$400??? Now how come we can’t make something like this with a couple mountain bike tires and a bunch of tines??? You KNOW I’m gonna be thinking about that design project for days now!!!
Well, they say you should make hay while the sun shines. Of course, anyone understands that saying with some understanding, but let me tell you, until you have a field of hay that is mown and dried and ready for harvest and two days of rain storms threatening to hit around 4 am… you don’t really know what it’s all about. The hard work. The sweat. The darkness falling with the rumble of distant thunder.
For the last three days my dear daughter Maggie has been working on our back pasture. It’s a bit over a half acre in size. Until Sunday, it was three feet tall with the nicest, sweetest grass, clover and a little Queen Anne’s Lace in there for color and flavor. It’s not got a single thistle or weed in it. My buddy Bill says if he was a horse, he’d want to live out there. And I believe him. He’s been a horseman for 75 years. And it’s not fenced yet, so it’s not safe to let the hoof stock out there. It’s a goal… soon.
She’s been mowing it down for three days now. With a push mower. It’s got those little front wheel drive things but in three foot grass that really doesn’t amount to much more than a waste of gas. Mowing grass that high is like two steps forward, sixteen back. You have to go slowly, and lift the mower a lot. If you push it, you will stall it. Every 2 foot square of the mower’s deck is a little victory, a siren call to keep going, more, more…. another 2 feet, 4 feet, and then 10! You begin to see just how long you can keep the little mower going without stalling it, like there is some sort of rural olympic event in tall grass mowing… and you’re gonna win.
And behind you is a trail of grass. Long grass, chopped up some, but still at least 6 inches or maybe 10 or 12. It’s mulched, a bit, but mostly it’s just long chopped grass laying on top of the rest of the shaved pasture. You can’t use a bag on the mower, because it would clog up in about oh, 2 minutes. And besides, we can’t find our bag! We think it’s buried in our shed. Another project, another day.
So Maggie has been mowing and mowing and mowing. And Jessy and I have been raking and raking and raking. When you make hay, you need to sun dry it. You need to turn it over, fluff it up a bit and let it dry completely. Damp or wet hay will smolder in a barn, in fact, it can even catch fire! You have to give it enough time to dry out good. And if it rains on the stuff, you have to start over, you have to dry it all again. Fluff it, turn it, rake it more.
And when you look to the skies and you feel the humidity turning up to the highest notch, you know rain is coming. You can check the news or weather.com, and you can see that two days of storms are heading your way and that you have six or maybe eight more hours to get this done, to get it loaded up and under the protection of a barn or a shed NOW.
Make hay while the sun shines.
Wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow we fill up. No one is talking anymore. It’s just work, lift, rake, pack and tote. You can hear the buzz of evening insects falling, you can hear the sound of the rake as it passes through the grass, you can see the farm kitties playing in the edges of the field and you can hear your heart beat. Your arms ache. Your hands have blisters. You are covered in a sheen of sweat that just never seems to go away, yet, is oddly tolerable. You have a goal and it’s that last load of hay in the barn and a hot hot shower to sooth the day’s work.
All this for about 5 or 6 bales of hay.
$30 on the market today.
I’ve never worked so hard for thirty bucks of grass. None of us has. I smile as we dump the last load in the feed barn in this big pile. Maggie tells all the hens in there roosting… “No jumping in the hay ladies!” We all laugh. Cody is standing at the barnyard gate, drooling. Nickering softly as if to seduce us into letting him in to test it’s quality. He knows what we have been doing. He’s already eaten about two wheelbarrows load during the day, him and the sheep. Pretty soon, all the sheep are standing at the gate too, like orphans on the streets of London, waiting for the charity church supper to begin.
I can’t help but wonder how pampered we are today. For thousands of years of mankind’s memories, this was the way it was. Sure, they began to adapt horses and oxen for helpmates, but it was still slow going. It was a huge part of their lives, the constant struggle in agrarian lives to put up enough hay and enough feed and enough food for the family to make to the next summer when it would begin again and again for year after year, decades after decades.
We like to think that our comfy lifestyle is so set in stone and it’s been this way for years. Yeah right. Heck, cars and machinery really has only been around for the last 100 years or so, okay, maybe 200. And that’s pushing it because most people did not have access to the latest, greatest in technology. There were still people with horse carts in the 20′s you know… and still doing a ton of manual labor on farms to feed the world. And 200 years ago, most people lived an agrarian lifestyle. Because you had to have a lot of people working hard to make a stab at survival! Sure there were craftspeople, bureaucrats, scholars and others, but they all eat and they all want that pony cart for their errands and the wagon to take to the fair and that means feeding animals. Raising their fodder. Making hay.
One thing that this little farm is teaching us, is that work is a good thing. It’s hard and it can be rough on the hands and the old knees, but when you step back and see what you have done, it’s so rewarding. It’s contentment delivered with an ounce of sweat and it feels good. We don’t work this hard all the time, we really don’t. And to be honest, I think fencing the pasture in and letting the animals graze it is a much better model of efficiency. But until that time, we did what we needed to do. And that’s the thing that counts. It’s done, it’s in the feed room, it will feed the animals for a week. That $30 can go towards something else. Like bulk produce at the farmer’s market tomorrow, that we can can and freeze and enjoy when the snow flies. Sure, there are grocery stores all over the place and no one really needs to put up all their food for the winter anymore. But you know, it’s just another one of those work things that is super rewarding.
Especially when you don’t have to go out in the snow to that grocery store when it’s 20 degrees and blowing winds. You can just snuggle up and keep reading that book, with your goodies from the pantry keeping you content and warm. That is the return for your hard summer sweat.
Ain’t nothing better.Pin It