Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Hell's bales

Yesterday, the sun came out properly. The sky was a clear blue with a hint of tiny clouds and the pasture which had been cut a few days before (then rained on) was to be wuffled and maybe even turned into hay.

We started early, The Farmer wuffling all the cut grass, the sun drying it out and a slight warm breeze aiding the drying. The air had that lovely smell of newly mown grass, all was going well.
The dogs were happy, running up and down the field, the children were happy as they were with their big brother and eating food that was normally frowned upon, the ducks were happy. Hell, it was happy farm.

The fields were wuffled a few times and The Farmer thought that all being well, we could begin bailing in the afternoon once the grass was good and dry. I love bailing and was ready with my bottle of water, fags and child ear protectors which Gracie had chewed.

It is one of those highlights of the year, enclosed in the tractor, cares thrown to the side, several hours of (almost) peace and the satisfaction of turning grass into neat bales for winter.

If ever a photograph could emit a feeling of absolute joy, this one would.

The ground was still quite wet but firm enough in places to take the weight of the tractor without giving you that horrible feeling when it gives way a bit as you drive over deceptively solid looking ground but which is really mud with a disguise on.
My mashed left foot was bound by several thick socks and stuffed into a welly.

It was at this point that things started to go a bit pear shaped.
The dogs started to 'round' up the tractor and were taken from the field to the stern and watchful eye of our oldest son.
The bailer refused to spit out the bales so we tried braking suddenly then reversing and braking suddenly but to no avail. The only way to eject them was to leave the back open then gather more grass to force them out then stop the machine, pull the grass out and restart the engine to close the back properly.

It was taking ages to make one bale and the sky had changed to a worrying collection of massive clouds, greying at the edges, bruised and slightly fearsome looking. A bit like the Farmer and I at that point.

Then the thing jammed. Something had gone wrong with the bit which scoops up the grass and feeds it into the bailer. The only solution is to shut everything down and manually pull the grass out bit by bit.

There is nothing more soul destroying than trying to empty a jam-packed bailer. Well, there are plenty of things more soul destroying but at that moment, you know that the next hour is one which is going to sap your strength and cut your hands to ribbons plus it was getting late.

I won't go into the gory details but after half an hour of tugging, hauling, calling the bailer all the terrible things Withnail called Uncle Monty, tears, snot and more tugging, the thing was still jammed solid.
The Farmer eventually joined me and we tugged together to free the compacted grass. A car full of children and collies even turned up and the entire family tugged at mass which eventually freed. A small "YAY" then children and dogs all went back into the car and went away again.

I started the engine, drove all of three feet and a hideous noise came from the bailer.

A bar had snapped and broken.

It had finally died.

I hobbled out of the cab and The Farmer gave me a big cuddle. Everything bloody hurt and it all got A Bit Much.

"I'll phone the Ring" he said.

Visions of hobbits, wizards and elphins turning up to make hay stooks did cross my mind but apparently the Ring is a collective of machinery/ helpers who can step in to help other farmers who need help.

Magically, someone turned up with a working bailer and worked late late to transform the grass into bales. It was too damp for hay so it is now haylage - halfway between hay and sileage. God Bless the person who did the work, I don't know who it was as I set off for home absolutely shattered but had to bathe and settle a very bright eyed five year old who was absolutely NOT wanting to go to bed.
My wonderful neighbour had baked a loaf of bread and made some raspberry jam and had tied the parcel on to the door handle. Her act of thoughtfulness made me cry.

This morning is wet. The bales are done, The Farmer and I have woken with sore bits we never knew existed.
We had bread and jam for breakfast and will gingerly go about our work today in a manner more fitting for a collective age of 107. I feel every year right now.

Plus VAT.


  1. Wow, that sounds TOUGH. Thank goodness for Plan B and a thoughtful neighbour.

  2. I remember the reaper binder going kaput...and always at the worst moment....
    thank goodness for good neighbours.

  3. Thank you, Sarah and the fly in the web.

    Have dropped status from harvest zombie to almost back to life, sadly not so for the bailer. No amount of welding and bailer twine will fix it but it has done well to last so long.
    Things must have been unimaginatively harder before -making hay ricks with pitch forks and hay rakes.

    We are so grateful for the support and kindness shown by the neighbours, it meant an awful lot.

  4. I wish I had neighbours like you have :)

  5. Thanks, pancake.

    Our neighbours are lovely. Sometimes, we can go quite a long time without seeing anyone but when the going gets tough, they seem to know and help.

    Days after The Farmer had the heart attack, I wondered how people found out as I had not mentioned to (nor had seen anyone) yet we had immediate help.

    Sometimes, this farm feels like the loneliest place in Scotland but are soon reminded that there is an amazing support network near by (and also online). It is hugely reassuring but the bread and jam made me feel loved.