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Thought Number 4 Help We Need to Make Hay Part 2

The sun brings out some butterflies at last, a Gatekeeper and a Ringlet. The Red Campion and the Foxgloves are going over now, the Knapweed and Wild Carrot beginning to look like they might flower. The jet stream is being pushed north for a spell so we can expect a few days of summer.

After some initial dithering on Tuesday we decide it’s time to act. However B’s tractor has blown a head gasket and is out of action. Aware that there is only a slim window of opportunity we scan the horizon and spot a crew making small bale hay across the valley so I drive there and ask if there is any chance of helping us out – looking at the forecast we know we only have until Sunday afternoon to get it in. This young guy P, along with a whole array of neighbouring farmers, neighbours and friends, really pull out all the stops to help us out this week. So much of the time, not just for us, for anyone who manages land, is spent toiling away alone. It’s an amazing thing when that solitary cycle is briefly broken. We even loll about on the trailer afterwards, drink squash and eat biscuits and talk about the price of cushions.

It’s hard not to resist obsessively checking the forecast but the sky is deep blue with a few non threatening cumulous gathering at the edges. The air is heavy with the sound of machines. Because of all the rain, the grass is thick and it’s taking ages to dry, even with being turned every day. I go out with a pitchfork to turn some of the big lumps which are still green underneath. I do one whole field edge where the grass has piled up in the shade of the trees and pull it to the barer patches in the sun. It is very hot work but strangely compelling. In my solitary endeavour I imagine how it must have been in the past, when hundreds of people would have been out in the fields trying to get the hay in, backs bent into the work, and occasionally like me now, resting on the handle of the pitchfork, taking in the spectacular view over the valley and moors, the buzzards wheeling high on the thermals.

All hands on deck

We have six people on the case after D bales it on Sunday afternoon, the little rectangular blocks of hay coming out of the back of the baler like sausages. The weather has turned and the dark clouds have multiplied but it stays dry apart from a few random drops. P and S stay around with their mighty trailer and we all pile the bales on and unload them at our concrete block shed across the road, getting to and fro on the back of the trailer. It reminds me of my childhood when we used to help the local farmer with the hay in the field next to our house. Then, when the trailer was piled as high as possible he would let us ride on top the bale grabber, hands tightly gripped onto the prongs while we grinned with glee when he manouvered it up and down.

The last thing we hear as we fall asleep around midnight is the big baler across the road still working, wrapping the huge round bales in plastic, doing it’s twisty twirly dance in the dark. I wake in the night and the rain has returned, pit pattering on the slates with its familiar tune.

cows getting a bit more friendly now


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