Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Sweet Scents of Summer

After consulting several five-day weather forecasts, J. decided on Wednesday that a rain-free slot of time would allow him to cut the hay on the home meadows.
I have been enjoying the scent of summer which is present whenever I am outdoors.
It is familiar in its likeness to the country smells of my Grampa Mac's farm and of the place we farmed when our children were young.
Some of the elements are easily defined--swaths of red or white clover and tangles of pink or purple flowered vetch are dominant.
Other scents are more elusive, a faint perfume noticeable as I walk to the mailbox, perhaps the dewy fragrance of the blackberry bramble across the road, or a sun-warmed clump of grasses stirred
by a light wind.
Willis the Cat swishes through the tall grass--hunting--and returns with his tweedy fur delicately scented.
From the neighboring pasture, comes a faint but unmistakable odor of cows--not strong enough to offend, part of the half-nostalgic, half here-and-now country living element.

Red clover predominates in this swath of hay drying in the sun.

Uncut pasture beyond a neighbor's fence.

I have puzzled over this bright yellow flower with its tough stem and fern-like basal leaves.
Comparing it to photos in my Audubon Society wildflower book and to numerous on-line photos and descriptions, I beleive it to be 'Long-bracted Tickseed Sunflower'--which is indeed a weighty designation.
Clumps of Ox-Eye Daisies are a feature of roadside and meadow this year.
It is interesting to note that the differences in springtime weather [early heat, drought, chill, rain] influence which native flowers/weeds predominate.
Common Fleabane took over the fields in March; just now Buttercup, the daisies, and the
Tickseed dominate.

A stand of daisies across the road against the backdrop of shrubbery which screens the creek.

An invasive--but handsome--pest, the musk or nodding thistle grows to statuesque heights.
I've read about one plan for control which is to introduce a 'weevil' into areas that are afflicted with spreading stands of thistle.

Close-up of a developing thistle bloom.

Wild Yarrow [Achillea millefolium] is a hardy plant which adapts to many variables of soil and weather.
This plant, growing in a fence corner escaped the mower.

Perfect haying weather prevailed. Sunshine, brilliant blue skies, low humidity and
a light north wind.
I don't usually photograph the old barns from this angle, but had plodded along the southern boundary fence sniffing out flowers.

In this photo taken in 1931 my Dad's older brother, Warren, guides Queen and Girlie as they haul baled hay to the barn.
Neither Daddy nor his brothers continued in farming after their father died.
This photo came to me recently through the generosity of Cousin Tom who is slowly sorting and scanning his mother's collection of vintage photos.

Cousin Tom's great-grandfather Joel Archer used his team of oxen, Buck and Bright, to haul in a wagon load of loose hay.
[This photo, reproduced from glass plates made by Flora Sexton, was used in both editions of "The History of Graphite, New York" written by my great-uncle, Wilford Ross.]

J.'s line-up of tractors and farming implements is ever-changing as he 'wheels and deals.'
Last week he purchased a used 'round-baler' which will eliminate the heavy 'hands-on' loading, stacking and moving of the smaller rectangular bales.
He experienced a rather frustrating 'learning curve' before the machine produced the neatly packed and tied roll of hay he wanted.
His triumph is evident in this photo!
Hay-making tools have become very sophisticated since the days when our grandfathers were gathering in their harvest of winter cattle feed.

I'm not sure why I was required to pose beside the bale after it was removed from the bale 'spear.'
Perhaps to serve as a measurement for its height [?]
I have to say that if a perfumer could capture the scent of new-mown hay, I wouldn't mind making it my signature fragrance!


  1. How lovely that you still make hay rather than silage. Like you I love the scent of new mown hay. Those are fabulous photos of the horses and oxen being used on the farm - it was a different world then.

  2. Great photos with another evocative post MM.

    Not sure about the perfume though - maybe I'd prefer the scented cat fur.........

  3. That looks SUCH good hay and I can almost smell it from here. New-made hay scents should be bottled and sold as perfume!

    I was interested in your round-up of the wild flowers and think I may take a leaf from your book and do likewise today. The sun has now come out and I could do with a walk . . . camera in hand.

  4. With memories of my grandmother's country home and from living in my own country home for 20 years, I could smell every scent you described. Love the daisies and the old photographs.

  5. You solved a mystery for me, Sharon! I now know that the wonderful ferny plant in my garden is wild yarrow. Thank you!

  6. Fresh, mown hay, my favorite scent around here.
    Your next business idea, I like the perfume idea.
    Have a wonderful week.

  7. I can smell the smell in my imagination now. I used to love it when I had horses and the hay would be delivered. I would often stand in the barn and just breathe it in. It was almost intoxicating.

  8. What a lovely post, and I love the pictures, especially the ones with barns, as I am always taking shots of barns.

  9. What amazing shots of wild flowers the thistle ...never seen anything like it before. I really envy you your energy.
    btw I loved the look of your strawberries in the previous post ...mine all died this winter ...I only had a few plants but hoped the runners would add to the yield ...I really do not have green fingers.

  10. Rowan; It amazes me to realize that my parents were born nearly a century ago [!] and that so many changes occured in their lifetimes--horse-drawn equipment to computers.

    Al; Its a lovely country scent--and the cats wear it well!

    BB; Your wildflower walk--with camera--was much appreciated from this quarter!

    Lillian; I am very nostalgic about old photographs. These coming to light of my Dad's family make me wish I had known them when they were young.

    Jane; Learning the name of another flower or bird is always a delight to me. I'm glad my post supplied you with the identity of 'yarrow.'

    Denim; Fresh hay is such a clean sweet fragrance--the perfume industry could do worse!

    Kath; I think a well-kept horse stable has its own good smell--not something I'd want to wear out to dinner, but nice--saddle-soap, hay,and horses.

    Littlebit; I too love the look of barns. These are different than the New England barns I grew up with, but I enjoy the weathered grey look of them.

    Angie; Our strawberries have survived three seasons of odd weather at berrying time--they need weeding. I've thought I should carefully reset the runner plants for a new crop.

  11. Enjoyed the morning walk with you! I will have to photograph the thistle here as it looks quite different...thistle all the same! The round bales are so much larger than the small square ones which we usually get. As you can by the photograph of you with it! ;-)

  12. Summer has come to you while spring still struggles into existence here, after rain and cold winds.

    Wonderful photographs (old and new). I never tire of seeing your old tobacco barns.

    The smell of good hay has to be one of the best. I love it, both newly gathered and in the depths of winter. It is so evocative to smell summer grass and find last summer`s flowers, dried amongst the stems, while feeding the animals on a cold winter`s day .