Life has hit Phyllis Dalby hard. Her husband Billy just died of cancer, leaving her a widow with children and in sole charge of the family farm, and now James informs her that her whole cowherd is suffering from a parasite in their bronchial tubes. They can’t pasture anymore, as the parasite comes from the grass, which means they’ll have to eat next winter’s hay and expensive feed. There’s no good treatment; it’s unclear if they can be saved.
James feels guilty that he can’t help Phyllis more, similar to the guilt he feels for not helping his parents out more—he’s still considering the Glasgow veterinary job he was offered. He desperately searches for a solution to Phyllis’s problem. All he comes up with is Siegfried’s suggestion for a throat infection, an old farmers’ cure they both know won’t help but also can’t hurt.
Phyllis has to break into her savings to pay for the extra feed. Still, a cow dies. Phyllis tells James she feels like she’s letting her late husband down, and around town other farmers are starting to say she should sell the farm.
Tristan and Siegfried are having a much easier time of it than James and Phyllis. It’s the slowest time of year, and Tristan has finished his work ahead of time in order to listen to a series of cricket matches on the radio. But Siegfried feels he hasn’t earned the time off and needs more education, so he buys a brood of hens and puts Tristan in charge: he needs hands-on experience raising animals if he is to be a vet.
Siegfried has his own job: Mrs. Pumphrey is off to London to watch the cricket matches, and deposits her dog Tricki Woo to stay with “Uncle Herriot.” Since James is busy, Tricki takes to following Siegfried around.
When the hens don’t produce eggs, Siegfried visits Tristan in the barn to criticize him—with a follower in tow. Tristan stands up to Siegfried, following James’s advice that doing so might help make his brother respect him more, and storms out. Siegfried realizes Tricki has gotten into the barn and been pecked by a chicken. He scoops up the dog and rushes him inside—leaving the door open.
Tristan has given James advice, too. James has a date with Helen, having stopped by to check on her after Billy Dalby’s funeral, knowing that she lost her mother when she was young. Tristan advises him to take her to the area’s fancy hotel for dinner rather than the pub: she’s probably used to fancy things from her time with the wealthy Hugh.
On his way to pick her up, James gets the car stuck in muddy water and stains his pants. When he finally arrives at the Aldersons with wet and dirty shoes, Jenny makes her father lend James a pair of his own shoes, to James’s embarrassment. Helen is recognized at the hotel, but James is out of place. They talk about Phyllis and farm life, and James asks Helen if she could ever leave the farm. He brings up the talk that Phyllis should sell the farm, and Helen defends Phyllis. There are memories wrapped up in that farm, and it’s the birthright of Phyllis’s sons. I could never be too far away from the farm, Helen tells James. I can’t expect you—a city boy—to understand that.
James returns home and has a strong drink with Tristan, who has also had a difficult day. The neighbors keep finding chickens in their yard: they all escaped when the barn door was left open. In order to make up for it, Tristan has bought eggs to leave in the barn for the morning, hoping to impress Siegfried, who is out on a date with Diana. (Mrs. Hall spent the evening alone while everyone else was out, somewhat to her chagrin.)
Siegfried is indeed impressed, and tells Tristan that he knows he holds him to high standards. I should trust you more, he tells his younger brother, before giving him a week’s wages—he usually doesn’t pay him. Tristan guiltily admits that he bought the eggs and returns the wages. Siegfried gives them back. We all make mistakes, he says. Pushed to elaborate, he admits that he left the barn door open. Turns out Tristan was successful with his chickens after all, too: the neighbor comes over with a basketful of eggs found in his garden.
Mrs. Pumphrey returns to pick up Tricki, and Siegfried decides honesty is the best policy. He tells her about the peck from a chicken—and she dismisses it. Tricki loves chickens, and is often pecked. It’s nothing to worry about. It seems Siegfried may now also be Tricki’s “uncle”—and he receives a hamper of delicacies as thanks.
James wishes he had good news to share with Phyllis. He fears he has given her false hope and resolves to be honest with her. Siegfried tells him that he can honestly tell her he has tried everything, including the throat injections, and that’s all he can do. Delivering bad news is the worst part of the job, but Siegfried is sure James will know what to say.
Another cow is dead, but Phyllis has hope that the rest of the herd is improving. James disagrees and gives his honest opinion: there’s a chance you could lose the entire herd. He advises her to sell the farm. But she says no, for much the same reasons that Helen listed about the draw of one’s farm.
James visits Helen and tells her about the conversation. You were right, he tells her, apologizing. I get it now. She talks a bit about her mom and memories on the farm. Looking out over the farm together from the roof of a shed, they kiss.