Archive for the ‘farming’ Category

Farming and Stones

The Blog has been neglected recently because I have been on a tractor for days and days and days.      Farm spring work.  

Ploughing and Seagulls

Ploughing and Seagulls

Ploughing, power harrowing, spreading fertilizer, lifting stones and rolling.      A neighbour comes in with his seeder to sow barley and oats.   







We have had quite a crop of stones this year – all this off one field …….. now stored for future use, as you can see.

Lots of Stones

Lots of Stones

Big Stone
Ya beauty! Big Stone

This stone was just peeking above the surface.   I tried to rock it – it was not moving.   I dug round it with a spade and realised that it needed serious lifting gear.

The stone is now safely in the wood where it won’t be in anyone’s way ever again.   

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Banking the Modern Way

I opened a ‘grown-up’ cheque account with the Bank of  Scotland in 1977, graduating from a childhood Deposit Account.    I have held onto this account since then, even through the Halifax disaster which will result in a merger   takeover by Lloyds TSB.   It is such a shame to see a well liked pillar of the establishment with over 300 years of history behind it going down the tubes.

Bank of Scotland HQ building

Bank of Scotland HQ building

But banking has been heading for a fall, and we customers no longer get the service we once did.     In the farming world, things are done fairly traditionally.    As a farming customer, I met my bank manager anually, where we talked about the past farming year and discussed requirements for the year ahead.    This was sometimes at the bank branch, and sometimes at the farm.    A nice civilised way of doing things.    Nowadays this  is done by a phone call from someone I have not met in an Edinburgh office and who does not sound like she has been on a farm, ever.      It is just not the same at all.

And what has happened to my bank statements?      For years and years these came in monthly – one sheet of paper just over half a size of A4 showing money in and money out.     What more do you need?    Well, statements suddenly grew to A4 sized and had money in and out, but now the bank takes two double sided sheets of A4 to provide essentially the same info.    Not only that, but there is a message telling me to  Save Paper.

No, I don’t want my statement online, and if the Bank wants to save paper and do the green thing, it can cut it by over half by getting back to simple statements, once a month on one bit of paper.    Is it so hard?    The key information fits on one side of paper, leaving 3 sides of utter guff.

In December, I received a statement from 30th November to 26th December (2 sheets) and another one for three days from the 27th December to the 31st December (another 2 sheets of A4) covering all of three transactions.    And in case you think this looks like the bank was squaring off the year, November was also a two statement month (4 sheets).

Perhaps we will get back to normal in January.    I am not anti HBOS – I have been a customer for years, their online banking is good (‘business’ is much better than ‘personal’), and they support lots of sports and arts in Scotland (surely under threat now?).     It is just that they seem to have forgotten all about customer relationships:   face to face really matters.

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We finally finished cutting wheat here on the 24th.   It was all sprouty in the head, and the old combine did not like it much as the chain on the unloading auger mechanism split apart with a spectacular bang.    One new chain, new bearing and a lot of pushing and shoving to clear out the hard packed wheat inside, and we were ready to go for the big finish.   

The combine is now finally back in its shed for another year and the straw is all baled.   The grain drier is working overtime for a neighbouring farmer who is still busy trying to get finished.   

And I heard that the price of wheat has fallen to below £100 a tonne for the first time in a while.    Last year, I got £150 for mine, so it is a bit disappointing, particularly given the massive increases in fuel and fertilizer.

At least we were able to salvage enough of the harvest to make some sense of things – other areas were worse than here.

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Harvest Progress 2

This is turning into a particularly tricky year, because we are not getting much in the way of rain-free days required to work combine harvesters.

Winter Oats and Spring Barley are all cut, leaving wheat to do.    But wheat soaks up rain like weetabix soak up milk in the mornings, and it normally takes a whole good drying day before you can think about cutting wheat.    But one field down, and yesterday we started at 7pm with wheat at 24% moisture and cut until 10pm when it started raining again.   It is very frustrating, and expensive as wheat has to be dried to below 15% moisture.

Other areas of the UK are fully worse, with Northumberland being a particular blackspot.    Farmers Weekly has a UK harvest roundup  www.fwi.co.uk and loads of pictures like this one of a very submerged round baler (2/3 is underwater):

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Combine Harvesters

On Flickr, this is the “most interesting” picture of a combine:






And this is the “least interesting”:







Who gets to decide on these things?   I think that the least interesting one looks more reliable, but the red/green mix of the interesting combine is intriguing in its way.

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Harvest Progress

Good day on Satrurday – tried to cut the ‘steep field’ of oats, but the combine would not go up the hill forwards, so cut the next field instead, which we finished ahead of the rain at 9.30 at night.    But with combining, anything can happen:    there was a change in the engine note, and suddenly there were no hydraulics.   The end had blown off a pipe, which was easily sortable, although we had to replace all the hydraulic fluid.

Sunday saw us tackle the ‘steep field’.    Still too wet to go up the hill forwards, so the technique is to cut down the hill, and then reverse up the hill between times.    Extremely tedious.   The forward speed on my combine is belt driven, through a very large rubber belt (a couple of inches wide) on a variable speed V pulley.      All this hilly work puts a large strain on it, and it broke this evening, wrapping itself round the pulley and ripping out an oil pipe.    Lots of black smoke.    It should all be fixable though, but will rely on getting a new belt ….. which will not be cheap.

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Harvest Watch

I have cut some of my winter oats, but progress round here has been painfully slow due to the rain which goes on and on.    Repeated visits to the BBC South of Scotland weather page show endless blue patches (of rain) on this neck of the woods.     The wheelbarrow is just about full of water now.

Combines round about have been getting stuck right up to their axles, and have had to be winched out of boggy holes.

The last disaster harvest we had was in 1985, when we had a wet July, wet August and then a really wet September.     If things dry up from now on in, we could still be OK, but early crops like oilseed rape, winter barley and winter oats are already starting to spoil.

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A short break in the rain today let us fill in holes in the road with tar planings.   When harvest finally starts, smooth farm roads make things a lot easier on equipment and result in faster journeys to and from the grain drier.

I spied two people exploring my crop of oats, and one was taking photos.    The parked car was Dutch, so these were clearly visitors, now walking towards me.    The lady had some oats in her hand.    “We’ve done a bad thing” she said, waving the bunch of oats about.    I told her not to worry, and explained that the oats are destined for Porridge – if it ever stops raining that is.     They thought that it was barley, and were confused about whisky, even although they had been to the Laphroaig distillary in Islay.

So, I took them into the next field, and gave them some barley home with them too.    And as they were asking, I explained about malting, distilling and the difference between Single Malt and Blended whisky.

So, a ‘Bad Thing’ became a ‘Good Thing’, and the visitors went off on their way to St Andrews and are going home on the Newcastle boat tonight.    With their oats and barley from Scotland.

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We have had seriously large amounts of rain here over the past week.    A couple of weeks ago the fields were pretty dry, but now they are extremely wet.   

Combine harvesters are not that great climbing hills in wet conditions, although they will go up backwards better than forwards.   It won’t be the first year where I have cut my steep field one way – down, and reversing up between times.    Hugely inefficient, but in tricky ground conditions there is literally no choice.

How much rain?    Well, we bought this wheelbarrow last Monday.   Today there is almost 7 inches of water in it.    It is getting pretty serious as there are acres of oilseed rape and winter barley ready to cut now round about here, and winter oats not far behind.     I have winter oats which will cut as soon as we get dry weather.

On the bright side, it is still August, and things can dry away fast given good conditions.    September is a different matter, as the season closes in.    The next four weeks are critical.

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Harvest Preparation

The crops in the fields are ripening, despite the rather mixed weather.    The countryside is slowly turning golden.       The colours in August can be stunning.

We have been busy checking out the harvesting kit to make sure it all still works.

An unfortunate hedgehog strayed into the grain drier, and as it came out the other end it broke the flight chain of the top grain conveyor near the roof of the grain store – it took two of us a whole day and hire of a special high platform to fix this.    I would love to meet the person who designed the location of the tension adjusters – hopelessly and dangerously inaccessible.

But the grain drier is ready.   Time to check out the Combine.

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