Predicting yields for the harvest season is pretty tricky. We never know how the weather or, well, anything will cooperate until the yield monitor on the combine tells the guys what's what. However, in the business of hay, harvest looks as predictable as the ending of last night's Dancing with the Stars.
Joe is a cattle farmer, and with livestock farming comes haying. Yes, haying is a verb for all you nerds out there. It is a three fold process that is excruciatingly difficult to complete in a timely manner. First there's the mowing. Mowing hay has to be done when it's somewhat dry, like mowing the yard. This is something Joe enjoys to do, and I see why he likes this better than mowing our yard! He sits in his nice air conditioned cab, listening to the Cardinals on an ideally warm, sunny day. Then there's the raking of the hay. This needs to be completed also on a warm, sunny, and after, preferably, windy days. The hay must be dry in order to rake well. When the rake rolls out behind the tractor, it's quite a sight to see, kind of like a float of spiders on their way to the homecoming parade. After the hay is fluffed by the rake, it needs to "dry down" a little more, requiring more sunny, warm, and preferably windy days. Finally, the baling can start, after maybe having to rake it around a little more, and after cursing the not sunny, hot, and windy days that caused it to not be perfectly dry.
Side note- this haying process is not the little bales of straw that you can find in the grocery store parking lots in the fall for your cutesy wiener roasts. These are the huge, round bales that Joe uses to feed the cattle.
Achieving this haying task is truly an act of chance. Joe has hay down (mowed, not raked), as of three days ago, and it has rained a little every day since. He is not happy. However, could there ever be three days in a row when there was no rain in Illinois in the spring? Yes, but then the farmers would be complaining about the lack of moisture. There's never a perfect condition in this business, I am realizing.
Anyway, the way I view the whole haying process is like tossing a roulette ball and hoping for Red-13. How in the world could you not be disappointed in roulette 99.9% if the time? Same with hay. In the three years we have been haying, Joe has never had an ideal situation. There are rarely multiple hits on Red-13 in the hay business. Maybe Vegas goers should be farmers. . . at least they would be trying to feed the country.
When the hay is baled, whether it's good or not, it is the picture of Americana. From the road, you can see the bales dotting the field, waiting to be picked up and hauled to the shed to be used as nourishment for the new mama cows in the spring. Although we rarely walk away from the hay business with a fistful of dollars, we'll keep playing this game of Hay Roulette.