On the morning of my first batch of hand-made hay, I stopped to see a friend, retired dairyman Quentin. We settled up an old trade. His rhubarb and composted manure for our jam and chicken. Then Quentin gave me some valuable encouragement and resources at just the right time. He kindly pointed out that it was quite possible to make hay by hand and had been done thus for a thousand years before machinery. What's more, he happened to have, and was willing to part with the most basic tools I would need, IF I could find them amongst the dusty accumulation. For the tools we made another trade. One crooked old hay fork for a pint of our pickled beets. He pointed toward his coveted bull rake, an antique wooden hand tool with some broken tines, but still operational. Quentin couldn't part with this family heirloom, but he did loan it to me for the day. We agreed that I would bring it back and he would show me how to fix it properly. Good enough.
My friend Sean and I went about raking the hay into piles. Just as we began loading up to go home, it began to rain. As the rain steadily intensified, we realized that this loose hay does not need to be as perfectly dry as a modern compacted bale. Being loose, hot air could easily dry the hay if we flip it later. So we worked quickly and quietly, marveling at how good we have it at this place in the land of the free. Noting that the laborers of yesteryear wouldn't have thought this nearly as great as we do. None the less, picture books show old farms with loose hay stacks great and small everywhere. A century ago, haying was less restricted by wet weather, and thus made more regularly, in small batches. The hay was piled as needed in a barn, or on the field using a thatched pattern to shed water aside. On this day we took the hay to Sean's barn and made an inviting pile to jump in.
When we were done, we agreed on a trip to the gorge at Brockways Mills for a swim, a gutsy choice as the rapids were full. This was a super-scenic adventure full of waterfall massages well worth the slippery rock climbing.
At home I was welcomed by the earthy tang of pickled beets, Lucy and her friend were hard at work in the kitchen.
In the evening, Sean came over and with more friends we did feast. There was brand new produce: roast carrots, potatoes, and a simple salad. Lentil soup, our own chicken liver pate and finally, red and black rasberries in cream.