Farmer Diary: Hay harvest kindles addicting aroma

Farm Forum

EDITOR’S NOTE: American News contributor John Papendick is spending his summer helping on the family farm in Faulk County. He is writing about his adventures in a series of stories.

Farmers really do make hay when the sun is shining.

Several weeks ago, big round bales starting showing up in Faulk County. Seeing a pasture with hundreds of large round bales on them is quite a sight.

So is seeing five consecutive bales in a ditch with several huge hawks on each during your drive to work.

This summer, my commute has been to a Faulk County farm where I am helping relatives. In fact, one of those farming relatives bestowed on me my first title: FFIT — Future Farmer In Training.

Timely rains in the area have produced an enormous amount of hay, and seem to have put smiles on the faces of the thousands of cows — at least in my imagination.

During one recent stretch of being away from the farm for four days, I rode my scooter into the Aberdeen countryside in search of hay to smell.

I am addicted.

I had forgotten how much I love the smell of hay. And some of the basic equipment to produce that sweet-smelling hay of today hasn’t changed much from the 1960s when I was getting my first whiffs of hay as a farm child.

Some farmers still use tractors and a mower, then rake the hay and bale it over several days. Some have more modern equipment.

I recently read (oh man, now I am reading farm magazines) about a new machine that could “revolutionize” the haying industry. A South Carolina man recently received a patent for his new hay machine that cuts, dries and bales hay in a single pass.

Or maybe these type of machines already exist? What do I know? I am not a farmer; I am just playing one this summer.

When I was growing up, we physically picked up and stacked thousands of the small square bales we made. These days, most farmers produce large round bales.

It would take about 25 of the bales from my youth to make one large round bale of today. And moving today’s big bales involves machinery rather than muscle.

I have seen a lot of examples on the farm in which mental equity has overtaken sweat equity.

There was, though, plenty of sweating going on at the farm last week when temperatures consistently hit around 100 degrees. Tuesday was especially a long day – my longest farm day of the summer.

I got up at 4:30 a.m., went to the gym, walked the dog and was at the farm (a 70-minute, one-way drive) by 7:30 a.m. I got home at 8 p.m.

One of the best parts of that day was my scooter ride to and from the gym. I wish I could ride my scooter to the farm, but the math on a 141-mile round trip at 35 mph doesn’t work out.

Plus, slowly scooting around the countryside would give my new farming friends another reason to laugh at me. And believe me, they have a bumper crop of those reasons already safely stored in their bins.

Speaking of laughter, there was plenty of that last week as well. Since I am the rookie on the farm, I have many bosses.

You can tell from my new title.

Everyone I encounter is my boss because they know so much more than I do. Well, one of my farm bosses was gone to town one morning on business.

This was my text to him: “We got a lot done on the farm this morning. We fixed a broken door; we fixed a sandwich; and now we are fixin’ to take a nap.”

Even in excessive heat, we farmers know how to have fun.

Long-time South Dakota journalist John Papendick is a freelance writer, public speaker and seeker of new life experiences. Email: