Thursday, August 27, 2015

The "Making Hay" Equation

 No, we don’t literally make our own hay, but this lovely little cliche so accurately sums up the way that we work on the farm that I say it at least three times a week. The original proverb dates from 1546 (according to Phrase Finder phrases.org.uk) and it went thusly:

When the sunne shinth make hay. Whiche is to say. 
Take time whan time cometh, lest time steale away.

This farming business is exhausting, but I’ve slowly come to realize that while we are forced to “make hay” when we have the time and more importantly when the weather is optimal, we are also allowed some respite when the weather just won’t allow the work. Figuring this out has somehow made it easier to tackle hard jobs, but it has taken me awhile to figure this out.

Last winter when I was clearing brush and fence lines so we could pull new wire and create rotational paddocks for the goats I hadn’t yet figured out this “make hay” equation. Clearing brush is work reserved for winter when the snakes are sleeping and the bugs and spiders are absent too. I had big plans for those woods. Those rotational paddocks were going to solve all the goat’s problems. I had a calendar and a schedule and I was getting it done. 

I set up the first paddock using the creek bed as the fence line and the girls, though skittish enjoyed several weeks of serious browsing. Then it started to rain and the plan fell apart and I couldn’t quite handle it. I had a plan and dammit, I wanted to stick to it. I’m rigid like that sometimes.

When it started raining in May, it didn’t stop until we had logged almost 20 inches. The tank overflowed, the creek flowed all summer, and the grass and weeds grew high.  We couldn’t rotate paddocks. The electric fence went under water and I had to wade the length of the creek to retrieve it. I rolled it up and stored it. I moped around because my plan was screwed up and all was lost. Every day we had to do some other weather related triage. Our barns flooded, roofs leaked, trees died from too much water. We laid out cardboard for the milkers to walk on. We threw hay three times a day. We dug drainage ditches. We squelched and slopped around in mud for more than a month and nothing else got done. The weather dictated our actions. We did what had to be done and oddly I started to relax a little, to go with the flow.

We had other plans for the summer that were left for later because of those rains in May. The creek dried up to puddles just a week ago (this is August), but this last bit of rain has it running again. We still can’t get to the mulch pile, so we can’t finish the garden. We can’t mow and we can’t clear the brush and the goats are confined to the same old pastures, but don’t mistake this for bitching about the rain. This is about me and my rigid routines. About plans foiled.

Now, instead of focusing on the tasks we can’t do, we shuffle the list. I'm getting better at this. We got an inch and a half of rain two days ago, so the surface is soft and there are fence posts to be dug. So we dig. The compost needs to be turned, but it is too wet. So we wait. The grass could be mowed, but it is wet. So we wait. The goats would love to browse the woods but the creek is running again. So they wait. 

I’ve been “making hay” all summer and I’ve been working on the “making hay” equation too. I’m learning to be more flexible, to do what I can, when I can. I’m learning to listen when the weather says, “No. Not now, just wait awhile” and I’m grateful for that respite.

The weather is teaching me to be flexible, to be industrious, to relax, to be grateful. It is funny how a little change in perspective can smooth things over. This week I’m doing the hard work of digging post holes in the heat, with fire ants biting and sweat rolling off my body, but I’m happy to do it because it feels right and true, because the ground is soft and the time is right. It is what I am supposed to be doing… "making hay while the sun shines.”  

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