Keeping an eye on the sky during haying

Susan Manzke
Blue sky means it’s a good time to chop hay. Susan’s a neighbors rush to beat popup showers.

It was lunchtime and I was sitting by the kitchen window (Bob’s spot) and watching tractors and wagons running up and down the road. The neighbors were busy chopping haylage.

About the time I finished my meal, I heard a rumble in the sky. A popup shower had come close. This was not a vast rainstorm. When I looked at my cell phone weather app, I saw a bit of blue skirting the area. Nothing big. If you were having a cookout in your backyard, you might not have to abandon your picnic table. But if the tiny red center on the radar blip hit your area, you’d be running for shelter.

Farmers may not have their picnics interrupted, but a brief downpour may make a mess of their haylage—moisture (rain) may even cause it to spoil.

When baling hay or chopping haylage, farmers always have an eye looking heavenward. They wonder if they are working fast enough to beat the shower—another part of the farm may even need that rain. Of course, these spotty popups will miss where needed, or at least that’s how it seems.

I remember many times when we were caught by a shower.

Early in our life in Wisconsin, I was assisting Bob and his dad, Shorty, fix a tile hole. It was spring and the shower that day caught us unaware.

We had two tractors in the center of the field. Bob took one and Shorty hopped on the AC-15. I took a spot on my father-in-law’s tractor and held on as we raced for the buildings.

That day the big drops of rain were ice cold. I think we just missed having hail. The rain wet us through before we got safely inside. All we could do was laugh heartily, and that’s what I remember, the shared laughter.

Trying to beat the rain with dry hay wasn’t always a laughing matter. Wet bales can spoil, too.

Weather reports were something we lived by. Would the rain hold off for the few days we needed to cut, dry, rake, and bale our hay? Bob would calculate and then start mowing the hay, hoping the weather report was right. It was a gamble, but worth taking.

Today the chance of rain was only ten percent. That wouldn’t have stopped Bob from his summer work and more than likely I’d be out there with him.

Now I just watch the neighbors hurrying back and forth with their loads. Right now, they are winning the race against those showers which is a good thing—though not working in a hayfield, I continue to watch the weather reports closely.

It looks like I’ll be mowing more lawn tomorrow. The little shower gave the grass a big boost, so it will grow like crazy.

Susan mowing with Bob’s zero-turn mower may give a viewer a start.

When I was on the lawnmower last week, it was hot. Again, I dressed like I would have for baling hay. This time I grabbed one of Bob’s old blue work shirts so my arms would be covered. I wore jeans, my own, and topped off my ensemble with a cap Bob had worn with a neck flap.

As I worked close to the road, I wondered what a passer-by thought. If you gave a glance at the person working along the ditch you might have thought you saw a ghost. Seated on the mower, dressed as I was, I could have been taken for Bob.

For many years, my late husband spent his fun hours running his zero-turn mower. Last year, Russell built Bob a structure so Bob could easily mount the machine—that made Bob so happy. He could do some useful work again.

I ride the same mower today. As I work, I don’t see Bob, I feel him riding along with me.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;;