Recently we farmers decided that it would be a fine time to take a break from the Marvelous Year of Maintenance. We thought we might attend to some other minor farming matters, such as weeding, harvesting, haying, and fall planting.
However, the farming spirits seem perfectly happy to tailor maintenance issues to our every activity. Take haying, for example.
Early in July, we had a stretch of sunny haying weather. Unfortunately, it was also a stretch of 95 plus degree heat. We knew we ought to make hay, but we were feeling mighty hot. Plus we discovered we had a lot to do just to get ready to make hay.
First, as my fellow farmer was cultivating the broccoli with the horses, the team suddenly swerved out of the pathway. Crunch! Crunch! went the broccoli plants as the horses stepped merrily on them.
“Whoa, whoa!” my fellow said urgently.
“Everything all right?” I called worriedly from across the garden.
“The lines broke again,” answered my fellow. “I couldn't steer. But the horses stopped right away. I think we only lost maybe five plants. Hey, will you get the duct tape?”
Oh, geesh. Duct tape. By the time I got back with it, the teamster and the horses were at the end of the row, and the rest of the broccoli was nicely weeded and hilled. I was surprised.
“I just stuck the old tape back together,” said my fellow. “It worked! But I'll still take that roll.”
I handed him the tape, wondering what he was planning.
With a flourish, my fellow hung the roll on the hames of the harness. “There!” he said. “Just in case I need it!”
I couldn't help laughing. A roll of duct tape hanging from the harness: what a perfect symbol of the Marvelous Year of Maintenance!
It was funny, but I was worried. My fellow was planning to mow hay the next day, which is not an easy task for the horses, and involves a 6 foot long razor sharp sickle bar. I didn't relish the idea of the driving lines breaking yet again.
“Did you order the new lines yet?” I asked.
“Not yet. I keep meaning to.”
“Let's do it right away. Maybe they could be shipped today, in time to mow tomorrow.”
We ordered the lines, and then my fellow looked the mower bar over. “I guess I have to replace the pole,” he sighed. “The end of it is rotten.”
But we had used up our last home-cut pole, when we replaced the pole on the spreader earlier in the Marvelous Year of Maintenance. “Maybe I could just shift the neck yoke back a little, to a better part of the pole,” my fellow said.
“I thought you already did that last year.”
“I did, but maybe I can do it again. I looked it up, and you only need 9 feet 6 inches between the neck yoke and where the evener is attached to the pole.”
“Did you measure it? Do you have that much?”
“More or less,” he said, not very reassuringly.
Meanwhile, it was getting hotter and hotter. Even discussing the potential repair made us break into a sweat.
Then we remembered that it was going to take a morning's work to clear out the barn floor so we could get the haywagon in the barn. The hay wagon itself was loaded down too,with all the wood we bought to replace the baseboards in the greenhouse, which we hadn't yet accomplished. Plus the wagon needed a repair, as it broke on the very last load of last year, in preparation perhaps for the upcoming Marvelous Year of Maintenance.
We stood in the shade, doing nothing, wiping our brows. Our horses stood in the barn, doing nothing, wiping their brows.
“It's too hot to breathe, let alone hay,” I said.
“Let's check the weather again. Maybe now it's going to rain?”
We checked the weather again. Still very very hot, for the next three days. But there was a slight chance of thunderstorms the next day!
And there were the broken lines. And the rotting pole. And the clearing of the barn, and the unloading and repair of the hay wagon.
“And our horses are getting pretty old,” I suggested, “to work so hard in this heat.”
“And we are getting pretty old,” my fellow suggested, “to work so hard in this heat.”
My fellow farmer looked at me. I looked at him.
“Let's not mow,” he whispered. “Let's wait.”
“All right!” I whispered back, guiltily, gleefully. Of course, it is not wise to miss any haying weather, as we never know when, or if, we'll get some more. But fueled by our tremendous relief at not haying in the terrible heat, we get an enormous amount of weeding, harvesting, and fall planting done in the terrible heat. And we might even get to those haying maintenance tasks before the next stretch of sunny, yet cool and breezy, haying weather . . .
Originally published in the Monadnock Shopper News, Aug 1- Aug7, 2018