Monday, July 28, 2014

Bringing Home the Harvest

It has been hot - and yes, my Texas friends, that does mean that it's been over 80 degrees! 

You've all heard the expression "Make hay while the sun shines".  Well the sun is shining and the fields are full of farmers bringing in the harvest.  This has been a tough hay year.  It has been rain, shine, rain, shine, which the hay has appreciated tremendously, however, the farmers - not so much.  It has been a monumental task trying to get the hay into the barn in between thunderstorms and rain showers.   Last week we even had a summer deluge complete with quarter-sized hailstones and downed trees - all while hay lay in the fields.

Our closest neighbor has about 40 acres in hay.  Most of that she puts up for her 30 cow/calf pairs, but one 10 acres field (closest to our property line) she groomed specifically for exportation.  "Farmer Green" had made arrangements with a farmer that regularly exports hay to swath and bale her small field and bundle it with his, netting her a tidy sum of $6,000.00.

While the sky's were blue and the weather was cooperating, Farmer Green swathed, baled and stacked all of the hay from her other fields neatly into her barn, sighed a sigh of relief and waited expectantly for "Farmer Brown" to take care of her small front field. 

One fine morning, Farmer Brown showed up in his huge swather and had all of Farmer Green's hay down within hours.  Gorgeous, huge windrows filled the field, enhancing the already charming landscape.  They hay lay on the ground, day after day, drawing a worried Farmer Green to the field for regular inspections.  And then, the rains came.  And came again.  Followed by a huge storm.  The hay was ruined.  Farmer Brown, now disappointed with the quality no longer wanted the hay.  It was time for Plan B.

Plan B rested on another farmer that wanted the hay for his cattle.  He didn't mind a bit of brown in the hay.  It was lush and thick and fine for his stock.  He made arrangements with Farmer Green to fluff and bale her front field.  It was perfect - he was going to use his round baler (huge bales) and load them onto his truck with his tractor - she wouldn't have to touch a thing!  Again Farmer Green waited.  And again, disappointment.  Plan B flopped and she was once again faced with 10 acres of swathed hay, and no equipment big enough to handle the large windrows and no hay crew to wrangle the bales.

Enter Master Hand Grenade and Miss Serenity.  Farmer Green called early Saturday morning and requested her favorite hay crew.  Of course Hand Grenade and Serenity willingly agreed.  Little did they know what they were getting themselves into!  This was no regular haying job.  Before they could bale this hay, they had to fluff it so that it would dry properly and be fit for baling.  Unfortunately, the windrows were so huge that the fluffer Farmer Green had was too small to do an adequate job.  Hand Grenade and Serenity's job was to finish turning the hay, by hand - all 10 acres!  Armed with pitchforks and a good attitude, they set to work.  As the sun set in the evening and the temperatures cooled, Dragon Snack and Master Calvin joined their older siblings in their hay fluffing adventures.  Even the little ones put in a good days work!

Serenity and Hand Grenade directing their crew

Master Calvin wielding his pitchfork

Working together
After two days of fluffing hay, the baler went to work.  Kachunk, Kachunk, Katchunk, the baler labored until 1 o'clock in the morning, baling over 40 tons of hay.  Hand Grenade and Serenity bucked bales, earning every callous on their hands, until 10:30 last night.  Their morning wake-up call was 4:30 a.m.  By 5 O'clock the kids were back in the field, loading hay onto the hay trailer.  They had a brief respite about 7:30 - just long enough to have a quick breakfast (together they ate 14 eggs scrambled with sharp cheese and fresh chives, along with multiple slices of toast!), before reporting back to they hay field. 

As I write this, it is 7:45 p.m.  Hand Grenade and Serenity are still in the field, with two loads of hay left to go.  Each load takes 45 minutes to load in the field and off-load and stack in the barn.  Hand Grenade has worked all day, even when it was 102 degrees.  Serenity worked until 11:30, took a quick shower and reported for work at her day job - and then hit the field again as soon as she got home (5 o'clock this evening).

In the field

Bucking bales
Haying is hard, hot, uncomfortable work.  And, in the whole scheme of things, doesn't pay particularly well.  But none of that matters.  What matters is that my children are helping a neighbor.  They are learning to work hard.  They are learning to push themselves beyond what they believe they are capable of doing.  They are learning that work is good for their souls.  As a mother, I am so grateful to live where my children can learn these unparalleled lessons.  A place where they can learn the value of work and of neighborliness and of putting other people before themselves.

The temperature at 6 o'clock this evening
You may ask why our children have spent so many hours in the neighbors field.  The answer is simple - and terrible.  Farmers can't find anyone to hay anymore.  Teenagers no longer seem to need a summer income.  The work is hard and kids just don't want to do it.  Most farmers in our area have taken to baling in huge square or round bales simply because they can do all of the work themselves, without having to hire a hay crew.  They just move the bales with their tractor and don't have to go through the hassle of having to find a couple of kids who want some greenbacks in their wallets.  A sad state of affairs, methinks.

And now, I'm off to prepare for the return of my children, bone wearied but satisfied with a good days work (or four, but who's counting?).

Until next time,



  1. We do hay here in KY as well. The story is the same. No teenagers want to work. We do have hay help, some friends of my boys, and we treat them well.
    After putting up hay, they can count on a large sit down meal with dessert.
    My son will probably get a full time job by next summer, and his friends the same story. I can see us going to the big round bales instead of the square bales.
    Plenty of demand for the square bales as people with small amounts of livestock don't have to own a tractor to feed! Ann from KY

  2. What a shame. My son is in his early twenties, and still cuts my single older ladies grass for her. Both my son's go out of their way to help neighbors and friends. I only pray that they teach their children the same. The kids these days are so so selfish and feel they DESERVE everything. Your kids are to be commended, and their parents more so.

  3. Same in NE Indiana. Most folks are doing big round bales, and many for the same reason: Haying crews are hard to come by. As a guy who baled a lot of small bales as a teen, and on more than one occasion fluffed wet windrows by hand with a pitchfork, there may be a related explanation to consider. Not an excuse, but perhaps a symptom of a larger problem.

    Years ago when my generation of teens were handling hay, most of us where still eating more or less like your kids: Healthy foods from our own farm and gardens supplemented by 'real' produce from local family-owned grocery stores, and prepared 'from scratch' at home. Now, most kids are eating largely heavily processed, chemical-laced, GMO-rich stuff imported from parts-unknown to a big-box superstore near you. I wonder if the constitution of a kid eating that kind of food could hold up to a real day's work even if the desire were there! In addition to "Don't wanna", there could be a real "Couldn't if I wanted to" aspect involved.

    1. I respectfully disagree. GMO's and chemicals are used to produce more food to support a growing population - not just in the US. What I'm saying is that people in other countries that HAVE to work like a dog from sun up to sun down are often eating similar foods, and they are able to work just fine. I don't personally believe GMO's and chemicals cause problems, but if they do, they would be latent and not immediately observable. I could be wrong though.

      Also, where I live (FL), all we use are round bales. I haven't heard of anyone using square bales for cows down here in 15 years or more. Generally, it's easier for everyone involved - the consumer as well as the grower - IF you have the equipment. There's also less waste involved, if you use a hay ring.

    2. I lived in Florida for a while in the late 1970s, and again in the early 1980s. I don't recall seeing a lot of hay( I remember a lot of orange groves and corn), but the round bales were making their appearance then-I remember a neighbor saying it looked like how hay was done in Europe. I have very little worries about genetic engineering. The benefits outweigh the risks. Genetic engineering now is where computers were in 1945. They knew they'd improve, but there's no way they could have foreseen how, or their effect on the world.

  4. One way I made money as a teenager was to ride my bike down the road and pick up deposit bottles ( a rarity now). Doesn't sound like it would be worth it at a dime per bottle, but I could make $20+ per week's worth of afterschool riding ( 1976 dollars ). Bought a lot of electronics that way. Easier than flipping burgers. During tobacco cutting/housing time, I have made $50+ just picking up bottles. The main drawback being that many stores had limits on the number of bottles they would take per day, which meant more riding to different stores. The bike had four baskets, with a total capacity of about 50 bottles.
    I wonder if the reason a lot of farmers won't hire crews is legal? If someone gets hurt, the farmer could be sued. Machines don't sue (yet). Side note- I hope I live long enough to see a self-aware computer and genetic construct you can carry on a conversation with.....

  5. It isn't just a symptom of young people not wanting to work hard. The last hurricane we had, Isaac, we ended up staying with friends. The husband is a sheriff's detective in a nearby parish and had to work the entire hurricane. There were lots of branches and leaves, etc. blown into their yard. They are on about 1/2 an acre. Once the weather cleared my family of 8 got to work cleaning up the yards. We did the front yard one day and the back yard the next. Since my children were out there helping, some of the neighborhood children also came out and helped. The detective was surprised to come home to his front yard clean. He thanked us and talked about what hard work it is to get it all cleaned up after a storm. The next day, after we had finished the back yard, he came home from work and told me in no uncertain terms that I had better not make those kids do anymore work. I told him that I wouldn't because we were all done. He mentioned again about how difficult a job it was. My response to him was, "As a homeschooling mom, how do you expect me to teach my children to be hard workers if I never require them to work hard?" He didn't have an answer to that and he saw my point. My children are not afraid of hard work and it doesn't matter if they are getting paid for it or not. If the "authoritative" adults in our society are opposed to children working hard, it is no wonder the children themselves have such attitudes.

  6. in 1967/68 in the summer heat of missouri, my dad, myself and two brothers (ages 12,11,9) helped a neighboring farmer with his hay...we earned five cents per bail each and at the end of the job, we combined our money to buy groceries.

  7. My husband was told by a hay farmer that they are going to the large square bales because they are easier to export. Many of these "hay farmers" are worshiping the almighty dollar and could care less about providing hay for the people who live in the area. Western WA hay growers sold all their crop to China and then the brokers came over to try and buy out all of Eastern WA and Idaho hay making it unaffordable for the locals to buy hay if you can even find it. Your neighbor saw dollar signs and went for it and got burned. She could have baled that hay in small square bales in the beginning, put it up, and sold it for the $150/ton that her "broker" friend offered. It would have been good quality grass hay, then, before all the rain washed away the nutrients. Now it is only worth half that. We need to work together and provide for the local economy and people first. Then, if there is extra, they can think "global". Enola, I am glad that your children are hard workers and are willing to help out. You are doing well to raise them with a good work ethic and belief in God.

  8. To you and Sir Knight, JOB WELL DONE!
    Be proud of your children.

    A neighbor in North Idaho.

  9. I hauled hay in high school for extra money outside of my regular job. An older farmer would hire me and my cousin to throw bales in the back of his old Chevy. He baled everything and we hauled it. We were paid 10 cents a bale for regular "grass" hay and 15 cents for maize stalks (because they usually shredded your forearms.) I really enjoyed the work out, but would finish the day at dark and go on to my night time job. My children think it is beneath them to haul hay, having hauled with me helping their uncle once. The work was apparently too hard. I am really proud to see your children aren't scared of hard work! Great Job!

  10. Wow, that warms my heart and soul. What a beautiful post and what a beautiful opportunity for your children. Your mother heart must be so glad. :) I would loooooove to meet your and yours.

  11. You have renewed my faith in America, and Americans. Keep up the good (hard!) work.

  12. Someone else nailed it: IT ISN'T JUST THE KIDS. Nowadays, people seem to think it's a crime for a child to do a tough day's work. I remember my cousin working the hayfields (and mowing churchyards) all summer for his spending money for the rest of the year. His son, who will be 18 this fall, tried to find the same kind of work, only to be told to come back after his 18th birthday. No one would hire him; they were all afraid of judgment and liability.

    I've had a score of people criticize me for having my children "work." By this is do not mean anything as heavy as haying; I am referring to housework. Mop, vacuum, pick up bedrooms and toys, wash dishes. I ask you: How are children to learn a work ethic if they are not only not asked, but not permitted, to work??

    It isn't as if I wish to return to the days of "breaker boys." I just want to teach my kids to be able to keep their fannies dry in a barn. One wonders if there isn't a conspiracy afoot to make good and sure that children grow up helpless, dependent, and with no idea of how to work for/with others or care for themselves. It's downright depressing.

  13. My husband has probably pitched 100,000+ small bales in his life. I am a "city girl" and have probably done 25 to 30K myself. Our kids have not done nearly that many, but they have and know how to stack them properly (and flip them to look for live baled rattlers first!) We too have gone to large rounds and squares out of necessity. The kids also know about picking rocks and have told others who complain that their own children are not is well-behaved that rock picking is a key parenting strategy. I will say that the youngest - now 17 has also told people that he has never had any desire to be a geologist.....! Natokadn

  14. Jackie @ Backwoods home in her most recent post stated that they cannot find anyone to haul small squares for $10/hr. We had to pay that in our area nearly 10 years ago and had very little luck-then. That is when we switched to the large bales..... Natokadn

  15. Enola, Blessings on you and your family. You represent the true backbone of this great country. You do us all great honor, M'am. Thank you for raising a hard working God-centered family.

  16. The county in which I grew up had many plant nurseries. Ours was the last in the county where teenagers still worked instead of Mexicans. The year after I quit ('98 or '99 I believe), they switched to illegal Mexican labor. Funny thing is, there were always young people willing to bust their behinds for minimum wage. That's how I got all my spending money for the weekends. I think that part of it was it was just cheaper to have Mexicans work there, because they really did work hard and could get paid less than minimum wage. It was an economic decision. I mean, I believe that part of it may be teens unwilling to work, but not entirely.