Feb 15

Hay there

We were down to about 20 bales and I was starting to get nervous. An empty hay barn is a dispiriting spectacle. No crone can rest easy in a hay vacuum.

Two years ago, as a result of the worst drought since the dawn of time, you couldn’t get a flake of hay in Cottonmouth County for love or money. All I could scrounge was last year’s reject hay imported from the lush, green North, a moldy timothy/orchard/alf mix that you wouldn’t feed to cattle, going for a price-gouging $15 a bale. This hay was so enfungussed that when you broke it open a cloud of spores would sproof out like some venomous alien flower arrangement on Star Trek. It smelled, not like grass, but like mushrooms.

The situation was dire, but I was happy to get the stuff. I wrestled it into submission by steaming it in a giant hay steamer. The horses loved it (figures), but holy shit. Owing to the particular messy, fussy (mussy?) nature of hay steamering and the necessity of feeding the hay directly it has been steamed or the horses will apparently die in agony, the operation took on something like the smell of full-time grunt-labor.

HayGain Prongs of DeathA hay steamer, you are no doubt anxious to know, is basically a large ice chest connected by a hose to the boiler unit of a Jiffy garment steamer. An autoclave for fodder, if you will. You put the hay in the chest, go through a lot of mussiness with the boiler, turn it on, and hope you remember to turn it off again in an hour before it burns your barn down. The steam supposedly kills mold spores, which is useful if all you can get is nasty hay. However, the design flaws in my steamer — an unreservedly asinine device made by a company called HayGain — screw you, HayGain! — are legion. I wouldn’t wish hay steaming on a fucking men’s rights activist. I’ll spare you the grim minutiae; suffice it to say that of the HayGain’s many serious defects, the razor-sharp metal spikes that jut up from the bottom of the chest to impale the hands are among the most diabolical. The thing is practically an iron maiden, but with the added insult of steamin’ hot steam.

But I digress.

HayI am fortunate, this year, to have been able to retire the dreadful HayGain to the shed. My hay guy, Joe Ben, has just delivered a butt-load of fairly edible coastal Bermuda at the still-inflated price of $9 a bale.

Joe Ben, incidentally, is a freakishly strong dude. He can toss a 60-lb bale of hay about 50 feet in the air with one hand while milking a cow with the other. He also fancies himself a keen observer of human nature. Once he had finished tossing my 200 bales into perfect stacks, Joe Ben perceived the expression of contentment on my face as I admired the tableau. Quoth he, “You women and your hay.”

What tha? Did I just hear a sentence beginning with the words “you women”? Wait, that’s right, I’m not in Austin anymore. I’m in Cottonmouth County. Out here in the fields, gender-neutral conversation is a figment.

So, according to Joe Ben, there is something like a love connection between women and hay. Apparently no woman is ever as happy as she is when her hay barn is full. Extrapolating from the gender-specific nature of his remark, I assume his contention is that men, by comparison, are completely immune to the charms of a fully-stocked hay barn.

When I re-open the Twistitute for the Study of Rural Sexism, the first study I will conduct is one that will undertake to disprove Joe Ben’s theory that hay barn-related contentment is a function of sex. As a professional crone, I do not suffer at all from bias, but I can tell you right now that anybody, whether Vagina-American or no, who has ever endured the agony of crap-hay steaming during a drought, will show elevated levels of oxytocin and vasopressin when gazing upon a freshly packed barn full of decent hay. Mark my words!


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  1. Gertrude Strine

    Don’t know about said hay steaming, but I always have a rush of happiness when the hay is stacked and covered,
    because I have to stack and cover it myself.
    Lucerne hay, that is; the rolls of meadow hay are done by whomever’s fork tractor driver delivers it, are never neat (what cylinders could be?) and they usually manage to turn up while I’m not home, and stack them in precisely the paddock I’d reserved for the overweight steers.
    So.. ~you men and your hay deliveries.

  2. Pinko Punko

    I can only imagine how happy that fungus would have been to grow all over our faces and kill all of the trees after this balmy winter. The HayGain is too good of a fate for such evolutionarily successful but diabolical fungal boa constrictors.

  3. Hattie

    Horses sure do eat a lot.

  4. Mortisha

    After surviving the last 8 year drought here I’m practically orgasmic over shed loads of hay.
    Mind you I could happily roll around a field of green grass all day like it is catnip.
    Doesn’t take much to make my day.

  5. Nic

    There is nothing more satisfying than a barn full of sweet smelling hay. I have posed the question on FB to hopefully determine how gender biased this feeling may be.

    Glad to have you blogging again Crone!

  6. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    My only basis for comparison is when I return from my bi-weekly trip to purchase food and sundries for the denizens of Chez Niebieszczanski. It does indeed set my happy hormones to surging. If this is a function of having the ol’ double X chromosome, I don’t know how.

    And anyway, if there’s something that smells better than newly mown hay, I don’t know what it could be.

  7. ew_nc

    Hay steaming sounds like some sort of workhouse horror story. You would think that horses who were recipients of that level of devoted care-taking would have the decency not to break out in undiagnosable ooze.

    In contemplating the motivation for Joe Ben’s unnecessary remark, I had the thought that it might have been a rural sexist’s attempt at flirting. More horror.

  8. Helen

    It seems to me the solution is simple. Next drought, you simply come around and take all of Joe Ben’s hay. Because, as a man, he isn’t supposed to mind.

  9. Kristine

    It seems to me that when he said “You women and your hay,” he was passively aggressively expressing his confusion over working for a woman, when in a patriarchy, it is the woman who is supposed to work. Had he been fixing your computer he would have said “You women and your blogs.” Had he been stocking your pantry he would have said “You women and your food.” Had he been building you a wine cellar he would have said “You women and your drinks.”

    Of course, being inveterate blamers, you all got my point three examples ago.

  10. Friend of Snakes

    I think I know exactly how you feel, Crone. I get those elevated levels of feel-good hormones when I open the freezer and see enough frozen mice and rats stacked up to carry my friends through any shortages in the ophidian food marketplace.

    Needless to say, if a visitor chez FOS requests an iced beverage and makes any sort of move towards my fridge, I jump up and tell her I’ll take care of that request right away.

  11. The Crone of Cottonmouth County

    No mouse shortage out here, Friend of Snakes. Just let me know.

  12. Circe

    Drought or deluge: I’m up north in Grayson County. Summer before last, the drought killed all the cedar trees. (I was okay with that; not so much the goats.) It’s been raining here intermittently the last month, and the acreage is thick with a foul (fowl?) amalgamation of chicken/goose/turkey feces and mud. Gawd bless Texas.

  13. Comradde PhysioProffe

    Thatte hay-steaming dealio certainly does sound fucken horrendous! So, w00t for good hay!

  14. The Crone of Cottonmouth County

    “feces and mud”

    My next band name, solved!

  15. gingerest

    I am more than happy to admit that solely by their essentialist existence, gender stereotypes are inherently oppressive and damaging, and that those directed at women are part of the wicked machinery of the big P. However, as specific gender stereotypes go, “women like tidy hay barns full of neatly stacked, low-vermin hay” seems like one of the more benign. I mean, I am having trouble imagining a scenario where that particular idea can be used to justify oppression. (cf: “women enjoy male attention”; “women do not enjoy male attention”; “women love parenting”.)

    Please feel free to school me, Blamers and, um, Dreaders.

  16. Hermionemone

    I wonder if the gentlemen gentlemen farmers are more likely to be content with lower inventories, anticipating the thrill of extreme action that will be required when they run right out of hay for their horses, cows etc. and have to grab their buddy, dually-wheeled half ton truck, trailer and optional road pops to go on a Quest for Hay. “Those men” enjoy the “mission under pressure” thing don’t they? Not to mention driving around in overpowered 4x4s.

  17. Tarr

    Improving nasty water.

    This is what worked for well water.


  18. Owly

    Will you be giving all of us hay rides come autumn?

    Circe, I wish drought would kill the cedar trees around Austin, but the little fuckers are too hardy.

  19. speedbudget

    I don’t know about you, but that stack makes me very happy. It’s just so neat and color-coded. I wouldn’t care if it was hay or not, the stacks would have made me happy.

    But then again, apparently I put all my items on the grocery checkout table in perfect alignment and symmetry. I hadn’t noticed this, but I was shopping with mr. speedbudget, and he was handing me stuff to sit on the table. When the cart was empty, he did a doubletake and asked me if I was aware of what I was doing when I was putting stuff there. I hadn’t been, but I had been strangely content the entire time I was doing the job.

    “You women and your OCD.”

  20. The Crone of Cottonmouth County

    “You women and your OCD.”


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