It never ceases to amaze me these days when I think about the things I now do as compared to what I used to do, or even what I thought I might one day do…. Yesterday, I went shopping for a plough. Yes dear reader, he who believes in no till farming went looking for a plough. And drove 550km, wasting a tankful of petrol and a whole day to no avail…
You have to understand why I want a plough first…. apple orchards (in fact, all orchards) are planted in wind rows. This is all done for practicality’s sake, it makes it easier to drive mowers and sprayers and harvesting equipment between the rows, and that’s fine I guess (yes, even organic growers spray).
I can understand why on very steep ground such rows may be set up perpendicular to contour, as tractors might overturn when driven across the slope, but really, why plant there in the first place? Windrows that are planted straight up and down slopes, when it rains, such as it is finally doing here right now after the driest (and probably hottest) January on record, encourage the rain to run straight down the hill instead of being retained such as a swale would do. Because of such silly methods, orchardists have to irrigate more, wasting water, which is currently at a premium.
My block was completely planted with apples like this once, and even though most of the trees except for the single hectare left have been removed, the windrows and resultant furrows remain. This makes it very difficult to drive over for one thing, but worse, it goes
completely against all the Permaculture principles I hold dear. And, they will simply accelerate the flow of water down the hill towards the back of the new house, so they have to go.
The block directly above ours was smoothed like this for hay growing by a previous owner, and he told my neighbour, who also wants to remove some of his windrows, that this was the way to go. As Matt owns a tractor or two, I proposed to buy a plough, and we would come to some agreement over powering it over our windrows, which is how good neighbours need to cooperate, in my (and his!) opinion……
I found two such ploughs going at an auction, just outside Launceston, unfortunately. I was very reluctant to drive that far, but, thinking that farmers are doing rather badly at the moment with the drought and the cost of hay etc, I figured I could probably pick it up for a song. I could not have been more wrong….
Probably due to my trepidation at such a trip, I woke up well before the alarm which was set for 5am, and left Geeveston at 5:30 giving myself plenty of time to arrive there before the 9:30 starting time. When I arrived, my heart just sank…… there were hundreds of cars there already, and the auction was bigger than Ben Hur. I registered my interest, and got bidder card number 635….. and people were still queuing up!
I found my ploughs (there were two) but being new to all this farming stuff, I wasn’t really sure what I was looking at. Luckily I met this bloke, with the offputting habit of spitting on the ground every five minutes, who dealt in farm machinery all his life and gave me some pointers on how much he thought they were worth and what state they were in. To me, they looked more like scrap metal than ploughs, but he insisted that if I wasn’t expecting decades of work out of it, it would be fine for maybe two or three hundred bucks, which was already twice as much as I had planned to pay!
There were also four fourteen foot farm gates there I was keen on, thinking I’d be able to pick those up for fifty or sixty bucks a pop. They went first, and to my utter amazement, the bidders went nuts with the eventual winner bidding $100 each plus GST ($110), and I know for a fact you can pick up brand new ones for $115! Discussing this later with some old codger there, he told me ‘there’s dickheads everywhere’!
And yes, you’ve guessed it, my ploughs went for over $450 each, and I returned home empty handed and disappointed. Put it down to experience I guess, but I’m never driving that far for another auction, that’s for sure. People were parting with money for junk that I frankly would not have loaded the ute with if you paid me…… no wonder farmers go bust.