End of Summer
I don’t care where the calendar puts Labor Day and the official end of summer because for us it comes this weekend when we finish haying.
We estimate 800 bales worth of forage are cut and drying and just waiting for me to personally pick up each and every one of them. I might not really have to heft, tote and carry all of them but after a few wagon loads it will seem like it and Ole’ Man River will be running through my head for a good part of my efforts.
Putting up hay is a full body workout, your arms of course take a beating but your legs do their share, to lift a 40 to 50 pound bale over my head I give it a boost with a knee. And of course your core is right there struggling with the rest of you.
Haying always happens on the hottest, muggiest, breezeless days of summer. It has to be that way to ensure the grasses dry properly before baling. Hay not well dried will heat up until it starts smoking and then burning. Unfortunately it takes the barn with it at that point.
So haying time is spent looking at the weather reports, looking again and checking one more time just to make sure before you start out to the field to cut the first swath. It takes at least 2 days of good hot weather to dry hay, this time of year with heavy dews and morning fog will add another day.
Wardrobe does nothing to alleviate the heat of haying. To protect from stiff stalks of hay cutting and scraping the skin from your bones the recommended uniform consists of long pants, long sleeve shirt, boots and a hat to keep out the sun along with a pair of leather gloves.
The glove part is a tricky bit for women. Most work gloves for smaller hands are made of goat skin. I kid you not. And I think they only use smelly, billy goats for women’s gloves. A billy goat smells bad enough all by himself but wrap it around your hands and add generous amounts of sweat and your hands are not April fresh at the end of the day. I swear the skin has to wear off before the smell goes away and even then when the weather is damp the ghost of a stench lingers in your memory. Fortunately we’ve found a local supplier of deer skin gloves; supple, long wearing and not a hint of goat at the end of the day.
Why do we go through all this labor? If you’ve ever been in a barn full of fresh cut, properly baled hay the smell is heavenly. In February when it’s howling a blizzard outside it’s comforting to know you have a few more bales to put out for hungry cows and sheep. Plenty of extra calories to keep them warm and comfortable through the winter. And, I don’t have to join a gym!