Country mouse on making hay

Long lines of grass lie baking in the sun; other fields are already empty and ghostly pale. It’s haymaking time and, this year, thanks to the settled weather, it has been a doddle.

The recipe for making hay is simple: take one grass field, cut it, leave in hot sun with a breeze for two or three days and turn once or twice during the process; bale it and put it in a barn. If only it was always that easy.

Nothing created more tension in my childhood than haymaking. For every benign year such as this, five were fraught. Weather forecasts were listened to with the intensity of wartime broadcasts. At our farm, the decision of when to cut was as risky a gamble as roulette. ‘Make hay while the sun shines’, but what happens when it doesn’t? For weeks.

If the sun does decide to appear, the British summer is famed for being two fine days and a thunderstorm-the perfect way to ruin the recipe. However, one way or another, the hay always got made. Some years, the recipe worked better than others and the quality of the hay was superb. 2010 looks like being an outstanding vintage.