A Great Day for Hay!…?
Is there such a Day??
Some of you may know that I didn’t grow up here in the country. I didn’t grow up around cows or tractors and I am slightly embarrassed to admit that before I met Jason I did not know the difference between a bale of hay and a bale of straw. Well, it didn’t take me long to start to understand once I was here. Jason has taught me more about farming than I ever thought I needed to know. He is a good teacher and doesn’t care that I’m a girl. He puts me to work right along side of him. He always says, “The more hands the better. I don’t care if your a girl and have small hands, I just appreciate that you show up to help”. Honestly I love doing everything with him… well usually… maybe not as much when the stress starts to eat him.
For the past 8 years I have always assumed that calving season was the most stressful part of the year. It’s cold, wet and miserable and especially stressful when you have lots of first calf heifers calving. You basically never sleep trying to make sure all the babies and their mamas survive. Well now that I have been around for sometime my perspective has greatly changed. Though calving comes with a tremendous amount of stress, the hay season (at least for Jason the perfectionist) is the worst, most miserable, stressful time of the year hands down!
The weather man is always wrong! 😡
No one can ever predict the weather exactly and I understand that…. but I’m not sure Jason does. It is unfortunate but I have to say that no matter who you ask about the weather they always get it wrong during hay week! Channel 8, weather bug, iPhone app, hi-def radar, and even the airport scans get the weather wrong each time we decide to cut hay. And talk about a finicky crop. Cripes! Too wet, too dry, to humid, not yet perfectly cured…. bla bla bla…. I hate this week!
You see the thing with hay is that there is a time when it is “juuuuust right” to cut. Well sometimes that “just right” time comes in the middle week when it’s going to rain everyday for the next 5 days. You don’t want hay to be too mature and end up being woody and coarse which could happen if you leave it to long in the field and you certainly can’t cut your hay and leave it to mold on the ground if it’s going to rain for the next week.
The struggle really becomes real when the weather man says it’s going to be “Beautiful ALL Week!!!” That’s the moment when the false feeling of safety and happiness sets it. You get all excited and jump at the chance of having the best hay crop in years! You head out and cut everything down and go to bed proud that in 2-3 days you are going to bale big beautiful bales of hay and pile them high for all to see!
Haha! Thats when the weather and hay gods start laughing and the next morning you wake up to pouring rain. There is no worse sound. I light rain may not be to bad of course, if it happens right after its cut. But heavy rain on hay that is almost dry enough to bale… well that is tantrum throwing time.
Even if you don’t get rain, there are other factors to watch out for. You can have it get too dry and once its too dry the leaves start falling off. Then you have to bale late at night or early morning so that you have some dew to keep hold of the leaves. This baling window is short because eventually it will become too humid or dry outside depending on if it’s morning or night.
High levels of humidity can make it impossible to harvest because the hay won’t wrap right. Also you need your moisture content to be just right inside a bale of hay. High moisture can actually make your bales spontaneously combust! That’s right. Boom!💥 Once the bales are stacked high levels of moister can cause a chemical reaction inside the tightly wrapped bale and boom! Crazy right!
And let’s not forget the never ending war your own equipment has on you. It never fails, something always needs to be fixed, tweaked or replaced. Cattle farmers rarely can afford the high price equipment of the new age corporate farmer, whos equipment gets replaced year to year because the paint is not as shiny. Ok, ok… maybe it’s not that often, but let’s just say we live in two different worlds.
Even if Jason didn’t have all these factors rolling around inside his head he would still have quality and production levels for his cows spinning around in there. He wants to get the best quality from a crop possible. As do all farmers. The difference between a regular crop and a hay crop is that our hay crop won’t be sold for money, this is food for our other crop… the cows. The animals need to eat all winter and no one wants to buy hay when they can grow it. So the stress builds and suddenly I feel like I am watching a crazy squirrel hoarding as many nuts as he can before the be white blanket covers the ground.
Some years are worse than others…
I do what I can to keep him calm year after year reminding him that the world isn’t coming to an end when the weather man lies to us. I will say that so far this year he has done a better job at keeping his cool with the hay. When things get frustrating we try to remember that there are many parts of our country that are suffering from severe droughts and ranchers can’t grow hay at all. People everywhere are having to sell their cows because they can not afford to feed them. This is a scary reality that could happen to anyone and definitely keeps things in perspective for us. We pray for these poor ranchers every night and and thank God that He has given us the little rain He has. Our crops haven’t been nearly as productive as in years past, but we are thankful to have food for our cattle at all.
Since I have left the city and become this odd version of a country girl I am thankful for so many things that I never understood before. Growing up I would eat hamburgers or spaghetti with meatballs or a good steak, and though I was thankful for the food, let’s be real I had zero appreciation for the process and journey my food had before it got to my plate. Farmers are the hardest working people I have ever met. Sometimes I get sad looking at Jason, because he can never really take a break. He is always exhausted. There are no set “hours” for this job, and certainly no guarantees for a return. The stress is high at all points of the year and I don’t believe that just anyone could do this type of work. I try to help as much as I can, and now I understand that it doesn’t matter how big your hands are but more that you simply offer to bring them. There is a lot of God in this country. You see Him everyday, not just in the beautiful sceneries, sunny days or nature that surrounds us, but He is in the faithful work ethic of the people who keep charging at the challenges that face them over and over again knowing full well they have no control. They get up early and stay up all night long just to feed us. Without them where would we be?