Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Tails from the Farm

Hay and Foxtails

Back when we were still young and foolish, or possibly simply delusional, hubby and I wholeheartedly believed that we could drive truck, raise a family and make hay as well. On top of that, there were fences to build, a yard to keep and a house to put work into. Our hours most definitely were full.
Our son was now a toddler, and I was a few months away from our second child’s due date, when it was time to get the second cut of hay off. There are a few steps to making hay, especially if the end goal is to make good quality hay. Hay that’s dust and mould free, as well as leafy and green. This was my goal, to make awesome hay. It wasn’t easy, as there’s the weather to battle against, and equipment that could choose to be fickle without notice. The standing field had to be cut. Unless cut with a haybine, which allows the hay to cure far more quickly, the thick rows had to be turned over to promote thorough drying. If everything worked out as planned, or even of it didn’t, the long swaths of hay had to be baled, and picked off the field.
Some might think such work monotonous and boring. I never did. There’s something rather cathartic about making hay, especially baling. The rhythmic sound of the baler chugging away, as it gobbles up the thick rows of hay is somewhat mesmerizing, a tad soothing as well. It’s just you, the equipment and the beautiful day, and it must be a beautiful day. After all, everyone knows that the time to make hay, is when the sun shines.
I wasn’t completely alone, out there on that fifty acres. I had a lovely, red fox for company. She, yes … I called her she, as she looked like a vixen to me. She was pretty, extremely wise, and very patient. To my way of thinking, that all added up to my little fox, being female. She would appear by the baler chute, and pick up mice that were scared up by the equipment. Round and round the field we would go, me on the tractor, her following along, like a little, red dog.
Some people can afford big, fancy tractors, new balers and the like. That wasn’t us. We had vintage tractors, of a rather diminutive size. Certainly big enough to handle the jobs asked of them, but nothing fancy, no air conditioned cabs or the like. The tractor I operated had a rather lovely umbrella, and that was good enough for me. They were reliable and worked virtually trouble free. The baler however, was another story. I got very good at fixing what broke, as my hubby would say. Sheer pins were a common breakage, as they were meant to fail before something far more expensive did. Knotters were a pain, baling twine would break far too often for my liking. I always had a good stash of sheer pins on hand, which aren’t actually pins at all, but soft bolts. No matter what the problem, it had to be sorted before I could continue on.
As soon as I brought the tractor to a halt, my little, red shadow would stop as well. She would watch to see what I was going to do next. As I clambered off the tractor, not an easy task with a big, baby belly, the fox would move off, just a little, and watch. If the repair took a while, she’d sit down. Even longer, she’d lie down. There we’d be, me on my butt, repairing whatever problem, her patiently watching, waiting, and we would have a conversation, a one-sided chat, as foxy was the quiet type.
“It’s the twine this time,” I would tell her what the problem was, “shouldn’t take long. Oh, the pickup is jammed, too. That’ll take a bit of work. Sooo, how many mice have you caught so far? Good eating, are they?”
Foxy would watch and listen, while she waited. No indication at all, whether she appreciated my ramblings, but I think she did. We had a relationship of sorts going, and though foxes don’t wag their tails, I think she found me interesting.
It’s not easy, being pregnant and sitting beside a piece of equipment, fixing in the heat of the day, but this was life, and I got on with it. I would get done, drag myself back to my feet, and glance over at foxy. She would perk up. Those sharp ears would prick forward with interest, and she would stand up. As I climbed back onto the tractor, she would move back into position at the chute, as if to say, back to work! Away we would go, me keeping an eye on how the hay was being picked up by the tines, foxy snapping up bite-sized snacks.
As the years progressed, we upgraded some of our equipment, but never got too fancy. Haying remained a part of the summer until we got tired of battling weather and time, and fenced it all in, but those first years were memorable, learning ones.
That little fox made hay season so much more interesting, and her interest in the resident bipeds didn’t end there. A friend and I enjoyed riding on quiet, winter nights. There is little more ethereal, more special than a calm, cold winter night, when the moon is so full and bright that it illuminates the world.
We could see everything, our shadows cast upon the sparkling snow, and the little fox that lay not to far off, watching while we rode drills and played in the snow. I suppose, we were her reality television. I can only imagine what she was thinking, crazy humans!
Over the years we’ve been here on the farm, we’ve enjoyed the personalities and antics of many different foxes, but she’s one that stands out in my memory. She was a lovely, wise little creature indeed.

  1. Oh, my goodness, that reminds me of when I got married,my father-in-law, who was a magician with balers, got to work building a bale thrower and shortening the bales to make them small enough for his new work force to handle. That would be me. Some of the best memories were the years my husband and his wife (a teacher) worked off the farm and we ‘farmed”.

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About Trudy Andrew

Trudy Andrew lives on a small farm just east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she enjoys her Morgan horses. A dreamer since she was a child, its no surprise to those who know her well that her imagination would find an outlet in writing, as it has in the past through artwork.
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 Oakbank, MB