Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Haying Time

Cutting alfalfa
approximately 1978
south of the farm house
If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can hear the steady beat of windrower as clears field and smell the sweet, fresh-cut alfalfa. I can almost taste the sweet and tender stem of alfalfa plucked from the windrow.

Cutting alfalfa
approximately 1978
south of the farm house
No doubt, you've heard the term, "making hay while the sun shines," but truth be told, farmers and ranchers often work long into the night to put up the hay. Notice the light on the black bar directly above the right-hand tire in the photo above. That is a headlight for cutting alfalfa at night. My brother was often in the field well past dark because he put up hay on two farms that were 10 miles apart. Other farm chores - milking and irrigating - took precedence during daylight hours.

Family members often pitched in to help during haying. Sometimes, my brothers-in-law helped with the harvest when they visited. Their help during this busy time was greatly appreciated by my mother and brother.

My four nephews (when they were old enough) helped when my brother was confident they could handle the equipment - windrower, baler, and truck. He preferred to run the stackwagon and the chopper himself.

My oldest brother repaired equipment and helped out in the field whenever he could. I even baled hay one summer on the north farm. (I preferred cultivating corn to baling hay because very little can break down on a cultivator, and a LOT can go wrong with a baler, which is like a huge sewing machine pulled behind a tractor - large needles, twine instead of thread, and perfect tension needed for a tight bale.)

My mother prepared meals and took them to the field when the crew was working on the north farm. At lunch, she would usually get a list of repairs that were needed. Then, she would drop the lunch dishes at the farm, change clothes, and drive to town (30 miles one way) to pick up the parts or more twine for the baler.

Some years, it felt like the equipment was never idle and that when the first cutting was off the field, it was time to begin the next cutting. Three cuttings of hay were typical for the summer and a possible fourth if the weather held in the fall. The final cutting was usually chopped instead of baled.

Haying time was a busy time for everyone on the farm.

12 comments:

  1. Farmers have to work hard for a living. That's probably why not as many people choose to farm these days. I love the sweet smell of alfalfa. We once live next to a field where it was planted every year. It's one of my favorite memories of that place.

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  2. Oh, me too...we had this time, haying time, at my house too. One time when my dad was really sick, the church men came and brought in the hay...it smelled so good!!

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  3. Our neighbor just cut our hay the other day. I love to see that and it smells so good.

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  4. Good post about life on the farm during haying season. Your brothers sure put in LONG hours when necessary! And your mom did too!!

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  5. THat is fascinating to me Nancy. I love hearing about it. Seems Farm families and neighbors are so tightly woven. How lovely. I suppose they have their issues too: infidelities? petty arguments?
    Or maybe not. Maybe those are CITY Folk issues??

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  6. Having grown up in Arizona I clearly remember the sweet smell of fresh cut alfalfa and the sound of the mowers harvesting at night. Thanks Nancy for a reminder of lovely memories! I also remember that grapefruit would fall off the passing trucks and I and neighborhood kids would sit on side of the street while we peeled and ate them. God bless farmers everywhere!!

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  7. This post reminded me of the fun times I had spent on my grandpa's farm long ago. Thanks for the memories!

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  8. Oh my goodness - you described haying PERFECTLY!!!! I was the resident irrigator all the time and cook during haying season. I could smell the alfalfa just from the photo!! We don't raise any crops here on the ranch in central Texas - we located on the edge of an escarpment - too much rock. But our son manages a stock farm and he irrigates and hays! Love the smell and the memories!!

    Blessings

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  9. Ahhhchhhho! I don't know how a farm girl ended up with hayfever, but... I did. Can I blame too much stall-mucking and haybale hefting?

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  10. I love your farm stories Nancy and find life on the other side of the world fascinating though to you it may be so ordinary. I was wondering if your farmers ever cut silage too (wrapped green pasture) usually for dairy cows.

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  11. It was hard work..and hot and sweaty making hay. I hated the late nights..supper at 11 PM and off to bed...the bugs were usually bad after dark too:(

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  12. That was so interesting, Nancy! I grew up on a farm too, and I remember how frustrating it would be when a piece of machinery would break down. The best part about haying was going to the lake afterwards, after the milking and haying were done.. What's amazing to me now is the size of the equipment and how fast it can harvest a field!

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