I've shuttled him back and forth this morning, bringing tractors, rake, and baler to the house to be serviced; hay season begins today. The weather has finally agreed, if only for a few days, to let it begin. The grass was tall and thick; it won't dry in two days so we'll silage it and that means the day will drag on into late hours not far from tomorrow.
I had already finished the work at the chicken houses before the parade of equipment started, leaving very little time to fix a quick lunch to take to the field with us. Things always have to be done in a hurry on baling days even though there's no chance of rain today. I'm beginning to feel extreme angst; what if I've forgotten how to rake? He says he'd rather bale after me than anyone else. I always figured the reason was he could yell at me where he wouldn't say a word to a hired hand.
Quickly I fix a little lunch and pack it in coolers with water and snacks. I slather on sun screen lotion, take an Aleve for shoulder and wrist stress, swallow a couple of spoonfuls of Pepto Bismol for stomach stress, and get a Poise pad for discreet bladder protection.
It's quite a drive to the field; rough, bumpy road, narrow, with a steep bank on the side next to Granny Creek, and I wonder, how close to death am I? The trees are the same year after year: the white oak, the maples, walnuts, water oaks, red buds. But this year I'm seventy years old, blessed with good health and able to help again. The field shimmers in the afternoon sun and the windrows are many. He sets the rake up for me and then, fortified with instructions written on the tail of my shirt, I drive my tractor onto the hay and it all comes back to me.
The first round I drive carefully; sure don't want to hang the rake on a bush or a fence post. The rest comes easy; just follow the swathes made by the cutter. Around and around the field we travel; I'm leaving a long trail of swept up hay,
he gathers it, the baler rolls it up and dumps bale after bale.
In about two hours the field is covered with bales. The adrenalin rush is over now, and the quiet drone of the McCormick's engine lulls me into sleepiness. I close my eyes only for a jiffy; I don't want to veer off into the creek! So I turn my thoughts to the projects I have going at home.
With the baling finished, we take our equipment parade back to the house and exchange it for the loading tractor, truck and trailer.
Since the hay wasn't completely dry, we will wrap it in a Tubeline wrapper, a machine that wraps the bales in plastic. The grass goes through a fermentation process inside the plastic. The cattle like the end result.
Although we're tired at the end of the day, I can't help but remember the times when my daddy and my uncle baled their hay. They only baled once a year, usually in late August; we bale at least three times if the rains come often enough to make the grass grow. They cut the tough meadow grasses with a sickle mower pulled by a team of horses, then raked it into windrows left stretched across the field to be picked up and moved to the baler with a bull rake. The baler was also horse-drawn and the dried grass was fed into the machine with a pitchfork. The bales were hand tied with wire as they came from the baler, then hauled to the barn and hoisted up into the barn loft; all that work for just a few bales as compared to our 97. How spoiled we are!