On Friday afternoon our neighbour came knocking to tell Stephen it was time to make the hay. He had cut it the night before and now it was time to rake and windrow ready for baling; there was no time to waste and Stephen got right to it.
I don’t know if I ever really understood the phrase ‘make hay while the sun shines’ until this summer, in the past I always saw it more as a metaphor but not now, oh no indeed. This year has been a year of cool temperatures and rain, rain, rain. Rain that stopped everything from growing as it should, rain that dampened the earth making it impossible to get the tractors into the fields, rain that poured endlessly down on our precious hay risking flattening and rotting. This summer we have been holding our breath for the right time, for the sunshine to come and to stay.
After feverish weather watching we knew this week was our chance, the weather was clear and dry and forecast gave us four days of good temperatures, no humidity and blessed sunshine. The chaps got to work and kept going until the job was done, there was no time to waste and that hay is a precious commodity to us, it will feed our cows through the winter and having enough is crucial. Our knowledgable neighbour (and friend) had told us that the hay was good for fodder this year, in fact it was great, our crop was looking good but the weather has been against us at every turn.
But finally the sun shone, the breezes blew and the hay was cut. It fell in beautiful swathes, green and fresh, drying quickly under the cobalt summer sky; Stephen took the the raking like a pro, he worked for hour after hour until it was done, ready for baling on Saturday. When the baling was done, each heavy disc of green falling gracefully and silently from the back of the machine, we were finally able to take a breath. After weeks of worry we could relax a little knowing that this crucial crop will soon be under cover, that it had been saved from the downpours, that our cows will eat well this winter.
There is still hay to take, pastures that need cutting back, hay that will be perfect for bedding our animals on until the spring grasses return again. We may even get a precious second cut it we are lucky and the weather co-operates. But for now the main crop, the crop that will sustain our animals through the cold and snowy months, that will smell and taste of sunshine and flowers even in the depths of winter, is sitting solidly in our bottom field. Like monoliths of grass, symbols of future prosperity and security.
On Sunday it rained all day.