Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Sunday, May 27, 2007


No, that tractor with attached rake isn’t the latest in lawn art. John parked it near the house after he’d finished raking at Polecat Creek Farm. Next, he’ll take it to Smith Farm. Our house is the halfway point. We’re in the midst of haying. Cupcake and Melody eat a bale of hay a week. More in winter. Not little square bales—the big round bales.

The best thing about feeding round bales, besides having to put out only one each week, is they can be left outside. Rain runs off and doesn’t sink in. The outside gets a little yucky, of course, but less than an inch down is the good stuff. The tastiest gourmet-quality hay is at the center.

Getting to the good stuff involves hollowing out the bale. Cupcake and Melody have mastered this art. Tunnel in (one horse on each end of bale) and when the tunnel goes all the way through, Melody paws apart what’s left of the bale. They don’t eat the yucky outside.

Cupcake tunnels in.

If you drive past my pasture and see what looks like a headless horse, you’re really seeing a mare partake of the ultimate equine dining experience.

Feeding hay requires making hay. Usually we do it in June and September. This year, the hay came in early. Weather conditions have been perfect the last couple days: “Make hay while the sun shines.” Bedford got a quarter inch of rain Saturday afternoon and warnings were out for the lake, but the rain missed Penhook and Union Hall.

Haymaking isn’t cheap, when you factor in the costs of fertilizer, equipment, and the current high gas prices. We own neither haybine nor baler, both of which cost big bucks. We go shares with Bobby, a guy who does have a really good tractor, haybine, and baler. John does own an old Ferguson and a hayrake. Bobby cuts one day, John rakes the next day after the hay has cured, and the other guy bales.

Sometimes, hay-making is like juggling. Friday, for instance, Bobby cut all the fields on Polecat Creek farm down the road. Saturday, John raked at Polecat Creek while Bobby cut at Smith Farm in Union Hall, three miles away. After the hay had dried from John’s raking, Bobby returned to bale the Polecat Creek Farm hay.

Newly baled hay—especially hay that hasn’t been rained on and has been cut on a hot windy day—is a beautiful sight.

In her novel Fair and Tender Ladies, Lee Smith has a character say, “Farming is pretty work.”

Making hay is hot, dirty, labor-intensive, and expensive—but the result is doggone pretty to look at.

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