Friday, August 14, 2009

In which I discover my true vocation...

....is not haymaking.

It didn't take long - about 20 minutes actually - for me to realise, as I stood hayrake in hand in the sunshine, to realise that this wasn't actually a great deal of fun. The prospect of raking up much more than a hen pen's worth of grass was not only a depressing prospect but damned hard work too. However much I fancy an afternoon's visit to the landscape of Thomas Hardy or Bruegel, naively imaging rural and bucolic bliss, I think the reality would be bone-aching drudgery with only the prospect of a mess of potage for tea.
I conclude I am probably not of peasant stock.

Over on next door's pocket-handkerchief-sized horse paddock our farming neighbour has brought a disproportionately large machine and is baling the hay he cut a few days ago. It takes him mere seconds to gather up the now dry grass and spew out a gargantuan 'big bale' even in this small space. I not suggesting for a minute he come over our way and do the same for us. That would be silly.

It did make me think though how labour intensive farming was in the days before mechanisation - when even the simplest task - raking hay for example - involved hours of activity on the part of a large workforce. We live in our converted barn courtesy of the fact that no farmer these days wants a building too small to get a tractor in. Who wants to stack hay or straw with a pitch fork, a bit at a time? Who wants to muck out animals with a shovel and wheel barrow? Big doors and airy spaces are the things- something a multi-horsepowered tractor and a lad in an air-conditioned cab can get into. Who can blame them?

I will take me to the scriptorium - or its latter day equivalent, the Mac, on which I am gathering illustrations for that must-read book of next spring. (Marton, the story of a Shropshire Village).

Possibly work at the screen is every bit as arduous as that in the field if you take note of the words of one 10th century prior who, observing his monastic scribes, recommended: 'Only try to do it yourself and you will learn how arduous is the writer's task. It dims your eyes, makes your back ache, and knits your chest and belly together. It is a terrible ordeal for the whole body.'

So. Creativity's not for wimps either.

12 comments:

Twiglet said...

Love the last quote - I get like that when i have been on my sewing machine for too long!! Oh and my shoulders acheth too!!

Pam said...

Raking hay? Are you mad woman?
You'll be stuffing mushrooms next.

Pondside said...

I too am from the leisured class. Must be, because I have no stamina - that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Fennie said...

Ah but the smell, Mountainear, of new mown and new raked hay, surely compensates for much. And simply lying doing on a soft heap of new cut grass is a pleasure which stays with you forever. I think you enjoy it really.

GeraniumCat said...

No, sorry, even 7 hours at a computer without a break (which, reprehensibly, I do most days) doesn't compare with an hour of raking hay!

Frances said...

Mountaineer, city person here who freely admits that she has never been close to any hay raking. From your description, I think I will set aside any curiousity about trying it myself.

However, I do like to think about the question you raise about what was once done without mechanical machines, but rather just with humans and other animals and a few well-designed tools. Pretty amazing.

(I do still wash all my dishes by hand!) xo

Friko said...

Raking hay in any space is hard work; perhaps, if you asked the farmer nicely (and paid) him he might do it for you.
I gave up keeping the paddock tidy precisely because I couldn't cope with the hay, I much prefer my mac. Sure, it doesn't smell as good, but if I leave the window open I can get a whiff of the fruits of somebody else's hard labour.

elizabethm said...

There is no doubt at all that you are not of peasant stock - aristocratic to the core. I do agree about the writing though, sometimes a few hours at the computer leaves me knotted up and aching, gardening rarely does that!

Wipso said...

Hi. I must say it's been a long time since I've joined in a harvest but really enjoyed the fun of it all. A weekend of gardening has made my arms ache far too much to be raking hay this morning. Feel free to call by to check on the results of my labours.

ChrisH said...

You might not have enjoyed raking hay but I enjoyed reading about it. No, definitely not peasant stock!

snailbeachshepherdess said...

Oh come on raking hay is lovely, almost as good as cutting sheep's toenails - but far better tham cleaning out the hen house in a shower cap!!!

Moon Over Martinborough said...

We had our hay cut not too long ago and it was fantastic. Those hay bales in the bottom paddock were like sculpture. I was sad when the contractors came and took them away!