I remember the disgust Susie used to save for those summers when silage had to be made from a field cut for hay. There was always the sense that fate had let her down: silage was the crop made by the devil when he caught God napping on a soft day. When the time came to pay the contractor’s bill, I tended to share this view. I can’t remember when hay was last made in this parish. But this evening, Aengus has mown the Nineteen Acres for the first time in decades, and that portion of the field we were to have sold to Bernard McNamara is now a corduroy meadow, the long stems still green and tasseled needing to be turned and turned again so the bright sun and a steady breeze can dry the pile thoroughly. I only learned the other day what a precise task this is, for a hay bale may spontaneously combust if insufficiently dry. I have an early memory of being taken down to Cloragh Yard with my grandmother holding my hand tight when news came that the hay barn there had gone on fire. The corrugated roof had fallen in, and I was roared at when I moved closer to get a better view of the fire brigade dowsing the tall flames, as she tried to comfort Susie about the loss. With the half moon high above Cruagh, and the long cords of grass stretching away from me towards the city, the field this evening seemed better set for Millet’s Gleaners to keep such hell-fires at bay. But that’s mere fancy: I know my better hope is that tomorrow the machines keep working, the thunderstorm holds its shower.
Published by Selina Guinness
I am a writer and lecturer in English literature at IADT, Dun Laoghaire. I conduct writing workshops on a freelance basis. The Crocodile by the Door, my memoir about life on a family sheep farm in the Dublin mountains, was shortlisted for the UK Costa Book Awards and the BGE Irish Book Awards. It is published by Penguin. View all posts by Selina Guinness