Finishing the seeding

Our weather has been odd — freakishly hot, in the low 80s on Friday, and then dropping back into blustery chill. I spent yesterday putting on and off clothing as the weather shifted hour by hour.

It was 60° and sunny in the early morning when our Haflinger Punch left. He loaded like a champ and I gave him a reassuring pat as he bugled anxiously. I think he is going to a fine home where he will be happy. Short of keeping all animals myself, this is the best I can hope for.

Lucy’s elderly horse Birch was unnerved to find himself alone. I brought him into the barn for his breakfast at the time of parting, to distract him, and then brought in Katika and Rocky, her steer calf, to keep him company.

After the trailer carrying Punch pulled out for Vermont, I turned Birch and the cows back out in the south pasture. Rocky galloped happily up the hill, bucking. I think to Birch’s lonely old eyes he might have looked like a pony, for Birch galloped after him eagerly. When he got close he dropped back to a walk and gave the calf a disgusted look. “Oh, it’s just you.”

The wind picked up, the sky darkened, the temperature fell, and it started to rain. I had to finish seeding the back acres. There have been so many competing chores this past week that I’ve only been able to give this task a lick and a promise. So once again rain was dripping off my baseball cap as I plodded in the mud.

When I’ve spread the last two bags of winter rye today, I will have spread — hand-cranking from my shoulder bag — 1800 pounds of seed. Just shy of a ton. It’s not quite enough but the feed store can’t get any more this season. I confess I’m slightly relieved.

The first section I planted ten days ago is already starting to come up. You can see the faint haze of green.

The upper quarter I seeded nine days ago has done nothing. The difference is that I rolled the first section. I’ve always heard that “rolling in” seed makes a difference, but this was dramatic proof.

In its cleaning frenzy, the school had dumped an old steel lawn roller, probably from the 1960s. I’d grabbed it. It was rusted and its rubber cork had rotted out, but Leon had told me to stop at the hardware store and get a furnace plug. “It’ll be fine.” Filled with water, the roller weighs about 400 pounds. I pull it with my truck.

The theory is that the weight of the roller presses the seed into the ground. It’s hard to tell you’re making any difference — on my bumpy ground it’s hard even to see where you’ve passed — but the results speak for themselves. Yesterday after seeding I drove up and down the field in the wind and rain. The second half of the field was so rough and rocky that the poor steel roller resembled hammered tin by the end of the day. This farm is not for sissies.

At one point I was circling the field when I came upon something strange. What? The roller was in front of the truck. Yes, I’d lost my hitch pin and proceeded to “roll” around the entire field without the roller. Oh, where was Allen to laugh at me? I could picture him smiling and shaking his head in mock despair.

(This is a perfect example why I should always hire others to run dangerous equipment. When it comes to machines, I just don’t pay enough attention. The 400-lb roller tugs and jerks on the truck frame with every bump in the field, banging noisily, yet lost in a daydream I’d never noticed when my ride turned oddly smooth and quiet.)

Not long afterward I was walking and cranking, spreading seed in the rain and missing my old friend, when my cell phone rang. I could hear nothing over the roaring wind. “Who is it? Who? Hold on a minute and I’ll get in my truck so I can hear you.”

It was Leon. He was calling to thank me for some photographs I sent him. He and Joyce are going to bring their children out to play with Lucy. I told him I was finishing up the seeding. He seemed pleased.

“Well, get back to it!”

I hung up smiling to myself.

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