Making Hay

farmer 003You can take the girl off the farm… sort of. I didn’t grow up on a farm, but somehow the suburbs where I spent my childhood didn’t rub off on me. I’ve never edged a lawn; that kind of grass grooming seems like a useless activity. I do mow a path around our farthest property lines, if that counts. I love tall grass, and unless you need the cut grass (hay) for something, or you need a pathway to somewhere, why mow? Mowing lawns, regarding the clippings as a waste problem, has always seemed backwards to me.

My father grew up on a farm, but he left when he was sixteen. The only thing he liked about the farm, he said, was working on the machinery, keeping the tractors going. After I left home, my folks moved to the Okanagan Mountains in Eastern Washington, and tried a back-to-the-land survivalist life for a few decades. I would go for long visits, and I helped to bring in the hay by riding on the hay rack, and to harvest the buckwheat, threshing the grain by throwing it up and down on a big net. I’ve chased the cows and pigs back into their fences, gathered eggs, dug potatoes, butchered rabbits and chickens. Mostly, about farming, I agreed with my father. It’s fun for a few days, but a hard way to live.

However, I’ve just had a perfect day. The weather was dry, not too hot or cool. Mowing, raking, hauling “hay.” Me, my dog, the “tractor,” and the stories in my mind. Hooked up the wagon, loaded it with brush piles that were ready to take down the hill in March, before my mother’s illness took over our life. Summer’s grass didn’t care and came right up through them. The recent cool weather has felled the grasses. I was able to pull out the dried brush, mostly blackberry vines, fairly easily. Despite my precautions, in my enthusiasm, I got some inevitable scratches. A rake blister. Future battle scars.

farmer 002Up and down for eight hours, unloading brush for fires yet to come, loading the wagon up with the grass I’ve been mowing all summer. I use my “hay” to mulch my tomato and rose gardens. Not exactly hay, not exactly grass clippings. What I do with my mower is not exactly mowing, in any way that the suburbanites or golf course types would recognize.   More like chopping circles of vegetation at crooked heights. No straight lines.

farmer 004I leave patches of my favorite grasses, the downy frome, and a few other rough patches for the moles, whom I never learned to hate. The dog is their biggest enemy, with crows also eager to make carnage of them, so I cut them some slack, leaving them a place to hide. Up the hill, in the yard, they make nice piles of soil for me to put in planter boxes.

farmer 006Filthy, exhausted, hungry, scraped up. The “sort of farmer” in my blood is totally (turtle-y!) happy.


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