Hay season

A couple of times a year, I mow lots of grass. Not in the $40-billion-make-my-lawn-look-like-a-golf-course sort of way, but in the make food for animals sort of way.

We mow and bale about 30 acres of grass hay every year to hold our cattle and goats through the winter. There are a lot of things that make hay a chore, like the heat and dodging the weather, but despite my complaints, I actually look forward to it.

While so many people slave away in cubicles or at cash registers, I get to spend days outside in the sun, in near contact with the abundance of nature, using big machines. In the hours I spend mowing, raking, and baling, I find a unique opportunity to contemplate and formulate this path of life I travel.

And sure, things go wrong. Equipment breaks. The weather doesn’t cooperate. I see these things as opportunities to grow stronger. To develop fortitude. To solve problems.

For me, hay season is the peak of my year. That’s not to say that it’s downhill from there, but I look forward to this every year even as I dread it. Hay season encapsulates farming as a whole, and I love it all.


The flow of the seasons

We moderns get very put out by the changes of the seasons, even most farmers. We see the seasons as interruptions of the process we think we should be able to pursue all of the time, and because of that vision, we miss the important processes the seasons introduce.

I’m coming to realize that the reason the seasons put us out so much is because we rarely do certain kinds of work when the season is appropriate. Before we can even begin to correct this kind of problem, we must first identify what the correct season is for each kind of work, and then we must plan our work not just for the days or weeks ahead, but for the whole year, at least in general terms.

This is not just my own idea. Before the incredible rise of industrial agriculture, most farmers understood this premise. They knew how to make their work count for the most in every season because their lives and livelihoods depended on such efficiency.

What we must do now is relearn what they once knew because, in many ways, their way was better. I am not suggesting that we should embrace every part of their way of doing things, but certainly there are aspects of their way that are far better, and there is always the opportunity to improve on what they were doing–what we have now is abandonment, not improvement.

Of course, I’m not really just talking about farming either. Really, that old way should apply to most of life, not just how we create our food. I know that is a grand dream, but I think we should always be trying to make life better, and such a pursuit demands that all viable options remain on the table.