Each year, usually starting around mid-June, I find myself spending an excessive amount of time looking at long-term weather forecasts, wondering whether we will have a good window of time in which to get the hay in. Not having all the equipment to do the job ourselves, we are reliant on our contractor. He’s never let us down, and the sweet hay has always been mowed, turned, rowed and baled to perfection. But that doesn’t stop me loosing sleep over it!
I simply cannot imagine what it must be like to have a valuable crop of ripening grain in the fields, watching every day for kind or inclement weather, checking for any one of the multitude of pests and diseases that might attack the crop, and carefully monitoring each stage of growth, levels of moisture and numerous other variables – all of which have to be spot-on before harvesting can commence. We have just 7 acres shut up for hay, and that stand of grass occupies a hugely disproportionate amount of my waking hours at this time of year!
We got very close, but a change in the weather brought heavy rain, and we postponed haymaking. I console myself with the thought that July hay is generally better quality; June hay is inherently ‘wetter’ and unless really baked by the sun for several days, can start to ‘sweat’ once baled, leading to the growth of moulds. So, I shall have to suffer another month of fretting about the weather and our, as yet, empty hay barn.
I don’t know whether it’s an age thing, but I’m certainly noticing things in the natural world more acutely these days! Perhaps it’s due to a combination of living in a very beautiful and quiet area, and working from home (meaning I rarely get to leave the farm!). I’ve become quite captivated with the doings of the local bird life, and though I’m no ‘twitcher’, I can be happily distracted from my computer to while away a bit of time watching, listening, and noting anything out of the ordinary. For example, the call of the Cuckoo on the last day in June – does this mean a second brood, or that the first brood failed? I’ve certainly never heard ‘cuckoo’ this late in the summer, but as they were so late in arriving here due to the cold spring, either scenario may be the case.
I’ve also enjoyed watching the progress of a couple of Collared Doves making their nest in the lambing shed (where they obviously found a good supply of feed) and rearing their pair of chicks. Today, they took flight and left their nest. One of the success stories of the bird world, these birds have spread across all of Europe from their original range in the Balkans in less than 40 years. I put it down to the utter devotion of the species, who I believe mate for life.
The Magpie on the other hand, despite its striking beauty, is a brute – I’ve watched them through the spring and summer hopping along the hedgerows plucking eggs and hatchlings from the nests of smaller birds.