Cathy-Hird-PLANAHEad-fullBy Cathy Hird
When I was a teenager these signs that read "PLAN AHEad" were common. Bumper stickers and fridge magnets spread the message. The need to be organized was drilled into me. Now I am a planner. I work ahead, getting Sunday preparation done on Tuesday and a sermon written Friday morning. I make Christmas cookies the first week of December so they are waiting in the freezer when family come. I keep a stock of equipment parts--rake tines, haybine knife sections and a spring for the baler--so that repairs can happen ASAP.

Then comes a week like the last one, and I realize I have learned this lesson too well. I actually think I can organize my life. I forget that I am not in control. I forget to flow with whatever comes.

At the end of last season, our hay baler needed a major repair, so we started on it in warm weather the first week of May. It was a two person job, and it required a machine shop at one point so it was not completed until the end of May. Plenty of time before hay would be cut.

The beginning of June was beautiful, and we set a date to cut the first field. This one is thick, and the alfalfa was almost ready. A couple days, later it rained. And it rained again. Finally, we had a 5 day window and cut a different field, a thin one that would dry quickly.

Last Friday, the hay had cured enough to be raked. Two hours later, we got out the baler to start. The machine would not pick up the hay. We wondered if it was too wet, but it felt okay. We tried slowing the ground speed. Still a problem. Finally, we stopped. The next day would still be sunny, and we needed to know what the problem was. We discovered that a drive belt had stretched. Not a part I had on hand. It was 5:30 so parts stores were closed.

Saturday morning we headed for the nearest dealer. They gave us the part number but did not have one in stock. We tried another, knowing that the nearest Case dealer was farther away. This place didn't have it either but they gave me the phone number for the Case dealer.

We headed for a third place while we called Case. They had one that had been claimed by someone else. "I'll call you back," the parts guy said. He called the person who had bought it, and that farmer wanted it for a spare. If we'd pay the overnight order overcharge, we could have the one in stock. We headed there.

We still worried that the belt wasn't the only problem, but it wasn't hard to install, and when we got back into the field at noon, the pick-up worked. We fussed with the string, but the bales rolled perfectly.

I set into the job. Nice dry hay--better than the day before. My husband took over, and I finished the raking. I took an hour's break. Then, I headed back out to give him a rest and discovered that the May repair was coming apart. We put it back together, but worried, checked and found it coming apart again.

We parked the machine. Left it sit on Sunday. Monday morning, a close look gave us clues. A call to the Case dealer gave us direction. Then, there was a doctor's appointment, and Monday night it rained. The next day, I had an all-day work meeting and left my husband and son to put it back together.

Remember that first field that we were going to cut on June 9th? It is still standing. We hope the new repair will hold. The weather reports keep shifting. The only thing to do is work through the challenges step by step, day by day. There are limits. There is the other job. There is weather we have no control over. There is.....a life that cannot be forced.
I will still plan way ahead. It is useful. But I also need to learn to let go and just do the best I can each moment.


Cathy Hird is a farmer, minister and writer living near Walters Falls.


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