Friday, July 25, 2014

A Few Words From the Farm Before Bedtime

I'd love to write the full story of how we finished haying, but I just can't in one sitting.  I will share some of the highlights.  The rest will just have to perk in my mind until I can pour you a strong cup of memory brewed from the experience. Maybe some winter day when I'm half crazy from being locked in by the cold. The details would curl your hair, involve compassionate neighbors, a divine intervention and two 14 year old boys driving my Ford pickup full of hay bales without adult supervision.

For now my story will focus on the old hay baler I named Senora. Senora is probably as old as I am. An antique as farm machines go. But she's still game to bale a field and has a language all her own.
The problem is, I don't speak her language fluently.  Yes, we've worked out a few things over the years but she has secrets nobody really understands.  And the men who know how to translate are getting harder to find.  Senora glided through about 4 acres of hay field that was neatly cut and raked, missing a bale about one in a hundred.

Now what you need to know is that Senora picks up the dry, raked hay from the field, sweeps it over into a plunger that compacts loose hay into a square, cuts the ends off with a knife and squeezes each section she picks up into the bale. At the same time she pulls a length of the baling twine that wraps around the bale and, get this, ties a knot and cuts the twine for each bale. Except when she doesn't.

Talk to any farmer with a square baler and you can go on for ours about the knotters.  These are the twin mechanical features that must simultaneously tie a knot and cut the twine.  This is mechanical voodoo. You can't do it in hand and the mechanics are baffling.

Senora had it down until she choked near sundown with a hundred bales to go.

So I called a neighbor.  "Hey Adam, you remember when the pickup reel on your baler got jammed and you had to clear it? What did you do?"  Adam said,  "I'll be down in half an hour".

Mean time my wife had seen the delay, called neighbors and the kids in and they were picking up bales off the field and pitching them up into the barn loft. The 14 year olds were delighted to be given a pickup truck to load with bales in the field and return to the barn.  Yeah, and dad learned to keep his mouth shut as junior learned to back the truck down the lane to the barn.  Both outside mirrors are still intact.

The neighbors who dropped everything on their own farm came running to help and loaded our loft.

And then Adam drove up and took Senora in hand.  You can't know all the tricks of an old farm machine. And you can't know what a farm hand knows about desperate repairs with hand tools. I learned a lot from the local hands in a few hours about how not to be beaten at sundown with rain on the horizon. It was pretty damn impressive.

All told we got the hay in.  Not as much as we wanted.  Not with the ease we expected.  But we won. When we were stuck, people came and helped.  Not because they had to, not because there was money in it.  But because we needed them. We might be poor in hay this year, but we're rich in friends and neighbors.  What a blessing.        


You might wonder about Senora.  Well, she did her best up until she broke a drive chain on some heavy clover hay.  That's alright. We'll get her a new chain and we'll pick up a few more bales another day.  And like I said. she's got her own language. She hums though a light windrow of dried grass, and when we hit the heavy cutting she complains, "There's no Room. There's no Room. There's no Room."
She might be an old thing now, but she once was a dream in red paint and I named her after a 1961 hit by Harry Belafonte.  This link below should explain it all.



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