England is in the grip of a heat wave, and the farmers in my family are thIMG_2341e happiest I’ve seen them in a while because they can finally get their hay–a major crop for those with dairy or beef cattle–made over the course of several consecutive dry days rather than between outbreaks of rain.

It’s been a long, cold, spring here in England, but now that the sun has arrived, the farmers are out in force, mowing their grass. With a forecast of ten more days of sunny summer weather, the lanes in the IMG_2513IMG_2344countryside are filled with tractors pulling mowers, forks, turners, rowers-up, balers, hay carts, and other assorted machinery.

The countryside is filled with the smell of mown grass; a heady, sweet scent that permeates everything.  Offer me a carafe of the most exquisite perfume that exists, and I’d choose cut grass and hay every time.

Some of the farmers with larger farms such as my cousin Gordon make bales as they do in most of the US:  huge cylinders that can only be moved by a tractor with a long metallic spike that impales the bale and moves it to the cart, then to the barn.

But other farmers such as my Uncle Frank still make hay the way I remember from my childhood:  small bales, about 60 pounds, measuring three feet by two feet by eighteen inches, that can only be moved by people physically tossing them onto the hay cart.

The first job of haymaking, done in the morning to allow the grass to bake in the sun during the day, is mowing.

Field of meadow grass like this field on my uncle Frank’s farm . . .


. . . turn to flat green rows under the ministrations of the mower.


Here’s a field that’s half-mown.


Then, the sun does its work turning the cut grass into hay. And then the best part:  baling and stacking.  More to come!