Making Hay

You can take the girl out of the country, but … As I drove to Tappahannock to deliver books to T-Town Tack and Western Wear, my eyes took in the fields of waving wheat, harvested wheat and newly raked hay. For much of my life, this time of May has meant time in the hayfield. Putting up good hay, suitable for horses, is a complex process. It must be cut before it is too stalky, it must have time to dry, it must be baled at the perfect moment. Too early and the moisture will cause it to mold and build heat, even enough to spontaneously combust. Too dry and it will be dusty and of less nutritional value.

On a good year in Western Pennsylvania, Memorial Day marked the first hay cutting. We spent the weekend mowing, raking and baling the fragrant timothy. I think the alfalfa and clover fields were a bit later. I cherished those times, working with my father to put up hay. It was also a time of picnics with our good friends who lived only a few miles away. We got together on every holiday, either at their place or ours, grilling out.

But I digress. Today is our daughter’s birthday. She was born on a Friday morning and my husband watched my c-section through a door. Back in my hospital room, we held our precious gift and then that night he drove the eighty miles back home to work in the hayfield the next day.

Our son and our daughter learned to work in the hayfield. Our son talks about his job by saying, “I’ve hauled hay, this job isn’t hard work.” Our daughter and her best friend out worked their football player classmates when helping a farmer who baled hay in South Carolina.

We no longer have hay fields to mow, rake or bale, but as a horse owner and lover, I appreciate the process. I grieve for every farmer who has his mowed and raked hay ruined by rain (not likely this spring). And I love the scent of freshly mown hay—perhaps someone could bottle and sell it?