As a farmer there is a pattern, a rhythm to your life that is unavoidable. Much of it is tied to the rhythm of the year, the change in the seasons and things that have to be done when they have to be done. Haying is a prime example. Haying happens when it is hot; full summer, with its long hot days, not a whisper of the fall that is to come. Haying happens when the timothy grass is long and lush, fed by days of sunshine and rain, ready to be cut. The army jeep is pulled out and gotten serviceable, our version of a tractor – hey don’t knock it, at least it has brakes that work! –the mower teeth sharpened. Into the field, bumpety bump, and down goes the mower arm, scything through the grass hundreds of times faster than the original scythe could.
Then, an anxious time as one hopes and prays that the rain – normally much heralded for its gentle feeding of the garden – stay away as the grass dries on the fields. Then! To work! A great bustle of activity as one gets in to drive (usually father), two stand in the back of the open backed jeep with pitchforks to pack the hay down and some walk behind the rake to pick up errant bits of hay and shepherd them into the truck. The work begins. Hot prickly musty work as the hay rolls inevitably into the truck and another rhythm establishes itself. One person towards the back of the truck forking the hay in, and the other further back, tramping it down as it comes in. The success of the tramping is measured by how high the load can be piled. The higher the load the fewer the trips.
Hay seed gets in everything! Below the breasts, down the back, into the underwear, everything becomes scratchy and itchy. Sweat burns as it drips down off the forehead, into the dry sweet smelling hay. Occasionally a halt is called, lemonade and food shared around. Then, back to the tamping down of hay, tamp tamp tamp until the load is precarious and high, towering above the roof of the jeep, hay mounded, sloping outward until the pitchforks become a necessary tool to stay on top of the load.
Bounce bounce the truck ponders its way back towards the barn, everyone sighs, movement stills, hay prickles make their fierce announcement of their presence. The barn slowly fills with the fragrance of summer, a reminder in the months to come of the sunshine and heat of late July.