while the sun shines

When high clouds' shadows mottle the hillsides, that's a good hay day.

Whatever could this shadow be?

The tire in the foreground should give you a hint.

Fourth wagonload, and the evening shadows are gathering.

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.

They won't jump out of the wagon on their own--I will have to shift them.

Thankfully the elevator helps. That's Himself, offloading up there in the hayloft.

Happiness is an empty wagon . . . but there are plenty more bales yet in the field.

This wagon is just about full. Load number five and suppertime coincide.

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?

Willing hands! Katie, a returned Peace Corps volunteer, knows the full worth of working when the work needs done. She and my three kids will go up in the loft and stack the hay that I unload from the wagon.

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:

Sundown on the longest day of the year. Summer is officially here. How was your solstice?

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6 Responses to while the sun shines

  1. Kate Tagai says:

    Jody,
    Your writing conveys your voice and cadence so clearly that reading the blog is like having a conversation with you. It’s wonderful. Also, I’m happy to help you toss hay anytime, it is nice to be a small part of a working farm and understand in a very small way the labor that goes into it!

  2. christopher carter says:

    I feel your pain, I used to unload wagons by myself when haying for Neal Urie. makes for a long day.

    • farmerjo says:

      The old folks say, putting up square bales is what drove most young’uns away from farming. I heard the Urie’s went to a round baler now that you’re gone!

  3. Dan Pittenger says:

    Jody! Quit working so hard, you make the rest of us look lazy!

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