This week was the first cutting of the season. It’s a multi-day production, a full-family effort, and so much work. But these days are quickly becoming my very favorite of the year.
We all watch the whole thing as Rory drives the tractor around and around the field first with a cutter, then a rake and finally the baler. Elsie was pretty brilliant and set up this lounging area for her and Hattie to take in the first cutting.
Rory is a computer guy and has never had any mechanical training, which means he feels in way over his head every time it is time to cut the field, worried something will go wrong with one or all of the implements.
This time it was the Pitman Arm that needed new bolts. The two of us were literally laying on our bellies on each side of the cutter, watching how everything moved, trying to figure it all out. And figure it out, we did! (Well, Rory did!) It was very gratifying to me. And very stressful to Rory.
As Rory was screwing in the last few bolts Ivar asked if he could help. Suddenly the repair job became something more as Rory was teaching his son a new skill: how to fix a pitman arm AND how to stay calm under pressure.
The two of them got the bolts in and the field was cut just as the sun was setting.
Two days later, after lots of sunshine, he attached the rake to the tractor. The rake flips the hay for more drying and moves it into rows so the baler can catch the grass and bind it into bales.
Rory has a cheer squad that watches every single lap, yelling at the top of their lungs, “Go, Daddy! Go, Daddy! Goooooo, Daddy!” It is darling and awesome and means so much to their dad.
And then it was the day to bale. Yesterday Rory woke up early to fix some parts on the baler, raked the whole field a second time getting the hay into clear rows, and then began to bale around 3pm. The kids and I went out to the barn and held our breath. Our baler can be finicky. And the first bales of the season are always trouble. The knotter can take a while to start functioning properly after a long winter, and there are lots of things to be tinkered with, if you know what to tinker. Again, we learn more and more every time.
He got on the tractor, started the baler chugging and set out down the first lane. We watched the hay go into the baler, waiting for that first bale to pop out. It was Ivar who calmly gasped as the first bale fell out of the baler, un-tied. “It’s okay. The first bale is always a fail.” And then the second one was untied and the third. Those bales plopping out, all tightly packed together, but not bound by twine are a sorry sight. We all watched quietly.
But then, lo and behold, the forth bale fell out of the baler, all knotted up and dropped so that it pointed proudly in the air! Ivar and Elsie screamed and jumped with arms wild. I made the airplane landing signal so Rory could see from the far side of the field that we saw what just happened.
The next bale came out tied as well. And the next. Four bales came out tied. And then the fifith didn’t tie. Or the sixth. Rory jumped off the baler, tinkered a bit, got back up and the seventh didn’t tie. But then the eighth did tie. And the ninth tied. But not the tenth.
I told Rory this was the ultimate in testing our outlook on life. Was our glass half empty or half full? Were half of our bales untied, or were half of our bales tied?
The thing is, the untied bales that the baler spits out have to be spread out so the baler can pick them up again. The baler can’t ingest dense chunks of half-baled hay. So that’s where a farm wife jumps in. I had the sweet job of rolling the tied bales out of the way for the tractor to make a second pass, and to spread out the failed bales so it’s ready for a second attempt to be tied. (Thanks to Hattie for getting this picture of me so I am documented as a part of the team!)
Then I went in the house and got the kids set up with chicken salad for supper. And when we came back Rory was elated because the baler was pumping out bales with no fails.
I put the kids to bed, except for 9-year-old Ivar who was needed to help load 76 bales of hay into barn. Rory weighed a few of the bales and they were between 70 and 80 pounds. I still cannot believe Ivar rose to this weighty occasion!
But he totally did! And not only did he help load the bales into the truck, but then he helped unload every one of them into the barn. They worked so hard and got all 76 bales tucked in for the night. That is such a good feeling.
Alden snuck out of bed to check in on the progress. He tells us every day, “When I be a daddy, I drive the john deere tractor!” And I imagine that will come to pass sooner than I can fathom. Until then, we’ll enjoy this little boy in his unders, not wanting to miss out on a minute of the fun.