Some years ago, talking to my neighbour, Ken Smith, about his fitness programme at a local gym, I asked if he had a personal trainer.

Ken, who played rugby for Scotland and The British Lions in the 1950s, replied that, after all these years he knew enough to be going on with.

I have been growing grass for almost as long, so one might think that I should know something about it. Well, maybe a wee bit about how it was in the good old days.

Grass growing and, just as importantly, its utilisation has changed enormously from how we did it even a decade ago, so I need an annual ‘fix’ on the latest techniques, seed mixtures and the ever-developing equipment available to measure it and make life easier.

Last year, we split a 37-acre field at Roxburgh Mains into eight paddocks using the latest electric fencing (mostly Kiwi) and watering equipment (home bred), on the market. Although our management of the pasture falls short of those who inspire me and whose advice I value, even the sceptics admit we have moved forward. Suggestions have even been made that we split up other fields.

Most of the grass at Roxburgh Mains is temporary, so ploughing out after four or five years redeems our mistakes and allows us to start again after a year or two growing grain.

At Huntlywood, which is 300 feet higher, pastures are longer term so, for some of the fields, a cereal break would be unprofitable. Nevertheless, experience teaches that a break of some sort would be beneficial.

At Roxburgh Mains, we have two adjoining fields of permanent pasture. They grow good grass but cropping is unrealistic because of the high stone content in the soil.

One of the fields, aptly named Purgatory, is reputed to have a stone so large that, in the days of the horse plough, it took a man three days to get from one side of it to the other.

In 2013, we renewed the pasture in both fields. In one field we had grown a pioneer crop of kale the previous year. We heavy disced it to get a surface tilth and sowed the grass with an Opico surface seeder.

On the other, we sprayed the sward with Roundup and after a fortnight sowed the grass seed into the turf with an Aitchison slot seeder. The grass in both fields came well and continues to look fine, however it is noticeable that weed grasses, the bane of my life, are much worse in the second field.

For pastures which are destined to be longer term, the pioneer crop may in time be better value than the economy of the direct reseed.

Some of the grass fields at Huntlywood have been down a long time and will no doubt be reseeded over future years. As on most farms, the ones nearest the steading are being improved first.

After decades in permanent pasture, we took a wheat crop off 'The House Field' and, after ploughing, reseeded it with a grass mixture with no clover in it. It looks well and now we are splitting the 11 acres into four paddocks using the same New Zealand type electric fencing and ‘fast flow’ water troughs we used last year at Roxburgh Mains.

The next candidate on the list is particularly well sheltered, but is so wet in the winter we can’t stock it. We cleared the outfalls which were in the surrounding woods using a huge tracked digger with a ‘Steel Wrist’ which munched heavy scrub and cut or extracted medium sized trees like a skilled dentist.

One of the newly-cleared outfalls now allows water to flow copiously. Further up, an area – after a month – still remains too wet to walk across. Whether the drain is blocked or whether the slots in the pipe are choked with ochre remains to be seen.

I have been round the field with my Dickey John soil compaction meter which sure beats howking holes with a spade. Soil compaction, for me anyway, is something of an inexact science.

I think that there is a compacted layer about six inches down. If we get a long dry spell during the summer we will try various hired grass subsoilers to see if we note an improvement in the sward and to see which machine works best.

Grass subsoiling was a hot topic in 2013 after the appalling summer of 2012, which with 1985 was the worst I can remember and much wetter here than last year.

I went to see various machines on demonstration. One, which did a good job, pulled up stones which counted it out for Roxburgh Mains. It might work well at Huntlywood, where we don’t have a stone problem. We will see!

At Upper Huntlywood, financed by timber sales, we have replanted the woodland areas, which we harvested in 2017, with Sitka Spruce in some areas and sessile oaks in tubes in others. The oaks came from forests in the Paris Basin where they have been selectively bred for centuries for strength, straight grain and superior timber.

After a century or more of giving shelter, habitat and beauty they will be crafted into the finest furniture, ships or buildings. Later this year, we plan to plant a further area of cleared woodland with sessile oaks and copper beeches under the Borders Tree Planting Scheme.

This covers all costs up to £1000 per annum and lasts for five years so should really enhance the farm and in time provide an income for future generations.