Life in Ireland: Hay harvesting

For the past few weeks here in rural northern Ireland, football and hay have been on most people's minds. The World Cup may be over, but the Gaelic Football championship is getting serious. Unfortunately, my team, Tyrone, are out...but Armagh are still alive and kicking!

Having never been in Ireland during the hay season, I've been observing and learning a bit about how the tradition of hay harvesting goes around here.

On the farm where I live, older equipment is being used and more person-hours are required to cut, turn, bale and load the hay into the barn. It's fascinating - the farmer plays a game with the weather in which he attempts to cut and turn the hay avoiding rainfall. If hay is cut or turned and a rain shower follows, the farmer has been "caught out" and must wait a few days until the hay dries out again before baling or it's used for silage. More time to watch football, though.

When the time comes to move the hay to the barns, the back roads between farms are crowded with tractors towing flatbeds stacked so high with hay you think it will all fall over when they reach the hair-pin curves in the road. To see people working in the fields cutting, turning and baling until 11:00 p.m. is common here where it stays light til well into the evening. On some nights, it never seems to get completely dark.

Bringing in the hay is hard work - especially when it's done with older equipment. Sure there are newer balers and other equipment to make the job easier, but there's something about the "sweat equity" of baling the old way that keeps my interest piqued.

Another great thing about hay harvesting season: it usually means the black currants are ready to be picked. So, I think it's time to get back to some baking...I'll be back with purple fingers and a a tempting treat made with these tart little berries.

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