Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hay Fever!

The smell of hay is the scent of summer. For the past couple of weeks, we've seen an epidemic of hay fever.  Anyone who keeps livestock (or grows alfalfa for people who keep livestock) is baling hay, loading hay, and transporting hay. Alfalfa is agricultural perfection. It is raised and baled on the farm, fed on the farm, and spread as manure on the farm.

Watching the weather (make hay while the sun shines!) becomes an obsession because one good rainfall, at the wrong time in the process, can destroy the crop. Rain is a blessing and a curse. Timing is everything. There's so many acres to cut and only so much time to cut it before the first rain drop falls. The sky darkens. The clouds threaten, and still they cut. They windrow. They bale. They sweat. They plow in the dark, headlights (if they have them) illuminating the clouds of chaff, methodically and deliberately until the last bale is loaded onto the wagons. The filled wagons dot the landscape in every direction. 

A conventional baler throws the tied bales into slat-sided wagon with a powerful thrust machine called a kicker (or maybe that's a thrower?) and are piled up every which way. The bales in the Amish steel-wheeled wagons (which are flat and open-sided) are stacked neatly then pulled to the barn by a team of draft horses, creating a rumble that you first feel, then hear. As our neighbor's team quickly turns the sharp corner into his driveway, I've never seen him lose one bale. One of these days I'm going to help make hay, and Elam's offered to let me lead the horses--they know what to do, he says. Can you imagine me out there in the blazing sun driving the team? I've never even been ON a horse!

During this month's hay-making season, we have cows grazing in the field next to us. At night, by starlight, you can't always see them but you can hear them crunching on the grass, the young bull wailing in the night for no one's apparent pleasure but his own.  Perhaps he has hay fever too.

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