Saturday, July 19, 2014

Making Hay While the Sun Shines #farming #amwriting

One of the blessings - or curses, depending on how you look at it - related to writing crime fiction is that I can't help but look for danger in almost any situation. It's summer, and that means it's time to make hay in East Texas - or not, depending on the weather. We've had a beautiful spring and summer so far, and the pastures are lush with grass. Some farmers are working on their second cuttings of hay, but we've just had our first cutting done.

Since many of my friends live overseas or have never had a chance to see hay baled, I wanted to share a few photos of how the process works. And, as usual, I'm looking for creative ways to kill my characters. It's that blessing or curse thing.

The Musick Men are our hay balers and they start checking out our pastures in May, but we're usually not thick enough to cut until June. Hay baling is a five-stage process if you count the growing stage, and I guess we should.



Stage 1: Growing. Pray for rain and hope the grass grows. Yes, it's that simple. You can fertilize and amend the soil, but without rain, there's not much hope for hay.



Stage 2: Mowing. Essentially, you hook a great big mower to your tractor and drive around the pasture in ever decreasing circles until you've cut all the grass. Leave the grass to dry and pray for no rain.

(Nope, those aren't the Musick Men, that isn't our house or pasture, and their tractor doesn't look like that. I had a great photo of Mr. Musick the Younger cutting hay, but can't find it. If you squint and tilt your head just right, this is kind of how our mowing went.)



 
Stage 3: Fluffing. The technical term is raking, but it looks like fluffing to me. After the hay dries, attach a rake to your tractor (the attachment looks like modern art against the sky, doesn't it?), and drive around the pasture in ever decreasing circles.












 
The rake fluffs the hay and leaves it in neat little rows, like this:
 


4: Baling. This is where the fun comes in. Attach the baler to your tractor and drive around the neat little rows, sucking the hay up into the baler, rolling it into a round bale, then tying it with twine and dropping it out the back. Looks like a dinosaur giving birth, if you squint and turn your head just right.


 



















 (Those babies are nothing to mess with - they weigh in at 1,500 pounds or more. Hefty.)


5. Stacking. This part might seem silly, but you've got to get the baled hay off your pasture so you can start growing grass again. 



The Musick Men are kind enough to stack our hay where it stays relatively dry and is easy to access in the winter.

Now for the killing part. Is there opportunity for one of my characters to die when baling hay? Absolutely, particularly if the baddies are baling the hay. Sadly for real life farmers, the risks related to hay baling are all too real. Accidents happen every year, resulting in amputations, deep cuts, broken arms and legs, crushing, and death. The Musick Men are some of the good guys and thankfully, are conscientious when they're working with farm equipment.

In the fictional world, there's a great chance that one of my bad guys won't be so conscientious and will die while baling hay, or maybe when an errant bale rolls over them. Oh the fun we have in the country...

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photo credit: Therm0 via photopin cc
photo credit: kingary via photopin cc