A Castle in Ruins

You know summer is over when the crenelations of the hay castle in the loft start to lean and the tunnels are exposed with every day of feeding. I remember the hours of fun we used to have as kids in our friend’s hay loft. It smelled sweet and warm like summer grass and was a child’s wonderland for games of ‘hide and seek’ and ‘king of the castle’.

So, it was not at all strange that families staying on the farm with us this summer would have naturally gravitated to our full hay loft, also smelling sweet and warm like the summer grass we had just cut from the fields. I, honestly, had lost my appreciation for haylofts. I viewed ours as a lot of hard work to load and a place of apprehension throughout the winter as I watched the bale count dwindle each year.

Load it up; feed it out; repeat. Year in – year out. A fairly unimaginative way to look at a hay loft. Add some kids to the mix, however, and also some rainy days in the middle of the summer, and a hay loft can morph into a medieval castle. We had two families work on the piles of hay this year, in their own way. The first had little kids so dad did most of the castle building. Nothing too elaborate, nothing too creative. He was an adult after all.

The castle took on a life of its own under the diligence and hard work of two 12-year-old girls who spent hours building the fort that remains in ruins today. There were tunnels and doors and hidden rooms. There were crenellations made by standing some of the bales of hay on end. There was even a shooting platform for the basketball hoop set high up on one of the bale drops in the center of the barn. Build a castle; shoot a few hoops; build a secret passage way; shoot a few hoops.

I appreciated the extent of the building activities, until this fall. Sure the girls wanted me to see what they had done and I dutifully climbed up the bales to take a peak, but I must have missed a lot of the infrastructure. Only now as I feed four bales of hay a day and slowly dismantle the girls’ works have I seen the imagination of the world they created and understand the delightful skipping of our summer artisans.

And then the adult mind appears to niggle at my own delight. There really isn’t as much hay here as I had thought from a quick purview. Behind the crenellations are walkways and deeper rooms. Even some tunnels. Will we have enough hay to see us through the winter after all? Darn that hay castle for making the barn look full up.

No, I have to remind myself. That’s not the way to see it. The hay castles built this summer will provide memories for these kids as adults. Maybe as they walk down a city street in July, maybe as they sit at a desk looking out the window on a rainy day. “Remember that summer we built a fine medieval castle in the hay loft at Leaping Lamb Farm, where the hay smelled sweet and warm and the rain pounded down on the metal roof? What a great time we had!”

Photos: hay loft with remaining passages and crenellations

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2009 Scottie Jones

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