Monday, July 26, 2010

some crappy farming jobs

That, my friends, is a picture of an empty hay field. Thank goodness. Mr. and Mrs. Magic Neighbor came over at five this morning to help us clear the bales off the field. This will be review for those of you who are already farmers/agritainers, but bear with me. Ordinarily what we do is drive our truck out into the field and gather the ninety-plus-pound hay bales one by one, until the truck bed is full and stacked three deep. We can fit about fifteen bales per load. Then we drive over to the hay shelter and buck the bales, one by one, onto the haystack, then go get another load. So that's each bale hefted at least twice--once onto the truck, once onto the haystack. And there are a lot of bales, at least if you're doing it all by hand. Neat! Thankfully this was the second cutting. The first cutting in the spring always has a (figurative) ton of bales, because it's the only time of the year we get enough water.

But the spring bales are also the heaviest and the most full of June grass and other garbage, so the guy who cuts our hay for us takes the whole first cutting for his cows. Cows aren't like goats, and they're perfectly happy to eat nonsense hay. Goats, especially our goats, are picky whiners and will eat only the leaves of the very most lush alfalfa hay if you let them get away with it. They're so ungrateful! Here is this amazing food source, brought to them day in, day out, and they're all, "We remember the wild lettuces and beet greens of Egypt, but now our soul is dried away and there is nothing at all, beside these stems, before our eyes." Spoiled.

The second cutting has fewer bales, and they're lighter, so it takes us about half the time--only a couple of hours--to get the hay cleared and stacked as the first cutting used to take. And happily, the magic neighbors have a trailer that fits about twice as many bales as a truck bed, so it only took us an hour this morning. But it's still hay, and it still takes four or five trips, and it's scratchy and pokey and heavy and there is a reason hay chaps are a thing.

We wanted to get the hay stacked today so we could irrigate. Irrigating is a bother and a nuisance. Just thinking about it makes me frustrated, because we never get enough water to soak the whole field. Plus it often requires interaction with a particular neighbor about whom I would say some swear words and vulgar terms if my mom didn't sometimes read this blog. To irrigate we have to set up our dam (a tarp wrapped around a 2 x 4 and weighed down with rocks and mud) in the ditch, so the water level will get high enough to go through the tubes into the field. Then we have to go to the four fields west of us and close all their valves, open the valve on our ditch, and open the headgate at the top of the hill next to the cemetery to send the water down to us. What usually happens next is the ditch junction blows out from all the water pressure and sends the water down the wrong ditch, and the dam blows out, and John gets angrier and angrier trying to reset it in a full ditch, and the idiot neighbor comes and takes our water two or three times during our turn, and the people with the fields west of us come and take it two or three times, and even on the days when the junction doesn't blow out and the dam doesn't blow out and nobody takes our water we only get enough water to get about halfway down the field. Which is why the second cutting of hay is only half the size of the first cutting. Hate hate hate.

So, there are two joyless things about farming: bucking hay and irrigating. Imagine if this were our livelihood instead of our ultra-expensive LARP hobby!


All8 said...

I remember the "joyful" experiences of flood irrigation. It brings many choice words to mind. And Why is there always that ONE GUY who HAS to STEAL the WATER??? (Okay, there usually is more than one, but you know what I mean.)

My solution,

Move to where it Rains.

Barbie said...

I need to read your post to my hand- line changing men who sometimes complain about twice a day moves and help them remember that our fields were once flood irrigated. As a young girl I once rode my big roan horse squishing through these very fields in the middle of an irrigation turn. The farmer at the time gave me the most complete chewing out that I have ever had the pleasure to have. He was right and I was totally wrong and I immediately repented of my thoughtless ways and haven't returned to them.

Layne said...

Barbie, was it by any chance a strawberry roan? Because now I have an earworm of that song.

Eric said...

Ah, making hay and ungrateful caprine companions. My goats are the same way. We feed them oat hay in the winter, and they just nibble the milk oats and throw the rest onto the floor of the pen and soil it. The same when we feed them Acuba.

Doncha love goats?

Barbie said...

Yup, a strawberry roan..."oh that strawberry roan...." Thanks, it's now embedded in my head!