IF YOU are ever at a loose end in Edinburgh, a visit to the National Museum of Scotland is a great option.

I had some spare time before watching my son playing the bagpipes with the massed schools band at Edinburgh Castle in the evening – imagine that, many different organisations joining together to produce a more harmonious and powerful noise than they could as individuals, rather than a cacophony. If only it happened more often in farming and politics.

Metaphors for the current political landscape both north and south of the Border also abound within the museum’s graceful structure. Tim Peake’s capsule is there, the scorching and scars on the outside testament to its fiery and precarious journey back to terra firma.

One sympathises. Big, revolutionary changes of direction tend to produce a lot of friction. It’s also probably a good idea to know exactly where you are going to end up before you set off into the big blue yonder.

Moving on through the museum, you come upon a gallery full of old aircraft and steam engines. Looking over this obsolete machinery made me think about our own farming operation and how we decide when to replace things.

When it comes to machinery, we work out a cost per annum for our tractors based on depreciation, repairs and initial investment, and when buying a new one becomes cheaper than continuing with the old, we change it.

We will change vital kit a bit earlier to avoid losing precious time on repairs at busy times. One shocking fact is that the value of the fuel used by the tractor will be far more than the cost of the tractor itself, so it’s often worth spending more for a more fuel efficient model.

Investing in autosteer also saves a lot of fuel which, I suspect, is not always considered.

Livestock replacement is a bit more complex than machinery, of course, and as I walked past Dolly the sheep, looking a touch careworn in her glass box, I spent some time trying to work out the best age to replace our Blue-greys, but every one is different.

There isn’t an average age when we should change and each cow needs to be judged on its own merits. We recently culled an 18-year-old which had a very good calf, purely because of its age, but some cows go much earlier.

Perhaps it’s better not to be too quick to cull, as the first two calves of a replacement heifer will not be as good as a mature cow, so the higher the turnover in breeding stock, the higher the percentage of below average calves we will have, as well as having a higher depreciation cost on the cow.

What about us, we happy band of farmers? When should we be put out to pasture? I think probably the same rule as cattle applies, we are all different, but I know many farmers who never fully retire (we have one here and he is much appreciated).

Mixed farms, particularly, benefit from having two or three generations mucking in. I know ours certainly does. Just don’t let the senior partners anywhere near the shiny new machinery!

Back home, what a remarkable spell of weather we are having. I have never seen it so dry at this time of year and it is producing some unusual farming in the district. My near neighbour is irrigating his wheat quickly before he has to start on his tatties, which is quite a smart move, with wheat prices going in the right direction.

Grass is in short supply here with the grass on the links burning up and I hope that the links of Carnoustie a mile down the road are being watered regularly in preparation for the British Open, in July, or the rough will be negligible and the toughest links in the world might not bare its teeth.

As it is we are going to bring in our fattening bulls this week to give us more grazing for the cows and spring calves. We are already irrigating potatoes, with drip irrigation on beds for the field near the shore, and a rain gun for the rest.

We always do our light land in beds rather than drills, as there is less surface area and consequently less moisture loss and more efficient use of water. It also means we only need one drip pipe for each bed, and far fewer green tatties too. It does take a while to set up, but once it’s in, it is very satisfying just having to push a button to water 12 acres at a time.

The light land also needs to be watered little and often, which would be impossible with a rain gun.

Strawberry crops are looking excellent and tasting delicious – although they are in polytunnels, they still respond to warm dry conditions. They were still 10 days late to start, however, which has meant that we are getting six weeks worth of strawberries compressed into four weeks.

Provided the weather improves in England, where most of them go, we will be OK for sales, but as I write this on June 5, we have moved a percentage of the crop into larger kilo boxes to compensate for the rapid flush of fruit – grab a bargain while you can!

The same compressed season applies to cereals. No sooner did we finish sowing spring barley than it was through the ground and we will be applying an awn spray to the earliest sown fields as you read this.

Wheat is the same, with ears starting to poke through and suddenly we are not looking at an early season, rather than a late one. The field beans have just had their first flower spray.

However, more often than not the weather seems to average itself out over the season, so enjoy the sun while it lasts everyone, for rain is surely just around the corner.