When I was a young man I had my dreams and ambitions. There was nothing else for me than to be a farmer! Being the only son of a shop keeper it would have been more appropriate had I wished to compete with Sainsburys! Anyway my early steps towards fulfilling this desire was at a time of great change in agricultural practice. At the end of WW11 horses were still very much in evidence on the farms. I had to learn how to plough, drill and perform other tasks using them, but not for long. At the end of the 40’s decade the Fordson and the little grey Ferguson tractors began to be a familiar sight on the farms. A task that would take all day with a team of Shires or Suffolks could be done in an hour aboard a noisy, and exposed to the elements, tractor. The march of agricultural progress had begun. Farewell to Whitefoot, Beauty and Blossom. Greetings to the mechanized age. Since then if you have lived in the countryside, you cannot fail to have noticed the radical changes mechanization has achieved. This year the machines have reached the maximum size possible, I imagine, if they are to negotiate our narrow country lanes. Sugarbeet harvesters, combine harvesters and tractors with wide flotation wheels take up all available space. In those far off days, ploughing with two horses and a single furrow plough, turning over a nine inch wide furrow would result in walking, by the ploughman, 11 miles to plough one acre! This was replaced to begin with by a tractor pulling a two furrow plough and you jolted your way through the day on iron spade lugged wheels. Recently I watched what could be the ultimate in ploughing. One of those huge green tractors pulled with apparent ease an eleven furrow plough as well as a furrow leveler. To move from one field to the next the plough, by way of an hydraulic system, merely folded itself in half! When the operator was not listening to BBC Radio Suffolk, he was either adjusting the air conditioning in his cab or talking to “base”on his communication system. I have not worked out how far he travelled to plough one acre. I will leave that to the mathematicians amongst you to calculate.
Christmas Day must be the quietest day of the year. If you venture forth to walk off that roast turkey and Christmas pudding you are unlikely to meet a living soul. If, on my own post luncheon stroll, I spot the kingfishers a farmer friend has recently seen on the River Ken, it will make it even more of a really special day.