Jeremy relates a typical very busy day, though it is also the quiet before the storm: wake up at 8.30, coffee and let the hens out, pick mushrooms for lunch, feed the fish. Start a tomato sauce recipe for the farm shop, mend a fence. Mow the wild flowers, pick some vegetables to sell and take them to the shop. Removes the unsold stuff. Check on the bees, and the sheep and lambs, and clean out the lambing shed, with another tractor drama thrown into the mix. Feed the fish again and collect the hens’ eggs, then the day is done. But this is nothing compared to harvesting…
Jeremy and Kaleb are regularly checking the moisture content of the crops so they know when to harvest the rape: it’s now 8% which is perfect. But they don’t have a combine harvester. A a quarter of a million pounds it is a harvest rental. But all the other farmers will all be trying to rent one too. Jeremy rings round but he can’t get one for three days; he can see al the neighbouring farms harvesting with their combines already.
Kaleb calls a friend, fellow farmer Simon, who says he can come round with his combine when he’s finished his final fields. He arrives next morning. They have 1.5 days to get several days harvesting in, as bad weather is forecast. Simon points out that it is extremely usual for the barley and rape seed to be ready at the same time, which adds more pressure.
Jeremy and Kaleb discuss how amazing the combine is — Kaleb admits he’s buzzing all through harvest time. They harvest on the move: once the combine is nearly full with seed, Kaleb takers a tractor alongside at the same speed, and the seed is poured into his trailer. Jeremy takes over from Kaleb but it’s not easy. Finally he takes his full load of seed to the barn and unloads. They harvest well into the night, the bright lights on the equipment illuminating what they’re doing.
Next day the moisture level is too high, and the sky is overcast. They test the barley, which can be harvested with a higher moisture limit, and it’s good to go. Jeremy has nowhere to put the harvested barley though as the barn is full of rape seeds. He gets a last-minute lorry from a grain merchant that day but once it’s full there’s no room for the rest of the barley that they still need to harvest. Kaleb is furious, telling him he should have ordered 20 lorries to be working back and forth all day. Forced to stop harvesting, Kaleb goes home in a huff.
Next day it rains, then the crops have to dry out.
Ellen and Kevin get the lambs weighed so they can go to the abattoir. Harvesting continues, and the produce is sold to a grain merchant. There’s only the wheat left to harvest now, though it needs another week until it’s ready.
Jeremy discovers Wayne Rooney the ram has been found dead in the field; an autopsy shows he died of a twisted intestine. Jeremy is sad, as is Leo, the other ram.
The 96 acres of wheat are ready to harvest. With wheat, it’s quality rather than volume that most determines the price, with good wheat going for flour while poor wheat is used for animal feed. They spot a fire in another farmer’s field, probably caused by malfunctioning equipment.
They get back to work. Later Gerald takes over in the combine — he’s helped harvest the farm for 50 years and doesn’t want to miss this year, despite COVID.
By the end of August they have harvested 546 acres of crops. Jeremy and Charlie take a sample of wheat to the local mill. It turns out the wheat is excellent quality — it has a protein level of 13.5%.(Excellent wheat would get about £185 a tonne. Pet food wheat would get about £155 a tonne). The miller offers £180/£185 a tonne and will send some back as flour for Jeremy to sell in his shop.
The Diddly Squat bottled spring water fails the latest round of tests, as it contains bacteria. Jeremy rushes to the shop (by rally car) and takes the bottles off the shelves. The shop is now well stocked though, with their own rape oil and their own lamb products. Sadly despite the popularity of the lamb, Jeremy has still spent far, far more on raising them than he will make from them. .
It’s September. To celebrate the end of the harvest Jeremy and Kaleb hang a wheatsheaf in the barn. Kaleb has had his perm, but has also been shot in the leg by a mate with an air rifle, accidentally.
Charlie comes over to show Jeremy the final figures. Last year they did £226k from crop sales before costs. This year they did only £137k — that’s £90k lost because of the bad weather.
They spent £68,601 on seed, fertiliser and sprays, and £68,457 on other costs. So the arable farm has made a grand total of £144 profit — after a 7-day week, for a year, on 1000 acres. Charlie says as the subsidies wind down, we could well end up with 30% fewer farmers.
Jeremy looks back on the year and acknowledges that it would have made more financial sense to sell up and live off the interest on the proceeds; yet at the same time the year has been brilliant. He’s done things he never thought he could do, and handled so many jobs: “all in the company of Diddly Squat’s endlessly happy, endlessly dysfunctional family”. However he also wonders if he can do it all again for under 40p a day.
He settles down to a harvest festival picnic with Gerald, Kaleb, Lisa and Charlie. Jeremy says he doesn’t want to go back to London, though Kaleb (jokingly?) encourages him to return there to his friends. Charlie points out he has lots of friends in the Cotswolds; Lisa agrees he’s happy here. Jeremy thanks his team for their help and patience.