From the farm: Making hay and memories on the farm

Summer day campers hang out on the truck delivering hay to Miles Smith Farm in 2022. Farming may be hard work, but it’s tons of fun when you’re a child.

Summer day campers hang out on the truck delivering hay to Miles Smith Farm in 2022. Farming may be hard work, but it’s tons of fun when you’re a child. Courtesy

Published: 06-16-2024 6:00 AM

Farming is hard work but can be exciting and picturesque, especially for kids. Family farms are fewer these days, but plenty of grownups still cherish memories of sunny, sweaty summers amid crops and livestock.

On a recent visit to my chiropractor in Concord, office manager Joyce Supry reminisced about her childhood summers on her grandmother’s farm in Tunbridge, Vt.

Each year, Joyce, her cousins, and siblings spent six weeks in the country, where her Uncle Joe used horses to cut tall grass for hay. Then he gave the horses a break and fired up his tractor to rake the cut grass into rows, a process called “tedding.”

Once the grass dried, usually after a few non-rainy days, it was time to bale it. The tractor pulled the baler and the hay wagon. Joyce and cousin Sue were too young to drive the tractor but old enough to ride the wagon and stack the bales as they were tossed out of the baler. As the stack grew taller, it became increasingly unstable.

Riding back to the barn, Joyce and her cousin were perched on the wobbly bales. Crossing the brook bridge on the way out had been routine, but coming back, the wagon lurched across the sketchy wooden bridge, and the load swayed this way and that, with the girls clinging on. Joyce never fell into the water, but the real danger made the experience more exciting than a rollercoaster ride.

Back at the barn, the girls stacked the bales in the hayloft. One evening, after unloading the hay, the two girls sat in the loft, looking out a barn window. The sun was setting when a magnificent buck strolled into view. Both girls sat, overwhelmed by the sight.

On hot days, they swam in the brook. They bottle-fed the weaned calves and, twice a day, helped milk their uncle’s Jersey cows. When fresh milk was needed in the kitchen, the girls filled a pitcher from the bulk milk tank in the barn.

Warned to stay clear of the Jersey bull, the girls tempted fate and would challenge each other to get near him. When the bull turned his massive head to inspect them, the girls ran off, giggling, safe on the other side of the fence.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

New Hampshire expects next year's food waste ban to increase diversion to facility market
A Concord encampment story went viral. Those living there say there’s nowhere else to go
‘He was so special and unique’ – Bow family remembers Eddie Berke, 31, after Maine boating accident
Eighteen-year-old Northfield motorcyclist killed in crash in Belmont on Friday
Eight-year-old killed in head-on crash on Route 106 in Loudon
Eight-year-old killed in head-on Loudon crash identified as Aria Enciso

The lunch table was laden with a delicious spread of meats, vegetables, and, of course, pie. Joyce’s grandmother poured cream on top of the fresh raspberries they’d picked as a special treat. When Joyce asked why there was so much food, her grandmother said, “If you’re going to work, you need to eat.”

All the food was cooked or baked using the wood-burning cookstove. The kitchen had an electric stove, but her grandmother said, “I’d never use that new-fangled thing.”

Joyce wondered why her uncle and grandmother put up with a household of children each summer.

Later, she figured it out; they were free labor! The girls were paid, not with money, but with wonderful experiences and extraordinary memories. “I loved going to the farm,” Joyce told me.

Do you have farm experiences you’d like to share? Please send me an email at carolesoule60@gmail.com.

Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm (www.milessmithfarm.com), where she raises and sells beef, pork, eggs, and other local products. She can be reached at carole@soulecoaching.com. Carole also coaches humans, helping them achieve the impossible a little at a time.