Feeding the haying crew
From Pipi's Pasture
These recent hot days have triggered childhood memories of the haying season on the ranch at Morapos. The season got started around July 4th, right after the cattle were turned out onto summer pasture. Over the years, as we got more modern haying machinery and as our family grew up, the number of people needed to put up the hay changed, but right now I’m remembering the earlier years when hay was stacked loose instead of baled.
Several people were needed to put up the hay then. It had to be cut, raked, dried, and hoisted up onto the being-built stack with a stacker. One person on top of the stack had to move the hay around and flatten it out. So Dad usually hired an older man and then one or two younger men. It was Mom’s job to feed the crew, and the noon meal was always substantial — no sandwiches and chips. We called the meal “dinner.”
Mom always knew what she was going to cook beforehand — no wondering in the morning. She considered the meat (or meat dish) as the most important dish on the menu so if she had to cook it in the oven, she started it early. Next she mixed up her “Three Hour Rolls” (a recipe that I have used many times). Once the dough was put in a towel-covered bowl to rise, she turned her attention to other dishes such as gelatin salad or homemade cottage cheese with cream and chives.
I can’t remember when Mom made her pies or cakes, perhaps in the morning if she didn’t have anything else in the oven. She baked plenty because the men in the haying crew ate more than one piece. She made other desserts, too, such as strawberry shortcake.
We girls kept busy running errands for Mom. We visited the chicken house for eggs that were needed or went up and down the stairs to the basement carrying potatoes and jars of vegetables, pickles, and jellies. Sometimes we ran to the garden for an onion or lettuce, and we even shelled peas that were creamed for the meal. When it was nearly lunch time we set the table.
When the dough was ready, Mom panned dinner rolls and set them aside to rise. She peeled potatoes and put them on to boil. The rolls likely browned as she mashed the potatoes and made gravy.
It was the heat that I remember the most. Outside the heat beat down from the sun, and inside the heat from the overworked stove was stifling. Sometimes we started the garden hose and wet down the steps to the back door and the sidewalk beyond in an attempt to cool things off before dinner.
Boy, did the men eat! After the meal the men went back to the hayfield, and we girls helped clear the table and do all of those dishes — in the heat. Afterward, we escaped outdoors to cool off under the big old maple tree until time to find the milk cow. These hot days in June remind me of haying season.
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On a summer morning in southern Idaho, the day breaks early, before 6 a.m. The air is stale, never fully cooled from the heat of the day before.