Hazards of Farming


Last summer I spent quite a bit of time telling you about the process of doing hay.   For city people, it’s quite an education.  I am still learning – in fact every time I get on the tractor, it’s like learning all over again.  Well, this year I learned something new.  It’s a bit embarrassing, these lessons of mine.  But I feel like you need to know.  I mean, if you ever get thrown onto a farm (willingly or reluctantly) I want you to have the knowledge that I wish I’d have had before this process.  It’s like the parent who wishes their kids would learn from their mistakes and not let their kids learn from personal experience.  It doesn’t always happen that way, but at least I’m doing my part. 

One day I was in a store – can’t remember which store.  I saw this, and thought it was a sort of gag item.  Something that might have been sold around April Fool’s day or maybe Halloween.

Doing research for this post, I happily stumbled across this:

Let me ‘splain.  It’s been hay time again.  And while I’ve helped fairly extensively in past years, there’s always been reprieve.  Prince Farming’s dad and his help have come over, and Prince Farming has done at least one of the processes himself, so my time on the tractor was broken up.  But this time I had to mow, fluff, and rake three huge fields.   Normally I mow with a tractor that has an air-conditioned cab.  But on my way down the hill when I tried to raise the mower arm, there was a hydraulic hose in just a wrong spot, and the hose got pinched and broke, rendering the hydraulic system useless.  With very little time to spare (rain in the forecast), I parked that tractor, and rode over to Prince Farming’s dad’s farm and borrowed their mower, which was already conveniently attached to their tractor.  An open cab with a canopy.  No worries, I can handle an open cab.  Never mind that this tractor has to be started, not with a key, but with a loose wire that you hold to two spots and it kicks on.  That’s another post though.  So I got started mowing, and only an hour later than I’d hoped.  The shade of the canopy was good, but it was still hot.  I was in shorts and flip-flops, and figured I’d probably get a bit of sun, which couldn’t be a bad thing.  First day – all the mowing was done. 

Second day – on to fluffing (or teddering, for those of you who can’t stay on the farm when the word fluffer is used).  This time I could use our own tractor – but not the air-conditioned cab one.  The little cub cadet – also with a canopy – was the vehicle of use (not choice).  I don’t love this process because I can’t see where I’ve been as clearly as when I mow or rake, but it’s a necessary process to help in the drying of the hay.  I got all the fields teddered, and went to bed exahausted.  Spending 6-8 hours on a tractor might sound like a lazy day, but my body was sore and my mind numb.  I woke with a start at 2am.  It was POURING RAIN on my freshly cut and teddered hay.  That means that instead of raking first thing in the morning, I had to go over and fluff all over again.  So there I was – on the open tractor.  Let me paint a little word picture for you.  It’s HOT.  The fields are BUMPY.  On the sides of hills, you can barely keep yourself from sliding off the seat. And you’re SWEATING.  The combination of wet, sweaty shorts, very bumpy, slidey riding . . . well.  Here.  This might give you a better idea.

This is what spending endless days on a tractor leaves you feeling like.  I’m not kidding.  Prince Farming came  home from work when I was just done with the teddering and suggested I take a break.  I was SO relieved.  I really didn’t want him on the tractor much – especially on the bumpiest of fields because he hurt his back a  few weeks ago, and I didn’t want him to aggravate the injury.  His dad came over to help bale.  I’m not sure how the conversation went between them, but Prince Farming made it known that I needed a break from the tractor seat for a while.  He finished raking and his dad did the baling.  And my butt got a break. 

It took a couple of days to feel totally better, but I was able to go back out and load the hay bales onto the trailer and bring them to the barn before too much more time went by.  And I wasn’t on the open tractor for long enough to aggravate my injury.

There.  Consider yourselves educated.  And warned.


Digging in my heels

 For those who know me, I don’t have to explain why I use “reluctant” in my blog name.  Or maybe I do.    Does it mean I’m reluctant to live on a farm?  Or that I don’t enjoy my environment?  Or . . . ?  Where does this reluctance come from? 

 Actually, if you would have told me 10 years ago that I’d be living on a farm and doing farm chores, I would have snickered a whimpy little “yeah, right!”  But here I am, on a farm, and when the need arises, I do farm chores.  Yeah!  Right!  It’s me.  When I think about it beyond the “I should be painting my toe-nails and eating bon-bons” scenario, I believe my reluctance isn’t so much what you all might think it is.  Let me work it through on this live journal page.

Prince Farming works at the office most of the week.  His day off is Thursday (which isn’t “off” at all – it just means he works very hard at a different place on Thursday) and weekends.  He also gets home at varying times on other days, which allows him to work on the farm on most afternoons – especially in the summer time when the office isn’t so busy and the days are longer.   He is a work-a-holic and loves to get things done.  He is very project oriented, and he ALWAYS finishes the projects he starts.  That just amazes me, even after all these years.  I admire it in him.  That might also be part of my reluctance.  The farm is a project. . . and do farms ever “get done”?  Nope.  Always a fence to mend; barn to repair; hay to mow, rake, bale, and haul;  fields to clear; rocks to pick; cows to work; equipment to fix; etc. etc. etc.  

I like to mentally prepare for what I’m going to do.  And the farm doesn’t always allow one to plan or schedule work.  If the cows are getting out, they need to be herded back and the fence needs to be mended NOW, not when I have an open time-slot next week.  If I’m in the middle of a school project or have a scheduled work-bee, for example, but hay is ready NOW and it’s going to rain the next three days . . .  you get the picture.  So farming kind of ties one to the farm.  Maybe that’s my reluctance.  I’ve never lived anywhere for longer than 5 years – EVER .  (Well, except till now).  I love diversity.  It might be a character flaw, but after I’ve lived in a place for a while, it’s easy to just move away, because it’s like a fresh start.  A clean page.  I miss friends from places past, but then I have a great collection of kindred-spirits all over, and an excuse and destination to travel.  How lucky can a girl be?  And I love to travel.  But the more you do on a farm, the less you can get away.

Then comes the part about not failing.  If I do something, I don’t want it to be a disappointment to someone else.  So if I’m bush-hogging and an unsuspecting rock jumps out of the ground and kills the blade. . .I feel like I create more work than I save / do (very clumsy sentence).  Or if I’m mowing hay and snag the fence row, there’s wire to be run again.  I know that’s the cost of farming, and it happens to everyone.  I just take it personally.  And the learning curve for me on a farm is huge.  This is my first experience – while Prince Farming has been doing everything I do since he was 10 or 11 years old.  So he does it completely effortlessly.  I learn something one year (like mowing hay with that crazy off-to-the-side mowing arm thingy) and the next year (or at the end of the summer) I have to learn it again – (how do you turn on the PTO?  How to you raise the mower?  {No – DON’T raise it this year, it gets stuck and requires all sorts of repair if you do.  I’ll fix that this winter}  How fast should I go and in what gear? Where the heck are those holes that were so obvious 3 weeks ago, but now could kill the tractor and the mower (and me) if not avoided? etc. etc. )  And maybe it’s my age – or this stuff just doesn’t come naturally to me – I can’t even remember all the things I should ask!

Because of my farming inexperience, my jobs are often the most mundane.   I end up doing what I feel is “not much” (lots of standing around) because Prince Farming needs me to hold something in place, or hand him a tool, or go get something from the shed.  I know that my help is invaluable.  I just feel like in between times there are sixty loads of laundry I could be doing, or washing windows (what a joke – but it goes through my mind in times like these) or stamping, or reading, or painting my nails and eating bon-bons, or . . . anything but this!!   Aunt Ruth, who lives with her farmer husband Uncle Robert, was smiling at me when I told her about the stuff I sometimes do on the farm.  I asked her if she ever had to do that stuff on their farm.  Her response was “I like helping him about as much as he likes me to help him.”  So funny.  They have an agreement.  You do your farm thing, and I’ll be here to watch.  Not my Prince Farming, though.  He loves me to be right there, even if I’m doing nothing at all for most of it.

So the reluctance doesn’t mean I don’t love the farm.  I just wasn’t anticipating this being my life.  There is a lot that I love about being here.  And there is a certain amount of satisfaction when local farmers (or not) drive past and watch with admiration as they see me hauling the rocks, or pulling the hay from the (formerly) open drive-shaft on the cub cadet.   And then there’s the opportunity for character development and personal growth.  I’ll share that as I’m aware of it.  For right now – here I am.  ReluctantFarmChik.  Could have been InexperiencedAndWannaPlanTravelFarmChik.  But that would sound like I’m an idiot itinerant farmer. . . not quite my message. 

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