Landlines: Some still believe the saying ‘a tidy farm is losing money’

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There used to be a joke about an award for the crofter with most old tractors sitting about in various stages of disintegration. One potential winner I saw had 17.

I guess the joke is over now when there are so many collectors/restorers of vintage and classic tractors, a hobby that supports several magazines as well as suppliers of rust remover, new paint, sticking plaster and boilersuits.

But a couple of farms I’ve passed through recently suggest that there are still those who apparently believe the old saying “a tidy farm is losing money.” Heaps of old corrugated iron, an abandoned ancient lorry, nettles growing through dumped machinery, a stone granary with the roof falling in, blocked gutters, and an old car. Carelessness and neglect, but not poverty.

At one of the farms four-wheel drives sat outside the farmhouse door and 100 yards or so up the farm road were big new cattle sheds and a grain store. The only conclusion is that some farmers are like the unfortunates that can be seen on TV reality shows about householders who live in a state of constant clutter or are compulsive hoarders. Living among it, they simply don’t see the piles of rubbish that stun the visitor.

Another expression that springs to mind is “farm tidy”, meaning not immaculate or pristine, but machinery and tractors parked carefully rather than abandoned, rubbish cleared, string and waste plastic bagged up, and no old machinery, feeding troughs, ring feeders or scrap cars sitting about. It can only be a matter of time before we get a TV show called ‘Declutter Your Farm’ or ‘Compulsive Machinery Hoarders’.

I noticed one of those gimmicky new composite, or portmanteau, words recently. “Bleisure” – yes, blur and leisure – has been minted by some management type to describe how for many of us work and leisure morph into each other. That might be a relatively new concept for office types, but it is no surprise for farmers, or for their partners. For many farmers their hobbies have always been an extension of what they do for a living, notably livestock showing or restoration of old tractors.

British-grown strawberries will be available for Christmas – drat, I wasn’t going to use that word until at least December, if then - this year. A warm autumn, polytunnels and modern technology and management will guarantee that. Good news? Not for me. The strawberry season used to last about six weeks and was a special time of year. In recent years thanks to new varieties and polytunnels and expert, large-scale growers the British strawberry season starts in late April and continues until about October. Now we’re told it will last until Christmas. I can tell you at least one festive dinner table they won’t be on.