Making Hay While the Sun Shines

We have had a spectacular growing season here in central Minnesota. Just the right amount of rain and an ideal heat index means the corn is coming in ahead of schedule, the hay volume is peak and no one is hauling hoses to their vegetable beds or watching the grass go brown.
It is also spectacular to be at this phase of family growth. Healthy teenage farmers are the best hands. They are strong, good looking and already have a wisdom about how to get hard work like bringing in hay, done. I am happy knowing they will carry this knowledge forward with them no matter where life leads.

Get 'er done
My husband was out in the field gathering bales and my son would greet him coming up the drive and help him to switch wagons, lining up a full one with the barn conveyer and easing the empty wagon onto the hitch.

My daughter and the neighbor girls would discuss how to divide the tasks of unloading bales off the wagon, onto the conveyer, off the conveyer and up into the barn. To the uninitiated, this may sound simple, but there are critical decisions at each step. What body strength and type is required for each job? What risks are associated? (read:don't fall
of the wagon, destroy the conveyer or break an ankle up in the loft) Has everyone hydrated, taken allergy medication or protected their arms from bugs, prickly hay and sunburn? Where should the hay be stacked for easiest on-going feeding to the horses and sheep? And finally, what's the plan to go the distance? With 35,000 pounds, 90 degree heat and rising in the loft, a burning sun on the wagon and only 4 of us for the full day, that becomes the critical question. With rain imminent, this job gets done, period.

Here my pride in my children is as rich as the aroma of fresh cut alfalfa. Knowing we had the neighbor girls for the first load when we were still fresh, we piled those bales highest in the loft. As the day wore on, the girls left
and the loads kept coming, we worked in a quiet, methodical, meditative rhythm. I felt like I was in a hot yoga class separating physical pain from those nasty "when will this be over" thoughts that are more burdensome than the task at hand.

We took advantage of the breaks to breathe and laugh. When I got tired, my son and husband pushed even harder. At the end of 8 hours my 14 year old daughter and I still had to grab the damp and heaviest bales and pull them inside the barn to cool out and stay dry. My son had to navigate a wagon of broken bales around a tricky corner, through a narrow gate, across the sand to perfect alignment with the feeder. Waste not want not. It was an Olympic countdown to our lemonade and shower.

Stamina, responsibility, tolerance, planning, precaution, strength, pride and rising to the task makes bales alfalfa grass mix even sweeter.

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