There is something sort of magical about haying time. On a farm, haying time is like no other. It’s the biggest gamble that farmers make every year. If we cut, will it rain? Do we have enough sun to get the bales in? To anyone else, it may not seem like that big a deal. But to a farmer … it’s the difference between being able to provide nutrition for all their animals for an entire year. It’s the difference of being able to sell the remainder of the hay or not.
Maybe the uniqueness of hay time has something to do with the anticipation of it. The weeks of watching the hay grow, waiting for that moment when the purple waves cover the fields and you just know that now is the time: before the hay goes to seed, before the stalks get too tough for even cows to enjoy; the constant weather checks; the daily phone calls with neighbours and family (Are you haying today? I checked the forecast and …). For a month and sometimes more, life revolves around hay and all that comes with it.
And then at last comes that break in the weather, the precious three or four day sunny streak and suddenly, the farm springs into motion. The tractors are checked to make sure all is still in working order, and the mower makes it’s way down to the fields. The phone calls are made and though mowing is still just a one-man job, suddenly the community-feel begins to manifest. We are haying. All of us. Together.
That first day of bailing, after the initial cutting and then day (or sometimes two) of drying, has a festival feel about it. After all this time of waiting, we are finally bringing in the hay. The neighbours, who have been keeping up to date constantly, show up, dressed in long sleeves and long shirts on the hottest days of summer to sweat under the afternoon sun. They bring pies, wine, beer, and big smiles. Most importantly, they bring willing hearts and bodies. They know, as well as we do, that without them, haying would be near impossible.
Truck load after truck load come in (stacked in just the right way, mind, so we don’t lose the load on the way up to the barn) and the bales in the barn grow higher. We sweat, our hands blister and hurt, the hay stings our skin and gets in our eyes … and still, it’s fabulous.
But the work on the field is not the only thing happening on the farm. For there is another aspect to haying – almost as important as the hay itself. The party afterward. And so, someone is assigned kitchen duty. The tables are lavished with dishes to fill the hungry helpers. The wine is opened to air, the hors d’oeuvres are put out. When the last load of hay is in, the cool pond is more inviting that any other place on the farm and everyone washes off the sweat, hay and dirt before dinner. Dinner is fun, joyful and delicious. The night ends as people drift home, well fed, exhausted and ready to rest up in preparation of another day of haying.