Tag Archives: farming

My Last Hay Field

This evening I am feeling wistful. I have cut my last hay field. Over the Memorial Day weekend, I had a window of sunny, dry weather. It was perfect for making hay. So I did.

Last summer I made close to 1,000 bales. Most of that hay was unloaded and stacked in the barn by me. I had a helper once in a while. Otherwise, I was on my own. The trouble is I tore my rotator cuff when pitching all that hay. I ended up in surgery in January. My doctor told me no more manhandling hay.

I intended to sell the hay equipment on Craigslist. Then the nice weather came, and the tall grass beckoned. I had to test the equipment out to be sure it worked before selling it, didn’t I?

There’s a wonder for me in farming. My ancestors farmed, on top of running businesses or teaching students or treating patients or working in laboratories. Though they had other “white collar” employment, they farmed. I have an M. B. A., and I write. Yet if I could, I would farm full-time.

That is, when I am not sailing, traveling, gardening, cooking, horseback riding, hiking, mischief-making, and spending time with family and friends. Yes, I would farm.

last hay cutting 2013

When Life Throws You a Curve Ball

It’s crazy. Just when I have plotted out my life for the next umpteen months and settled back to work the plan, Life throws me a curve ball. It shouldn’t surprise me.

Enough seasons have passed through my earth-bound existence that I should know better than to think any long-term plan will play out exactly as I have envisioned it. It must be the optimist in me, for I keep planning.

Or maybe it’s my insanity. You know the old definition of lunacy: doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different outcome.

However, my recent roadblocks are just that–little obstacles. The unanticipated hiccups don’t really change my plans. My destination is still the same: write books. Now, I will have a few detours through unfamiliar neighborhoods. That can be a good thing, right? It adds color, dimensions, flavor to my collection of life experience.

I’ll stop rambling and be more concrete.

I make my living by farming. I make hay, cut wood, and grow vegetables for selling. This year I planned to add the sale of landscaping stone to my product line. Due to another hiccup in my life plan, my way of making a living was to be more important than ever in 2013. But. . . .

Karma has other plans. I have torn my rotator cuff. I am scheduled for surgery soon and will be convalescing for six months afterward. No farming this season. No farming means no income.

Thankfully, there is nothing wrong with my brain. So I have to ask myself, is the Universe clearing a path for me to write?

High Winds–or A Lot of Hot Air

By now you have figured out that Hubby and I are what some might call hobby farmers: we farm, but at least one of us holds a job to pay the bills. And my husband’s pet project on the farm is hen husbandry–er, I mean, he likes his hens–er, what I really mean is he likes to eat eggs, and he thinks having hens around is comical, and he likes taking care of the chickens.

Anyway, in the midst of Hurricane Sandy, a friend from Arkansas called my husband and asked how his hens were faring. Hubby told the following whopper:

I wrapped myself up, being sure to wear my hard hat in case of any flying debris, and went outside to check on the chickens. Fay, who doesn’t enjoy the chicken chores, forgot to close the side screened window on the chicken house as well as the back hatch door that opens into the fenced yard. With all the wind, I was a bit worried about what may be churning in the hen house. When I opened the main door to the roost area, you’ll never believe what those hens were doing!

The wind was screaming through the house, coming in the open window and blowing out the rear hatch, sending sawdust and feathers flying like a rocket flame. But those hens had it under control. They were flying in place and in formation over the roost bars. Whenever they needed to give their wing muscles a rest, they grabbed the roost bars with their toes, kept their wings spread, and wind surfed.

Why there was so much wind funneling through the house that the eggs were floating in a helix formation in the vortex! I just stuck my goldfish net into the jetstream and nabbed me an egg, one at a time. Those hens didn’t even blink an eye!

And you thought only fishermen told tall tales.

Making Hay While the Sun Shines

Literally. That’s what I have been doing for the past two days.

The heat is record-breaking. The hay should cure quickly. I doubt any bales will mold from too much moisture or ignite from spontaneous combustion, a problem that comes from too much moisture in tightly compacted grass.

On the tractor, I enjoy watching a crow as it flies back and forth over the newly cut rows. It is in search of an easy meal. I note the bedding spot of fawns, hidden in the tall grass.  And I marvel at how thick the grass is this year compared to last year.

All idyllic sights and thoughts.

That is, until the muffler falls off the tractor. The muffler exhausts through the cover over the engine on the topside of the tractor. When the engine runs, the exhaust pipe with muffler gets HOT. It can be hot enough to ignite dry grass.

The freshly cut grass is moist. I am wondering whether the fallen muffler presents a fire hazard.

I have no work gloves with me, since my chore of mowing wasn’t supposed to include mechanical malfunctions. I look in the small storage box under the tractor seat and find two greasy rags.

As a girl, I hate grease, especially on me. But I can’t leave the pipe and muffler where it has fallen in the field, so I use the greasy rags to pick it up and carry it to a shaded dirt patch at the edge of the field. On a dirt patch, there is nothing to ignite.

That task done, I get back to work. Round and round I go. The sound is now deafening without a muffler. My ears are ringing. Salt droplets are running down my face and into my eyes. Dust kicked up from the cutting is irritating my eyes. My neck, which I tried to protect with upturned collar, sunscreen and a brimmed hat, feels like it is burning in the sun. I’m parched.

I have three swaths to go.

I should finish before traffic picks up on our road from workers who are homebound at the end of their day. Since the tractor and equipment take up both lanes of the road, I want to have the road to myself when I move between home and the field.

Sputter. Cough.  Silence. The tractor dies. It won’t restart.

I cut the ignition off, climb down and walk home. There is a heat advisory. I am dressed in a hat, long-sleeved shirt, long pants and boots — in case I have to get off the tractor in the long grass. I want to fend off ticks, bees and snakes, as well as the brutal sun. I never anticipate hiking in this garb.

Isn’t this a perfect illustration of the writer’s life? We make preparations and start out on a project, thinking it will go one way. Then surprises pop up, affecting the plan. One never knows which direction the detours will take.

One can cry about it or adjust.