'Every year the days go faster. A harvest more is a harvest less'.

I borrowed these words from Christine Muir from her book 'Orkney Days', which is a compilation of the articles she wrote in the 1970s in The Scotsman about life in the Northern Isles.

She was brought up in Leith and moved, on her marriage, to a farm on North Ronaldsay. She describes in the most exquisite language a lifestyle which had disappeared lang syne elsewhere and which made my own hill farm in the Lammermuirs look cutting edge.

The titles of her short articles 'Seal song', 'Merry dancers' about the aurora and 'The passing of ships' paint vivid mental images. The sounds too – the whirr and clack of the binder, the honking of geese flying overhead and the boom of the foghorn conjure up thoughts of timeless things. The little book is, for me, a treasured possession.

A harvest more and a harvest less. None are the same and this year’s was as easy as last year’s was difficult. I am the grain drier operator. I got this job by default as no-one else wants it. I am, however, grooming my successor!

I took over our Alvan Blanch continuous flow drier when we moved to Roxburgh Mains in 1993. Even then it had some age. Now, like me when I have climbed up and down the near vertical stairs and ladders all day, it creaks and groans.

I have learnt to recognise every clank, squeak and rattle. Some are inconsequential and others require immediate action and know how. For most of the time, the work is slow moving and boring, and the dust, which seems able to elude our dust masks, irritates my throat for weeks. For all that we have always got the job done.

It is much easier now as we don’t now grow wheat, a greater part of the farm is down to grass and an increasing amount of the barley is treated moist with Maxammon.

The oats get fed to our sheep and cattle which allows some tolerance of standards. This year, the oats came off the combine below 15% moisture, so we only had to dress it. It took the same time and effort as drying, but saved fuel – which is 40% up on last year.

Like with most things on the farm, nothing affects harvest so much as the weather. I have just watched doomsayers on breakfast television warning us about global warming. I didn’t see too much of them last year when summer and autumn were cold and wet.

Maybe the earth is warming. It has always warmed up and cooled down throughout history. Whether this time it is due to the hand of mankind, who knows, but it is certain that the process takes centuries. The facts often get in the way of a good story.

We have a field at Upper Huntlywood which was very unproductive and has been re-seeded. The sward consisted of Yorkshire fog, meadow foxtail, crested dogstail and various meadow grasses whose only virtue is durability. The field is beside the steading and much of the livestock from the outlying fields travel through it when they come in to be handled, so it gets above average wear and tear.

It is important that not only must it be productive, but that it is able to resist poaching. It was important, too – and this reflected in our choice of seeding method – that the field was back in action in the shortest possible time.

I remembered the amazing transformation of the playing pitch at Murrayfield. The turf had been lifting in chunks during play and, within the four or so months of the close season, had been changed to a sward which could withstand the gouging and tearing of the most brutal scrum. This was done by sowing the grass seed into a matrix of artificial grass.

Now the grass is 97% natural and 3% polypropylene, which was implanted 20cm into the soil and in rows 2cm apart. It was then trimmed to the level of the grass. From start to finish, the process, which also involved mixing the soil with special sand to help drainage, was completed in four months. It can now withstand three times as much match play as natural grass.

So, we started by subsoiling the field with an Erth grass subsoiler. The turf was so strong it never broke except where the legs of the machine cut through. In operation, it rippled like someone moving a walking stick under a carpet.

We sprayed the field with Roundup and a fortnight later sowed a five-year mixture directly into the turf with a Moore Uni-Drill. With the very dry conditions, germination was slow and for a long time the field looked like a bad shave. When the rain came we spread 250kg/Ha of 34% N which moved the grass on and now we will stock it sympathetically with ewes. It is hoped that the whole process will duplicate naturally the effect the artificial reinforcement had at Murrayfield.

A main concern for most livestock farmers this summer has been the shortage of straw. We, like many, had no carryover from last winter and our own crops were light, so we appreciated those grain farmers throughout the country who normally chop but made their straw available. I hope it was lifted and paid for promptly and they got more for it than the value of its P and K.

I was raking up the remains of a bale which had fallen off a trailer on the farm drive. My Irish neighbour was passing. He stopped, wound down the car window and reminded me that: 'Straw's worth more than gold'.