Saturday, July 28, 2012

A sea of mown hay

I mow the fields here chiefly to keep them in hay rather than let them grow up to woods. Most years I spread the hay as a mulch and poor man's fertilizer below the branches of the apple trees, out around the drip line. Mowing here is difficult on account of the rough and hilly terrain, and the large rocks in the fields. A four-wheel tractor would tip over, but a two-wheel, walk-behind tractor is relatively stable and, with a sickle bar attached, does the job, although it is jarring and tiring. 

In some years when I want more hay I mow twice: once in mid-June, and once in late August or early September. Lately I've been mowing once, in August. It's best to do this on a relatively mild day, but one does it when one can; and so over the next few weeks I will mow when I get the chance. I started today on the field in back of the house. Although it was relatively mild, in the high 70s, it was also very humid, and by the end of it I had perspired through my t-shirt and my long-sleeved shirt over it. (Long pants and long sleeves prevent the hay from rubbing the skin and irritating it, which is much more uncomfortable than sweating through the shirts.) One of my colleagues at Brown remarked to me this spring that she imagined I never sweat. I may be cool in the classroom, but not mowing in the fields.

The sea of mown hay, July 28, 2012
The grass was up to my waist in most spots, and up to my eyeballs in a few, on account of the spring and early summer rains; but the recent dry spell, coupled with the natural tendency of the grass to dry out, made much of the grass into straw for the mowing. If it doesn't rain tomorrow I will do more. The photograph I took today shows what it's like to be in the midst of the sea of mown hay. And after the mowing comes the raking into wind rows, and then into stacks, and then the spreading around the drip lines of the apple trees. 

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