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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Mid Summer Hay Harvest by Women Farmers

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Bright sunlight glinting off golden grass in farm pastures paints a picture of America's farmlands in mid-summer, a time for hay harvest. 

Trucks laden with huge rolled hay bales driving through uncut hay fields is a common sight in mid-summer as farmers gather hay for their livestock to eat during the long winter months to come. 

Years ago, the hay bales were smaller rectangular bundles lifted by hand by strong-muscled men who pitched the bales onto trailers pulled by tractors. Hard, back-breaking, sweaty, itchy work each summer turned teenaged boys into strong men. 

Family farms were run by men and their sons. The more sons, the more workers to manage the farm. My maternal grandfather and grandmother had six children, five boys and one girl (my mother), and were cotton sharecroppers. 

Yes, men were the backbone of any farming enterprise, but women on small farms also worked long hours in the fields. My grandmother chopped cotton and picked cotton along side my grandfather and uncles. In addition, she grew a L A R G E family garden for food. In the summer, she prepared fresh vegetables for meals and canned large quantities for the fall and winter months, insuring food for all year.  

What about families without sons, only daughters? Like my sister-in-law. She is the oldest of four girls and no boys, born to a full-time farmer in Alabama. She grew up farming with her dad and mom, as did all three of her sisters. 

All of the girls in the family have held jobs other than F A R M E R, but all know how to farm. 

Look closely. That's one of my sister-in-law's sisters running that tractor with an attached hay loader.  

Cute, blonde ponytail... uh-huh.

That tool box on the tractor? ....  

Yes, all four... five including their mother... of those WOMEN farmers know how to use the tools when needed. Hard, back-breaking, sweaty, itchy hay harvesting turned the teenaged girls into strong women. 

Modern farming equipment allows for larger hay bales, but the work is still hard, hot, sweaty, and itchy. 

The hay barn is filling, but there is still more mid-summer hay to harvest. 

So, who do these strong farming women call when something goes wrong?

Like, when the hay bales rolled off the trailer earlier this day into the low-water creek over the pasture road? 

Why, one of their sisters, that's who! 

A hard-working blonde with a ponytail and B I G smile called her older sister for help... 

She came... 

They got the bales back on the trailer truck and at the end of the day, all the hay bales were in the hay shed. 

All in a day's work for strong women farmers who come from a long line of women farmers. 

My grandmother would be proud. 

Do you have any women farmers in your family?