There’s a bale of hay and a 50-pound sack of dry cob goat food under a tarp on the driveway that need moving up to the barn. The Bearded One usually does this sort of job, but I’m craving an outdoor break between all the jamming and summer cooking, some little task where the beginning, middle and end all fit nicely into twenty minutes. I open the junk drawer under the bread-dough counter and grab the tractor key.
It’s a lovely 75 degree afternoon, the sky is blue, and when I pull back the camouflage tarp, the sweet hay smells warm and summery. When I march down the trail to the tractor, bright light filters through the cedars and firs and birds chirp and tweet. The breeze is from Puget Sound, which is just up the road. Farm livin’ is the life for me, I hum to myself.
I lift the hitch on the trailer with one hand and pull the pin out of the back of the tractor with the other, and then I force the two together.
And crunch the knuckle on my left middle finger so hard it turns purple as a squashed berry. But the tractor starts right up and I shift into Gear 4, ease off the choke button, lift my left foot and the tractor lurches forward.
I crank the steering wheel left and make the sharp turn out of the covered parking spot onto the trail, zoom around the tool shed, past the storage shed and out onto the driveway.
I can’t back up with the trailer — I can never make it work — so I circle out to the easement and get it all lined up just right. Then I turn the noisy machine off. I fetch the dolly from beside the garbage cans and recycling bins.
My knuckle is hardly throbbing at all.
Hay is baled with baling twine so tight it snaps like a whip when you cut it with a knife. I try to move the bale by wedging a finger — not the hurt one — under the baling twine and can’t, so I tilt the sofa-sized block of dried grass onto the foot of the dolly and then rock the dolly back on its wheels and push.
Flecks of hay poke into my clothes and whittle on my skin as I plop the bale next to the trailer. I slip the dolly out and away and then crouch down, grab the hay bale’s huge bottom and heave it over and into the trailer.
No problemo. I don’t seem to have hurt myself. The dry cob will be nothing compared to the bale, I think. Just a few moments of dead-weight lifting. We move a lot of 50-pound sacks around here.
And then — so what if I pull my gluteus maximus a wee bit — I get the sack into the trailer. A small price to pay for victory.
I pile the dolly onto the top of everything hillbilly-style and limp around to the driver’s seat.
It’s a heavy load and I have to shift into Gear 5 to make it up the hill.
The dolly falls off halfway there, when I’m going downhill before I go uphill, so after I park the rig at the upper gate, where all three goats and most of the chickens watch, I hobble back down the trail to fetch it. And then I unload the hay.
Only now I’m also watching the gate and Leah, the Rhode Island Red hen who is fast, curious and persistent. I angle the monstrosity, I mean the hay bale, on the dolly through the gate and then through the barn door and then through the interior gate until I finally wrestle it onto the platform. The goats press in as close as possible every step of the way.
With sweat dripping down my face, I cut the twine, and the hay bale explodes and sprinkles me with strawdust flecks which will swim laps in my eyes for the rest of the day.
Back to the jam. Break’s over.