Whatever could this shadow be?
This kicker wagon holds maybe 85 or 100 bales of hay, depending on how they’re piled. Putting away the first hundred bales is a good warmup, and the next few loads aren’t too bad either; but by the fourth and subsequent loads the novelty is gone and I am ready to stop picking up 50-lb objects.
My heart gladdens when I hear of two strong students who offered to help put away this last load so John could get started on evening milking. . . but my hopes are cruelly dashed a short half-hour later when I try to pin those slippery eels. One changes his mind–he prefers to go play soccer. The other assures me (before supper) he wants to help, but after supper he fails to show up. I used to get righteously indignant about these things, but I’ve mellowed over the years. As dairy farms dwindle in this state, fewer and fewer people have a clue as to when or how work gets done. But those same people can be so endearing, when they talk about the idea of agriculture, that it’s hard to hold a grudge.
I am hot, irritable, and dreading the prospect of unloading a wagon all by myself. It can be done; I have done it before. Single-person unloading means I put three or four bales on the elevator, let it dump them in a congested heap on the loft floor, jump off the wagon to unplug the motor, clamber up into the loft, stack the bales in the bents, climb down out of the loft, plug in the elevator again, hop back on the wagon, and repeat. Even one helper makes a huge difference, but when no help is to be found and the wagon needs emptied, efficiency has no bearing on the situation.
But wait–who’s this?
Tomorrow, if it doesn’t rain, we’ll do it all again. And again, in the next sunny spell after that, and the one after that, until September’s morning-dews and evening-dews come too close together and the mown grass will refuse to dry into hay. So it has been for a hundred years on this farm–solar gains from June and July and August are stored against the dark and hungry winter.
Used to be, winter cold was stored against summer heat too–when nearby Lake Eligo froze hard and thick, farmers cut block ice and packed it in sawdust and chaff so they could cool their milk cans in summertime. As long as we have electricity on the farm, we won’t be keeping up that tradition. Even so, Eligo still matters to us. Today the water is plenty cool for our purposes: