I hate, I hate, I hate putting up hay. I'd rather shovel calf shit, scrub water tanks, pick rocks, dig thistles and about a million other chores. If you're lucky enough to board some place that you don't have to put up hay yourself, hay season is a great time to give cookies and cold drinks to you barn owner. Haying sucks.
I've mentioned before that hay is a pain-in-the-ass just to grow and harvest. I'm lucky enough to be able to avoid doing that. However, the small portion that I must do leaves me crabby for a full 48 hours. This year went like this:
- My cousin Gary and my great-uncle-Earl-with-the-missing-fingers didn't get much hay from second crop this year, due to the drought, and what they did bale got made into round bales. Damn, have to get it somewhere else.
- Via Cragislist, I find an old farmer named Maynard (also with missing fingers) who will sell me canary grass hay, in manageable small-square bales, for only $2/bale. I don't like canary grass, but at that price I'll just suck it up and feed more grain.
- Now the barn must be cleaned out, in order to put the hay in. Amazing amounts of junk have accumulated since last summer. Somehow, there are three air compressors, a broken ATV, a shop vac, three rusty bikes, a furnace that might be fixable, a snowblower, a wheelbarrow (so that's where that was!), the currently broken lawnmower, the currently working lawnmower, Annie's giant equine soccer ball, two sprayers and umpteen boxes of my dad's utter crap that I'm tempted to just throw away, but keep anyway (because he says, you know, it might be useful some day). I'm tired already, but the fun hasn't even started yet.
- Maynard is on his way-- he delivers for free (hooray!) but then breaks a rim 200 feet from my barn. The next half hour is spent nursing the wagon along and shoving it up into the barn as far as it will go. Maynard chugs off to get the second wagon (a phrase that chills my heart). Thank God, I have my father and husband to help. They arrive after I have already cleaned out the barn, but thankfully in time to help Maynard with the wagon. Now it's time to unload.
- I am usually the top stacker, which means I get to go up to the top-most part of the loft and stack bales thrown up to me. Since I am a total klutz, I spend most of my time stepping directly into "holes" between the bales, slipping around, and nearly (not really, but feels that way) falling over the 25 foot drop to my left. I get this job because I am too damn short to pull bales from the wagon easily, and too nervous (think missing fingers) about all of the open, moving belts and spikes and wheels on the hay elevator (which I am nevertheless eternally grateful to have).
- Of course hay only comes during the hottest part of the year. When it's 90 degrees outside, that means it's about 110 in the hayloft. Hay gives me terrible hay rash, so I have to wear gloves and long sleeves in the hayloft, or spend three days gnawing at my own arms. I'm dripping with sweat within 15 minutes. Despite my precautions however, enough hay chaff goes into my bra to feed a mini pony for a week. The thing about hay chaff is that it chafes.
- When the hay is finally unloaded, we have to get Maynard's stuck wagon out of the barn. It's determined that the rim broke because the wheel bearings have frozen up, and tools must be used. I let the men handle this, because if I tried to help they'd just grunt and gently push me aside anyway.
- When we finally get the crippled wagon out of the barn, Maynard arrives with the second wagon, and the fun begins all over again. My itchy bra could now double for Baby Jesus's manger.
- After the second wagon is done, I collapse on the ground, reminding myself that it's nice to only have to feed two horses over the winter. For the next three months, I won't be tempted to take home even the smallest free pony, because that would mean getting more hay.
- Now we must put all the crap back in the barn. This is by far the most depressing part of the day. Finally, finally, we are done. Until next year.