The sweet aroma of freshly mown hay
By A. Ray Lee
The sweet aroma of freshly mown grass curing in the sun drifted over the patio from a nearby field as cousin Hal winnowed it into orderly rows. In the heat of the afternoon, he would be back with a baler to compact it into large round bundles. The rolls would remain in the field for a few days before being moved to the barn for storage by the same tractor without being touched by human hands. I watched as Hal guided the rake from the cab of his air-conditioned tractor and remembered how the process of haying had drastically changed from the days of my youth when it required intensive hand-on labor.
The scythe which once was used to cut hay had been replaced by a mower pulled by a work team. The mounding of hay in the field with pitchforks was done with a primitive hay rake, but the pitchforks remained a necessity to move the hay to the barn where it was stored in a loft over the animal stalls. Eventually, we acquired more modern equipment including a baler that compressed the hay into square bales. The method of the harvest had changed but getting the hay into the barn was still labor intensive as each bale had to be handled several times by hand. That had all changed.
Hay was an essential commodity for life on a self-contained farm. It was a supplementary item to the diet of the animals. Cows munched it from the manger where it was mixed with cottonseed meal and hulls at milking time. Then they “sat down”, (as our friend Marian from Scotland said on a visit), to contentedly chew their cud. When morning came the process was repeated before they were turned out to pasture.
Work teams received a daily allotment of hay during the months in which they toiled six days out of seven pulling farm implements. They were harnessed on Sunday only to take the family to church in the old farm wagon otherwise it was a day of rest for them. Hay, along with homegrown corn, gave strength and endurance. In the winter the cows and teams were fed extra when the pasture grasses died and withered.
There were other needs for hay. It was used in the hen house to line nests in which the hens laid their eggs. When a sow delivered a litter of piglets in the winter hay provided them with a warm bed. A bed of hay was prepared for a new calf in a stall out of the cold north wind. The grasses and clover which had adorned the field were in a sense offered as a sacrifice that life might continue to flow through the animals of the farm.
As I watched, in a short time the hay had been winnowed. The tractor moved on to another field, but I sat enjoying the pleasant perfume from the fresh hay. A verse of scripture came to mind. “Walk in love, as Christ has also loved us and given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” (Ephesians 5:2 NKJV)