There are not many things we have to thank this damned virus for, but I have discovered a quite unusual one. At least that’s what I put it down to. I am talking about the excellent South East Farmer and Farm Machinery magazine which accompanies these issues. I have used it, in its different formats, for years with above average success, but recently, post virus, my phone ran hot for a few days with enquiries.

First of all I put this down to the prices the items were advertised at, but I don’t think I was selling too cheaply. Then it occurred to me, looking at the restrictions required by auctioneers for attendees at farm sales, that many people who attended the traditional ‘farm collective sales’ would not be inclined to comply with the terms; registering, wearing masks, social distancing etc, and so would look elsewhere for their various requirements. So where better than the local advertiser?

I advertised some six or eight items a couple of issues ago and the interest was almost quite a worry. Had I mispriced that much? People were calling and travelling at short notice from all over Kent, Hampshire and Surrey, paying the asking prices and almost always taking stuff away. They were all seemingly happy with their purchases and usually had a good chat with no masks and no other restrictions.

So I suppose the thing to learn from this is to get a move on if you have some old stuff to sell, whilst the virus is still around. If you await a vaccine it might give you better odds of living, but you will miss these keen buyers. Of course, if you are like me, you may not be too fussed about yet another virus which most of us, particularly those who have worked with cattle most our lifetimes, will probably have built up an immunity to long ago, in any case.

I have nothing further to report on the ‘vandal’ front. I think ‘school’, wetter and shorter evenings and considerably more recent interest by the police have all had their effect. It is a relief also that no one has been injured. Now we will need to wait until next spring to see if lessons have been learned, although there will be a whole new generation of upcoming teenagers seeking mischief.

In the meantime we will have to get a lot of roof sheets and windows replaced. Ready for next year.

One of the things we will miss this winter will be our visits to Ernest Fenton’s excellent curling establishment just south of Tunbridge Wells. We have curled there as a group since it was built in around 2004/5. Going over once every two weeks, it speeds the winter months past at an amazing rate. We usually manage to get four or six teams and fill the place up for a couple of hours before adjourning to nearby Frant, where we spend another two hours or more being fed and watered by Greg Elliot and his excellent staff at the George Inn.

I can only recommend you try the same thing. If you don’t know how to play, Tracey will give you enough tips to be going on with and if you have any competitive juices I will defy you to say you did not enjoy the experience. Just make sure you concentrate, and don’t fall over because they say the ice gets much harder the older you get!

Now I hear you saying, if you are still with me: “He doesn’t do any farming these days…” Well, you would be wrong. Just last month I was enticed into buying a brand new hedge cutter (from Bob Horne, ‘Blower’ to his friends, still very active in machinery sales from his base in Chichester) to replace my 40 year-old machine and allow me to get our somewhat overgrown hedges back into some semblance of control.

For many years I have always done the work annually, cutting them back so the fencers could check for broken posts and wires, but we have not worried too much about overhanging branches until they look dangerous. Remember we were dairy farmers, and the herd needs plenty of well protected and shady meadows; protection from wind, rain and sun. Now that’s all changed and we have to be able to get today’s huge new machinery pretty close to the field boundaries, or close enough, without incurring the wrath brought on by the drones, or satellite imagery, used by the over zealous RPA.

These posed no problem with the cattle, because they could graze everything out to the fences, but machine drivers have to abide by today’s latest dictats, whereby if one ploughs a foot too tight it’s pretty certain a letter or email will arrive from some official dogsbody telling you that you risk forfeiting part of the diminishing grants presently available under the Basic Payments Scheme. Personally I hate these schemes, always have, since I was just starting to take over from the Old Man, because I believe a farmer should be able to get fair prices from the market to live without subsidy. If we could do that we could also be free of politicians, the majority of whom simply don’t understand the reason for farmers.

Nevertheless the ‘world still turns’, despite the ongoing infighting about the (hopefully) upcoming removal of a clearly mentally disturbed US President while almost equally deranged British politicians conspire to stay in the EU and squabble, with extraordinary hindsight, over the best way to defeat the virus.
Editor’s note: Nick is free to express his forthright opinions, but South East Farmer has seen no evidence that working with cattle provides immunity to Covid-19. Please stay safe out there.