Thursday, July 30, 2015

Not like this.

Afternoons like yesterday's make it impossible to believe that somewhere, in some climate-controlled office, people are designing iPhone Apps. That isn't a slam on corporate culture (trust me, I've done my time). It's actual incredulousness. It is literally unbelievable that just a few hours away from where I stood, staring at acres of hay - a city like New York is bustling with so much button-pushing activity. What a beautiful contrast. What a marvelous state with a contrary convergence of escape routes! I heart NY.

So type away you the few and proud, app jockeys; out here some of us are in the fields. Yesterday was a 90+ degrees and we'd be moving bales of hay with our bare hands. Most of us volunteers are in long pants, long sleeves, sunglasses and hats. We get rides out to the field and back on one of the big hay wagons and its the closest I ever felt to being a romantic version of a train-jumping hobo woman.I am surrounded by views designed for movie endings, friends smiling and slapping shoulders, and a work out that would make a hot yoga instructor throw up.

I love haying. I love the toil and I love that all day out there all we talk and think about is the river. When the work is done and all those bales are brought into the barn and stacked, we get to swill switchel and then peel (yes, peel) off our clothing and dump it into little biohazard bags in the back seats of our cars. Then we get suited up and enjoy the river. Gods bless the Battenkill - clean and clear and so close...

But long before we get to feel that first dive into the water we hay. That means us of humankind walk out into a giant-ass field where a semi-working baler has managed to lay the new squares out before us. Far as we can see are heavy things to lug and the sun is beating down. 300 to 350 of those bales need to be pickup up by us, stacked into piles of 5 or 6, and then a team of people on a large wagon come out and load them into the giant hauling boxes pulled by tractors that remind me of the cages on the side of a package of animal crackers. The sides are so high and the bars so thick, I expect a pacing tiger to be in there with us as we make our 4th trip back to the field and do it all over again.

We are the tigers. Us women and men out there, all of us helping each other out and earning our complaints and joys alike. We give up a few hours because no one farmer can do this alone, be it stacking into a barn or loading from the field. I never turn down an afternoon of haying if I can help it. It's proof positive that communities like this still exist, and always have.

That fellowship is the reason I am out here, because I don't know if it can exist in air conditioning. Not like this.


Blogger greendria said...

Damn good writing!!!

July 30, 2015 at 12:03 PM  
Blogger Anton said...

We attach the hay wagon directly behind the hay baler. A couple people stand on the wagon and alternate grabbing the bales as they come out of the baler. It saves time from having to go back over the field and pick up the bales from the ground (saves our backs and gas/diesel too!).

July 31, 2015 at 10:35 AM  
Blogger Lorlee Bartos said...

Seems like a lot of unnecessary work. I grew up on a farm and drove the baler. The hayrack was hitched to the baler and the bales slid right out of the baler and on to the hay rack where someone (father or brother) stacked them You appear to be handling them 3 or 4 times. We never just dumped them on the field.

July 31, 2015 at 1:09 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

This is a 1968 baler without a kicker, it is dragged behind a tractor and spits out bales on the ground. We don't have a modern type at that farm, but we did have 20 neighbors!

July 31, 2015 at 4:12 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Farmers farming with the tools they have. In this case, the baler and tractor. In Colo, the hay bales sit out in the fields until someone comes out to get them, so it looks spot on from my non-hay-farming background. Hey Jenna, I checked out the website for Kristin Kimball and it looks like she is coming out with a new book!

Curious Person: Why did you move to NY?

Me: For the $3700/year CSA which is approximately $10 a day for all-you-can-eat-farm-raised food. (Amazing.) (*I should probably stop reading books!) haha.

Now, a pay for the glorious food.

July 31, 2015 at 11:26 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

And now I'm reading Jon Katz, 'Dogs of Bedlam Farm', all because I found your blog.

August 1, 2015 at 10:52 PM  
Blogger Alabama Day said...

For several years running I took **vacation days** to help friends bale hay in GA. They thought I was crazy. I thought they could've gotten away with making me pay for the privilege.

And that one year I got bit on the leg by an ex-con's white Shepherd, worked all day regardless, and only then realized my thigh was purple and yellow and green like rotting meat? I entertained half of Bed-Stuy with that story. Saved a bundle on cocktails.

Haying is the BEST.

August 9, 2015 at 11:08 AM  
Blogger Ginny said...

Hope yall aren't facing the same hay shortage that we're facing down in MD and points further south. Its gonna be a tough year to need hay.

August 10, 2015 at 12:58 PM  

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