John was chafing at the bit to get on with the drilling

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THE field John is currently working in has been grass for seven or eight years. We pulled in contractors with a big reversible six furrow plough behind a stonking great tractor to get the job done quickly for us, as the shooting season looms and no time can be wasted. Every time I ask a favour I am solemnly lectured on how much work John is looking at. Every time another invitation drops tantalisingly from the phone, I suddenly hear that said hard working farmer is amazingly free on the day in question.

John followed the contractor with his power harrow, breaking the soil down for a good seed bed whilst it was still friable after the ploughing had buried all the grass and rubbish left after he sprayed the field off.

“Have a look at this seed bed” he said at drinks time.

“It looks like sugar cubes”. And it does. Very evenly sized and most unlike the normal seed bed we get on our heavy land.

“I’ve seen it like this before” John said. “It’s because the soil got frozen to a much deeper depth than in previous years last winter. The freezing and then defrosting of the soil affects the soil composition and I think they call it frost mould.” Whatever, the seed bed and soil look good.

The contractor we use has worked very hard to build his own business and we try to give him work whenever we can. At first we did not think he could get to us until mid week and John was chafing at the bit to get on with drilling up. Then Martin, the contractor, rang. “I can come today,” he said. “Can you tell me which side he wants to start on in the field”.

This is because even though it was some years ago that the field was last ploughed, there would still be the remains of a furrow and he would need to start from there to turn the soil back the other way and prevent it building up into a ridge.

I couldn’t tell him what John wanted because I couldn’t find John.

Despite buying him a mobile phone, he consistently leaves it on the office desk and disappears without it. I spent half an hour chasing around fields and could not see him anywhere. Thick mist did not help and whenever I got out of the Landrover and tried to listen, the continuous yelping of enthusiastic dogs who thought I had taken them out for a walk did not help.

”You’ll just have to use your professional judgement” I eventually told Martin. “It’s his own fault if it gets ploughed the wrong way, he should either let me know where he is going or take his phone with him.”

“Did I get you into trouble” Martin apparently asked an unrepentant John later in the morning when they eventually met up. “No more than usual”

was the reply.

And the phone is still on the desk now.