Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"All Is Safely Gathered In"

J. hooks up to the trailer, ready to pick up the baled hay.

J. has been considering that a bale wagon with a loading chute and stacking mechanism would be a good option for our small hay operation. Ideally it would work as a "one-man" system.
In the time-honored way of the male local "grapevine" he learned that a farmer on the next crossroad had one he would like to sell.
We drove over on Labor Day with the old Dodge, Snort'n Nort'n.  I was prepared with a book to read while the men discussed the possibililties.
The owner was quite willing that J. "try out" the machine and if he liked it then the money could change hands.
All afternoon J. cleaned, greased, tinkered the thing.
Later he hitched to it and began the round of the nearer field.  I noticed frequent stops, bales repositioned, more tinkering.
Eventually the machine was parked and J. came in to announce that some of the mechanisms were not operating smoothly and he suspected that also it was designed to work best with heavier, larger bales than he is producing.
Tuesday was another hot clear day once the morning dew had burned off.
J. with an eye on the extended weather forecast, mowed the front field and was able to have Joseph Yoder's help in the late afternoon to bring in two loads of hay and stack them in the upper barn.

My contribution at such times is to drive the tractor slowly around the field, threading between the rows of bales. When J. and I work alone, I keep watch both sides behind me as J. lopes from one side of the trailer to the other, heaving bales aboard and then climbing up to stack them--a craft in itself, of wedging crosswise and length-wise so that the bales don't topple as the load grows.
When we have Joe to help, one man works each side of the trailer. Without discussion, they spell each other as the stack of bales grows higher--changing off the tasks of one heaving the bales higher with each tier, the other clambering to the top of the load to stack.
As a girl, trailing my grandfather and the neighbor men to the hay field, and again during the years that we ran the dairy farm, I marveled at this unspoken synchronicity--an age-old pattern of harvest where each worker has known since boyhood just where his strength is needed.

J.M . Shelley had this bit of the land bulldozed shortly after he acquired the place at auction last September.  I gather there was a substantial hedgerow of trees and shrubbery.  Whatever the intention, the work was left unfinished when winter froze the ground. This stand of yellow daisy-like flowers has taken over the area. I have not been able to positively identify them from my wildflower book--perhaps coreopsis [tickseed?] 
Chugging along on the tractor I became so caught up in the look of the late sun shining onto the golden flowers, I missesd my cue to halt the tractor while J. and Joseph tended to a cluster of hay bales.
I suspect that Joseph's Amish mind-set may ponder the unsuitability of an aging woman who presumes to drive a tractor.
I do not preseume to bring the tractor and the heavily loaded trailer across the wide drainage ditch and up the slope to the barn!
When J. signals that the load is high enough, I set the hand brake, clamber down and trudge up to the house to fetch a pitcher of ice water or lemonade for the sweating men.

A closer look at the plant in question.
J. and I worked together to get the last of this "second cutting" into the barn on Wednesday.
A run up to the Yoder place at the end of the road saw J. back without Joseph, who according to his wife, had accepted a "landscaping job" for the afternoon [this after his 7 or 8 hour day at a local furniture factory.]
The sky was murky with gathering clouds and a nervous wind aggitated the leaves of the trees.  A strange musty, dank, dead smell hung in the air.
I steered the tractor in slow ponderous rounds, standing to put my full weight against the clutch and brake pedals, halting so that J, could load from both sides of the trailer.
The fidgety hot breeze twitched strands of my hair loose from its clasps and fanned them irritatingly into my face.  Several times we felt drops of rain on our bare arms, but as the last load was trundled slowly to the upper barn, still the storm held off.

On Friday morning, with J. packed and ready to leave on a necessary trip back to Wyoming, the rain began.
It pattered softly in the dooryard trees as he carried belongings to the truck, gave Pebbles her morning grain, gave me last minute cautions and instructions. 
I plodded up to the barn again after he drove out, taking fresh water to fill the kittens' bowls.

Moments later I stood at the edge of the carport, looking up at the orange leaves on the maple, watching them flutter down to rest on the thirsty ground.
There will be warm days, blue-sky afternoons of hot sunshine, but the long sweltering summer is over.

Excerpts from Henry Beston's "Northern Farm."
"It is summer, the season of leaves and grass and the ever-changing fancies of the flowing winds, and all day long there seem a thousand things to do.  Weeds and pests are to be fought, and the hay mows filled against the winter: the bright sunshine and the warmth must be made every use of while they last.  The scissor-clatter sound of mowing machines begins the working day; and the afternoon sun beats down on bare backs, the steely gleam of hay fork tines, and the lifted bundles of hay falling into the old hayracks swaying and rolling over these hillside fields.  Thirsty afternoons, and worthy of the pause by the deep well or the battered enamel cup standing by the spring."

" The week began with two hot and 'muggy' days.  So lifeless was the hazy air that there was scarce enough higher wind to float the woolpack clouds through the dulled heavens, and such a breeze as moved low upon the earth stirred no curtains at the open windows of the farm. A third day began with grey cloud and the same passive air lying almost stagnant upon the heated land, but at noon came a change of the wind, a darkening overhead, and the first small, scattering drops of rain.
Oh blessedness and wonder of the rain!  Not for weeks had we seen such drops, and with their appearance the long tension of a dry spell broke like a thin globe of imaginary glass.  Calling and replying to each other across the rain-pitted water, loons began their quaverings and trills: they always have something to say when rain begins. Then to the senses came that first country smell of wet earth and rain, and this was presently followed by a cool breath of air moving with the rain along the fields and fragrant with a faint, cool smell of grass.  A moment later a neighbor's cat slunk past me in the garden, and took shelter under the barn."


  1. Ooh I'm envying your beautiful blue skies!

  2. Good to get an aftermath cut, to help you through the long winter.

    Our autumn has arrived really early this year complete with wind and rain : (

  3. What an evocative post MM. I loved your description of hay making and baling. It is a job that cannot be rushed. Lucky that you got the hay in before the storm arrived.

    Following a season of drought,hay is in very short supply this year, here in the south of England. I am now buying in haylage from the farms of Devonshire, where rain and warm sun have given them a good forage harvest, despite their earlier fears of a shortage.

  4. Haying is certainly a lot of work! Around here, most of the farmers seem to make round bales...which requires a whole new set of machines (that only require one person to operate), and which are way too large to be picked up by hand, and even too big to be stored in the barn i think...most of them are left in the field, sometimes covered with a plastic shrinkwrap or netting.

    I can't identify your yellow flower offhand...might very well be a coreopsis, although the disturbed location and mass of tall yellow flowers makes me think more of wild mustard which is invasive in waste places.