Our Hay Days

It will be time to start cutting hay before too long, and once again we won’t be doing do it. We outsourced that job last year and I’m already feeling nostalgic about it.

It’s been a year now since we sold our hay equipment. I don’t regret getting rid of it. Even though it feels wrong to me to buy something that we could produce here ourselves, considering how little hay we use it made no sense for us make our own. For the price of the equipment we can buy all the hay we need for a long, long time and we no longer have to worry about maintenance of the equipment. And now when we bring in hay from other farms we’re importing nutrients, instead of just shuffling them around on our place.

But I’ll confess there are some things about “hay days” that I miss.

For us it was always a family affair. Our daughter, beginning when she was about 13, would drive the truck. Our son would stack the bales on the trailer, and I’d toss them up to him. Cherie kept us fed and hydrated (or sometimes she drove the truck and I loaded, if our son was still baling). Those kind of family work days are all too rare nowadays. With our children grown and gone now, they’re not possible here anymore either.

I don’t miss worrying about rain ruining the hay before it’s out of the field, or about putting it up too wet and burning down the barn. But I did like the satisfying feeling at the end of a long hot day of baling, loading and unloading hay, working together as a family. I do miss that.

 

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14 comments on “Our Hay Days

  1. DM says:

    Yep, I hear you. I still have a little OCD in me that enjoys spending a few hours in the afternoon on the back of the baler stacking bales, or mowing. I have a friend who is still trying to straddle that same fence. most of the hay he has someone else do, but still has his equipment, and bales a couple of loads of small squares…I helped him a few summers ago, just because he couldn’t find anyone else. It WAS fun…it had been at least 30 years since I’d done it. I may need to write my own blog post about it.

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    • Bill says:

      Getting it done (usually finishing well after dark) was a very satisfying feeling. I remember loading bales on a warm night with a bright full moon and feeling that weird pleasant exhaustion. Removing it from our to-do list was the right thing to do, but I’m glad for the memories (time erases the anxious memories it seems).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Scott says:

    My kids are 4.5 (boy) and 1.5 (girl). My boy likes helping. Even though he doesn’t help much, you might be surprised, and I love having him around. I try not to pine for the future too much, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t look forward to the family work as well.

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  3. shoreacres says:

    Cooperative work can be a joy, whether that of a family or a different sort of group. Every now and then, I have the chance to work together with others (woodworkers, painters, fiberglass people, etc.) on a boat, and it can be great fun. The projects differ somewhat — haymaking is more limited and specific and getting a boat in shape — but there are similarities, too.

    Coincidentally, I’m heading down the road to Nash Prairie this morning, just to see what I can see. That’s the place I originally found by following directions to “look for the goat on the roof.” It’s never been ploughed, but was used as a hay meadow. Now, it’s natural prairie, preserved for the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      You’re right. Our mushroom log get-together was so much fun (and so productive) that we joked about having a barn raising. Working together to get a big job done is a great expression of community.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. avwalters says:

    It makes one remember the stories of old days, where a community shared equipment and labor, to everyone’s benefit. Some of Wendell Berry’s stories capture that flavor.

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  5. We ended up selling our hay equipment and giving up the lease on 17 acres we were haying. My husband’s back was too painful and repairs on the equipment were too expensive. I miss it.

    I’m now sorry I never took pictures of my family haying together, but I’ve written about it. Here’s a poem written few years ago, now in my collection Tending.

    Haying: June 12

    I follow windrows as they curve
    around the field’s geometry.
    Rows of cut red clover and timothy
    lie yet unsquared.
    Driving our ancient tractor, I’m satisfied
    with a perfect turn, the roller coaster rush
    of throttling up over ruts.
    I don’t care that our finances are precarious
    as the glue holding together my glasses.
    A conjunction of deep blue and green
    plus birdsong, equals peace.

    My sons lift bales from the field
    a smooth ballet of strength
    that plays like baling twine
    unrolling steadily through the day.
    My daughter stacks teetering squares on the wagon
    as her father pulls it, head turned watchfully.
    Afternoon light shines in their hair.
    They call to each other, laughing as they work
    voices held aloft as chaff’s long glittering.
    Even swallowing this day I couldn’t feel more whole.
    Hay piles up in the barn’s dark recesses
    like stored sunlight.

    Laura Grace Weldon

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  6. Nancy says:

    I miss it, too. It was a festive time, hard work and lots of food and fellowship. Going to round bales ended that for most people. We have ours done now but plan to go back to doing it ourselves.

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    • Bill says:

      When I left for college in 1978 I’d never seen a round bale. When I came home many years later I bought a square baler. Round bales just did not compute for me. Of course round bales require a fraction of the work. One person can do it all. If I was starting over I’d probably do round bales, but it doesn’t create the same kind of memories as the all-hands-on-deck square baling days.

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