The hottest days of summer are the days when straw is baled and when we started baling today, temperatures were in the high 80s. After a fairly trouble-free harvest of wheat when time was spent mostly in a combine or hauling wheat to market in trucks, now it is time to be back in the great outdoors.
When heads of wheat are cut, what remains is the straw stalk. Straw is either chopped by the combine and left to add organic matter to the soil or is baled and used to bed cattle. This bedding keeps them dry and clean. Luckily for our employees and family, we now bale a lot of straw in big round bales.
Today, though, the more labor intensive small square ones are being expelled out the back of the baler as fast as boys can catch them and load them on a wagon. Then a tractor pulls them to a barn where they are promptly unloaded. The boys who unload wagons get hot and sticky and little bits of pointy, itchy bits of straw chaff stick to their bodies. But they are the lucky ones because they can often catch a cooling breeze.
Inside the haymow are the unlucky boys who catch bales and stack them in place. There is no air movement up there in the sweltering heat pouring over them like hot water and there are no sissies there either. To be fair, boys take turns between the mow and unloading wagons. Any of the boys who survive days in the mow or on the wagon and come back for more the next day deserve enormous respect.
Note: People from towns or cities often ask how to tell the difference between hay and straw. It’s easy: hay is green/brown and used for feed and straw is yellow/brown and used for bedding.