Just like Isak Dinesen who wrote “I had a farm at the foot of the Ngong Hills” in Africa, I had a farm in the Kalamazoo River Valley in Michigan. Just as Dinesen could not forget her farm, neither can I forget mine.
Ours was a small farm, with wheat, oats and corn to be planted and harvested. And the staple of the farm, hay. Some hay was just grasses, but the crème de la crème were Alfalfa and clover. Every stand of hay was cut and raked out to dry. How we managed to get it mown and conditioned, teddered, raked, inverted, baled, and hauled still amazes me. The farmers were the best weather people ever—they could tell if they could or couldn’t cut hay due to the morning dew on the growing crop; and hopefully could tell when to quit the field in the afternoon when rains could come and wait for Mother Nature to favor them again. We understood the saying, “Make hay while the sun shines.”
A farm friend emailed me that he had baled 800 pound hay rolls last week; and another farmer did 1800 pound rolls—a total of 150 rolls to jockey into position to store out of the weather. The machines are amazing today. When I baled hay as a child and teenager, I sat in the hay dust and tied wires around the hay to form bales. The wires were sharp, and one bounce of the baler or mis-poke of the wire and I would be cut. Even through gloves. Today I can still trace the scars on my fingers and between them. But hay fed cattle and cattle were our biggest “crop.”
This past month huge 18-wheeler flat bed trucks have been coming through Santa Fe with their loads of hay. I can tell it is an early cutting, not as lush as future cuts, but it doesn’t matter. They come from Durango, Alamosa and north of Taos. Green gold. As I pull alongside a 16 wheeler on St. Francis, I am tempted to put out my hand and just feel the hay. I am sure I make the drivers nervous as I edge close to them. The aroma of that hay is like the aroma of green chilis roasting in Santa Fe in the late summer.
But it is much easier to be nostalgic about the farm now that the closest thing to my raising farm crops is my patch of millet by my front gate for the quail to eat. I am so proud that my friends carry on the traditions on the farm and with the automatic balers they should for a long time.
by PCH @Main