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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Hay-Timing

Sheep-Fighting Man, who farms the big field next door, has been making hay. This happens with military precision, great energy & despatch, in three phases.
Phase 1: Cutting grass. A tractor appeared the other afternoon, dragging huge mowers astern, and literally ran rings around the local wildlife. Three or four days later, after the hay had a nominal chance to dry (the rains came), Phase 2: S-FM returned with a sort of rotovator affair attached to his best blue tractor and zoomed around the field, turning the cut grass to give it air. This was almost immediately followed by Phase 3: S-FM returned with a harvester & two of his mates driving high-sided open-topped trucks. The harvester hoovered up the grass and spurted it from the spout sticking out over its off-side. Mate #1 drove his truck carefully alongside, followed at a respectful distance by Mate #2. As soon as the first truck was bursting at the seams he sped off and the second accelerated into position to take on the stream of hay. The whole operation took less than thirty minutes - the field must be 2 or 3 acres. I was hugely impressed by the efficiency of the process.
The field is now a bright yellow of cut-back stubble, temporary home to a herd of skinhead sheep who don't have the energy to crop the stalks. Instead they sit around by the top gate, clearly believing that the world owes them a living, or at least more frequent fresher hay on which to gorge themselves placid.
As soon as the grass was lifted, seagulls descended upon the field in search of suddenly exposed pickings. They soon cleared off. Yesterday the first of the swifts arrived, flying fast and low across the stubble, hunting the small life and insects of the lower air. Then by early evening they were gone too. But I can't imagine they've done with such a banquet so soon . . .
(Updated for authenticity - hat-tip: Dr John)

2 Comments:

Anonymous Dr John said...

That takes me right back to summers spent with my uncle nearly 40 years ago. He was the schoolmaster at Rosley, about 10 miles towards civilisation from you. One of the highlights of the holiday was always hay-timing (never, ever hay-making if you want to retain a vestige of Cumbrian credibility). The process of cutting and strowing was the same, but then it was picked up by a baler which dropped the bales out the back. They then had to be picked up and man-handled onto trailers to take back to the farm, and stacked in the barn, again by hand. Everyone in the village turned out to help. I don't suppose the muscle power of a rather feeble city-boy made much difference to the process, but riding around on trailers full of hay was enormous fun. No chance of that with todays forage-harvesters, and I'm sure the health-and-safety mafia would have had fits. But everyone there felt directly connected to the farm, the countryside and the process of growing food. I think we have lost something.

26/7/05 3:37 pm  
Blogger Nick said...

John - title corrected. Clearly I never am going to be a real Cumbrian . . .
BTW, baling does still go on (though not on this occasion). They're droppped out of the back of the baler, then another cunning machine comes along, picks them up, hoicks them onto a platform, skewers them with a couple of prongs & rotates them rapidly while black plastic is wrapped round them before cutting the plastic & droppping them back onto the ground for later collection. Damned clever.

26/7/05 5:46 pm  

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