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Making hay while the sun is supposed to shine

Putting up quality hay may be the most weather-dependent process on a mixed farm. Of course, harvesting cereal and oilseed crops is only possible under the right conditions as well. But when hay is down in the swath, all you can do is cross your fingers and hope the skies stay clear. You can do everything right when it comes to nurturing and growing hay crops. But if swaths get saturated with moisture, nutrients losses can be considerable. That’s why I have Environment Canada’s forecast page for my area bookmarked on my smartphone. And I check it often when I’m planning to cut or bale.

But I’m beginning to wonder if that is really time well spent. Increasingly, I’m considering turning to my lucky quarter for guidance instead. I’m referring to the coin with the moose head on the back. Heads, I go to the field. Tails, I go to Tim Horton’s. Yesterday, was a prime example of why.

With several acres of hay down in a couple of fields, I wanted to turn the swaths before baling to ensure they are fully cured. Of course, there’s no point turning them if it’s going to rain. I decided to leave my lucky quarter in my pocket and relied on the Weather Office forecast: sunny and warm for a couple of days it read. Perfect conditions to get the job done. So, I hitched my little open-station tractor to the hay rake and slathered myself with sunscreen to make sure I didn’t come back with third-degree sunburn. After that I went to work under a clear blue sky, with temperatures well into the 20s.

Things started out fine, with nice weather early on. But all that changed in a couple of hours

Things started out fine, with nice weather early on. But all that changed in a couple of hours

About an hour later, I was feeling decidedly chilly, wearing just a short-sleeved Tee shirt, and I could see clouds moving in. In the distance it looked like there were scattered showers. I pulled out my smartphone and had another look at the forecast as I continued to work. Still hot and sunny, it said. Maybe those clouds were just an isolated thing, I thought. I kept working.

(By the way, stop driving when you turn your attention to a smartphone screen, even if you’re driving a tractor without auto guidance. An odd bend in the direction of that swath is proof that distracted driving is dangerous, even at 5 MPH.)

An hour later those ominous clouds were a lot closer. Pretty soon I was inside the house towelling myself dry. Only after that did the Weather Office’s forecast changed to “chance of showers and risk of a thunder storm” It probably should have read “chance our original forecast won’t even be close”.

With all of Environment Canada’s combined expertise and sophisticated equipment, is it really not possible to put out a forecast that will be accurate for at least the next three hours?

This morning it looks sunny and nice. The forecast is clear and sunny–again. But before I head back out to the field, though, I want a second opinion. Where’s that lucky quarter?

Scott

About the author

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Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.

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