I'm afraid that if you live in the country or work on the land, you are still thought to be a bit of a bumpkin or yokel. Farmers still don't qualify as part of the modern world. So I've decided to try to shatter that image with a new feature called:
Wind farm opens for business today. The turbines look magnificent on the hillside, all spinning gaily in the breeze. Forty of them, at the moment, but come the springtime I hope to extend the herd and expand them into the top pasture. Fresh breeze. All the turbines cracking round. All except no 39, which is wheezing a bit.
This morning I proudly put up my new hand-painted sign at the head of the farm drive, proclaiming: "The Norville Farm Herd of Pedigree Wind Turbines". Strictly, I don't suppose that "herd" is the correct collective term for turbines or windmills, but I don't suppose anyone has needed a collective term for turbines before. It is exciting being at the cutting edge of a technology where the terms are still being invented.
No 39 has definitely got a strain of some kind. It only moves in strong breeze.
No wind today. I had a deputation from the local hunt, saying that when Farmer Wilkins was living here, the hunt was allowed over the land, and could they still come across? I said they could, as long as they used only small, mechanical robot foxes. That puzzled them.
No wind again today. I went down to the Dun Cow, other local, in the evening, and had my leg pulled over my sign. ‘How's the herd, farmer?’ they kept asking. ‘No 39's limping badly,’ I told them. That puzzled them. Old Joe Garston tried to outmanoeuvre me. ‘Where's your turbines come from, then?’ he said. ‘Stuttgart,’ I said. ‘Oh, bloody German imports, then, eh?’ he said.
‘Oh, yes?’ I said. ‘Where do your bloody Friesians come from, then ? Bloody Germany as well. Where do Charolais bulls come from? Bloody France. Even bloody Jerseys don't come from bloody mainland Britain . . . ‘
That shut them up. Back late. Wind picking up.
Had to get the vet in to look at No 39. He said he didn't like the look of the gearing. One of the transmission pieces was bent. He'd have to get a new one. Take a couple of days.
‘I'd let her take it easy till then,’ he said.
‘Her?’ I said.
‘You get to think of them as female after a while,’ he said.
Good steady wind. Lovely noise. Humming, moaning, whirring. . . . You can't beat the noise of a contented herd of wind turbines.
Found a man roaming around the wind field this afternoon. Feared he was a wind poacher. (Oh yes, they exist all right. They rewire your turbines, usually by night, and link them to their own supply. Bastards.) Challenged him. Said he was called Jenkins and was doing research for a book to be called ‘The Thousand Best Tall Structures in Britain’. Likely bloody story. Got my gun and chased him off my land.
Had a call from Phil Reeves, who used to be the agrochemical rep. Wanted to know if I needed anything.
‘I don't do chemicals any more, Phil,’ I said. ‘No more pesticides. No more growth promoters. No more monkeying with nature.’
‘And quite right too,’ he said. ‘I'm not agrochemical any more. I'm agrodynamic now. Dealing solely with the wants of wind farmers. Look, we've got a new line of air fresheners . .’
Sent him packing. Down the Dun Cow in the evening.
‘So how can you call yourself a farmer?’ said old Joe Garston. ‘You don't GROW anything.’
‘I harvest the wind,’ I said. ‘I convert wind into energy. I bypass the whole process of turning grass into milk into butter into energy. I go straight from wind to energy consumption.’
‘Ah, well, it's different with me,’ said old Joe Garston. ‘I normally go straight from consumption to wind. It's even worse after a couple of pork pies.’
General laughter. I fear that I have a lifetime of "wind" jokes ahead of me now.
More of this potential best-seller soon
The Independent Tues Dec 2nd 2003