Welcome to summer. Yup, summer is officially here, as of yesterday, the Summer Solstice. Of course, even though the weather is quixotic, summery signs have appeared.
The first sign was the sound of a distant loon flying north to some body of water and making that unmistakeable laughing call.
I love it – one of my favourite sounds in the whole world. On canoe trips I conjured the sound and/or sight of loons as a sign of good luck, that the trip was blessed, and it usually was. Loons are huge birds when seen up close like that one time my wife Laura and I had just launched our canoe and paddled down the French River to enter Pickerel Lake in Quetico Park.
The lake was sheer glass with not a ripple when suddenly a loon surfaced about 10 feet from the bow. It took one look at us and immediately dove underwater.
Another sign one sees when driving past farmers’ fields. This past weekend I observed several fields with perfectly ordered lines of cut hay raked into rows. I was visiting one of my hay producers to grab a truck-load of small square bales, just to tide our horses over until the rich, green, freshly cut new stuff is available. “Has haying begun?” I asked.
“No, not yet. The first hay cut is silage to go into the silos to ferment,” he answered. “I won’t be cutting for a week or two yet. The weather hasn’t exactly co-operated. Too wet and not enough heat.”
When I drove into his farm, I saw that he and his son were busy welding part of a large hay rake, so I assumed it wouldn’t be long before we’d be buying the fresh stuff from him. Same for my other hay supplier. I visited earlier in the week to fetch round hay bales for the outdoor paddocks.
He, too, was welding farm machinery, this time his round hay baler. I had asked him the same question about when he would be on his fields cutting, raking and baling. “Not for another 10 days at least,” he replied. But, ’tis definitely a sign of summer especially if hay is an essential commodity for a horse farmer. Our land is not set up for growing hay as it once was. The fields have grown in with trees that are necessary for setting the scene for our trail rides, all those gorgeous jack and white pine, and the spruce, of course.
When we began our horse business, we would wait with baited breath for the call from our hay supplier to come to the fields to pick up the small square bales and load them onto truck and trailer. It took two to three weeks of exhausting work, sweating and trying to rush to get the 2,600 to 3,000 bales we needed to feed our herd for the year. Then my back gave out. No longer did I want to make those trips to the field.
The solution was to purchase large squares to be fetched two-at-a-time with our battered pickup to be fed in the barn and also to drive with a trailer to get four to eight round bales to be stored in our outdoor hay shelter and ferried into the paddocks when needed.
That is what we do now. But, what was that thing about recently getting a truckload of small squares, Fred? Some of our horses require a richer mixture of hay depending on their breed and these squares are all the farmer has left from the previous year.
A surprise was waiting for me when I awoke Sunday morning: a moose had somehow gone through our electric fence beside our pond and was trotting around the paddock trying to figure how to get out and continue its trek to wherever. I’ve mentioned that horses are terrified of moose but not deer.
Go figure. Anyway when I turned to look at our herd, they were all crammed up against the fence at the opposite end staring back at this new intruder and snorting their warning snorts. No way were they going to investigate.
The moose eventually figured how to exit the paddock. The horses tentatively moved back into the lower portion where the grass is located, always listening and checking to make sure the moose wasn’t about to return.
My point is that we haven’t seen a moose on this property for at least seven years, not since the deer appeared. I thought they had all moved somewhere else. Perhaps this lone creature was just passing through.
You can contact Rural Roots by e-mail: email@example.com or by writing to Rural Roots , P. O. Box 402, South Gillies, Ont. P0t 2V0.
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