Thursday, August 5, 2010

When Haying Collides with Other Plans

I finally took the plunge earlier in the year and signed up for a big art/craft show. It's this weekend. Signing up to be a vendor at a show is a bit of a leap of faith. You have faith that those who look over the applications will like your items enough to allow you to be a vendor. (It's called the jurying process--some shows are juried, some are not.)

You have faith that you'll have a display figured out by then, and enough items to fill a booth. Abundance sells at shows--having 2 or 3 of 100 different items does not go as well as having 100 each of 2 or 3 items.

You have faith that the weather's going to be good. So far, for this weekend, it looks good. Of course the saying around here is: "If you don't like the weather in Michigan, just wait 15 minutes."

You have faith that nothing will conflict with the date. Often, decisions about shows are made months in advance. Things come up. With many things an answer like, "Nope. Can't do it. I'm busy that weekend," will suffice.

But when the stars align and the hay is mature and the weatherman says there are 3-4 dry days in a row in the 7 day forecast, it's time to cut. That's what happened yesterday afternoon. It's going to be gorgeous hay.

And it's going to be ready to bale this Saturday--the day of the show.

I have a love/hate relationship with hay. I understand that we need to put up at least 3,000 square bales of good quality hay each summer, so that our sheep will have enough to eat all winter. But haying is hard work, and it always seems to come at an inconvenient time. And, if the truth is told, I don't like having to drop everything to hay. It's a source of contention in our marriage, mostly due to my bad attitude. In the interest of full disclosure, The Farmer is not completely without fault in this conflict. But if I told you about his part in the situation, I would be husband-bashing. And that's not what this post is about.

This post is about showing you that farming is hard work and not as idyllic as some imagine. This post is about letting folks know that there is truth in the saying, "Make hay while the sun shines." This post is to let someone who is stuck in an office cubicle know that his dreams of being his own boss come with a down side. No, there's nobody telling you what time to show up for work in farming. You can put off a distasteful task until tomorrow, if you'd like to. But there's the rub. If you can't motivate yourself, your sheep will not have hay. If your sheep don't have hay (or have poor quality hay), you'll have to buy hay from someone else. You'll have to spend money previously designated to make a farm payment or buy groceries or fix a broken tractor or re-roof your house.

This past June, we had rain every 3 or 4 days. During peak first-cutting hay harvest time, we could. not. hay. We watched it grow longer and more coarse and could do nothing. I was enjoying the reprieve for a while, until reality set in. No hay = no feed for the sheep.

Finally, just at the very end of June and the beginning of July, we had a week without rain. The Farmer cut hay every morning, and starting on Wednesday evening of that week, we started baling. I've forgotten (or repressed) just how many acres we baled. But I do remember the number: 2,943 bales in 4 days of work. Towards the end of the week, I begged The Farmer to hire someone to round bale the Saturday batch. Round bales do not need to be picked up by hand. Even with our leather work gloves, those of us with soft hands were sprouting blisters. We finished up on Monday or Tuesday of the next week, and figured out how much hay we had put up in the barn. Not counting the Saturday round bales and the small bales that we had sold off the wagon on Monday and Tuesday, we put up 66 tons of hay in under a week.

I'm still not over it.

And as for this Saturday's scheduling conflict? The plan is to do the show. The Farmer wants to help and demo his sock knitting machine the first part of the day. He will leave early from the show (transportation issues still to be worked out) and head home to rake and/or bale. Baling will begin in the late afternoon. I will pack up at the show, which ends at 5:00 p.m., and head home (see above, about transportation issues). I will join the crew when I get home.

After all, it's important to make hay while the sun shines.


  1. Great post, Lona! You have a gift for writing. It's always fun for this "city girl" to see inside life on a farm.

  2. I hope the transportation logistics work out, and that you have a very successful show. Also, I love the way you write. . . .

  3. With a hay field right next door, I sympathize.

    Heck, this summer my yard has been the hay field - the rain makes it grow and grow and by the time I get a dry break long enough to cut it, it's so long and lush it takes me twice as long as most summers.

  4. I can so relate. My farmer cut the hay just as my 4 had either dance camp or VBS. It was a long rough week.

  5. All done! We had a lovely day at the art show, and baled about 800 bales. Thank goodness for wonderful help from family!

    Bed's callin'...


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