In Which We Catch Up

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 wCherries!eather. 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.

Knitting again.

At last, almost a month later than last year, the call came.

The Venerable Hayhook

A hayhook is a simple tool, so essential to the managing of bales most folks have several. This one is of wrought iron, cut from plain stock long ago and shaped to fit the job. Its handle is polished from long use. It's satisfying to pick up a tool that has served many hands.

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.

Planting garden

Richard calls this my clown suit. They are hand-me-down overalls too small for other likely recipients, a little large on me, but too good to throw away. That anyone thought I might wear them does not speak well for my fashion image.

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.

Our Soil

But we have some garden, and next year’s will be better.

While the garden grew, I knitted some more.

More knitting.

The tomatoes are setting on.

First tomato fruits

The Runner Beans are blooming.

Bean Bloom

Baby squashes are appearing on the bush.

Tiny Squashes

Since last I wrote, the cherries have come ripe.

Cherries waiting to be picked.

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.

Wild strawberry

And, oh, I knitted.

A knitting break in the day's tasks.

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.


Published in: on July 12, 2009 at 4:26 pm  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Have I ever told you that i love your blog? Me, about as city-bred as you can be, and I love your hay, and your cat, and your veggies! But, we are going to have to do something about that gorgeous overall outfit. It clearly needs embellishment or a scarf, flipped elegantly over your shoulder, or maybe a pin or two. You have to work on your accessories!

    I suppose the seed packets aren’t accessory enough?

    We knitters are grand folk, aren’t we?

    Indeed. (And thank you for the kind words. Glad you enjoy it, Ruth!)

  2. Getting in the hay was always a problem in Ireland from time immemorial, because of that same rain. Then sometime in the 60s, silage became the new hay. This is now cut twice in the summer, since it’s no problem for the grass to grow a second time in our climate. Silage is far more practical, but I kind of miss the haying, and the haystacks, tossing the hay to dry it, everything.

    I’ve been chasing blackbirds and robins from the raspberry bushes for weeks now. We’ve had so much rain the fruit isn’t as good as it should be, but nevertheless, I’ve never seen a year like it for fruit, flowers, trees – do you believe the old tradition that a plentiful harvest means a harsh winter? No justification for it, but I kind of believe it myself.

    Yes, we’d better plan our paths to cross at some point…

    Hi, Jo! It’s always a challenge to beat the birds to the harvest of berries and cherries. Don’t know why they let us slip in ahead of them this year. I just brought in a bowl of nice blueberries, smiling all the way. Me smiling, not the berries.

    I do hope we’re not in for another harsh winter. The last one nearly knocked us back. Normally we can hold some of the vegetable garden over the winter. Last year, we had 18 inches of snow and F12 temperatures, and it pretty well slew everything. (Seemed to make a good fruit set for the cherries, though!)

    You never know… one or the other of us may cross the pond one day.


  3. Oh and I forgot to say I love that weskit (vest) you’re wearing in the kitchen and on your Ravatar – the green one. Pattern?

    From one vest-wearer to another, I know you will understand about: pockets! That’s where the yarn goes, and the pattern, and the camera, too. How do people get by without pocket vests? I’m frequently asked if I’m going fishing. (I might be, but any angler knows a fishing vest is much shorter.) No, no patten. It’s a ready-made. Sorry.

  4. The grasshoppers are stripping the hay fields in our county. I feel for those poor ranchers. We travel three hours from here to pick up our hay from the fields of a farmer who is an artisan with hay. The bales are high in nutrients and not too wet and not too dry. But, until we have our 12 ton nestled in the hay shed I’m always a bit uneasy wondering what difficulties he’s facing. Lest you think three hours is a long ways, everything around here is a long ways apart.
    It must be a part of our culture to stay busy as I also knit – on the way to pick up hay and on the way back, at the doctors office, and anywhere else I can tuck it into my busy schedule.
    I enjoyed your blog.

  5. Hi, I’m another wordpress blogger, as well as overalls fan, and my wife is knitting just as much you do, no matter where we are !:) and together with some of your farm girl sisters and other overalls wearing folks, I am organizing an international overalls day on November 20th, so be ready for that no matter what people are saying, I like your blog, welcome to my blog as well, best bibprofessor/Niels

    I will have my bibs ready! (And thank you for the kind comment.)


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