moorhens:

    But the partridges don’t look that happy:

    I feel sorry for the caravaners on the site too, they are in for a wet day and most have small kids in tow, must be heaven cooped up on a day like today.

    First stop is to check the stock, all fine and rain not bothering them too much, indeed the grass for august is looking very green compared to normal and we have plenty of feed at the moment, Will mean it needs topping later in the year to tidy things up.

    The wet weather over this summer has also meant there has been more than the fair share of fly strike in the sheep, a close eye is needed to be run over them twice a day to nip any in the bud if the flies strike. Damp warm wool and flies don’t mix.

    No chance of any baler work today so it was clean the combine and make sure everything is OK before calling it a day and taking the kids down to Plymouth to visit the National Aquarium, massive queues to get in and chucking it down so detoured via the cinema to see Surfs Up and then back to the aquarium later once the queues had shrunk, still took 45mins to get in but very good.

    Home and nipped up to check the badgers peanuts and most of them have gone from last night, scattered a few more and will do so for the next few days before we try and watch them.

    Forecast looks better tomorrow at the moment, time for sheep feet work. Skies clearing now and wind dropped a bit.

    Day 5

    Wet night again, ground is now very wet and best to keep of it with vehicles as much as possible, where the new gas super mains pipe is going through is washing a fair bit now, the stream is clogged with silt and flooding over the lane, the contractors agent came buy and I showed it to him so he can arrange for it to be cleared, they are also due to re seed the areas of permanent pasture they had to cut through but far too wet at the moment and I want to be around when they do it so as to make sure they drive across the slope rather than up it as the wheel marks will wash with any rain. Also the seed for the 1.5 acres is very expensive, approx £200 and if they get it wrong they will dump all the seed in the first few yards, wont be a happy bunny if that happens.

    Check the stock and as expected a couple of lambs showing signs of fly strike, go in for breakfast and hope it brightens up a little before I start messing with the sheep as wet sheep means soaked legs for anyone handling them.

    This is what early stages of strike looks like, the dark spot in the middle:

    Treat with a pour on chemical that kills the eggs/maggots and deters the adults flies, it has a blue dye in it so you can see who and where the treatment has been applied.

    Then onto feet, the wet weather again is not helping and we have a bit of strip and rot, where the hooves start to rot and the skin between the hooves looks like they have been sat in a bath of water too long.

    The kids enjoyed helping to pen the batches of sheep:

    They are shaping up well as sheep dogs though need to be a bit more fleet of foot and listen more, maybe a collie would be a better idea!

    Once penned, I sort them into lots:

    Then it is time to work on the feet, the tell tale sign of a sheep farmer is a bad back and blue fingers from the antiseptic spray:

    One of the rams had the worst feet, mind he has been doing a lot of walking recently looking after his ladies. But a ram with poor feet is not going to working at his peak so I spent a fair bit of time with clippers and spray sorting them out, he is a big so and so and it was a bit of a battle at times with him fighting all the time to get back onto his feet:

    Even some of the cattle wanted to get in on the act but no way and I trimming their feet with out a decent crush and some muscle on hand, luckily their feet seem fine at the moment:

    After sorting and clipping feet of about 120 head of sheep I had a sore back, very wet legs but job well done, Benjamin was chief clipper and spray handler for me:

    Belinda just wanted to look pretty all the time!

    After that need to make a trip to the farm supplies place for a few bits and bobs and managed to find a waxed jacket that fits Belinda at last, she is very happy and insisted on wearing it most of the afternoon, good job too as we have had some heavy shower’s, this is a shot of water pouring out one of the down pipes off the roof of the house:

    More like January than August!

    Tomorrow it is Chagford Show. Will be a good day out though no stock on show. Looking forward to it. Then take the kids to the Dawlish Carnival to watch the Red Arrows and have a Fish and Chip Supper on the beach!

    Day 6

    OK start to the day, mainly dry and bright though the wind is still blowing from the north west and pegging the temps back a fait bit.

    Walk around the stock and the sheep that I attended to their feet seem to have reacted well, less obvious limping though a couple of the worse effected are still on their knees when feeding, the ram I sorted is still one of the worst so another session will be needed over the weekend, the improving forecast will help as well, give their feet a chance to dry out a bit.

    Picked a bucket of plums in the orchard before loading everyone into the car for the Chagford Show, arrived at 11.30 and good to see disinfectant foot dips in place and everyone being asked to use them, interested to see the faces of people in flip flops! We were all in clean wellies as the show ground can be a bit boggy at times though other than where the cars/lorries had been travelling it was not too bad, the organisers had thrown a fair bit of wood chip around to help.

    We spent a pleasant day wandering around, had a few free drinks at some of the stands we know, big thanks to Rendles for a lovely and unexpected lunch with pimms, glad the fees we pay them give us a few privileges, but a shame no sheep, cattle or pigs lines to view.

    We enjoyed watching some of the show jumping:

    And the falconry display was good but hard to get a decent picture of:

    The owl is rather special though:

    As expected the Mid Devon Fox Hounds got one of the biggest cheers of the day, long may they run:

    The main attraction in the ring was a bunch of jousters, interesting and I would not like to have a go!

    All in all a great day out, weather stayed kind and all very tired now.

    Tomorrow, back to farming, hope to shift some of the bales.

    Day 7

    Morning broke dry though it had rained over night again, plan is to hopefully move some of the round bales and load them out if it holds fair.

    But start delayed as the drainage contractors working on the gas pipeline arrive to put in some land drains before the final section of the pipe on our land is complete, the pipe is in the ground and buried but the topsoil needs to be put back after the drains are in.

    This is the final act of 6 months of disruption on the farm, a 36m wide strip has been cut right across if, about .75km long. The money this all must have cost is mind boggling, here are the contractors getting the pipe in to the ground.

    As it is a different crew for each job it is a constant case of checking to make sure they know where they are meant to be, and in this case they managed churn up and area of pipeline that had the tops soil put back ready for reseeding so I then spent 40mins on the phone sorting it out with our land agent and the main contractors, they will have to be out once it is dry for a couple of days to sort the ground before the next lot of contractors turn up to re seed the permanent pastures that have been ripped up. The seed for this is a mix of wild grasses/flowers and costs £140 per bucket full, if they get it wrong they can dump all the seed in a heap as it is like dust.

    The day continued frustratingly, small showers of a few minutes long blew through and delayed the start on the bales, but I started to gather the bales at the base of one of the fields to speed up loading latter only to get a puncture on the front right of the tractor. Whipped the wheel of and into town to get it fixed, whilst there picked up a couple of spring feeders ready to make some pheasant feeders.

    Wheel fixed and back to the farm waiting for the lorry to turn up, took the chance of setting up the decoys and making a hide hoping for a few pigeons until the lorry comes, 10 mins after setting up the first bird comes and is dropped 10 mins later and another 3 in the bag and then my mobile goes and the lorry has turned up at the yard. Oh well, 3 pigeons for the barbeque later in the week.

    Load out the lorry and then another shower blows through so call it a day, walk around the stock, definite improvement in the sheep feet now. Windy now as evening sets in, had hoped to go for a wander with the rifle/lamp but will give it a miss tonight.

    Day 8

    A dry morning…..well sort of, squally misty showers blowing through every
    now and then, very windy from the west.

    Being Sunday then it must be a day of rest…..well sort off, usual first rounds around the stock, very pleased with the sheeps feet, the ram in particular has made good progress, another session required but he is walking well as are his ladies. An hours work tomorrow or the next day and that will see them though for a few weeks.

    Load of wheat straw needed, and good chance to clear a corner of a field of bales, the kids were running around wanting me to make a castle but that will have to wait:

    I then took the chance of trying the decoys again, I had watched a good number of rooks on some oat stubble so set up a hide:

    And sat back and waited, not a bad view to sit and absorb:

    Had 2 hours and to begin with I could not hit a barn door, changed the layout inside the hide so I stood rather than sitting for shots and started to connect, the strong wind made for good testing shots and managed just over 20 blackies and a few pigeon, very enjoyable.

    The decoys also brought in this little lady:

    Female sparrow hawk, she swooped over the decoys and sat in an ash tree to my right eyeing them for a few minutes.

    Back to the house for lunch and the kids helped me finish some pheasant feeders, these are a budget special. Black bins with spiral feeders in the bottom and three legs, each cost not more than £10 but they are not as large the big blue barrels so often used. Ideal though for feeders on cover strips. We can only shoot on about 100acres as the majority of the farm has shooting rights retained by the Courtenay Estate even though we own the land, they revert to us but not before I am pushing up the daisies I am afraid, these feeders will be for wild birds which will be walked up.

    After lunch it was down to the “wave” pool at Torquay with the kids so they could try and drown me!

    Wind dropping now at 10pm, at long last, still too strong to go for a mooch with the rifle, might do an early morning tomorrow. Weather for tomorrow still not looking great either!

    Day 9

    Rain and Punctures

    Had enough of both now!

    7am and things are clear, little wind and looks ok, 7.30 and it is bucketing it down and down and down. Just over 40mm of rain today resulting in flooding, sodden fields and washed ground where the pipeline is going through:

    Stream across the lane:


    Pipeline washing and clogging the stream with sand:

    They were not meant to have travelled on the bare ground recently but they have and it has washed resulting in soil/slit clogging land drains and streams, another good hour spent on the phone to agents/contractors moaning and asking them to sort it.

    Bank field starting to wash…again:

    And then to cap it mid morning I get another puncture, this time a rear wheel so a call to the tyre place to arrange a visit to sort, cant make it till the pm but that is fine as the ground is now soaked, far to wet to travel on it with machinery so call a halt to everything going on and give up for the day.

    Just as well as I managed to drop my mobile in a puddle and needed to get to a shop to replace it, 45 mins on the phone there to sort out the insurance but up and running again.

    Call it quits for the day and take the family to Crealy Park for a few hours, most of it under cover so thank god for that! In all a good afternoon and the kids had a ball.

    Baby sitter arrange for the evening and Debs and I out to the Diggers Rest at Woodbury Salterton for a great meal.

    Great sunset on the way and dry since 6pm so fingers crossed we might get a bit of decent weather tomorrow, straw still far too wet to move but need to get the sheep in again to check feet.

    The joys of a British summer!

    Day 10

    Blimey a dry morning!

    Up and out early, 6.30am and I start the tractor to get on with mowing some sprayed off grass land ready for the plough in the next few weeks, field is just over 18 acres so a fair bit of tractor work with a small 10’ brush cutter, steep old field in places so have to watch it.

    Funny enough though I do enjoy tractor work like this, there is something very satisfying about working systematically across a field doing a good job. The only exception is rolling winter corn in the early spring, crawling along at a snails pace gets very boring after a few hours even with a radio in the cab!

    Back to the house for breakfast and then check the stock, going to have to delay the sheep work until tomorrow but forecast is fair so they should be dry by then. Cattle look good and enjoying the bonus of late summer green grass.

    On the phone for a bit, one of the tenants in one of the farm cottages has handed in their notice, sort things out with the letting agent and sort out leaving dates with the tenants, they have been here just over a year but decided to get back on the property ladder, will be a shame to see them go as they have been good visitors. Prospective tenants already booked to come and see the place and by 12 it is let again with a 2 week break, good.

    Lunch and a contract sprayer turns up to spray the spring barley a share farmer is growing on some of our ground, it needs a desiccant applied to help ripen it as still very green in places and he used his own seed and it look s a bit of a mess to be honest, glad it is not my barley as the sample or yield is not going to be great.

    Great bit of kit though, shame I forgot my camera so could only catch him once he got well over the fields:

    I then call it a day and take the family out for the late afternoon for a few hours and drive up onto Dartmoor, home for supper, check the caravans and stock before heading out for a 20 min walk with the HMR, 5 bunnies in the bag, nice calm and warm evening….oh and it is still dry!!!

    Day 11

    Well this will be the final stage of this saga as today was the final full day on the farm, for the rest of the week we go on the second stage of out break, this time with the in-laws and sailing around the solent for a few days then it is back normal life after the bank holiday.

    And at last a decent summers days, a great drying day as warm, sunny and a strong westerly breeze blowing so the ground has started to dry out well.

    Up early again and 6.30 and I am running the tractor/brush cutter again and knock off a few acres before breakfast with the kids, even managed to have it out on the patio for a change!!!

    Back out on the tractor for a couple of hours and my sister and law and kids come for lunch. The kids have a ball playing and then they all help me get in two lots of sheep to work on their feet again.

    This time breezed through them as the work I did last week has paid off and they are in fine form now, only took 90 mins to go through them no signs of fly strike now, good job done.

    But why do rams have to stink so much???? I am reliably informed by Debbie that I stunk like a rancid goat once finished with the sheep! Charming!

    As nearly all the caravaners are out for the day take the chance to mow the orchard they use with the ride on mower, takes just over an hour but makes the place look so nice and trim.

    Call it a day and take my little one out on her bike for the first time with out stabilisers, she does very well and it wont be long before she cracks it.

    Early shower and then take the family out to a little Italian restaurant at Topsham for a meal, always a real hit with the kids and the Italian owners wife is a real hoot with the kids, making a fuss over them and acting like a real Italian mama.

    Great evening and nice end to the stay.

    Once the kids are settled I head out for one last trip with the rifle, not an ideal night as half moon, no cloud cover and still a stiff breeze, but it turns into a red letter evening. I swap the lamp filter for a red one and make my way to the first field. In all I walk just 3 fields in 90 mins and come home with 10 rabbits for 11 shots. It should have been 11 for 11 but I could not find one no matter how hard I looked, it was a stubble field so may find it in the morning. The HMR did not miss a beat and a red filter certainly seemed best tonight.

    Tomorrow morning it is finish a bit of mowing, about 2 acres to complete, check the stock one last time and then pack up the car and then head of after lunch. It is always sad to leave the farm but this time next year we should be down in Devon permanently if things work out as planned.

    Hope you have enjoyed this diary of sorts and it has proved interesting.


  2. #2
    Distinguished Member tartinjock's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Nairn, Inverness-shire
    Absolutley Fantastic.

    Well done for that!!

  3. #3
    Great diary and pictures too sanders, i really enjoyed reading it, well done

    I am a bit puzzled though, you never mentioned a deer once


  4. #4
    Great read, thanks!
    Articles like this are just brilliant. I've never been involved in farming, so it's a real education, to me. I never knew artificial desicants were used to hurry a crop along. How do they work?

  5. #5
    bloody hell jerry
    what a post with some of the highs and lows of farming at harvest time
    shame no roe as there are a few round there but the sheep made up for that
    can't help it ,part welsh you see

  6. #6
    Great article.
    I thoroughly enjoyed the pictures.
    I take my hat off to you for writing such a long would have taken me forever!
    Well done!
    All the best,

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by wadashot
    Great diary and pictures too sanders, i really enjoyed reading it, well done

    I am a bit puzzled though, you never mentioned a deer once

    Cheers, I might add another post about "spring watch".....that has some deer pics....

    Though as a newbie to stalking I am yet to enjoy the ultimate!

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by buckup
    Great read, thanks!
    I never knew artificial desicants were used to hurry a crop along. How do they work?
    In this case, the "muppet" farmer who rented parst of the farm made a horlicks of the crop, ended up with poor germination first time around and then re drilled on top of the first crop to get a decent ground coverage.

    The result of this is part of the crop was ripe , part green.

    To bring the green part on you treat the crop with a "weedkiller", this speeds up the maturation process so the crop is ready to combine at a sensible moisture content....if he got it right in the first place he would not have had a problem.

  9. #9
    Absolutely superb, makes you realise how much work goes in to farming - shame the big supermarkets don't appreciate that too and pay the farmers a decent price for their produce.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by hairybiker
    Absolutely superb, makes you realise how much work goes in to farming - shame the big supermarkets don't appreciate that too and pay the farmers a decent price for their produce.
    here here, well said that man

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