Posts in Category: Farming

Black Hay

There’s nothing better than smelling fresh cut hay and imagining a barn full of it. There is nothing worse than days of rain falling on fresh cut hay and turning it black with mold. It’s enough to make you cry. Your neighbor too. She could smell that hay all the way up at her barn. I think I hear her crying now.

We’ve only tried for a second cutting of hay once before and, while it was hard to dry with the heavy dew of autumn, we got it in and were in love with our hay well into the winter. This year seemed auspicious. The year was late for hay but all the forecasters promised a late, dry fall, because we were owed a late, dry fall. What did they know?

Farmer Jones spent the summer irrigating day in and day out. When he couldn’t do it he trained our buffed up high school neighbor to move the pipe and set the valves. The hay looked good but not that high when our farmer neighbor with the haying equipment stopped by. Did we want to cut yet? Was he going to? No, he wanted to wait a little for a taller grass. So did we. The forecasters had said it was going to be a late, dry fall.

Okay, so it wasn’t. The first cut of hay is now all we have going into winter. I look at it this way. The horses and sheep don’t know what they are missing because nothing was ever brought in. I hope that the wonderful hay sitting on the ground re-seeds the soil and we get another chance at two cuts next summer. Of course, it means more irrigation and no promises.

Next summer we won’t be greedy. We will cut when the sky is still blue and the days are lengthening but not stormy. Unless, of course, the forecasters tell us it will be a late,dry fall. And we forget what we learned. And we smell that wonderful green hay and imagine what it would be like if it were just a few inches taller.

Photo: Irrigating the hay field one 20′ pipe at a time. There are 16 to reach across the entire 8 acres. Farmer Jones moves them once a day.

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2010 Scottie Jones

Is She Hot?

It hadn’t hit 90 degrees all summer. The day we pulled our hay out of the field, the temperature soared and the hay gods laughed.

We learned from previous years not to call out crew to show up too early. I always thought 9 a.m. was a good time to start, but, in the Coast Range, the dew is still heavy enough in summer to sit on the hay and cause problems if we bale it wet. Teenage boys don’t like showing up at 9 a.m. anyway, so the call was put in for an 11:30 a.m. start.

Considering we had about 21 tons to load in the hayloft, the mood stayed pretty light, hay gods or not. That is what I love about high school kids who get better and stronger every summer since the age of 12. This year, if they weren’t just graduated from school, they were getting ready for football and basketball season, so the bodies were buff and throwing bales of hay looked easy.

We finished the first third of the field and then caught up with the baler. Time for lunch and a nap. Okay,so they admitted it was a bit hot in the hayloft. The crew decided they would prefer to come back when the hay was totally baled and the sun had dropped down. We reconvened at 5 p.m. as my visions of dinner went down the tubes. 600 bales was going to take a bit to haul to the barn, buff boys or not.

I think we finished around 9 p.m. but since it stays light in early July until after 10, it didn’t seem that late. Plenty of times for the boys still to go out. Just enough time for us to take a bath, sit on the couch, and…pass out.

One funny thing happened during the day to demonstrate the minds of our team. When asked about a young woman helping on the farm, I asked the benign question about whether she was hot or not. Think 90+ degrees. Think, “Does she need a glass of water?” Apparently, the young man I asked this of thought I meant the other kind of hot. He babbled a bit. Once we cleared up the confusion, he, at 16, blushed bright red. For my part, I couldn’t decide if it was cute or I felt old. Ah, boys will be boys.

Photos: (top) top of field baled evening before pick-up, facing east;(bottom) finishing up the bales from top of field, headed towards farm stay cabin

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2010 Scottie Jones

The Farmer and the Scarecrow

Farmer Jones has an alter-ego that never stoops while it works in the garden. A leg will flap in the breeze and his hat blows off from time to time, but the flesh tones of the face and the bright red lips can make a person stop and stare for a moment just to make sure the figure in the garden really isn’t the Farmer himself. The crows, unfortunately, are not fooled and the corn has had to be replanted for the third time this year. I have to wonder if it is possible to harvest corn in November?

We have never had to plant the corn this many times before. Is it the late spring or have the crows determined, if we don’t do well with turkeys, how is our husbandry of the corn? I think the scarecrow idea arose from a convergence. I happened to see part of the Wizard of Oz on TV in a story about the munchkins, and I also noticed a scarecrow in my neighbor’s garden. Now, why hadn’t we thought of that?!

Most farms settle for scarecrows made of old clothes and maybe some straw. Annie took the opportunity to celebrate Father’s Day with a gift to Farmer dad. How about a face for the scarecrow? With no balloons around, but a creative mind, she stuffed plastic bags inside each other until she had something resembling a rounded head. Layers of torn newspaper were bound with a flour paste for the head, the lips and the eyes. After a round with the hair dryer, the head was painted. The resulting mask had an uncanny humanness to it, set off by bright pink lips and blue eyes.

As Farmer Greg often works in the garden in summer, it looks as if he has a companion to keep him company. The arms might move in gesture with the wind. The face smiles over the pitifully picked over rows of corn that are weedy and only about 4 inches high. It’s a good thing we have left over corn in the freezer from last year, but I will sorely miss the taste of fresh young corn right out of the garden. Our 10 rows are down to 3 and I can’t quite tell yet if we are growing feed corn or that for human consumption. Hard to think we had so much corn last year we actually sold it to the co-op!

I sometimes wonder if the joke is on us. A scarecrow seemed like a good idea at the time. Maybe farmers really only use them as garden art and nobody clued us in. Maybe the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz was really just Dorothy’s neighbor down the road. The way I see it, Farmer Greg can always say he is working in the garden and no one could contradict him from afar. Is it a man or is it a scarecrow? Only the wind and the birds know.

Photos: top, The Alter-ego Scarecrow; bottom, the Farmer and the Scarecrow trompe l’oeil

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2010 Scottie Jones