When I heard that Jamie was going to be helping Joe "load hay" last week, I volunteered to help. My friends with farming backgrounds have good stories of sore muscles and itchy skin after putting up hay. I've never had the opportunity to participate before, so I was excited to go. I didn't realize how exciting this chore was going to be! We met Farmer Joe at his home farm, but when we got there, I realized that the hay was bound for a barn at a local farm that Joe is leasing for his cows. Cool, a hay road trip! I took the picture above from my car as I followed Joe and Jamie who were in the farm truck pulling a hay wagon, which was pulling a second hay wagon. I was so glad when we turned off the main road because I'd been watching the wagon in the back wiggle all over the road and was tense with anticipation for the seemingly inevitable moment when the hay bales would be begin to rain down on passing cars. Already, this was more thrilling than I imagined it would be.
Oh my. This road is so narrow, what will he do if a big truck comes the other way?!
Just when my nerves were nearly shot, Jamie got out of the truck to direct Joe around an impossibly tight turn. Oh, please don't let another car come zipping around that blind turn!
Of course the tight blind turn was over a one lane bridge with no rails!
We made it! Wait...nope. Joe trades the truck in for a tractor that is strong enough to pull the two wagons up the steep dirt path to the barn. He tells me we only have another mile to go with the tractor, but for the last mile, we get a hay ride. A real hay ride!
Joe moves a few bales around on the front of the first wagon so Jamie and I could have a cozy seat.
Of course, a seat behind a giant metal spear, on a shifting stack of hay, with rocks flipping at our faces from the big tires digging into rutted path on the steep slope, and the occasional low limb swiping at our heads feels slightly more dangerous than cozy. This was nothing like the hay ride we took at the local apple orchard for a company picnic a few years ago. This hay ride was more fun, for sure, even though Joe didn't provide hot apple cider at the end.
Joe wasn't joking about the trip being at least a mile, either. I really enjoyed getting to see this new farm, with it's lovely ponds and ridge top views. The metal spear on the back of the tractor is for picking up those big round bales of hay. Jamie reminded me that if I fall off the wagon, to make sure not to fall forward onto the spear, or to fall under the wagon. Fall to the outside only. Got it.
I see the cows!
I particularly liked this fat gray one.
The panda faced cows are some of my favorites.
But this little red one was very pretty, too.
When I looked back, I could see that the entire herd was following us, and when we stopped to open a gate, they started munching the hay like it was a mobile salad bar. Jamie had to stand at the gate and let the tractor and wagon through, but not let the cows follow, and then shut the gate. I suggested he use the technique I use when I have to enter cow pastures for work. I throw my arms above my head and yell "Big Arms!" It always works as a cow deterrent. It probably works to deter anybody, really, because someone flailing and yelling about their big arms could be dangerous. In their minds. "Big Arms!!!"
We passed through a gate to the part of the farm that the cows haven't grazed, which is planted in pretty green switch grass.
The nearly full moon was visible in the blue sky above the barn we were heading to.
I love the way the light streams in between the gaps in the barn walls.
After all that fun and excitement, it was time for the work. Jamie un-stacked the bales from the wagon and Joe and I stacked them on the floor. Joe taught me to stack two bales in the same direction, then turn the next two bales, and to always line the bales up on the outside of the stack, like the game Tetris. That way we had a solid wall to work against when placing the next rows.
I didn't want to hurt myself on my first hay loading, so I stacked the bales three high, then started a new row. I've been told that this was an easy loading since we had lots of room and didn't have to pitch the bales up high. I didn't get sore from the work, so next time I may try to stack them four high, just so I can brag about how sore my muscles are.
Once the hay was loaded in the barn, we got another hay ride! Joe and Jamie, and Joe's little boy came to our house for dinner, which was the first time we've had company when we didn't sit outside or around a folding table in a construction zone. To eat at the table from a meal cooked in the house made me feel like we really live there. I'm so glad we moved to a town where we already have friends for neighbors.