Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Hay bale visiting

Bill and I put out some sweat last night. We stacked 139 bales of hay from our own field into the north bay of the machine shed. We hadn't planned to handle the hay until winter when it becomes Lily's main menu, but it would have been a tight fit for Doug Stockdale to get his bale loader inside the shed. He stacked them just outside.

Bill has worked for over a week moving lumber, spreading crushed rock and putting in palettes and plywood as a floor of sorts for the bales. Though it was sweaty work last night, we didn't wear ourselves out too much and had the bales stacked within an hour or so. It's pretty satisfying to have most of our own hay, and Doug is encouraging us to remove a couple of those goat fences to enlarge the field.

"Do that, and you'll have enough hay for yourselves and maybe even some to sell to recover your expenses," he told us.

Doug's told us a lot of stuff in the past week or so because he's been here several times to determine whether the hay was worth cutting, to cut it, turn it, bale it and remove the hay from the field. Whenever Doug's finished with his work, he likes to visit. We enjoyed a marathoner Sunday night while sitting out on the bales near where he parked his tractor. Eventually his wife Cari came and we talked on.

Doug, with his sense of humor and vivid memory, reminds me a bit of my dad. Each summer Harold worked like a trooper taking those tractors round and round the fields every year at haying time---but when there was time for a break and a visit with family, he took advantage of it. We used to have lots of good visits on summer nights surrounded by each year's crop. Sometimes we might be sitting on our horses; sometimes we may have just driven to the field to bring him some water.

Whatever the reason, our appearance meant Harold's cue to shut down the tractor, pull out his Bull Durham and cigarette papers, meticulously roll a good smoke, light up and begin the story telling. Maybe it dealt with this year's hay yield or quality, maybe this horse or that horse, maybe even his memories from Millard Easter's ranch in Montana's Madison Valley back in the 1930s, but Harold always made time for plenty of talk.

I always enjoyed those gatherings in the fragrant field on summer evenings. They meant a few moments with relative simplicity, sitting in the midst of a sea of 50-pound bales. While there, listening to Harold's stories, we felt the peace of being temporarily removed from the frustrations, noise, and pitfalls of civilization, which was really no further away than those rigs rolling down the bumpy roads surrounding the field.

So, when Doug, dressed in his farming bib overalls, got down from his big tractor and to start telling his stories Sunday evening, I felt like we'd recaptured a little bit of Harold. Only difference was there were no cigarettes. Harold was usually good for at least four or five roll-yer-owns during each session, always flicking the ashes and butts into his rolled-up pant leg.

I'd say Sunday's hayfield visit with Doug and Cari coulda been a ten-cigarette visit in Harold's day. We cussed a few things going on in the community, talked a lot about kids, animals, life experiences and even learned about Doug's pygmy goat which shares breakfast with him every day. We bemoaned the news that folks who go to the county fair this year will have to pay to park, and, along that vein, we touched on the luxury life that's creeping into the area and slowly eating away at this simple farm life we've all enjoyed for so long.

Next year, we plan to take Doug's advice and have an even bigger hayfield. We'll be looking forward to July when he harvests it for us. His presence will not only help feed any barnyard critters we may have at the time, but, more importantly, it will sustain us with another welcome pleasure of enjoying our good neighbors while sittin' on the hay bales.

Life on the farm doesn't get any better than that.

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