It’s haymaking time with bells on at the moment. A long dry spell is a gift to those wanting to make proper old-fashioned hay, turned at least once, baled up and stored away for the long winter months.
It was always a somewhat fraught time for us on the farm. Smallholders come low on the contractor’s list with our small acreage and often tight access. To cut the home fields, tractors plus machinery had to come in through our front gate, down a steep sharp slope into the yard (avoiding the muck heap) tipple down another sharp slope, through at least 2 quite narrow gates and into fields – the biggest of which was only 3 acres. But small was beautiful as these little fields were incredibly productive.
With mixed grazing of cattle followed by sheep, our dedicated weed eradication (often by hand) and a good dosage of farmyard muck, some years the swaths would be nearly as tall as the boys. Each part of the process has its own sound and tempo: the slow felling of the grass at cutting; a sighing as it was tedded; the “clack-clack” of swathing; the rhythmic pounding of the baler; and the whizz-whizz of the wrapper. Great was the rejoicing when all the bales were stacked and netted in the yard.
One of the few joys of the winter regime was opening a new bale of hay and burying my nose deep in – the hay fragrant and sweet and almost munchable, redolent of warmth and sunshine. There was something very satisfying about the “closed” nature of the smallholding – our animals, bred largely on the farm, being fed our hay – we could account for every step of the lives of our stock.
But the greater satisfaction came from knowing that our produce went out from us to a bigger community than just our family. Our neighbours and friends had eggs and vegetables and meat and at Christmas at least a dozen families sat down to a “Tower View” meal.
This is the essence of mission – you are built up in the church community ready to go out into the wider community. Our Gospel reading this week speaks of Jesus sending out 70 people to go before him and take his good news out into the surrounding towns and villages. We have something really good to share – beautifully local spiritual food: a faith that is wholesome, organic, full of sunshine and joy, warmth and love.