And here it is again: hay time. I’m sitting, exhausted and satisfied, listening to a thunder storm pass over and some rain hit the roof, and knowing that our hay is in the barn. That’s a close one: hay down in the field on Friday, bales on the trailers and in the pickups on Friday night and Saturday morning, hay in the barn Saturday night and Sunday morning, rain on Sunday afternoon.
It’s remarkable how hay season arrives in these hills. It’s been growing all spring, this grass, and we’ve all been saying how it was never going to stop raining so it could be cut. The grass is tall, the sun comes out one day and the forecast is for clear skies for 5 or 7 days, the mowers fire up their machines, the hay is down, the sun continues to shine, the hay is raked, the temperature rises (it is always F100 when hay becomes bales, always, always), the balers drive around and around the fields with their machines, the growers call their customer lists because they immediately fear that they will not sell the hay (but not enough to lower the price), the birds of prey take positions above the newly mown fields where small rodents are suddenly exposed to day, the buyers of hay make haste, haste, to converge on the fields with pickup trucks and trailers because they fear they will not get their allotted tonnage if they are not first on the field, or second anyway, and all of us watch for the rain. Rain can spoil it all. Until it’s under cover, hay is the most perishable of crops.
It all happens, in all the hay fields over the hills, all at once. The balers work long hours, from field to field, one after the other, through daylight and night, to get the grass cut and packaged. They operate the most cantankerous of machines, and they tend to be the most cantankerous of individuals, too. If you grow grass, do not cross swords with your baler. If he is happy with you, he will cut your grass early. If he isn’t, you might wait until the end of the clear spot in the weather, and there you are with grass down and a storm coming on. All week long trucks loaded with hay pass each other on the roads, caravans of them headed to some same farm down the way. Occasionally, at a bend in the road, the remnants of a spilled load are visible. Tie down. Always tie down, and tight. All week, for that 5 or 7 days, trailers are loaned and reclaimed, labor is bartered, muscles flex, neighbors help, farmers groan at the end of the day and flop into bed for the few hours before they go again to the hayfield. The sun shines, the hay dries, the barns fill.
Here is me, filling our barn.
Richard puts the bales onto the elevator and I take them off at the top, because I am the one whose head is lowest and who can stand in the loft without banging myself more than once. Don’t let anyone tell you women don’t sweat. If that was a glow I had going, it was a soppy one.
Here is Richard delivering a bale to me. Don’t see him? That’s because he’s at the bottom, also sweating as he takes the bales from the trailer and sets them on the elevator. And pauses to take pictures.
All this effort has to happen within a very few days: get the hay up and under cover because:
Then it rains.
Those who did not cut grass in this week will wait for the next forecast of clear weather for 5 or 7 days, and the engines will fire up again. As Richard said during this heroic weekend when we put our hay up in the barn, it’s a remarkably efficient network of labor that brings the hay in. Once it begins, it’s finished within days because if it isn’t, that fine hay is out there getting wet.
And ours is under cover now.