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I have hysterics every August. You may find the thought of family holidays stressful:  elbows out for a seat on the no frills airline, the beach towel battle of the sunbeds vs the German tourists, being on permanent look-out for the children as they make friends with the most feral kids in the hotel pool, spending at least one morning of your hols in the loo after too much ouzo.   That’s nothing.  I get hysterics about hay.

Wild flower meadows are rare and enchanting, and ours are both in spades. But the one part of their management – hay making – is agonising. First, we have to cut the hay long after everyone else has cut theirs, so the seed heads have dropped. This means finding a contractor who is prepared to re-hitch up all his haymaking equipment just when he thought it was time to stop harvesting and go hedge cutting. Then we have to round up about ten young men for two days hard labour – loading, driving, and stacking the bales in the hay barns. In between we worry constantly about rain, and – bless the BBC and the Met Office – they don’t always get it right. Then we have to pay for it all, knowing full well we will only get a fraction of the cost back because posh horsey people with delicate thoroughbreds are fussy about rich, herby, (healthy!), stalky hay (see previous rants).

So my first anxiety starts in early August when I am frantic to empty last year’s leftover hay from the barns to make way for the new – so I pretty much give it away – in my haste to make space.  But that was the easy bit this year….

 I thought I had done a brilliant deal. I found a chap who wanted haylage. (That’s hay, wrapped in black plastic, slightly fermented, high in sugar and fed to cattle over winter). He seemed to have no problems harvesting late, no problems with the hay being full of herbs. No problems with money – none would change hands. No problems hiring humping labour. No problems full-stop.

Except….he did a bunk half way through the harvest leaving two thirds of the fields uncut, and one third rotting on the ground – in the pouring rain.

Cue hair tearing, crying, head banging, shouting, furious text messages.

And now we’re into September.  This could be a real disaster – 25 years in the making, one winter to destroy.

So I’m currently waiting for a neighbouring farmer to let me know if he can take over this awful botch. If he does, I will love him for ever, adopt his children, get him elected to Parliament, you name it. If not – well, who knows.

Meantime – hope you enjoyed your holidays!

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