March 5th…“TELL ABOUT HOW YOU SPENT YOUR SATURDAYS ON THE FARM.”
Miss Meadowlark christened another Minnesota Saturday morning with her singular symphony of song. She truly set my tone of joy as the hinge pins creaked on our back screen door and I stepped outside to drink in the fragrance of our nearby Lilac Bush. The aroma of those Lilacs were like a dessert after having just given our mother thanks for the great breakfast she prepared for us daily.
With a mixture of morning dew and gravel among my toes, my bare feet were quickly toughening to a thick, calloused layer that was almost as hard as shoe leather. This attribute allowed me to run barefoot and play, even in the stubble-covered alfalfa field. Well, let’s get into today’s gentle adventure…..Saturdays were a mixture of standard chores (that we did seven days a week) and upon completion of those tasks, our father, Russell, would hail us to his side and let us know what special event might be happening on our farm that day.
On our farm, Dad grew the rich forage legume known as Alfalfa. It was replete in nutrients for our livestock to eat and thrive by, rather than feeding them a simple grass hay. Among our family, and others in our farming community, we knew the proper name for this crop, but everyone still called the alfalfa “hay”. And for that Saturday, in particular, haying season was upon us.
A few days prior to this busy haying event, Dad had used his Sickle Mower to cut our alfalfa crop down. It now lay drying in the sunshine. Another day or so, and Dad would then rake the crop into windrows to make it easier to bale.
Thankfully, for our folks, there were usually young, local high school students who were always eager to make a few extra dollars, so Dad would hire on those he needed to get this operation completed. This agricultural operation was sometimes complicated by “Mother Nature” who pressed Dad and crew to bale hay as fast as they could, even into the nighttime, if need be, so they could get the dry hay into the barn’s haymow before rains came down from the sky. Moisture in the hay could hurt its food value by a strong rain “hammering” at the fragile alfalfa leaves out in the field. Worse yet, if the hay was baled wet, those tight bales, with moisture inside, could burst into flames in the barn’s upstairs haymow by a process known as spontaneous combustion/ignition. Then, our entire barn could burn to the ground.
From my young eye’s viewpoint, I was always in awe of the clockwork of a farming family and team of helpers making as fast a work as possible in bringing in tons of hay bales from our field. Hot exhaust poured from the tall tractor muffler as Dad’s Farmall Model Super M began pulling the baler and a flat rack. Our brother, Lowell, or a hired hand, standing on that flat rack, would slam a long hay hook into the bale as it slowly was pushed out of the baler. A downside of this procedure was the brisk prairie winds that often blew the hay chaff all over the stacker. That chaff also tended to stick to your sweaty skin and go down to itch at you under your Tshirt. Be that as it may, that bale was then stacked on the wagon and they kept this up till the flat rack wagon was full.
Now, it was another family or team member that would drive up alongside our father with an empty flat rack wagon. Dad brought the baler to a standstill while a full wagon was unhitched and an empty wagon hooked onboard. The tractor engine was revved up and the baling commenced once again.
This frenzied flurry of farming continued well into the evening hours as the sun began to wink its way into the horizon. Our bevy of Mourning Doves nestled in the treed windbreak then began to sing us their own song of quietness as another Saturday came to rest for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.