Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hay Moments

They say, in this valley, that you need to get your hay out of the field by the 4th of July. Or what? I always thought it had to do with temperature and condition of the grass. Now I understand it has to do with fireworks.

Honestly, I dread the day we have to pull the hay bales from the field. As the driver and unloader, I have the easiest job of all, but I still wish we could figure out how to wave a magic wand and all the hay would miraculously appear in the barn. The day is usually hotter than most, and we often get a late morning start because the dew makes the hay too wet to bale right off.

The process has to be re-learned each year. It takes the first load to get our system down and each year we have some new boys mixed in with the old. There is a pecking order that needs to be established, as in who does what; a plan for stacking the hay in the barn worked out; and the hay elevator needs to be dusted off, set up and tested before we head out to the field.

We use an 18' flat bed trailer pulled behind our old Ford farm truck to pick up the hay out of the field. I drive in low 4th gear as slowly as possible so the guys have time to pick up bales on either side of my path and toss them to the stacker on the truck. The fun part for the boys is to see which of them can toss the bales up to the top row, which can sometimes be 5 bales high. Aiming for the stacker is part of the goal. The tricky part for me is to then drive back to the barn, over the bumpy field, up the hill past the cabin, out onto Honey Grove Rd, and down to the barn without losing either hay or the kid sitting on top of the pile!

In the end, it wasn't a great year for hay. Our crew was a bit younger and less trained than in the past. We didn't pay attention, until it was too late, to how they stacked the first row of hay bales in the barn (they are supposed to be tipped on edge to steady the potentially tall stacks)and we now have one section of bales that looks as if it will fall over at any time. We also missed salting the first row of hay. You salt the bales to absorb any extra moisture since you don't want combustion from rotting hay to burn down the barn. I think we were lucky as nothing has felt hot to date.

And the deal about the fireworks? July 3rd the hay was ready to be baled and pulled from the field, but not until the afternoon. My high school crew failed to mention the conflict with the entertainment out at the Coast until it was about 3 p.m. and then all of a sudden they needed to leave. What?! That left three people over the age of 40 (me, Greg, and Manuel). Lucky for us, John, our 14-year-old neighbor, showed back up in the field only an hour or so after leaving. Girlfriend communication problems with her family, I think. Anyway, he probably imagined us dying out in the field from over-exertion...and he might have been correct. To be fair to the other kids, they showed up the next morning to finish the job, but it felt like an anticlimax.

Anticlimax or not, the hay is in for the year and I don't have to think about it until next summer ... when I will do my best to be aware of firework display schedules and plan accordingly!

Photos: top - our hayfield partly baled; bottom - ready to unload from the trailer to the barn. Sorry, no photos of the crew!

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2008 Scottie Jones

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