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Hay...

Emma Heseltine - 29 July 2012

There are a lot of farmers getting stressed at the moment. There may be a heat wave further south but here is business as usual, rain. The thing is we want hay. Silage is all well and good but we don’t have a tractor so moving it about is a complete nightmare. Haylage is alright in big square bales, it comes out in slices that can be loaded into the quad trailer. But hay is the thing. The problem is that hay needs hot weather and about six days of it to dry it enough to bale.

This week lots of people heave a sigh of relief as we get a few dry days and a hell of a lot of silage is made. We decide to cut one field and hope for the best. It's left lying for a couple of days and then by some miracle there are a couple of dry days. I’m given the task of shaking it out; I’m going to get plenty of chances to practice my tractor skills. We hook up the hay bob, which is like a giant mixer and away I go, spinning out the hay, turning it over so the sun gets at the underside and dries it out. It’s nice to be out in the sun and the smell of the grass is a wave of summer. The next couple of days I turn it again, getting the hang of the little Massey and hooking up the hay bob, although getting completely coated in grease in the process, there must be a trick to it.

On Friday its crunch time, the weekend promises a load of rain that would ruin the crop so something has to get made by the end of the day. I turn it twice and as the afternoon progresses the sun comes out and the wind picks up a bit. After a while it’s hard to tell which bits I’ve turned and which I haven’t, good news. John comes round with the baler and I get our new sledge. Soon a big bale train is set up, little Massey, baler and sledge. The sledge is a new addition and it makes life easier for bale collection, as the bales come out they slide into the sledge and when there are eight the back pops open.

The baler is a complicated bit of kit and I get to drive it whilst John darts around the back adjusting things and occasionally kicking the sledge into shape. It mostly works but sometimes forgets to pop open and a jam ensues. We have a dramatic moment when I hear a massive clang so jam on the breaks and turn off the PTO. A bit of metal has been scooped up into the machine and the shear bolt has gone. It's soon replaced and we are away again, little bales happily popping out the back. By 9pm the field is pretty much baled, time to lead them out. It may be the whole world is watching the Olympic opening ceremony but we are doing Olympic hay making in the great British countryside. We pack it in at 1am, a mostly full barn of hay and some very tired workers. There are about 5 more fields to do, its going to be busy when the weather comes again.

Emma completed a degree in Creative Imaging at Huddersfield University before working for a photography studio as an editor. Taking a break from the office world she worked in outdoor education for several years, climbing, abseiling, shooting, trampolining and even life-guarding with children of all ages. When Emma found out about the apprenticeship scheme with the Soil Association it seemed the perfect chance to do something worthwhile and fulfilling. After much searching and badgering farms in the North of England she found a position with Hadrian Organics and started in July 2011. So far it is living up to her expectations, every day is a new challenge and every day is different.

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