Balancing Act

Sights and sounds of hay season are unbeatable

Staff writer

Farming is not an easy occupation, but there are things that make it worth the while. Right at the top of my list is waking up listening to rain falling outside my bedroom window — ahhh, the sweet, sweet sound of it.

Of course, it really becomes a wonderful thing when one knows the first cutting of alfalfa is cut, dried, baled, and stored away in the barn. Now that is the best-ever feeling for small farmers such as my husband and self.

This year, we cut our hay supply down to the wire, feeding our last two square bales of alfalfa to the animals the same day we cut down our first crop of legume hay. For two days, we anxiously watched the sky during 30 percent forecast chances of rain, wondering if we would get it put up dry this time around.

For two days, I also went out to the field every morning and evening, rolling up segments of rows by hand and tossing them in the back of the pickup to cart to the barns and feed our dairy goats. The process made me very thankful for modern day machinery.

The goats loved the fresh hay, inhaled it in fact, but my allergy-prone arms are still suffering. Every year, when we cut alfalfa for the first time of the season, I break out in horrible skin rashes on my arms. It looks something like poison ivy, but I never see any poison ivy in the alfalfa field, I think I am just allergic to the hay itself.

The discomfort of it is not enough to keep me out of the field though. I love hay season. Maybe it is because I grew up with a custom hay-cutter as a father and thrilled to drive the tractor for him when he baled late at night or in the early morning hours.

I still have fond memories of the old Allis chugging along at 2 a.m. in the field, pulling the Massey baler that talked me as we went up and down the rows of dried hay, making and loading square bales of hay.

I always made up words for the machinery — “Let’s get to work, let’s get to work,” or “One more row, one more row.” I can still hear the clank and cadence behind me as I clutched the Allis into gear, always listening for my dad’s “Whoa, whoa!” if a bale came through untied.

Back in those days, it seemed we stopped every five or so bales to fix the twine tier. It was just part of the job.

Last week, as I baled alfalfa with my husband, it went much easier. Knock on wood, but I do not think we broke a single bale. The timing was right for putting up hay and the equipment was in good shape.

It was wonderful to clip along on the big White tractor, the baler chomping up the hay rows directly behind me instead of off to the side as other get-ups we have used in the past. This made turning at the end of rows and planning where to go next so much easier.

A cool breeze lifted the hair on my head and I could see deer coming out from the yonder hedge to eat at dusk.

Nighthawks zipped around overhead relishing the bugs stirred up by our hay harvesting. It was dirty, it was grimy, but it was wonderful.

I love farming. It is not always easy, it pretty much always involves extremely hard and dirty work, but when things go right, there is just nothing better.

Of course, the next best part to having dry hay in the barn is listening to the rain when it comes and knowing the whole hay production process will start over again in a few weeks.

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