Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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July 6, 2013

THE PLAIN SIDE: Baling hay keeps the boredom away

Voltaire, the French thinker, said “Work keeps at bay three great evils — boredom, vice and need.” Well, I’m not bored now.

Sweat rolls down my face. I wipe it hastily while I change from the back of the moving hay wagon to the front. The goal is to yank the next bale onto the wagon before it tumbles off the chute and onto the ground because the baler is shoving the next bale through. Blisters are forming.

Sister Emily is the teamster handling the four horses pulling the baler and attached wagon. Her natural horsemanship stands her in good stead (most of the time) as she guides the caravan in circles gobbling up the rows of hay.

Hay baling is a bit of an art. The hay must be dried so as to not to rot after being compressed into bales. However, the savvy farmer doesn’t want his hay so dry that it loses nutritional value and palatability for his stock. The whole operation becomes a bit of a juggling act, including watching the weather forecast for an idea of when it will be sunny, cloudy or (look out!) rainy. The farmer needs a feel for when the hay is ripe to cut, dry enough to rake into rows, then dry enough to bale. Experience helps.

My dad, he of the uncanny haying instincts, is not home today. The final decisions are up to me. Some of our 10 acres was out yesterday, some two days ago. Will all of it be fit to bale today? Rain is forecast for tomorrow. ‘Twould be a comfort to have it all in the barn.

I check both parts of the field. There is little doubt that the first will be ready. The second is iffy.

I decide. We’ll rake the first part straight away and wait just a bit to rake the rest. Then we’ll try to bale it all.

Sisters Emily and Ramah rake while I prep our baler. This is the first time it will be used this season, so I gas it up, check that it has twine and grease it.

The girls bring their teams to the barn from across the road where they had been raking. We eat a quick lunch. Then it’s time to hit it.

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