This endlessly rainy summer, we had started to worry that our fields were turning into woodland before our very eyes. The goldenrod was shoulder-high, the queen anne\’s lace luxuriant, the grass so tall that it was a chore to walk through it. But we\’re having a week of cool, sunny weather, and the farmer who hays for us, or one of his minions, came over in a big tractor with an enclosed cab, dragging a mower the size of a Cadillac, and in one morning the grass was cut and drying in the sun.
I was glad to see the job done, but the Robert Burns poem “To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough” kept running through my head. You remember how it goes,
Oh, what a panic\’s in thy breastie!”
I figured that most of the birthing and nesting and nursing was done for the year, but still, there must have been many a panicked breastie as the tractor dealt death across our land.
Gone are the days when a farmer-poet could stop and apologize to a mouse for disturbing her nest. Though I am not a contemporary of Burns, I can remember in Spain mowing being done with scythes, lines of men advancing slowly across a field, swinging their blades. It was graceful, it was quiet except for the swishing of the scythes, and it gave the field-dwelling creatures plenty of time to get away.
Not so on our meadows. When the clattering machinery left for the day, the vultures arrived—six, seven of them, calm and stately–and alighted in the middle of the big field. Something must have died there, because they spent quite a while on the spot. That evening I took Wolfie out to the general area, and he sniffed around but didn\’t find anything. The vultures had done their work.
The next day the tractor came back, dragging a different machine to bale the hay into big, squat cylinders. Now our formerly disheveled fields look like their hair\’s been put up in rollers. It is all very civilized, and beautiful in its way. Our grandchildren will look back with nostalgia on this method of haying, back in the good old days, when there were still vultures.