Of all the seasons growing up, summer on the farm was one of my favorites. Summer. I’ve always loved the idea of summer. And sun. And all things hot.
Hey, a mom of boys can love Frozen too, you know.
In all honesty, I do prefer summer over any other season. And to this day, I say the hotter the better. That said, it’s a lot easier to enjoy summer when you are on the water front with cold drinks and shorts on.
Summer on the farm was not like this. Not at all. There was no waterfront, that’s for sure. The summer I turned 15, my grandfather was diagnosed with ALS. By the time the diagnosis came in, he couldn’t reach over his head so moving the square hay bales down became mine and my siblings job. Then it got to the point where he couldn’t drive the tractor. So my dad would get it started, get it in gear and have me drive the tractor while he loaded the square bales on to the wagon.
For those of you city folk, I want you to picture a 30 degree day, the sun beating down on you. And the rhythmic back and forth movement of a tractor pulling a hay baler and a wagon. Back and forth, round and round for hours.
It was soothing until your daydream was punctured by the shout of your father because you weren’t steering right. Or the twine on the hay bale broke. That always woke a girl up quick.
With all the wagons loaded, or the entire field baled, we would drive back to the farm. And if I was smart that day, I would wait for dad to say “let’s leave it to morning”. Some days I wasn’t so patient. But here’s the thing, I didn’t dare ask questions, or try to nudge him into leaving it. But some times, he would decide that the hay could stay on the wagons for the night and my day would be done after the driving portion of the work.
On the not so patient days, I would ask, or imply that we should leave it. This guaranteed that I would be unloading the wagon, my sister at my side. And I can promise you, I was already hot and tired, lulled into a weird twilight zone from the tractor driving. Dad says you unload, you best step quickly. Upstairs to change into jeans.
Yes. Jeans. In 30 degree, hot summer weather. Because if you are unloading hay, you need to protect your legs or showering for the next three days burns like the fire of 1000 papercuts. That’s what hay does to the skin on your legs. Thousands of tiny scrapes and cuts from the hay hitting your legs.
You only unload hay in shorts once.
Or maybe once a summer. And then you remember why you don’t unload hay in shorts.
Of course, being on the wagon is slightly better than being up in the hay mow. At least on the wagon I could always hope for a breath of wind to pass by. Dad always took the hay mow job. Mostly because he felt he was the only one that could stack the hay properly. But he got rather ornery when we went too slow.
One day he might have yelled at me to speed up one too many times and in a fit of irritation, I might have stacked those hay bales back to back to back until the wagon was empty.
When he climbed out of the mow, drenched in sweat, I pass him some water. Sweet as can be, I asked him:
“Fast enough for you now?”
I am my father’s daughter at the core. Lucky for me, he has a sense of humour. But oh, the stank eye I got. Yeesh.
Come to think of it, I don’t think he ever asked me to speed up again. Or if he did, he said please at the end. My dad changed how haying is done now that my siblings and I are no longer living on the farm. Now he has someone come and round bale everything. Because square baling is not a one person job and my father is not as young as he once was. Though if you tell him I said that, I will call you a straight up liar.
Haying season starts right around now, weather permitting, and goes until the barn is full. And if you don’t fill it the first go round, there’s always second cut in August. As I drive past the farms on my way home from work these days, I see the hay cut and drying on the field, and I’m reminded of summers on the farm.
It’s hot. There’s a lot of work. There are long days. And you sleep really well at night.
I don’t really miss it, but I’m happy to have done it.