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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

More Than a Metaphor

Fresh-mown hay lying in rows
An unexpected theme emerged serendipitously, a gift of Fate. How would I have predicted that the environmental writer who went to Russia with the World Wildlife Fund would end up living in a little village where people still made hay the old-fashioned way? That’s what happened in The Storks’ Nest, by Laura Lynne Williams. Still captivated by that book, how could I guess that my husband would then bring home for me a book called Making Hay, by Verlyn Klinkenborg?
…Haying is what I always loved about the farm; alfalfa, far more than corn, summed up agriculture for me. It was raised and baled on the farm, fed on the farm, and spread as manure on the farm. No one ever trucked it away. It had the right smell. And rural life never looks better than when haying weather hits Minnesota, Iowa, or Montana.
I agree. And while I’m sure few people in Minnesota, Iowa, or Montana associate hay-making with Michigan, yet here too, in cherry and apple country, the magic and sweat of hay perfumes and punctuates summer. 

Well-stacked wagon
Two books, though, are no more than a coincidence. What odds would you have given that a book on history and economics, falling into my hands in a stack of books brought to my bookstore for trade credit, would reference in the very first chapter trips the writer made to Montana to work with friends on — yes! — their hay harvest? And yet that was the case with Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Jared Diamond, the Pulitzer prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel. 
…[W]hile I was a student in college, I came back for the summer … with two college friends and my sister, and we all worked … on the hay harvest, I driving a scatterrake, my sister a muckrake, and my two friends stacking hay. 
In Klinkenborg’s book are all the details of every piece of machinery involved and how it operates and the fixes required when something goes haywire

Fresh alfalfa hay, maddeningly fragrant and so picturesque when bales dot a mown field: I confess I love the look more than a vista of orchards, even when the trees are in full bloom. 

Former hayfield, now in cherries
One cherry farmer friend told me they’d made hay on their farm this year, not because they have livestock of their own but for another farmer in the township who does. Back a few years ago, a next-door neighbor mowed our meadow and fed the mixed grasses, wildflowers, and volunteer alfalfa to his Scottish longhorn. I miss those cattle and Bob, too. I miss having our wild hay feed the neighbors’ cattle. 
Alfalfa persisting in the grass....

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