2015-07-08 / In This Place / Columns

In This Place: July 8, 2015

« »
Hay Fever
by Trish Adams

Now that we’re truly into the height of summer, you’d think it would be a good time to explore the fun and games that the alltoo brief stint of warm weather brought to our villages decades ago. Sure, there was plenty of baseball, summer visitors, swimming holes, town fairs and Fourth of July festivities. However, before, after and during all that fun was the tyranny of haying, which had to be done when Mother Nat ure dictated. You might be stuck day after day after sunny day with a pitchfork in your hand, or you might be staring at rainy skies in despair of ever getting the hay in before the year’s crop was wrecked.

So before we dedicate any inch- es to the fun of summer, here’s to the fellows — and whole families — that got the hay in first!

July 16, 1915 Hay Help is Plenty Hay help is plenty here, an unusual number of men having come into the place looking for work. They ask $2.00 a day with board and generally get it.

The centrality, focus and importance of haying season was such that the News featured all four of these news items on its front page.

August 17, 1945 Grant Becker Injured By Power Hay Fork Grant Becker was painfully injured on Tuesday when one of the tines of a power hay fork tore into his left arm between the hand and elbow as the fork was being lowered to be jabbed into a load of hay. The hay was being unloaded into a hay mow. He was taken to the office of Dr. Palen in Margaretville where the wound was dressed. —Arena Cor.

Nurse Helps in Haying Miss Evelyn More, cadet nurse, has returned to St. Luke’s hospital, New York, after a three-week vacation. While here she assisted her uncle, J. M. More, at the More farm in haying, on fair days of which there were too few. —Roxbury Cor.

Does Haying for Vacation Lorie Sliter of Maybrook arrived in town last week and will spend his absence from railroad service doing the haying on his farm here in the village. —New Kingston Cor.

A Few Good Hay Days Following one of the rainiest haying seasons in history a few days of last week were excellent for the harvest. The situation for farmers, however, is still acute as many tons of the precious hay have spoiled on the ground and had to be burned. There are also several farmers who will have to await several days for their low meadows to dry as they are too wet to work at this time. —Halcottville Cor.

July 1, 1955 From Mountain Dew This weekend is the beginning of summer activities in the Catskills. Hotels and boarding houses look for record crowds for the three-day holiday. Summer cottage owners will all be here. Farmers are hurrying haying. The highways are filled with out-ofstate cars. Business places look for capacity trade for two months. Hikers are walking mountain trails. Gardners begin to taste the first results of their spring work. July is a hurrying month. Vaca- tions go rapidly in this land of beauty and contentment. Chilly evenings come all too soon. Locals and visitors are sorry to see the rapid days pass. Joy days are the short days, lunch too closely follows breakfast and dinner comes too soon after a short aft ernoon. Twilight too, mountains etched against the sky, is of short duration. Gasoline and Detroit have done much to speed the haying on dairy farms where the grass must be cut, dried and taken into the barns, for this same Detroit has offered no way to dodge thunderstorms which come a mid-afternoon, when the hay is cured, but not yet put under cover. Great arm waving balers bundle the hay after a crazy side deliv ery rake has put it into early after noon meadow-long curls. But a string which ties the bundles together is poor protection from a sudden and terrific downfall of water. There is great noise in the hay field where two thousand dollar machines, used but two weeks a year, make a big racket during their short working days. Haying in yesteryear was a quiet affair. The cussing of a hay hand, sneeze of the horses, and the gentle rattle of a well-greased horse-drawn mower were the only sounds. When the hay was gathered there was a betting chance it would set the barn afire from spontaneous combustion. But the bales of today’s hay field, once piled in the barn, have air spaces enough to discharge the chemical action which came in old fashioned haymows and put the owner back for a few years in his efforts to pay the mortgage. The horse-drawn mower for around a hundred dollars and the old time horse rake for less money were a small investment and required no particular financing. They could even be stored in the field for months and start next season’s work with a liberal appli cation of lubricants. When those days passed the farmer became a financier. It is a tight pinch to pay for machines which work two or three weeks per year. Like many a summer business the overhead is high. Balers at $2,000, tractors at nearly the same price, other equip ment necessary for modern dairy ing, run into figures of five to ten thousand dollars. The hard work of old time haying has turnedzzzz into headaches at the bank.

Leave it to Maggie to give us one of the best day-by-day chronicles of “hay fever.” Don’t worry, she wrote more than one, so we can go through this all again next year. The term “ted” means to spread out the hay for drying before it is baled and stored.

July 22, 1955 Haying Is a Major Operation on a Farm Feminine Furrows Plowed By Maggie Sunday—“How I wish it would rain!” We like sunny days for haying. But we are having too much of a good thing. We can’t keep caught up on the repairing and other odd jobs which keep haying going along at full speed. Pat has his last sharp cut-bar in the machine. He works until dark, every night, keeping the machinery greased, gassed and in working order. Usually a rainy day once in a while has given him a chance to catch his breath. We’ve had nothing but dry weath- er. I need a day of no haying to catch up on the essentials in the house. With Nancy and Cindy both away to camp, I had to work outdoors every day. I managed to squeeze in time to wash, but the ironing is poked aside. Since we are staying much to home, we don’t need many ironed clothes. I expect to have quite a wash tomorrow, the aftermath of camp ing. I had all plans made to go to school meeting. Pat had to bale hay. I milked alone. There was no way out. At least I could see no honorable way to neglect my farm duties. I learned the next day neighbors found themselves in exactly the same situation. A farmer is not his own boss during haying. He is completely at the mercy of the elements. If the hay dries quickly, he must work overtime to put it in before the leaves are powdery and fall off. If the hay gets wet, he has to shake and ted until it is in safe condition for storage. All plans for the day’s work are subject to change at a moment’s notice, according to the weather forecast, the condition of the hay, and how badly Nana’s knees creak. These creaks foretell rain accurately as some forecasters. We bought the baler the day we went to look at it. It was delivered two days later. It certainly has speeded up our operations to a point, but each piece of machinery seems to demand another. We now run into a bottleneck getting the hay off the wagons and into the barns. We need an elevator to complete haying tools, but we feel we have gone overboard on machinery this year as far as conditions warrant according to the predicted price of milk. Pat says we have a human elevator. It is more like the old-fashioned bucket brigade idea. We pass bales from one person to another from the wagon to the mow. Positions in the line are changed as the distances change. Pat and Fred have the hardest reaches. Grampy and

I are put where the handling is easier. With some of our bales, there is no easy handling. With Nancy in the lineup this week, the unloading should go quicker and easier. Pat does most of the baling. I have tried my hand at it. I expect Nancy will take her turn at it this week. Pat had to remodel both wagons during his spare time, and had to manufacture a short tongue for the rake in his odd moments! I’m not sure when he found time to do it all, but it’s done and all his new gadgets work beautifully. Early in our baling experience, Fred was throwing the bales on the wagon. Nancy was piling them up. Suddenly Fred backed away from a bale. He pointed, unable to make anyone hear above the noises of the tractors. Pat had baled a large black snake in the hay. All we could see was the tail waving violently. Fred managed to get it out of the bale, and put it out of pain. It took some coaxing to get Pat off the tractor after that. I had expected Kitty to be a lonesome little girl while her two sisters were away. Instead, she had a wonderful week. She tagged me, and had my undivided atten- tion for long periods. One day she made a cake. It was delicious. She tried another cake on her own the next day. It was a dud. She is still trying to figure what went wrong. Every cook knows that mistakes will happen. I can remember some sad looking cakes I baked. Since we continue talking about the perfect cake she made, Kitty is ready to try again. She made banana nut bread the other day, and redeemed her reputation as a cook. It was good. Even Cindy allowed that it was as good as she had tasted. Neighbors are feeding their cows already. The pastures are drying as badly as they do ordin arily in August. Our garden is

parched and yellow. One field of cattle corn is curling up, the leaves look like spears. Oats are short and heading already. Where we mowed early for grass silage, the alfalfa plants stick green patches across the brown stubble like candlewick spreads. Our need for rain is much more urgent than a desire for a day to catch up on the ironing and the tinker ing. Here and there I have seen ripe blackberries. It doesn’t seem pos- sible that the summer is so nearly over. The most discouraging part of farming is that one always is busy through the nice weather, it is hard to find time to enjoy it. Perhaps Cindy has the right approach. She seldom goes for the cows without finding something to share at the supper table. She takes time to watch the chipmunks scamper, and strays off the path to pick a bunch of wild lilies. She has been coaxing to be allowed to throw back hay as her father mows. She makes slow progress. She stops to admire the

color of the alfalfa blossoms and occasionally stoops to retrieve a colored stone, or a pretty pine cone. Nancy has little patience with this way of doing business. To Nancy work is work, play is play. Combining the two doesn’t pay. Who am I to decide wherein lies the right answer?

Return to top

Click here for digital edition
2015-07-08 digital edition