I called Dick, my hay man, at 7 yesterday morning to see if I could come by a day early to pick up my usual nine bales since it is supposed to start snowing here today. Best to catch Dick early because he and the boys work long hard hours stacking and delivering hay, especially with bad weather on the way. “Come now.” He can be blunt. I only had one cup of coffee in me, but I leaped into my trusty old Landcruiser and headed out. Coming up on 300,000 miles on that beast of a car.
This ritual of buying hay on Sundays has been going on for ten years now. I don’t have space for more than about thirty bales here, and I’ve tried storing more hay in a friend’s barn but it got dusty and moldy so I’ve just decided to go visit Dick each week on Sunday. Nine to twelve, his big barn is open for business. It’s what I do instead of going to church. I see many of the same customers and enjoy chatting with them. Some bring their dogs, so I always have biscuits to hand out. I am friends with the guys who work for Dick, catching up on what’s happening in their lives. Andrew recently got married and bought a farmhouse that he’s restoring. Dick’s grandsons also help out. There’s a reassuring camaraderie that makes me feel like my life is on track as we load up my car together each week.
I admit that I’m very fussy about hay. My horses have taught me to know what the good stuff looks like, and since I’m only buying nine bales, I prefer a mix of grass hay, clover and a little alfalfa. Some weeks, I just have to take what they’ve got, unless I can get one of the boys to go into the big barn with me and pick through some of the leftovers from earlier loads. I try to feed the girls from a couple of bales at a time, sometimes using the not so great stuff late at night so when it’s really cold and dark, they will eat whatever didn’t look that good at dinnertime. Last week, the selection was pretty slim because some of the bales were full of sticks and really dusty. Silk and Siete let me know what they thought by pooping on it, even though the temperatures were around 5 to 10 degrees and they normally would have stoked the furnaces in their bellies with just about anything. As I approached the farm yesterday, I was hoping for some decent hay to make everyone happy when it starts to snow again.
The gods were smiling on us. Nice green, soft hay with clover and alfalfa, just about perfect. “It’s from the Postmistress!” Andrew shouted down to me from on top of a truck full of bales. I love the Postmistress’ hay. She takes great pride in coming up with the perfect blend, and it keeps well all winter. The Postmistress is from someplace just west of Albany, and she doesn’t make much hay, but I really appreciate that she takes the time and effort to do it right.
Watching Silk happily devouring a flake this morning, I considered how it’s like a well-constructed chain. The Postmistress cares, so she produces something she can be proud of. I care, so I attempt to get the best hay that I can for my girls. And the horses appreciate the effort, remaining content and calm even though they are spending so much time confined in a smaller space when they would like to run around the way they do when there’s not two feet of snow on the ground. It’s not that hard to care, and I wish that more people would remember how good it feels when you do.