Haying time has changed a bit on the Manzke farm

Susan Manzke
Susan takes a much needed break from baling hay in the hot summer sun.

From the beginning of our marriage, Bob and I worked together during the haying season. Usually, I drove the tractor that pulled the baler, which pulled the hay wagon. Bob rode the wagon and stacked the bales that came off the baler toward him. We were a good team … well mostly.

Since I wasn’t brought up driving tractors the way Bob was, I often popped the clutch when starting forward. Bob learned to brace himself for my jerky take-offs. But one time bracing himself didn’t help.

It was the beginning of an afternoon of work. Bob had the first bales stacked on the back of the wagon. For some reason, we had to stop. We were just starting forward again when I popped the clutch. Bob was ready, but not for what happened.

The weight in the back of the wagon overbalanced and tipped backward. The front went up and Bob went back, safely landing against the hay.

I knew enough to stop, so the rack didn’t completely come off the gear. Fixing the problem wasn’t so bad and the best part was that Bob laughed and didn’t yell.

When our children were in their teens, we drafted them to work on our haying crew. Again I drove the tractor with Bob and Rob on the rack—Rob learned fast to hold on when I started down the field.

Bob worked an off-farm job at the same time. When he was gone my crew unloaded the wagons into the hay mow.

Many days Rebecca and I were on the wagon, sending bales up the conveyor. Rob was in the airless barn, stacking. (Rebecca helped even though her allergies peaked during haying season).

To keep our spirits up, I made up silly songs to sing as we moved the bales. I remember one was "They’ll be coming ‘round Milwaukee when they come" - changing words to fit grandparents driving up from Illinois, where there are no mountains.

Susan's son, Rob, takes a break from stacking hay bales in the haymow in the early 1990s.

It was the heat that was my biggest foe. I learned early from Bob to dress properly. Shoes were solid, not sandals. Jeans, not shorts. Long sleeves covered my arms up to where gloves sheathed my hands. To top off my ensemble was a wide-brimmed, sun-shielding hat.

Water was brought along for everyone to drink. After a break at the house, I’d even go to the hose and douse myself with the cool liquid. I soon learned to take a squirt bottle of water along to spray myself. All of these tips helped me cope with the heat.

One silly thing I did one hot summer, was to ask column readers to send Christmas cards in July. No one thought I’d get any takers, but we soon found out that there were plenty of strange people out there who also wanted a summer escape. They sent plenty of cards our way.

When our homegrown haying crew moved on to college, Bob bought a round baler. We no longer had to stack bales but did continue to work together to bring the bales to the barn.

When the Manzke's homegrown haying crew moved on to college, Bob bought a round baler. While the couple no longer has to stack bales, they continued working together to bring the bales to the barn.

Hay is no longer on our agenda for summer, but we will always have these memories of all that hot work.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about our summer temperatures now. Last winter when we were freezing, I looked forward to warmer weather. Even with today’s heat, I’m not looking forward to winter’s return—extremes are not fun. If I had my choice, I’d take spring and autumn, but we’ve got what we’ve got.

Today, I’m writing with the air-conditioner running. I just remembered that we didn’t have air-conditioning in our house on those hot summer baling days. Times have changed in many ways.

Susan and Bob Manzke, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;;