hay day

Before we moved to the farm, I had a few favorite fields that I always thought were so stunning when they had big round bales of hay scattered throughout them. But I didn't have any idea how hay was made. So here's a quick rundown if you haven't been around a hay field before. 

When there is a 3 or 4 day stretch of dry weather with no rain in the forecast and the hay is tall enough to be baled a farmer will cut his tall green grass (and alfalfa and clover) with a big mowing implement. That grass will begin to dry out. The next day, the farmer might go back over the field with a "tedder" to toss the grass so the hay can thoroughly dry out. If the hay is not completely dry it will either mold in the field (this happens if it gets rained on too many times after it is cut) or will be too moist to bale, or turn into compost in your barn (due to moisture in the hay) and set your barn on fire. Honestly, you cannot imagine how stressful hay making can be! You are threading a needle in time, hoping for sunshine and low humidity.

Once the cut grass mix is dry and ready, the farmer will go over the field for the third time with the rake to move the hay into rows. Finally, the baler is pulled down the rows of dry grass, alfalfa and clover and bales will pop out the other end onto the field or into a wagon. Then those bales are loaded up and put into a barn or as I sometimes see, shrink wrapped in white plastic. Which does not look lovely, in my opinion. But it must be functional.

After the hay is removed, the grass will begin to grow again and in another month, the farmer will find themselves back in the field doing all of this all over again, looking for that lovely window of sunny weather. You can usually get three sometimes four cuttings in a season on one field. This was our first cutting of the season. And our very first ever with our own tractor and baler!
So that's the how-to of baling hay. But then there is a whole other how-to. Like, how to drive a tractor. How to attach a baler. How to thread the baling twine through the baler. And how to do all of this before the rain comes.

At lunch on Thursday Rory looked at me and said, "I have no idea how I am going to get through the next two hours. I have no idea how to do any of this." And I commented that it was probably like jumping in a pool and figuring out how to swim by kicking real hard. He said, "no. it's like someone set you in front of a computer and tells you to start programming." That helped me understand how he felt! This was all so foreign. Just because we bought the tractor didn't mean he knew how to drive the tractor! (A 1969 John Deere drives completely different than a 1981 Kubota.)

Thankfully we had a neighbor and friend from church, Brian, who stopped by to talk him through each step. It really was so helpful to have them there. Rory drove the tractor in circles around the yard, figuring out all the different gears.
Do you notice the clouds that rolled in for this picture? We did too! It began to sprinkle, which put some serious pressure on the afternoon. But it never actually rained or even sprinkled hard. We were so grateful and glad!
And while Dad learned how to drive a tractor, Hattie was learning how to take turns pulling the wagon. Both were working very hard at learning. And Alden brightened the day, as he always does. He just doesn't know where his pants keep going.
Also, we have great neighbors. We had a whole team show up, including the neighbors who cut the hay on Monday for us (we don't have a sickle mower yet) and raked it and were coming by to bale half of the field with their own baler as payment for doing all of that great work for us. Look at that great team!
 And then there was this supportive peanut gallery:
After hitching up to the baler (like backing up a cruise ship to a trailer hitch), Rory was off on his tractor with his baler in tow. When we saw the first bale begin to stick out my neighbor Mary yelled, "it's crowning!" That was the funniest thing I heard all day. Because it was that exciting! We were doing it! Our own hay in our own field was being baled with our own tractor and baler. It was a big deal for us.
Unfortunately when Rory took the first corner at the end of the field, something in the shaft to the baler busted off. The part was very old and possibly cracked already, but fortunately is replaceable. But baling was done for the day.
And because our neighbors are THE BEST, they said they'd just bale the whole field before it rained. They brought over their big equipment and the kids settled in for more farmlife entertainment.
I believe this is the actual definition of field trip.
After driving the tractor and the broken baler back to the barn Rory told Brian, "I consider this a partial victory. I learned to drive the tractor and I actually DID bale hay." Brian said, "That's right. You drove the tractor and baled some hay and then your equipment broke down. And that's farming."

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