Jump to content
BC Boards

Tales from the hayfield


Recommended Posts

I grew up where the only open land was a park or a vacant lot. I spent endless hours being a wild horse in those vacant lots. The summer I found the old patch of blueberries and blackberries, I was so ignorant that I had to check with a neighbor to make sure they weren't poisonous. They weren't, and I was the only one who knew they were there and picked them for years. I was a young woman from suburbia when I met my husband, and little did we know what the future held in store for us.

 

Fast forward to the present, or at least to my adult (?) future. When we lived in rural western NYS, we started with a small, square baler. I learned pretty soon how to bale with it. I could grease it, string it, and run it. I raked all the hay and baled it all. And helped buck the bales into the barn. Ed has allergies and could not help in the confined air of the barn. A couple of great neighbor boys helped out in the pick-you-own berry fields and helped with haying.

 

In the summer of 1986, I was raking a field down the road about half a mile from our house. A wonderful teenage friend was watching the kids. The boys rode their bikes up to ask if they all could have lunch then and I said they should go right ahead as I could not come in yet. Shortly, John, the nine-year-old, was back at the edge of the hayfield. I was irritated to have to stop again and I signaled for him to wait until I finished my round.

 

When I did and turned the tractor off, he shouted that Jim, the eleven-year-old, had "hit a motorcycle". All I could think at first was, well, did he hurt it? Then the truth sank in as John said Jim had ridden into the road and into the path of the oncoming motorcycle. I ran to the road to find my son unconcious on the far side of the road, and the motorcyclist and his bike in the ditch on the near side. A couple of men stopped their car and were keeping watch.

 

A woman stopped and I sent her to the house with phone numbers (no cell phones back then!) to call for an ambulance, and the two men got out a blanket and kept the son off my boy. The ambulance took us to the hospital where we were informed that Jim would need to be flown by Mercy Flight to Children's Hospital in Buffalo, and we would need to go home and pack and follow in our car, and plan on being gone at least several days.

 

Where am I going with this? After Ed and I drove home, cleaned up, and packed, and left for Buffalo, we passed that hayfield. I had called the two young men who helped us (we were still making small bales) to tell them what had happened and that I wouldn't need their help to gather up and put away the bales that day. We saw those two wonderful young men out there. They raked that hay, baled it, and put it away, and refused to be paid for their help. (Long story, but our son recovered.)

 

After about seven years of small bales, we upgraded to a Hesston that made 400# round bales. Ed was doing the baling with his prized baler until the time that he had to be out of town when the hay needed to be baled. That left me to do it, and I'd never run that baler before. So I got out the book, read the instructions, didn't do too much damage my first time out, and became the de factor baler for the rest of our years in NYS.

 

My personal high was over 100 bales in one day - raked the field myself and baled all the bales. I was a bit tired at the end of that day.

 

One summer, we had a crew of four Amish men replacing a roof on the house we owned on our second farm. Since they did not drive, I went and picked them up each morning and dropped them off each evening. During the day, I raked and baled. One day, one of the men asked Ed how he could let "such a little woman run such a big baler". I wish I'd been there. I could have told him that rolling big bales that we moved with a hay carrier or hay spear was a lot easier on this "little woman" than bucking hundreds of small bales into the barn.

 

One field that I baled that year, a neighbor's field that I did on shares, was on a slope. I had to turn the tractor and baler crossways on the slope to string and release the bales or they would have rolled all the way down to the bottom. Well, that and the fact that the brakes on that tractor were a bit stiff for me to work, so I couldn't hold it still on the slope.

 

Another summer, a friend had asked that we cut and bale their field and so I was a few miles up the road one miserable, hot day, raking and then baling their field. That smaller Hesston baler tended to get clogged if the windrow was too big and I got it good and clogged. I must have made that young man and his family's day as they all came out on the porch with their iced tea (or beer?) and sat and watched the spectacle as I climbed under that baler and struggled for an hour or more to clear a bad clog. And with not an offer of help or something cool to drink. We didn't do hay there again.

 

The only tractor we have now doesn't not have functional power steering and the brakes are (still) a bit dicey for me, so Ed does most of the hay work. I pretty much only rake as we rent a neighbor's tractor for me to use for that.

 

Haymaking is kind of like lawnmowing - it's a great time to be alone with your thoughts and appreciate all the beauty around you, even though you do need to be constantly alert and aware. It's hot, sweaty, dusty, worrisome work. Is the weather right to cut? Will it hold dry through baling? Will the equipment hold up? Will I hold up? Will there be enough to get the cattle through the winter?

 

American agriculture isn't perfect but my hat's off to the American farmer. I know just a very little of what many of them, particularly the small and family farmers, go through to produce the food we all enjoy. Happy 4th of July to farmers everywhere!

Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a wonderful thing to read...good for you!

 

Brought back childhood memories.

Link to post
Share on other sites
My personal high was over 100 bales in one day - raked the field myself and baled all the bales. I was a bit tired at the end of that day.

 

Sue, your post brings to mind my Grandmother's diaries for 1942-1943 --my mother loaned them to me as part of my research for a book.

 

My grandparents had established a truck garden in addition to the dairy and chickens and were intending to selling produce, eggs and poultry to factory workers that had exploded in numbers in the city about 30 miles away, with the advent of WW II. They had little help...except for my aunt, who had just had a baby. Grandmother herself was in her mid-forties at this time...(she was born in 1898). The amount of work a farmer's wife did (and still does) between the morning and evening milking is staggering...Grandmother never said a word about how tired she was....except for one night...she wrote in her diary that she'd set out 2,000 strawberry plants that day and confessed to being "worn out."

 

Yes, bless the American farmers - both men and women.

 

Liz

Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, Sue, this is an inspiring and beautiful piece. Thank you so much for sharing your recollections. We have so much to be grateful for, even in these hard times, and this is such a fitting tribute and remembrance for the 4th of July.

 

Bless you and all our farmers! :rolleyes:

Cheers ~

 

Gloria

Link to post
Share on other sites
Excellent post Sue!!!!!! Perhaps we could continue this thread with stories from folks who have done this sort of work?

I wish! But I think those that really do a bundle of work don't have the time to be posting about it. We are small-scale.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I would disagree with you there Sue, well, in some cases.... There is a great website with the real-deal ranchers who are proud to share their stories, real time, and photos, and who have thousands of acres to handle. I say if they can post, then well, anyone can. And, just because you don't have a huge acreage, doesn't make the work any less important. If that held true, most of the northeast may just as well sell to developers.

 

I wish! But I think those that really do a bundle of work don't have the time to be posting about it. We are small-scale.
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...