Sunday, June 17, 2007

Grass Mountain and Shooting Barley

My heart was a bit heavier than usual and sank further when the morning emails brought disheartening news about people I care about. Not devastating, OhmyGod altogether unexpected news but, as a friend used to say when our work world went to hell in a handbasket--"sub optimal."

I looked for cheer from the cats, but they were nowhere to be found. The sermon at church was perfectly fine, but did not manage to lift my heart appreciably, but the newfound rhythms of the farm helped me get my equilibrium back.

This is the silage season. Because the cattle cannot be in the field with the grass in the winter, we bring the grass to them. Because cattle eat a lot of grass, this means collecting the bounty of the green fields in June and making a mountain of grass. This mountain is kept under plastic tarps that are weighted down with tires to keep the grass away from air and moisture.
Building the mountain is an art form and a competition and a race against time. If the grass is not in the right condition when it is stored, there is a risk that it will develop mold or harmful bacteria. It can get too hot and smolder and burn. Getting in the silage is both labor and equipment intensive, so there is competition for resources. There is also compettion for bragging rights, although my husband would balk at the idea that well-mannered farmers ever boast. "Got your silage done yet?" is a classic opener in the butcher's shop or at the post office.
And of course we are always watching the weather.
The silage got cut yesterday. The rain held off. Today they lifted the cut grass in a choreography of "nose to tail": .trucks move alongside the giant vacuum cleaner so that as soon as one truck is full, it tears away to the mountain site while the other truck pulls up so that vacuum cleaner does not miss a beat on its tour around the field. The speed at which these truck (lorry) loads move belies the volume until the mountain manifests itself.
The first time I watched this mountain creation with fascination. I rode into the fields with my husband and he explained it to me. Now I take comfort in its familiar rhythms as I hear the trucks outside racing up and down the farm road while we are safely tucked inside.
On the way home from church my husband pointed out the barley is shooting--creating the seed heads that make the grain for the cattle to eat. The sight of the barley bursting out from its green waves and the steady pounding of the lorries comforted me. Tomorrow I'll walk through the fields and let the bristly awns brush against my hand on my way down to the sea.Posted by Picasa


At 1:40 AM, Anonymous ampiggy said...

One of my favorite times on my visit to you was seeing and photgraphing the silage being gathered, and you and Morris with the silage driver. I found the operation fascinating because of the way the silage fountains up from the harvesting machine, and then down into the following truck.

At 1:50 AM, Anonymous ampiggy said...

Just as the rhythms of the farm comfort you, they comfort me as a reader. I wonder if that's true of other readers.

At 9:10 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

I am glad you enjoyed seeing the silage on your visit. With readers and visitors, I often wonder whether farm stuff is intriguing or boring. I have more American than UK readers, but I think I have few country people who read regularly.

At 8:33 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

boy // do you keep me informed //seeing everything proceeding as usual and without me is actually very heartening // you do such a good blog // keeping me in touch with your fotos as well. wow // scorrie //

At 1:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

did not know that the bristly awns had such a gooooood effect // scorrie //

At 12:18 AM, Blogger The Curmudgeon said...

So you don't bale the hay then for feed? So that's strictly an American thing?

(Pardon the city-boy questions.)

At 8:45 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Cur, hay is different from silage. Silage is grass kept green. Hay, made from barley for us, is baled in those giant shredded wheat rolls that you see on fields. Also straw comes from barley, but that will be later in the season. You are quite right that cattle eat hay (also straw sometimes tho mostly used for bedding).

At 9:53 PM, Blogger ZACL said...

I've been looking at the field opposite my kitchen window. The sileage may have been ready for cutting but it has been absolutely flattened at some point by severe weather conditions that must've ocurred while I was recently away.

You've done well.

At 9:00 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Ooh, flat is bad. I have heard Morris speak about it in ominous tones. Once the grass or the oats or whatever else goes flat it is very difficult for machinery to harvest it. It can also mean that valuable crop is lost as the seed heads gets dispersed on the ground rather than harvested.


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