Saturday, 2 August 2008

Hay ride

Listening to: Empty (The Cranberries)
Struggling to get into: Viking, Odinn's Child (Tim Severin)

I'm hanging on for dear life as the small platform on skis I'm standing on bumps across the field. Being a fat bloke with skinny bloke's legs, balance has never been a strong point and now I'm more painfully aware of the fact than usual.

We're getting the hay in. I'm actually dead excited. The place feels like a real farm with a couple of tractors and - for a change - some real farmers about.

Marcus cut the grass a few days earlier, Mike had already been up once to turn it and now it's time to bale it up. Marcus is driving the tractor, pulling a 30-year-old baler with the ex-1976 Winter Olympics sledge thingy on the back.

Richard takes first turn, standing confidently in the manner of Nelson on the quarterdeck - although, with just the one arm, Nelson might have struggled with pulling bales out of the back of the machine and stacking them on the five prongs behind him.

I'm stuck in a sort-of cheerleader role - trying to look useful by gathering up missed clumps of hay and holding the bales steady as the little pyramids are unloaded from the back.

Richard can tell I'm itching to have a turn and hops off at the end of the next row, leaving me to jump aboard the moving platform in the manner of a 1930s western movie hero swinging himself out of the saddle onto the train where the bad guys have the heroine hostage.*

Anyway. . . I'm now fighting forces that are threatening to throw me off, while at the same time trying to grab and stack the bales in the same effortless manner that Richard had shown moments earlier.

It's a hot day and the sweat is running into my eyes by the time we come into the third row. It's not a pretty sight, but I'm managing. I have to get the stacking right first time because once one bale has been stacked, there's another being thrust towards me. Twice I get it wrong and a bale gets stuck under the platform, so I have to shout and wave for Marcus to stop so the now triangular bale can be retrieved.

With the sun glinting off the sea and a stiff southerly breeze, it's brilliant fun and there's nowhere I'd rather be. Even so, it's a relief when, some time later, Richard takes over for the last shift. My arms are aching and my elbow has reminded me it's not at all well.

A couple of hours later we have about 200 bales - not bad for a field that has had no dressing this year. Marcus takes 100 and we stack the rest in the barn, unsure exactly what we're going to do with it.

* In hindsight, I wonder what happened to the horses abandoned in the desert, not to mention several hundred quid's worth of tack.


Murph said...

100 bales in a barn? Surely time for a hoe-down pardner!

ziggi said...

I'll have it! D'you think the Royal Mail will oblige?

Have you read 'Scenes from a Smallholding' by Chas Griffin? If not I recommend it - not only is it extremely funny but very interesting and it could have been written by and for you! I read it this week before going to sleep whilst staying on a farm and you came to mind more than once!

I, like the view said...

now I'm humming "I've been thru the desert on a horse with no name, it felt good to be out of the rain" (I know I have the right tune, but the lyrics might be wrong)

and I'd forgotten about The Cranberries - so thank you for that reminder

it all sounds wonderful! glad that the arm/elbow is/are bearing up

hope you have a few pints tonight to rehydrate


Anonymous said...

AWESOME! Too bad you aren't here, Stella would gobble up your bales! I love the story, I could see it all...

fiwa said...

I used to LOVE hay baling season as a child! Though our bales are usually rectangular or round - I've never seen triagles. How do you build forts with triangles?!

Anonymous said...

Oh!The ever-steeper learning curve of the farmer.
I miss coming for a couple of days and here you are, reduced to one-handed drinking, but rightfully proud of your haystack.

mig bardsley said...

It sounds wonderfully hot and sweaty and idyllic :) But not good for elbows. The photo really reminds me of sunny days in the Devon of my youth :) Nice. (And I love the sunset)

*I expect the horses waited till the train had thundered over the horizon, heaved sighs of relief and bit through each others' girths and bridles before running off to join a herd of wild mustangs.

Ginni Dee said...

I was wondering about the triangle bales too?? I loved baling's hard work but I love the smell of cut hay.

The horses were taken back to the studio by their valets, the tack was removed, they were brushed, and rubbed down. Then they were put in their brocade padded stalls where they dines on only the best alfalfa hay and sweet feed.

thanks for the smiles Malc, I was looking for things to smile about today.


Lindsay said...

I think you must be re-named 'Giant Haystacks' (the wrestler). Hope your elbow is not too stiff this morning.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

I love the harvest and the pitting of wits against the weather just to get the hay in! Then when its all in ...its a communal harvest supper time have done that bit haven't you?

elizabethm said...

Glad you got your hay in. sorry to hear about hen loss below. We are sufffering from the mysterious loss of Ormermod the cockerel (named after a friend). got by a local dog but still living if rumpless and undignified, now vanished. Hens disconsolate. Who knew you could recognise a disconsolate hen?

Malc said...


Yeah, but I appear to have lost my hoe.


Imagine the amount of bubblewrap.
Yes, I've read it and very good it is too - the subject of a post soon, I reckon.


Pints were had - rather too many, truth be told.


We hope to have a Stella here by the New Year. If not I'm threatening to buy a cow.


I should have made clear that the bales were rectangular, except for the two that I dropped and allowed to get stuck under the platform - sorry.


One-handed maybe, but I didn't spill a drop.


It wasn't good for the elbow, but some things have to be done.


Of course - Hollywood horses. Bet they all have their own trailers and everything.


I'd have to grow a big beard first and I've already proved that's not on (too itchy).


Unofficially yes. The island's Harvest Home isn't 'til October.


Did the fox get him? Can't imagine a disconsolate hen - they're not exactly a bundle of laughs as it is.