Saturday, August 26, 2006

Waiting for the Dentist (or Someone Like Him)

No, this isn't going to be a rant on professionals keeping horse owners waiting. In this region we are dense with horses and a little light on caretakers, so I rarely complain when I'm left dangling. There are usually good reasons.
Of course, I'd like the professionals to be equally understanding of owners who disremember appointments, but I'll settle for a willingness to reschedule without rancor.
Today's all-day wait has forced me into inactivity, which is something I need from time to time. I'm glued to my computer instead of out riding. Sitting in my office instead of shopping for more stuff I probably can live without. Hanging out in the barn, sweeping down cobwebs, mucking and re-mucking the stalls. I've already got dinner covered. Church supper take-out wins the day every time. Not my church, but who cares? I'm an equal-opportunist. Neighbors saw the barn lights on and stopped to visit me and my equines. It's been a different kind of day, and I appreciate that.
My time online brought across my screen a Verlyn Klinkenborg editorial from today's New York Times. The title, if you've got the inclination to read the original, is "In the Loft". If you're reading this blog, you are someone who might get a little shiver from the article.
Klinkenborg grew up, in his own words, in Iowa where barns "were already on their third and fourth generations of use" compared to his relatively new "truss and plywood" building. His essay isn't about the age of barns, however, it's about capturing a moment.
Like Klinkenborg, I have horses to feed, and my loft right now is full to bursting with wonderful, freshly-cut hay from my field. There are a few bales at one end left from July of last year, but the rest of the loft--and four stalls--are full of new hay. The second-cutting hay is still almost unnaturally green. There's a third cutting threatening to overtake us, and I'm keeping a good thought for an early fall to put a stop to it. I can only make room for so many moments at a time.
In June I felt the same unease Klinkenborg describes. My six horses were devouring the last of my hay while the spring rain drowned the new grass in the pasture, and the race was on to see whether agriculture would best nature this year. Last year I lost. We got only enough hay from our seven-acre field to last till mid-winter. I was forced to call in favors and pre-purchase second-cutting round bales in order to ensure that my six charges (seven at that time--Grady was still alive) would be fed until the next first cutting could be made in early July. By March I was railing against the weather and picking through round bales whose tarps had been shredded by daily fifty mile-per-hour winds that we never see in these parts. I cried as I dumped whole bales in the back field for the mice and mold to demolish.
Standing in the almost-empty loft, I got the feeling that things were out of order. The plywood floor showed through the hay fines. I could clearly see cobwebs on roof trusses that are normally hidden by stacks of bales. I saw the dried remains of a bird that must've long ago been sucked into the roof vent fan. I shouldn't see the fans at all. Not in a good year. Not till I get the loft ready for the new hay. Not in November, ever. That's how I measure hay. I should see one fan in December, pass the central hay-drop in January, and the second fan shouldn't be visible till late March or early April.
But as always, the script for my personal soap opera was rewritten in secret, and my little field produced nearly 1400 bales--a record by any standards. I'm up to my helmet in hay. More hay would have to be stacked on pallets under tarps; that's how much hay this is.
I haven't even been in the loft lately, but last week the weather changed, the weed-to-grass ratio in the pastures tipped, and it was time to start putting out hay for the horses. This morning as I slipped the twine off a couple of second-cutting bales, the electric green of the new hay was startling against the yellowing pasture grass, and in an instant I had the same feeling that Klinkenborg relates . . . the feeling of capturing summer in the heart of a hay bale.
Come January, I'll throw hay with abandon, and the horses will chow down like it's their last meal, because they're programmed to worry about that, and I'm programmed to avoid it. I'll wonder briefly why I do this, but I won't think about it in any depth. I'll just enjoy watching my captive bit of nature while they enjoy the fruits of my otherwise pointless labor. That bit of trapped summer will put us all at ease. What a wonderful thing to look forward to!

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