I feel like I am one more skill closer to being an official farmer this month. I am proud to say that I was able to hay the cows with limited help from my husband! I know that putting hay out is a necessity, but I've never had the full amount of respect for this chore until now. I have always been the trusty assistant who helps pull the bailing twine off the hay bales up by the barn and even roll the hay rings over to the new bale, but the actual tractor driving has always been left up to my husband.
Don't get me wrong, I have mowed a number of acres myself, but driving in long straight rows to then gradually turn around all in one section of a flat field is nothing compared to all the skill it takes to put out the hay. So when my husband pointed to the tractor and said, "You're putting out the hay today." Joy, excitement and panic all set in at the same time.
Now our trusty tractor, "Old Yeller," has been a great addition to the farm. This 1972 Ford Tractor, minus its muffler and padded seat, and with its fading yellow paint, is still going strong. You can imagine the thought process going through my head as my husband explains to me, a driver of an automatic SUV, how to drive a manual tractor. Shifting, clutch, brake, gears, and driving in slow or fast gear were all phrases that broadened my tractor driving knowledge.
First job, back the tractor out of the barn. I don't think I could have gone any slower and have still been considered moving. Needless to say, it was a success, which lead me on to getting the first bale of hay! Again success and so I went through the gate, down past the barn, past the front pond, and then up Hay Bale Hill where we typically put out the hay. I was overjoyed with the sense of accomplishment as I put the first hay bale on the ground and my husband signaled for me to repeat the process again.
View of Hay Bale Hill
Four rings means four bales of hay. "Awesome! I can do this with no problem," I think, as I replay all the steps to switching into reverse in order to get the next bale. As the cows saw the hay being brought out, they were right there enjoying the first taste of yummy fresh hay.
The calves made me laugh as they seemed to jump and kick saying, "Watch out it's the crazy lady on the tractor!" as I drove past each time.
As I am laying the last of the four hay bales out I am feeling very proud and thinking that was easy enough. Then my husband signals for me to stop and informs me I have three more bales to put out.
"What?! Where?" I exclaim.
"Oh just down there, I'll show you." he exclaims
So I begin to drive back to the barn to get more hay. As I return to Hay Bale Hill, expecting to see him standing there, I scan the horizon to see him way down the bumpy pasture next to Crocodile Pond. My anxiety soars as I remember the other two hay rings we have sitting next to Crocodile Pond. This is where the mud tried to eat my boot last weekend while taking the bailing twine off the hay. So I begin to creep down the terrain and across the pasture to the next site. Success! I did it! And off again to repeat the job. But wait, he said three more bales and so I again try to remember where we might be putting the additional hay.
When I asked him again he says with a grin, "Oh I'll show you. Just past Hippopotamus Pond."
"But there's mud and it's steep and I can't!!!" I exclaim in a panic. But again he reassures me that I know what I am doing before I head back out to get the last bale.
And so I begin the journey of taking the last bale of hay to the back pasture, I like to call Mesquite Land. Complete!! The last hay bale has been put out for our herd. I had driven the tractor like a real farmer!
I have been able to do this successfully twice now. My respect for this chore has greatly increased due to the level of skill it takes to maneuver a tractor across the uneven pastures of north Texas. I am honored that I get to take part in this well known chore of haying the cows. May I never get tired of this privilege.