haying with dire wolves
Tell them to dress and prepare for four hours of moving 400, 50-pound, Brill-o pads around in 87 degree weather.
But, you know, the fun version.
That sums it up. Haying is a several step process, and around here it is all done by big machines that cut, row, turn, and bale the long stems of grass. But most people still need help bringing in the loads off the field and stacked in the barn for safe keeping. And that is what Ajay and I were called to do Tuesday. Bob Ackland of Maple Lane Farm has been letting me ride and drive Merlin all over his vast farmland for months, so when he asked for one afternoon to help put up hay I was happy to say yes. Ajay was thrilled. Both of us are farm-work junkies and haying is the marathon of all the events. You are certain to end it ten pounds thinner and drunk from the tiredness, but like any long run you feel reborn after a good shower (or a night at the fair, in our case).
We got to Bob's dressed for the work. When you hay you wear long pants, boots, gloves and (optional) long-sleeved shirts. Yes, it's hot but when you are dealing with the razor sharp chaff and constant scraping of bales against your skin it is a lot less painful having some carhartts between you and the grating. We had on straw hats for the sun, bodies full of water, and then we jumped into the wagon behind Mark Wesner (driving tractor) and our job was to lift and stack the bales in the wagon. We did this for three hours.
You find your role fast when you join a work team like this. I was poor at stacking in the wagon, too much like math for me. So I opted to be the one who picks up the bales from the piles in the fields and puts them in the wagon for others to load. I adored this work.
Mark Wesner watched from the tractor in (I think) surprise at the brute force and constant speed of the work. I am not one to brag but when it comes to bucking hay bales I am gold-medal material, son. It felt like something my body was meant to do. As the day grew longer and we hit over 300 bales I kept at it. There's a stride to hit in haying just as there is in a run or a long trail ride on horseback. You feel a point of poetry of the body, when everything is oiled and practiced enough to pump at peak efficiency. This is the kind of feeling you savor in an afternoon of haying and when you reach it you feel like you will live forever, long as there is decent work to do.
When all was done, we hopped off the last wagon and enjoyed pink lemonade and cookies, brought out by Bob's wife, Caroline. It was heavenly. And Mark said he thought watching me buck up hay bales was like watching someone who had the perfect body for the task, it just worked. He then said, smiling and happy, "You're built like a stone mason!" and Ajay cracked up, laughing. He ragged on Mark, "So THAT'S how you talk to women!" and I laughed. I am what I am. I'm built like a dire wolf, not a deer and so far this stout little frame has taken me some amazing places and done some serious work. I'm grateful for it, not ashamed of it.
But Ajay hasn't stopped calling me "Hay-Mason" since.