Hay at the end
Emma Heseltine - 14 July 2013
This week has been a whirlwind. I’ve spent most of everyday sat on a tractor making hay. After its been cut the grass needs turning several times and this week we have perfect hay weather to help us along, boiling sun and a drying breeze. Still the hay needs turning to get all the green bits cooked. By the middle of the week we are on to baling and I get to have a go with the brand new rake. I haven’t really done rowing up before but I like the symmetry of the rows. The rake spins round lots of tines to scrape all the hay, which is spread higgledy-piggledy all over the field, into neat rows so the baler can come along and gobble it all up and turn it into bales. Its important not to miss any bits or leave odd tails on the end of rows which the baler wont be able to scoop up. I’m getting pretty good with the rake by the time ive done three fields. I think rake might be my speciality.
We are working in tandem on the Houghton field, I’m rowing up and John is baling. The baler is slower than the rake but I’m putting two rows into one so he keeps catching me up, its something of a tractor dance and by the end we have an audience of eager volunteers who have come to help stack the finished bales. They are set in eights so the aptly named ‘eight grab’ can pick them up and put them on the trailer. We are leading them in to the shed by evening. This is the best time to do stacking as it is hot and sticky work which shouldn’t be done in the boiling mid-day sun. I think the helpers most enjoy the obligatory ride on the back of the stacked trailer from the field to the shed.
We have been so preoccupied with making hay this week that an important date has crept up on me without me really noticing, I get a reminder when a cake appears halfway through the evening. It has been two years since I started my apprenticeship, I’m done. I think this makes me officially a farmer and I certainly feel like one this week, expertly using all this complicated machinery to make hay for our animals. It’s been an incredible journey and I can’t even begin to tell you all the things I’ve learnt since I arrived two years ago with no idea about farming and no idea what id let myself in for. My life has change immeasurably since that day and I think for the better. I now have livestock of my own, I know how to lamb a ewe, can pluck a goose, tag a new calf, drive all sorts of impressive machinery and a million other things I never imagined.
I finish the week baling the last of the Tarraby field. The boys are starting to lead in the bales and just leave me to it, perhaps a measure of their confidence in my skills. I run up and down the rows turning out nice little eights of bales in the evening sun. I can’t think of any other job I would want to do and feel incredibly lucky to have found my place in the world; its out in all weathers, being with the livestock, sitting behind a tractor wheel, farming.
The hay is all in; maybe I can have a little rest before harvest…
Emma completed a degree in Creative Imaging at Huddersfield University before working for a photography studio as an editor. Taking a break from the office world she worked in outdoor education for several years, climbing, abseiling, shooting, trampolining and even life-guarding with children of all ages. When Emma found out about the apprenticeship scheme with the Soil Association it seemed the perfect chance to do something worthwhile and fulfilling. After much searching and badgering farms in the North of England she found a position with Hadrian Organics and started in July 2011. So far it is living up to her expectations, every day is a new challenge and every day is different.