Yesterday turned out a little differently than planned... I had a list of projects to get to yesterday, a bunch of little jobs that I've just been letting go. I got a few of them done in the morning, ate some lunch, and then heard a strange noise in my backyard – some serious metallic clattering with a poorly-executed rhythm to it.
Upon investigating, I saw that my neighbor to the north (Tim D.) had someone baling his hay, which had been mowed and raked in the previous few days. Our weather forecast called for a storm to hit us yesterday afternoon, so I surmised that Tim was eager to get his hay off the field before the sky opened up. The fellow running the baler would be done in a half hour or so. Tim was driving his ATV, pulling a flat-bed wagon. He'd pull up next to a couple of bales, hop off the ATV, pile the bales onto the wagon, then hop back onto his ATV and drive off to the next one.
Well, it was easy to see this was an inefficient operation – poor Tim spent more time getting on and off the ATV than he did moving hay. Then I started thinking about the rest of the operation – that hay would have to be unloaded into his barn, where it's stacked high. That would be tough to do as a single-man operation, too.
So I laced up my boots, pulled on a pair of gloves, and headed out to give him a hand. Tim had some mild objections, said he's been doing this by himself for 3 or 4 million years ... but he didn't chase me off :). The two of us, working together, had that wagon loaded with 30 bales of hay in about a quarter of the time it would have taken him by himself. We drove it over to his barn and started unloading it, with each of us hoisting the bales halfway up his stack. Much easier with two.
As we were unloading that first wagon load, Tim's granddaughter (Taylor) showed up. She's 17 years old, and in great shape, and she went right to work with us. Now we had three people – and when we went out to load up the second wagon load, it went faster still. Taylor drove the ATV, and Tim and I stacked hay. We took that load back to stack, and now with three people working, we each only had to hoist the bales a third of the way up. That went much faster than the first wagon load.
When we finished that load, Taylor's dad (Tim's son-in-law) showed up. At about the same time, Tim called our mutual neighbors (Maria S.) to see if they'd like some hay. Tim's barn was completely full, and he had more hay than he needed to feed his horses over the winter. Maria's family have some sheep, and are about to get a milch cow, so they were happy to get some free hay – and they said they'd come right over to help. Next thing you know, we had 9 people loading the wagon: Tim, myself, Taylor, her dad, Maria, and Maria's four kids. An army! We loaded and unloaded that wagon onto Maria's haystack in just a few minutes, then loaded it and unloaded some more hay for Taylor's dad in another few minutes.
And then we were done.
It's been many, many years since I last loaded and unloaded hay – so I was sore and stiff last night (and still a bit stiff this morning). But I haven't done anything quite so satisfying in quite a while. I had the satisfaction of helping my cherished neighbor (Tim). It did storm yesterday afternoon – if we hadn't picked up that hay, it would have blown over half the county, and then been soaked. Tim wouldn't have been able to get it all up before the storm, working on his own. There was more satisfaction in working together with people that I liked. I know Tim and Taylor, but working with Maria's family was a new experience. Her kids jumped right into the work, laughing and fussing with each other to see who could do the most difficult things the best. I got to know all of them a lot better during the afternoon's work.
Best of all, though: when we'd finished, and I told Tim I was headed home, he came over, shook my hand, and said “Thanks for the help, my friend.”, with feeling evident in his tone. That “…my friend.” means a lot to me. We're fitting into this local community in a way that we never did in California. These are my kind of people up here, and I'm really happy to find out that the feeling is mutual.
When I got home, I had a big pot of beef stew waiting for me. Early this morning, I chopped up a nice beef round roast, a big white onion (from Tim's garden!), carrots, potatoes, a green pepper, and some mushrooms. All of that went into my slow cooker, along with some cream of mushroom soup and a few spices. That cooked for 9 hours. Yum! I'm really starting to like that slow cooker :)
This morning I have about half the jobs from yesterday still left to do. And in an hour or so, my new brush mower should arrive. Buh bye, weeds!
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