I have a new appreciation for pastures, hay, diesel-loving machines, leather gloves and biceps. Oh ya, and water.
Previously, as pasture-less city goat owners, we fed our goats alfalfa hay that we bought from someone on Craigslist. It was a long morning of work; going out to the countryside to pick up 40 bales of hay and coming home to unload and stack them. It was tiring. Now, the only countryside we’re traveling to is our four-acre backyard.
Since around March, the backyard has been growing a thick flush of orchard grass and alfalfa, giving the goats daily meals of fresh greens. Seeing our previously penned-most-of-the-time milkers out on pasture every day is thrilling enough, but watching the field be processed into bales of tasty, protein-rich dried greens is a whole other ball game.
As a first time pasture owner, I eagerly ran to the back door, camera phone in hand, to catch our hay man from the minute he drove through the fence on his fancy tractor for the first time. He sat safely enclosed in a Pope-mobile style plexiglass enclosure —hopefully air conditioning and music were being piped in. The tractor was big — the real deal — and pulling an attachment that spun along the ground slicing through blades of grass and alfalfa stems like butter, almost silently. It was like watching a giant but peaceful lawnmower laying to rest the lifeless stalks in long, organized rows up and down the field. In about 20 minutes, our pasture went from blowing in the wind to drying in the sun. Thank you Mr. Tractor Man.
Four days later, another contraption composed of an older, smaller tractor and a hay bale pooper arrived on the scene. It's probably not called that but, really, that's what it does. The machine drove slowly along the lengths of sun-dried (and thankfully not rained on) hay as the hay pooper scooped up loose hay, compacted and tied it into tight, neat bales and discharged rectangles out its backend. In less than an hour our field went from zero to 333 bales. Again, I thank you, Mr. Tractor Man.
Had we been goat farmers 150 years ago, we would have cut that whole field by hand, raked it all into long rows to dry, stacked it all up in special rain repelling piles, and hauled it into the barn on the back of a horse-drawn wagon. No diesel involved, but ALOT more work. I am thankful for the diesel-fueled tractor. Yessiree.
The final step of bringing in the hay means getting it off the field and under protection from rain. If it gets wet, it will mold and will be useful for barn bedding, not food.
Most normal people would drive a flatbed truck through the field and load dozens of bales at a time, then haul them to and unload them at the barn. However, the day we needed to bring the bales in my husband had the truck, and, although I have strong forearms
, I couldn’t pull the flatbed through the field without it.
Enter the wheelbarrow. With grit and determination, a major dose of stubbornness and my innate desire to reach a goal once I set it, I brought in and stacked 102 bales — three at a time on the wheel barrow in 93 degree heat wearing jeans, long sleeves, a hat and leather gloves.
Every two or three trips, I guzzled water from the spigot, splashed water on my face and drenched my hair a time or two. Halfway through the job, I laid down on what was the most comfortable bed I've experienced lately, the top row of stacked hay bales.
The next day, while the boys were helping my husband and some friends and I bring in the other 220 — this time with the truck and flatbed — our 11 year-old was bringing in four bales at a time in the trailer he was towing with the garden tractor.
"Mom, how many bales can you bring in the wheel barrow?" he asked me after a few trips.
"Three," I replied.
"Wow, Mom, you're almost as strong as a tractor!"
This is the same boy who rarely appreciates the meals I cook, the work I do, the dishes I wash or the snakes I kill
. Needless to say, my heart swelled.
Lindsey is a city girl turned urban farm girl. She and her family are the proud stewards of a few milking goats, a lot of working chickens, a growing farm and soon-to-be creamery in southern Colorado. Follow her on Twitter (@goatcheeselady) and FaceBook (The Goat Cheese Lady) or visit her website (thegoatcheeselady.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Lindsey at: firstname.lastname@example.org.