Pete went to hitch Fish Habitat (our 1975 Dodge Power Wagon, named such because we were told when we bought it that it would make for good breeding ground for fish if sunk in a pond) to the trailer, and I untacked and groomed Raudi, of course taking a moment to check for swelling on her legs. (They were fine). Pete grabbed a tarp, I put Raudi back in the pen, and off went.
On the drive to the hayfield, I thought some about this other, more obscure manifestation of the horse habit. In the summer and fall, now, as a matter of routine, Pete and I become intently absorbed with hay production. We drive (me even at times taking detours) in order to see if area hay fields have yet been cut, turned, baled. I shake my head when I see the brown, wet stuff, and inwardly cheer when I see the green, dry stuff. I most like seeing squares, because this is what we feed. I eschew round bales because they tend to be moldy on the inside. Our set up is also more conducive to the storage of squares. And, veterinarians claim that round bales can harbor botulism. Bottom line: more freshly baled squares on the ground means better hay, and lower, overall prices.
Our area’s changing weather patterns have been having an adverse effect on hay production. Area farmers now have to deal with increasingly more rain, meaning increasing smaller windows of prime hay harvesting opportunity. A case in point: the field adjacent to the one where we were heading. The farmer was rounding a corner on his tractor, turning his hay. I remarked that he probably wasn’t going to get it baled before it rained, to which Pete agreed.
Pete turned into the field on our left, and there, before us, were a few hundred raggedy rows of green square bales. There was minimal field traffic – the farmer was baling, and some of his minions were stacking it on trailers. (In the distant past we literally had to wait in line before getting our share.) Pete and I hopped out of our respective sides of the truck and examined some nearby bales. They were dry on the inside and on the bottom, and not overly heavy. We simultaneously looked up at the sky and noted that the storm clouds were building. There are some advantages to having lived with someone for 26 years, and this was one of them. By now my partner and I have figured out that there are times in which extended discussions about who does what are counter-productive-- and this was one of them. The distant sky was purple-blue in places. The said went unsaid – I’d drive and Pete would stack the bales on the trailer. Pete gave me some much-needed vehicle operator-related instruction. I hopped in the seat, and off we went, downfield.
We stopped once, in order to talk with the hayfield owner. He was clearly in a good mood, and with good reason. It looked near certain that he’d get his field cleared before it began raining.
We seldom get hay off the field, for we learned the hard way that it’s more likely to mold. No fun, reloading hay onto Fish Habitat, taking it back to the source, loading up new hay, and stacking it in the old hay’s place. The down side is that hay in a shed or barn costs more. But this hay was dry. We were going to save money. In the end, there was an added bonus. The kindly farmer threw in a few free bales. (This was in part to compensate for his having sold us hay that had previously molded.) I gave him a quick hug, and thanked him profusely, explaining that he’d just made five Icelandic horses very happy. Indeed, I was ecstatic. I didn’t say that I was also pleased because I’d just gotten a really good hay fix.
Pete quickly tied the bales in place with rope that we’d brought along for this very purpose. We hurried home and then unloaded it into our recently built hay shed. This shed is more open and airy than our other two storage areas, so we can occasionally do as we did today, and buy hay off the fields. The horses saw us pulling into the driveway, and hustled over to the gate. All, even little Hrimmi, now know what’s up. I looked over at their expectant faces, and chuckled. I was, in fact, absolutely giddy. We don’t have all our hay in for the upcoming year. But we have a fair amount. If recent weather patterns hold true, September will be a dry month. Our getting more hay will coincide with our again being financially flush.
I sleep well on nights in which we put good quality hay in our barn. And I knew that this night would be no exception.
Postscript: The anticipated storm rolled in sometime last night. I woke up at dawn, heard the rain patter on the roof, and rolled over and went back to sleep. When I awoke, I said to Pete that it was a good feeling to have gotten this load of hay in, to which he agreed.
Next: 235. 07/31/12: Pete and Mr. Siggi