It turns out that the hay wasn't as wet on Sunday as we had feared. Our neighbor came over late that morning, flipped it over, and then determined that it was drying fast enough to bale later that afternoon. A contributing factor is that they had a field full of their own hay to bale, and needed to get that done Monday before Tuesday's rains came; that meant ours needed to be cleared out on Sunday if at all possible.
A final check at 4pm proved that the hay had dried nicely in the sun, and the baling commenced. For the first load, Mrs Yeoman Farmer and her father stacked bales on the hay wagon as they emerged from the baler. The baler is quite a device; it is towed behind the tractor, but its intake for the hay is set off to the side. As the tractor drives between the raked rows of hay, the hay is drawn into the baler, compacted into a bale shape, trimmed, and emerges in a continuous feed from the chute in the rear. It is automatically tied into bales of a standard length as it comes down that chute. In this photo, the farmer has stopped the tractor momentarily to deal with a broken string.
Once this rack was filled with 80 or so bales, the farmer towed it to our barn, backed it in to the second story, and unhitched it. Then, as three people got busy unloading and stacking bales in the barn, he went back to the field to fill a second rack. We soon had a smoothly-functioning system running, with the two teams handing off full and empty racks every half hour or so.
After the first rack came in, MYF and her father opted to stay in the barn and work with the farmer's wife to unload and stack all of the day's bales. I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening riding around in the hay field, stacking newly-tied bales on the rack behind the trailer. Joining me was an extremely hard-working 15 year old homeschooled boy from a nearby farm; his family had a lot of experience farming hay, and he had the muscles to prove it. He is also an avid hunter and shooter; we had a grand time discussing firearms and the best way to dispatch various wildlife --- which made our hours out in the hot sun fly by.
With the last bale put away at 8:45, and the evening twilight beginning to fade, all of us were bone tired and ready to eat and go to bed. MYF's father and I cracked open a couple of beers, which tasted all the better for having been so hard-earned, and surveyed the day's handiwork: a literal wall of 465 bales of hay, stacked 15 feet high in our barn.
Because this first cutting was so early in the year, and the field is well fertilized, it's likely we will get at least two additional cuttings. The rule of thumb is that those two additional cuttings will roughly total the first cutting. Although we can't count the hay until it's baled, we're looking forward to having 900+ bales stored up for the coming winter.
No one had any trouble getting to sleep Sunday night. Then, we ended up toiling most of Monday, trying to get the remaining beds of MYF's garden cultivated and planted before Tuesday's expected rains. Again, no trouble sleeping last night.
It's a relief to finally have my day of rest, even if I had to wait until today to get it. But that's the thing about farming: you have to do things when you have to do them. And now...I'm just glad they're done.