I said I’d keep you up to date with the other things we were doing apart from Christmas Tree work. Well this time of year is completely hectic with the cereal harvest. Here at The Christmas Tree Farm in Billingley, we farm approximately 1000 acres, made up of the main farmstead on a long term tenancy and then several hundred acres on short term tenancies or on contract farming agreements.
The majority of land is assigned to arable farming where we concentrate primarily on wheat and oilseed rape with some barley and occasionally some beans. When the crops are ready to be harvested, there is a short window of opportunity to combine the crop and store the grain, before the crop starts to deteriorate. As farmers, we are at the mercy of the weather and crops can only be harvested at the appropriate moisture levels. That means each crop has a sample of grain tested for moisture content before the combine will begin its work. Any rain increases the moisture levels and makes the straw hard to cut. Therefore the crop can only be harvested when it is dry. Furthermore, timeliness of harvest ensures that the crop for the following year can be established in the ground at the optimum time. As you can see, this is a high pressure time of year.
Andrew will spend 9 to 10 hours each day on the combine and weekends do not exist. From an eight o’clock start on the farm, he does not finish his day until approximately 9pm, although this varies and can be earlier or later dependant on the season and the weather forecast. He likens it to a 9 hour flight each day, not even stopping for lunch on most days. Needless to say, this is not his favourite time of year, although the children love it, taking dad drinks and eats down to the combine and hopefully getting chance to have a sit in the passenger seat! I must confess to also having a soft spot for harvest, the smell of the wheat and straw stirs up childhood memories for me, however cooking dinner at 9.30 at night is not always something I relish.
The attached pictures show our combine in action from outside and from within, looking through the windscreen, when harvesting oilseed rape – for oil to cook your chips in!