Search This Blog

Follow by Email

Monday, July 13, 2009

Bringing in the Sheaves

“Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in….the sheaves!”
-Knowles Shaw hymn, 1874

Well, the sheaves have been brought in, but there wasn’t too much rejoicing. First of all, something happened to a couple of the bales and the twine was loose so the Farmer was lifting round bales up on the end of the tractor fork, only to have them wind open like an unfurling carpet, falling to the ground again. Try to stack thirty of those neatly in the barn. Next, the heavens opened and dumped a bunch of rain on us – not much – just enough to douse the hay we were desperately trying to get into the barn. And finally, there was no help in sight. Not a single one of our five offspring was around to take part in the annual farm tradition of bringing in the next winter’s feed. Which begs the question, where have we gone wrong?
In days gone by, a custom was built around the haying season. Families would travel to each other’s farms in turn, to work together and bring in the hay. This meant a great deal of manual labour, of course, as much of the work was done by hand. The efforts of the help were usually rewarded with a hearty meal, and sometimes at the end of the season, when every farm had been taken care of, a community dance would be held as a celebration. Local farm life writer Mary Cook could tell us a story or two about those days. Haying season was the original social networking opportunity: the chance to meet your neighbours and possibly even find a future mate. It was the original Facebook. It feels as though we are definitely missing out on something today. We could use some of those good old fashioned farm traditions.
With the development of more sophisticated farm machinery, the haying technique was simplified. With the right equipment today, a farmer can cut, rake, bale and collect all of his hay himself. And with the large round bales, you need to use a tractor to lift them onto the hay wagon. So it isn’t more than a one-man job, even if the teenagers did want to help – which they don’t. Of course, most farmers that I know don’t possess their own haying equipment. And it isn’t the sort of thing that you just lend to someone else to use. So, you have to hire someone to do it for you.
The Farmer hires someone to cut and bale the hay. If he is lucky, he finds someone who isn’t too busy to cut the hay during the only four consecutive days without rain that we will have all summer long. Day One, the hay is cut down. Day Two, the hay dries out in the sun. Day Three, the hay is raked and Day four, the hay is baled.
The Farmer chose Day Four to go fishing with his buddy, Ralph. And then he had the nerve to challenge Mama Nature by commenting on the four consecutive days with no rain.
So of course, when he finally had time to move the bales into storage in the barn on Day Five, it rained. And some of the bales fell apart. And the cows got in the way. And Donkey led some of the sheep through the open shed door before the Farmer had a chance to close it.
The process of collecting and stacking the hay bales usually takes a couple of days. I got pretty upset when the Farmer was courting me back in the summer of 2006 and he didn’t call for three days. It turns out he was haying for two and sleeping for one. The other woman turned out to be a 4’x5’ round bale.
We only did half the hay so far. The other half will wait for another elusive set of four sunny days this summer. It sounds like a good idea. The Farmer only has a day of work, and he has time to figure out where he is going to put the other thirty bales.
Ginger the cow is about to give birth. Her due date is Sunday. She will likely try to birth in the hay storage room, where she often shelters from the sun. We will have to wait until she and her calf are out on the pasture before we can move the rest of the hay into that spot.
And so we wait. For Ginger’s new babe, and for another week of sunshine. We have brought in half our hay. But so far it looks good.
I went into the barn and stuck my nose into a sweet, steaming bale. It’s amazing how hot they get, when tightly wrapped and slightly damp. The fermenting process continues, and they can actually become quite flammable so you have to ensure adequate ventilation. That’s all we need: a hay bale blowing up and scaring my lambs to within an inch of their lives.
The lambs will be the ones to benefit from all of this maneuvering, in the long run. If we manage to get a good load of hay in the barn, one that is not moldy and dusty, they will make more milk, birth more lambs and enjoy a more comfortable confinement.
Anything would be better than last year. Last year was enough to make me want to hang up my bag of lamb-feeding bottles for good.

No comments: