Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hay day

We have had the most exhausting day. That's because today we moved hay.

Now that the barn is finished, it was high time to get those 750 bales of grass hay under cover before the weather turned. We had a thunderstorm on Sunday evening (first rain in over two months) which got just the tops of the bales wet, but yesterday's sunshine dried them again. We knew our luck wouldn't hold forever. Fall is moving into north Idaho, and that hay needed to get protected from the weather.

Before we could stack the hay in the barn, we needed to bring in a couple dump trucks full of 1.5- inch gravel so the barn floor would have drainage. The truck barely fit under the trees.

The driver is making sure branches aren't getting caught in the truck bed.

While Don spread the gravel...

...Older Daughter and I joined some neighbor boys to start hauling hay.

It was an all-hands-on-deck work party. We needed two teams of three for hauling hay: each team needed a driver, a lifter, and a stacker. Here's our teenage work crew (Don and I rounded out the teams), looking rugged.

While the first team started hauling hay, Don and Younger Daughter smoothed out the gravel floor before stacking.

After each haul of hay, of course, we had to stack it.

Gradually the stacks of bales grew. At this point the boys were still rather cocky and cheerful. The day was fresh, the air was cool, and they were earning money.

And believe me, they earned every penny. It was brutally hard work.

Sometimes we saw weird things, like this carcass of a fawn.

But mostly it was just hard work. Yet gradually the stacks of bales grew.

We stopped for a sophisticated lunch of macaroni and cheese...

...and because everyone was working so hard, we made a quick batch of ice cream too.

Then it was back to work. At least the scenery was nice.

Here's Don's crew, across the field from us.

Can you see the barn on the right, with that growing stack of bales under the roof?

More stacking. To reach the upper levels, we made a chain gang, heaving bales from one level to the next.

And gradually the stack of bales grew.

More scenery, more endless rows of bales.

By this point the kids were getting mighty tired.

It took no time at all for the chickens to discover the bales.

More stacking...

...more endless rows of bales.

By this point the kids were getting seriously wiped.

A lot more resting between loads, a lot less cocky exuberance.

When we started at 8 am this morning, we optimistically thought it would take about five hours to move the bales. In fact, it took six people eleven hours. By the end of the day, a quarter of the barn's volume (one-half the floor space) was taken up in bales... and we were almost too tired to admire it.

We paid off our hard-working tired young men and brought them home. All over the American heartland during this time of year, there are similar scenarios unfolding: young people working alongside their elders, bringing in this nation's harvest and training muscles toward honest labor; cultivating food as well as cultivating a work ethic.

We're all tired tonight, but it's the tiredness of a good day's work.

Off to bed.


  1. I loved, loved, loved your final thoughts. God bless America and God bless your hard working family. (Some people can't get off their sofa to get the remote for the TV! Not you!).
    --K in OK <><

  2. Thanks for todays pictorial of hauling in the hay, brings back fond memories of hard but enjoyable and rewarding work with my father, uncles, neighbors and friends harvesting hay during the summer 30 odd years ago in County Kerry, Ireland as youth/teenager.

  3. Most of us in this country have forgotten what actual hard work is like. Not all, but most.

    Imagine having to do all that 150 years ago :-)

  4. Wow. Now, is that enough hay to get you through the winter? Please say that it is!!!

  5. I've done hay haulin' myself and yes, it is hard work. Kudos to you for having it done.

  6. And what do you all have out there that would have eaten that fawn?

  7. Unfortunately it's not quite enough hay to get us through the winter. We'll need to purchase about three more tons. The good news is... we now have a place to store it!

    As for what could eat the fawn: let's see, we have coyotes, cougars, wolves, and bears. Take your pick. (It was probably coyotes as they're the most common.)

    - Patrice

  8. Just curious...do you plan to put side walls on the barn? Seems like a blowing rain would still get most of the hay wet.

  9. Heavens yes. The "roof on stilts" is the only part we could afford to have professionally built. We'll finish out the barn ourselves. This fall (once our busy season is over) we'll side the south and west walls with sheet metal we've salvaged over the years. Those are prevailing wind directions and should keep the hay dry. This fall we'll also build a long feed box on the east side, as well as a large awning for the cattle. This will offer a great deal more shelter than they've had before.

    Other plans for the barn include three bays (one for firewood, one for the tractor, one for miscellaneous farm implements) as well as interior spaces to store tools and equipment. And on the south wall we're going to build a lean-to greenhouse the whole length of the barn -- whoo-hoo! But these plans won't happen for a couple more years since we have to save our money for them.

    - Patrice

  10. Loved your paragraph about young people working alongside their elders. This is something the kids will look back on many years from now. It's hard work but think how much better our country would be if more youngsters could get outside and experience this sort of thing. I helped my dad gather hay each fall and wish my sons could have experienced it. They're both turning into pretty good farmers though!

  11. Wow! Am I impressed with what you did and what you'll do in the future. Unless you live in a farming area or are a farmer, you have no idea of what it takes to have a farm. I was raised in a suburban locale in CT but most summers visited family in Ohio - they had mini-farms of a couple hundred acres. I got tired just listening to what their day entailed. Thank God for our farmers and keep them well.

  12. Thank you for taking me back some 35 years. Hauling and stacking hay isn't difficult work but it is hard work!

  13. Kudos to all of you for enjoying the hard work of progress.
    But, the round of applause and standing ovation goes to those sturdy, willing young teenagers who stuck with it just a little longer than they thought their energy levels could allow., even while their muscles burned. They learned and gained far more than the bucks and ice cream for the labor. They were exercising and stretching their personal boundaries of physical and mental strengths, building endurance and fortitude, and learning new personal limits. These are the attributes which will allow the survival of the fittest in our future America. The memories gained and drawn on from yesterday, will be cherished in the tomorrows of their minds, when they are too old to lift a single shaft of hay. These are all attributes you are not gifted with and do not learn sitting behind a book. They are obtained by doing,
    or, un-doing
    a difficult,heavy,scratchy,sweaty day's work of opportunity, presented by God's blessings.

    God Bless you and yours and ALL you set your hands to.


  14. I like the kid with the Poncho, don't see a lot of those anymore. I always found a light long sleeved t essential for haying. A 'hickory' shirt works well.

  15. There is nothing, not one thing, one can do more satisfying than complete a complex and difficult task.

    This task began with preparing the fields to grow hay, tending the fields, mowing and baling (sp?). This followed by a barn raising and filling.

    Kudos. Next year it'll be easier. Well a little.. B-)

  16. As a boy many moons ago I spent my summers on my Uncle Lyle's farm baling hay and doing handiwork. He used to pay my younger brother and I with a calf each, which we would take to auction. Hard work does not describe it fully. The scratched forearms, dodging the bales the kicker shot at us from the New Holland baler as we staked bales on the hay wagon, and of course stacking the fruits of our labor in the barn. Always keeping a vigil and checking bales for heat, only takes one to ignite a barn. It was hard work ,long and tedious, but my Aunt Rose and Uncle Lyle fed us good, paid us for our troubles and most important taught us work ethic and guided us into responsible adults.Most kids have no understanding for work and reward and always bringing your 'A' game. Much too busy playing video games and watching boob tube. And we wonder why we as a nation are in such decline. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

    Had Enuff

  17. Phyllis (N/W Jersey)August 31, 2011 at 5:32 PM

    All that wonderful hay ... but the insufferable
    itch, itch, itch!

    Good job, folks!

  18. fading memories, how they linger. my oh my, bringing in the hay sure hold memories for me.during summers when daddy was out of work, he would gather all his chilren and head for the fields to help neighbors bring it in..a nickel a bale is what we earned from the farmer we worked for. plus breakfast, lunch and dinner too. we were rich!!!

  19. There aren't too many chores that require more stamina than putting hay away: "Hay-bites" up and down bare arms...sweat dripping in your eyes...and muscles strained to exhaustion.

    Hoo-boy! I'm tired out just looking at it!

    Good job, everyone. You earned your soft beds tonight.

    Just Me

  20. Job well done!! Thanks for always sharing with your pictures, I can smell that hay from here.
    MaryB in GA

  21. Youngsters always burn out quickly. Back in the Napoleonic period when they marched everywhere, the French found that there most dependable soldiers who could march the furthest were in their early 30s.

    The Young Guard, was an elite unit, but was known to be poor marchers. They were enthusiastic when they got to to the battlefield, it just took them a little while to get there.

    In a more modern setting, in the Carolina heat, I could alays outdig the youngsters. Always. Now that I am getting closer to 50, I suspect the competition would be a lot closer. LOL.

  22. Ah the memories of putting up hay when I was a kid, yep all bad! Patrice Lewis, an electric ice cream maker??? :)

  23. I remember helping my friends put hay into their barn before it (sadly, it was 100+ years old!) collapsed. The memories were fond, and sitting at the tippy-top of the stack, looking through a crack in the barn wall across the fields...good times. I love that kind of hard work...despite the hay dust which gets everywhere, including in your nose...yuck!

  24. As my dear British friend said of haying..."It's jolly hard work, but quite rewarding!" I believe your crew would agree.

  25. Way too much work for me to even watch! Why don't you put your hay in round bales and join the rest of us in the modern world?

    1. you think that's too much work for you to watch?Well, why don't you give it a try and see! it takes hard work and determination to haul square bales!

  26. Doublehomestead, we had a hard time finding anyone to bale for us -- farmers are all busy this time of year. The farmer we found to bale only had a small baler. But that's actually a good thing -- we don't have the equipment to move large bales (round or square 1000 lb bales) so we were able to move the small bales via manpower rather than tractor power.

    - Patrice