How We Know It’s Summer

The farm year goes round and round. I don’t know where it comes out. It just keeps going round.

It’s hay season again. Because of our long, wet spring, hay is late this year, and folks with more animals than grass, like us, have been worrying a little. Grass comes to maturity as good fodder. Once it goes to seed, it starts to lose protein. Fields have been wet, growing on, standing in wait of good cutting weather. A grass man cuts his field when the sun is high and bright, and looks to remain so for a few good days. Once grass is cut, it’s hay alright, but it needs to lie under that sun and dry out before it can be put into bales. Once it’s in bales, it needs to be taken from the field and put under cover. Weather threatens hay at every turn, and when the mower calls to say he’s baling, you want to move your crew into the field toot sweet (The French would prefer tout de suite, by which they mean to say, “all at once.”), get those bales loaded onto trailers, trailered home, and stored in the barns.

We had a few false starts this year, duplicitous indications from the weathermen, hopes raised and dashed, breakdowns of equipment and other what-not details of the season. Strong young men always offer to help bring in the hay, but as time goes by they find other places to be. It’s bad enough to keep willing arms on hold in a normal year, when one is never sure just which day will bring the call but can believe it will be within a certain week, but in a weather-beaten year, time runs on and other promises must be met. When the bales were at last lying in the field this year, it was just the two of us with a borrowed trailer and a borrowed pickup truck and our own doubtful muscle power.

It’s over now, and the hay is in the barn. Here’s the last trace of labor:

the scattered track leading to the barn, a trailer shadow in hay.

The old hay elevator is idle now:


ready to be retired once again, out of the way beside the bee shed. It comes to life only once a year, clatters bales into the loft in its gentle way, and then goes back to sleep for the rest of the months until summer comes around again.

To look up at the hay stacked from loft floor to roof

is a lot like looking at your pantry shelves filled with jars of preserves. You just feel good and sigh. For another year. See the bat house up there at the peak? A season’s worth of droppings had accumulated beneath it, a good sign the bats are in residence.

Let me say, it’s not entirely the calendar that lets us know it’s summer. The days may finally be warm and long, the sun bright, the poppies in bloom in drifts, but it’s the ache in our sinews as we look on that year’s worth of animal feed stored up that says it’s the summer come at last. And going now, again.

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Published in: on July 21, 2010 at 2:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

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