Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Haying Time

Pictures of hay bales stacked up in hay wagons are iconic farm images -- and stay tuned for those in a few days, 'cause baling is exciting!-- but in some ways cutting the hay is the more dramatic moment. You've committed. You've checked the weather, you've watched the hay grow, you've thought about how long the season has left... can you let it grow some more, or will it get too brown? (It loses nutritional value then --and the cows and sheep want to be well-fed!) If we cut now, will a thunderstorm come along and ruin the hay? If hay gets wet after it starts drying, it can get moldy and become unfit to eat. But it has to dry out completely before it can be baled. You have to know quite a bit: be familiar with the patterns in the local ecology and local weather --and how to fix the baler if it breaks in the middle of the field! (Hint: keep a good supply of shear pins.) Then you commit, and cut, and the sweet sound of harvesting echoes back to the boarding houses from the meadows. Then, two days later, you call for all hands on deck! and all the faculty and interns who are available head out to the fields to help bring it in. Hot work, out there in the sun, and tiring -- but satisfying.

Like the rest of New England, the Meeting School's farm got so much rain this summer that it was hard to get a big crop of hay in the first cutting, back in June. So the second cutting is more important than ever. If students are lucky, they may find that rain slowed us down again, and one or two fields remain to be cut when they arrive. Then they'll get to help with the baling. Remember: the hay-bale toss isn't just a Farm Olympics event!

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