The race was on. Ed finished cutting as I was raking, which led right into baling, because it was Sunday and the weather guessers were calling for rain on Monday night thru Wednesday. So we worked our butts off, trading tractors and implements as needed. The balewagon stood by, ready to start scooping up bales, and Dale salted the barn in readiness for the first loads going in. It was quite a ballet, albeit a slow motion one. And of course, it didn't go perfectly; when you're working with rough ground and old equipment, along with a novice equipment operator (me) who can kinda sorta almost remember how things worked from the past two years of running the baler and rake for two days each year, it's a given that things will go wrong or break. I personally broke last year's record of 2 shear pins on the baler flywheel within the first 100 yards by breaking 3 shear pins without moving an inch. That necessitated a lightning fast run into the Corvallis New Holland dealer for two more bags of shear pins to insure that we WOULD make it thru the rest of the hay. And Dale was quick to notice smoke coming out from a bale on the balewagon in time to prevent a catastrophe. He pulled the smouldering bale off the wagon and doused it before it caught the entire barn on fire. And first thing Monday morning Ed and I had to fix the old IH that was the beast pulling the baler when rust and paint flakes from inside the gas tank gummed up the fuel lines and injectors the evening before. Otherwise, it was just going around and around and around in rectangles, watching the odd snake go thru the baler and hoping it would mummify before that bale got fed. I hate that we bale snakes, because we need them to keep the vole and mouse population down to a dull roar, but not much can be done to prevent it.
By Monday night, the little puffy clouds fluttering overhead all day were starting to look serious about making some moisture, and Romella came over to get the first 37 bales of the 5 tonne she bought from us. Our basic measuring stick of how much we would sell hinged on two things - we needed a minimum of 25 tonne ourselves, and anything that ended up outside the barn was going to another home. We got over 1000 bales off the 12 acres we hayed for a total of about 35 tonne. Not bad for non-irrigated, native bentgrass and rye on crappy soil! Especially as just a month before cutting, I was going to just give it to the cows, as I suspect we would not have gotten even the 10 tonne we got off it last year at that point. Between the timely rain and Frank's fertilizing, we scored our second largest harvest behind 2010's record 44 tonne off the original 10 acres of hay pasture.
The promised rain held off until Tuesday morning, then gifted us with a much needed .20", but since Romella had cleared the outside of the barn, we had no worries about hay getting wet. She with her two helpers, son Chuck and his gal pal Karen, made two more massive loads to round out the 5 tonne she needed for her sheep, Dale made some more strategic propping of the sagging hay, and we were DONE.
We couldn't do this without our wonderful friend Ed and his time and equipment. We insist on paying him, altho he assures us, he'd just as soon not take any money for his efforts. He's always there for us when we need him, and our entire tiny community out here in Bellfountain is full of more people just like Ed. Who else would come over at midnight on a cold, rainy winter's night to help pull a calf? Frank and Sharon, of course. Who would drop his dinner and rush over with milk replacer and help tube a newborn calf, even knowing as he did it that it wasn't going to make it? Bruce, of course. And who can we go to for a backhoe to bury a dead calf? Don, and if he couldn't do it himself, the keys are always there for us. And so many others around here, just like Ed, Sharon, Frank, Bruce and Don, willing to help out any time, day or night, in a crisis. We truly are blessed to live where we do with the people in our lives.
And the cows, well, they won't go hungry this winter, altho I'm sure if you were to ask them, they'd say otherwise. That's why we don't ask them
The first bales hit the ground Sunday morning early
The view from the beastly baler
Onboard the baler, chasing the balewagon and Ed
The first loads in the barn. Because the balewagon is old, it doesn't stack tightly, thus the need for a perfectly level floor as well as dozens of 2X4's in different lengths to prop it up
The following is a sequence showing how the balewagon works its magic
The very last load headed for the barn Monday afternoon
The hay pasture, cleared of all but Ed's service truck, late Monday afternoon
And, what's a hay season without a hay fall? Not as bad as last year's, thankfully. The old Gangsta Girls cluck in disapproval