First grandchild, second cutting

Aug 14, 2012 By Richard Klein

The timing wasn't perfect, but it all worked out

It has been an extraordinarily hot and dry year on our farm.We have had little significant moisture since last fall.And not only have daytime temperatures been warm, but nighttime temps, too.

The heat has made crops grow quickly.First cutting alfalfa was cut, baled and stacked two weeks earlier than "normal."Second cutting is already in the stack, and the third cutting is over a foot tall in those places with good, deep soil.

Initial nervousness about water availability curtailed a few plans, but so far, so good.It is a year when the investment in sprinkler irrigation has paid handsomely.

For many years we utilized custom cutters and balers to harvest our hay crops. As alfalfa acreage grew, we finally crossed a threshold where owning our own equipment made economic sense.

We selected a used 3x4x8 New Holland big baler. When it arrived, I just shook my head at all of the electronic whistles and bells, automatic greasers and oilers, complicated routes for twine, multiple knots, etc.

I said to my son, Garrett, "You learn how to run this thing."

The last swather we had owned was a John Deere 2280 that I purchased from Tom Youtz when he still owned the John Deere dealership. A newer John Deere 4895 swather also was purchased in our quest for hay equipment self sufficiency.

I felt like a stone-age aborigine suddenly encountering the 21stcentury as the various features were introduced. It even has the ability to steer itself using global positioning satellites, with an additional "small" investment.A 16-foot head at 5 miles per hour cuts a lot of hay in a day.

Seven or eight months ago Garrett and his wife, Jess, took my wife and me out to dinner.At dinner that evening, they told us they were expecting a child in early August.This would be our first newborn grandchild.

We were, of course, delighted with the news.And early August sounded convenient. Right between first and second cutting, just before barley harvest.

As the Aug. 3 due date approached, we began to realize that we would be in the middle of second cutting this year. Garrett tried to give me a lesson with the baler, how to understand the pressure gauge, how to watch the moisture meter monitor, how to eject the bales from the accumulator, how to watch a meter which told me how much hay was entering the machine, how to keep my speed up to keep the chamber full.

The fact that my eyes were glazing over with all of the details may have worried him, but we had little choice. Thousands and thousands of dollars worth of hay were lying on the ground, and it had to be baled.

All through Jess's pregnancy, I kept telling her the baby would come on the 8th of August, which is my birthdate. As Garrett baled through the nights, and his mother and I stacked hay during the day, we waited for Jess to say, "It's time to go to the hospital."

The 3rd of August passed, as did the 4th through the 7th. Garrett finished baling the last windrow in the last field of second cutting around 9 a.m.He had been up since 2 a.m.

A few hours later, Jess finally said, "I think it's time we go to the hospital."After four hours of labor, Zoey May was born.

As birthday surprises go, it was fantastic. Tears of joy, tears of relief that everything is all right.

And a sense of gratitude that I never had to cope with the multitude of complexities that are a big baler after all.

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