Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Hay Project

Yesterday morning I lay snug in bed, looking out of my window to the woods just behind the house. The rising, low November light was beginning to strike the south facing bark of the trees and it was giving a rich and warm, golden glow to the remaining leaves that still hung to the branches. The slight breeze made these leaves shake and rustle with a melancholy, and wistful sound of change. The captain’s clock in the hallway ticked and tocked and chimed the hours and half hours in timely fashion, the minutes marching on unleashed. A cool breeze from my open window cooled my face but I lay in the warmth of my cocoon of blankets with my puppy, Gracie, curled up next to me, burrowed deeply into the covers. It was going to be a hard place to leave, and I was pissed.

I had been listening to that damned clock for a good long while, since three o’clock am, in fact. Then had come three thirty, four, four thirty, five, etc, etc etc. until, here it was at six am and I had not slept a wink since that three o’clock chime and I had to get up soon to go buy and move some hay for the horses. Insomnia is not my best friend and I do not do especially well on the brain fog of sleep deprivation, but this uninvited insomnia had not gotten the memo that I had early and important plans for the day. Grudgingly, I pulled back the covers and my feet felt the floor to begin the day.

My neighbor and I had previously conspired a joint effort to go to buy hay for both her farm and for my farm from a nearby fellow who had some nice hay for sale. She had a big flat bed trailer and I had the truck to haul it with. She also, most importantly knew where to find some strong fellows with functional shoulders to toss and stack these not so tiny bundles of dry grasses. We were both looking to buy as much as could be put on the trailer and safely hauled back home, and figured it to probably require multiple loads to do so. And so, despite my need for sleep, the greater need was to follow our plans and to go get this hay, regardless of my mental state and humor, or lack thereof. 

Fall signals many things with its cooler temps and colorful leaves, but chief among them is the pleasant temporary semi-retirement of the lawnmower and its weekly hours spent keeping the yard where one can see the snakes in the grass before one steps on them. Regrettably, this also means that the grass in the pastures go dormant and the horses have no more grass to keep them well fed and happy. This is where the importance of having hay for the winter comes in. One simply must have an adequate amount of hay to make it through the winter until spring grasses return.

This need for hay, the guessing of how much one should buy to make it through this gap and put away, must be similar to what a poor squirrel feels when making the guess on how many nuts to gather and store. It is stressful to look at an empty hay room, and know it must be filled before the farmers run out of hay they have cut. It is also stressful transporting it, handling it, paying for it, and protecting it until it is used. But, when it is all done, and the hay room is full, there is a deep relief from the stresses from the process. Knowing that my horses will be fed a good grass to stay healthy as possible is a very good thing.

Two years ago, after the point in time when the do do had hit the fan with the world economy, and our personal one was right there with it, it came the time of year to buy hay. I then had zero funds to do so with and I was seriously stressing over how in the world I was going to feed my animals for the coming year.  About this time I had gone one day to visit my ailing father, and in his typical generous self, he asked me how I was and what could he do to help me. Here is my father, about to die, with me there attempting to comfort him, and he is asking me how he can help me. I was a bit embarrassed to say so but I told him about my situation with no hay and no funds. He quickly wrote me a check, feebly written but solid as a rock, given with love and no strings, to cover the cost of the hay. This was his last and final gift to me, and it was not just about the hay. It was a most precious gift, one of the removal of the deep stress and worry about my horses that he knew I loved and cared about so much.

 Daddy died not  long after I had used that check to buy some hay, and I just recently fed my horses the last few bales of it. His sweet gift  has kept them fed and that worry off my back for two years. It was time now though, to refill the hay room again and with the recent sale of Frank, my beautiful gelding who is now going under the alias of Encore, this was thankfully, going to be possible.

So, yesterday, a very pleasant day was had in this project of moving hay. The scenes of the rural landscape as we traveled back and forth with our loads reminded me of the Wyeth's paintings of Maine. Vast fields rolled beside us as we drove. The hills were dotted with cows and large round hay bales and all were bathed in subtle hues of golds and reds, accented by deep burnt umber shadows. I watched a female Kestrel ambitiously stoop at a Meadow Lark several times before flying off, and Buzzards slowly circled overhead in a sky of broad  wash strokes of soft blues and grays.

I did not have to touch a bale thanks to our helpers, which was a good thing after my previous day’s massage followed by a session with my chiropractor. There were a few glitches here and there in the course of the day. There always are in anything to do with farm world, machinery, tractors, logistics, heavy things, and figuring the math to make it work, but we did both make it home with two loads of hay. My hay room is now filled with the sweet smell of well cured grass again and my shoulders have dropped, and my insomnia, was forgotten.