The Art of Making Hay – Raking

Me (in the red hat) and a friend sitting in the hay. I told you in the last blog that I really did that. DId you believe me? Look at all the rows of hay.

Me (in the red hat) and a friend sitting in the hay. I told you in the last blog that I really did that. Did you believe me?
Look at all the rows of hay.

A couple of days after cutting the hay into neat rows comes the process of raking the hay. This basically means that you turn the hay over so that it can dry on the underside.

For this process, you start by going around the whole field to get those outer edge rows. Then you start on the nearest section and, dividing the number of rows the swather cut into two, begin in the middle row and work your way out. Once you’ve done one section, you move over to the next. The process continues all the way across the field, then move onto another field. To top it all off, you have to start early in the morning, usually before sunrise just as the light is starting to come into the sky, and you can only work until 10:30 or 11:00 a.m. before you start losing too many leaves. You need the morning dew on the hay to keep it flexible while you rake because the more leaves on the alfalfa the better the quality. Once it gets too hot and the morning dew has burned off, you’re done for the day. If you’re lucky, you won’t have afternoon rain. Rain is horrible for the downed hay because it causes the hay to mold. Too much rain, and you have to rake it again. Rake it again and you lose more leaves. Not good.

I can’t believe I missed Saturday morning cartoons for this!

I do wish I’d taken this job a bit more seriously, hustled a bit more than I did. Not only was my time short for raking, but I also ditched the job for about an hour each morning to go participate on the swimming team. I do have fond memories of early breakfast with my dad at Sturgeons and driving the tractor through town.

On to why it compares to writing…

As I mentioned in my Twitter reply, I said that raking was like the actual process of writing and turning the ideas over. Once I have my Hero’s Journey outline I mentioned in my last post, I begin to write. I’m taking the ideas I had and I’m turning them over. This is why I don’t build anything too structured. I need some room to work and to turn. I never know what’s lying beneath the initial idea. I let my characters run and hope they surprise me. I let myself get off course. As long as it feels right, I keep going. If it doesn’t I go back to when it did last feel right and start again.

When you’re raking, you start to see the moisture beneath the hay from the dew and the cut alfalfa as gravity pulls it down. It’s always so green. It looks just slightly different than the cut alfalfa that’s been growing in the sun for two days. I remember thinking back then about how a little bit of protection can help renew life.

Let’s just hope we don’t have an afternoon rain. It’s dreadful to watch the sky turn gray and the thunder roll in. In writers, it’s called depression. We all know the stories of talented writers who kill themselves all because they can’t cope in the world. Let me say that if you are depressed and you know it, get help. You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it. And your brain is awash in chemicals that you can’t fight. Not if you are depressed. Now everyone has mood swings, everyone gets down every now and then. The weather, an inciting incident, a snappy word, stubbing your toe, etc., each can put you in a bad mood where you then start to feel down. Don’t let the rain day stay because it will mold your ideas if you do. You won’t write; you’ll just think about it. You’ll start a cycle you can’t break out of. I have learned that one thing that picks me up is to go for a walk. Not just any walk, but one where I let hold my head high and I walk just a little bit faster than normal. It’s usually not long then before my characters start talking to me — they like it when I’m feeling confident, especially Loki.

This series will continue on Monday, so get back to writing. The time while you’re waiting for the hay to dry (again) after it rains is a waste; in short, don’t let the rain come. Your time is already too short and you don’t have long to work. Keep the sun shining and making hay.

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