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Haying Time

Posted 6/3/2013 7:10am by Julie Hurst / Roy Brubaker.

May is one of those months when the natural world transforms itself at such a rate you feel you can literally see growth happen as the hours pass. The trees are fully leafed out, concealing the warblers and Baltimore orioles we were able to glimpse at the beginning of May. The grass that was barely growing then, is tall and stemmy and fat with seed heads and dusty pollen. Up and down the valley, farmers are busy making hay. Every drive down Route 35 is an encounter with a tractor pulling a mower, a tedder, or a baler; leave the windows open and the wonderful fragrance of cut grass and alfalfa wafts in.  I love living in a farming community in May.  

We too are sending out our grass harvesters to gather the energy-packed nutrients the soil and sun have created. The cows and sheep don't bother making hay for us; they pack in the nutrients they need for growth and deposit what they don't need right back on the soil.  Get a little, give a little. They move slowly over the pasture, stepping around nesting birds and newborn fawns hidden in the tall grass. They operate quietly on the landscape, not competing with omnipresent birdsong and insect buzz of high spring. Sure, they give off some gas now and then, some would say enough to be a major contributor of climate change, but when allowed to live on that great green carbon collecting pasture, I'd guess they contribute more to the solution than the problem. I'll let Simon Fairlie argue for me there though (Meat: A Benign Extravagance); I'm too busy moving and feeding animals, packing orders, communicating with butchers and customers etc etc. these days.

We too need hay for winter feeding and likely some of the hay we buy will be early spring hay, harvested at a time when nesting birds and beneficial insects are destroyed by the machines doing the work. One of our goals is to extend our grazing season so that our need for hay is reduced. The hay made on land we rent is cut after mid-July, allowing time for newly hatched and birthed critters to get out of the way.  It is not a perfect world we live in, we all know that, but it seems we should try to find a way to share this glorious blue sphere with every other living creature rather move at a frantic and destructive pace. Live like a ruminant on spring pasture; walk slowly, chew thoroughly, lie down often, get a little, give a little.