Twice in my life I have discovered what I believed to be the World's Largest Air Freshener.
On the first occasion, I was living in Southern Ontario and didn't have a car, having suffered a bit of a financial setback. Determined to have a Christmas tree, I brought home a fair sized one on the city bus. I was up the stairs and past the open-mouthed driver before he could tell me I couldn't bring it on the bus. London never had such a sweet-smelling vehicle in their fleet as they did that day.
But there is nothing so fragrant, so sweet and heady -- and so large -- as a stack of fresh alfalfa hay.
Normally there is a distinct advantage to being a hobby farmer rather than a real farmer, which is that some things can be done on a best-effort kind of basis. If your livelihood is not at stake, you can make some decisions on a whim. If the south pasture doesn't get fenced, well, I just won't rotate the goats over there this year. Whatever.
Also, the weather does not quite rule your life the way it does for a real farmer. If a hail storm ruins the corn, we'll make do with roadside stand corn instead of our own.
At haying time, however, we're all in the same boat: when the hay is ready, the hay is ready.
Now, I have discovered a kind of hay-based corollary to Murphy's Law, which states: The hay will always be ready at 9 p.m., with rain due in a couple of hours. So suppose some hobby farmer, in some place -- Tarbutt Township for instance -- has had a long day. It's the middle of the week, and he's tired, and gearing down for an early bedtime. He starts watching a movie -- maybe "9", the animated post-apocalyptic flick.
The phone rings. And of course, it's the farmer up the line, saying the hay is ready. It's after nine o'clock, there is about an hour and a quarter of daylight left, and it will take four trips with the utility trailer to bring home the hay, which then has to be stacked, load by load, in the barn.
Oh... and rain is coming.
He could wait, let the farmer bring the hay in and store it in the mow, then go and buy it and have him get it back out, but that extra handling puts the price up. At fifty cents a bale extra, it adds up. A hundred bales of hay goes from $250 to $300, for the same hay, because it has been handled twice.
So off goes the movie, and off goes our hobby farmer to get the first load.
At midnight the hay is stacked and he is ready for a cold beer, a shower, and a not-so-early night. But as he pauses at the door of the barn, he takes a deep breath.
Mmmmmmm...... sweet, heady hay. The single greatest summer smell on the farm. Everything about it says sun-warmed fields and contented livestock. Suddenly my barn, which used to smell like 30 Cornish X chickens, savors of summer at it's height. Truly, the World's Biggest Air Freshener.
By the way, the first 30 minutes of "9" is really good.