It seems we have let things lapse here. We see patient readers have been checking in, perhaps only to sigh and move on as there is nothing new to look at. We’ll try to do better.
Summer has come roaring in, full of busy days. The annual rite of bringing in the hay commenced, in mercifully mild weather. Most usual haying temperatures reach the F90s or higher. This year we had extended spring rains to delay the process. For weeks, two days of brilliant sun would be bracketed by 3 of rain; and rain, for hay, is early death. As the stems rose in the fields waiting for a forecast of weather fair enough for cutting and drying, barn lofts grew emptier and emptier. Growers worried their grass might lodge over in the rain and refuse to stand upright again. Baling machines stood idle. Shepherds watched the days pass on the calendar, through June, July coming up.
Haying requires a dry day to cut, a couple of dry days for the fallen grass to give up its dampness in the field, to be raked over and give up some more, and a day to bale and collect the bales out of the field. When it happens, the County roads are busy with trucks and trailers moving hay from one farm to another. Grass is life for livestock. If you are like us, with little field acreage, you buy your hay from someone who has lots of field and few animals. It is a time in which you push back plans because you cannot plan for the schedule of the field. We assemble some strong arms and backs to help. They come with patient men who know they’ve committed to an uncertain date. Yes, they’ll help with haying. Just call. We borrow trailers and pickup trucks to go with the strong arms and backs. We hope they will all be available when the date finally comes. We wait on the weather.
In the meantime, I knit.
At last, almost a month later than last year, the call came.
We buy our hay straight from the open ground. Our friend, Lloyd, calls when the baler is making his rounds of the field. By evening of that day the hay will be dotting his acres in neat bundles waiting to be collected. They don’t stay there long. If you do not collect your hay promptly, someone else will get it before you. It is an exercise in urgency, this getting in the hay.
It’s far cheaper to buy hay this way, with our own labor in loading and unloading, than to get it from a grower who has stored it (his labor in lifting, lifting again, and stowing), or to have it delivered. We pay the strong arms and backs, certainly, but they are working for us, and it’s not nearly as dear as if we were paying a middle-man.
We ran into difficulties with the labor pool. We don’t need many hands, but we need more than just mine. This year R. has been laid up with a painfully infected leg wound, and found himself disabled in the days running up to, and through, and after, haying. That has been a long and frightening story of the vigor of small organisms. You are spared the details here. It seems all will come well at the end, but we were seriously concerned for quite a few days.
In any case, as haying goes, his was a pair of hands not on the job. I thought I had lined up two likely fellows from the construction crew, but when the call to the field came, they were reminded by their distaff side that it was apartment-moving weekend, and I could nearly hear the scolding they received clear from town. “You agreed to do what?” In the end, our friends Elton and Dan came over the horizon to help. They arrived at the field early on a Sunday morning, pickups and trailers at the ready. The three of us put away about 5 tons of hay in good time. Then Dan drove off to another field and another barn to fill. I think Elton went to find a steam bath. A city man, he’s unaccustomed to these bursts of labor that come on a farm, and it was a gesture of fine character that he came out to help.
So: hay is in.
Since last I wrote, we found time to till and plant some garden.
The garden is slight by our usual standard. The plot lay fallow the last two seasons, awaiting the installation of the new septic system (Two seasons because of… delays. When it was first supposed to come in, it didn’t. When it did, it fully missed the vegetable plot, and we could have planted anyway. Details elsewhere, and probably not worth looking up.), which meant breaking ground all anew this year.
This is the quality of soil we enjoy here. It’s officially called Jory Clay Loam, though the loam proportion is difficult to find. When I say “breaking ground,” I do not speak metaphorically.
But we have some garden, and next year’s will be better.
While the garden grew, I knitted some more.
The tomatoes are setting on.
The Runner Beans are blooming.
Baby squashes are appearing on the bush.
Since last I wrote, the cherries have come ripe.
Odd as it seems, the birds have let us have most of them this year. We have a riotous population of crows in residence, and the usual assortment of small brown birds. All of these happy to beat us to a good portion of the crop, and I can’t figure out what they are thinking, to have left all those beautiful, sweet gems hang there until I came for them. Most of the fruit has gone into the freezer, about 20 quarts. It’s a small tree still, and this seems a handsome harvest.
The wild strawberries are appearing in the woods.
And, oh, I knitted.
That’s our still unfinished house at my back. By the time we’re allowed to live in it, who knows, I may be tired, but I’ll probably still be knitting.