Jilly D.

Hay baby

In Off-The-Grid Memoir on June 28, 2014 at 6:08 pm

013_10AIn June I put up my peas, strawberries and spinach for the long winter. Growing your own food means your sense of time stretches out. There is no “instant” food. What is on your plate today took months if not years of planning and hard work. The radishes which are ready in three weeks from putting seed in the ground are about as quick a snack as we can grow.

Don’t plant your potatoes before the new moon in June. By then the eyes on last year’s crop of potatoes are going good. Cleaning out the root cellar of what’s left from last year’s potatoes is always a pretty nasty and smelly job.  Sam digs the rows. Then we drop the seed potatoes into the deep trench about 8 inches apart.  I go back over the row and cover the seed potatoes with a hill of dirt. Then we wait.

The start of summer brings sweat and hard, long days in the sun getting all the seeds planted, hoed and weeded. Transplanting tomatoes and peppers into the warm soil gives them a head start.

20100521GH_270Baling hay is as much art as it is science. I always look forward to hay season. Sam drives the tractor with the mower on back and cuts down our fields of waist high green pastures. Then he rakes it into wind-rows. The hot afternoon sun and breeze dries the freshly mown hay. The next day he drives around again raking windrows into fluffed up piles for another day of drying. The third day he rakes again and sees if it’s really dry.

Wet hay will burn down a barn. If it doesn’t burn, it molds. Wet hay is a costly disaster. Once the hay is dry enough to bale, I get to play at this game.

Sam drives the tractor. Behind the tractor is the baler. Behind the baler is a flat open hay wagon. That’s where I am. It’s a pretty bumpy ride. Barn boots are necessary to remain standing.  The hay bales bounce out of the baler onto the wagon and my job is to stack them. The hay is scratchy and the chaff gets in your hair, coats your sweaty skin, and itches inside your boots. If you aren’t wearing gloves and long pants you are in for some serious hayburn.

I grab a bale by the strings and toss it into place. Four bales wide on the bottom level for two rows and then you start stacking up a level laid in the opposite direction. I can handle the first dozen bales no sweat. As I start having to lift the bales up further and further, I go into one of those Lucille Ball moments, reminiscent of the chocolate candy factory episode. I can’t keep up. Sam can’t hear. I’m yelling for him to stop.

He gets down off the tractor and jumps up on the wagon and helps me reposition the bales so they won’t fall off and I can stack more on as we make our way around the field. When all the hay is baled then it has to get under cover before evening dew sets upon it.

Sam needs my help getting the hay bales into the barn. He sends them up the mow and I grab them and stack them. He expects me to throw a hissy fit because it is so hot up in the mow. So I do.

“Stop. Stop. STOP.”  I can’t keep up with conveyor belt of hay bales. Doing hay is incredibly strenuous aerobic exercise and the hay loft temperatures under the hot tin roof are over a hundred degrees.

When we are done I strip butt naked and jump in the pond to cool off and get all the hay chaff out of every bodily orifice. When you bale hay it is as close to the feeling of having sex as you will ever find. Your entire body hums. You are spent when it is over. It takes years before you get any good at it and really enjoy it. Making hay is a natural aphrodisiac. Like sex, it is a natural sleeping aid.

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