For a fleeting moment last night I was 14 years old again, the evening had that hot, humid feel of a Virginia summer and the air was heavy with the sweet smell of just-cut hay. It’s remarkable how a smell can transport one so completely to another time and place. I was bumping along in a hay wagon full of laughing children. Maybe I was swinging off the rafters of the barn into the stacks of bailed hay. Or perhaps we were all just sitting on the wide porch of The Farm. The lightning bugs flashing around the square bales of hay all tidy in the fields between the house and the river, the last of the day’s heat bringing out the perfume of the day’s mowed fields.
Those memories were brought on as we passed through a pocket of hay perfume. It has been a fantastic year for hay here in the Perigord Vert. After last year’s drought and heat, this year’s record rains have the farmers practically drowning in round bails of highly nutritious feed. Our neighbor’s fields yielded 4 scrawny bails last year. This year there are 14 great round bails waiting to be taken into the barn. There will be some contented cows. It feels good to see this wealth of food. The industry with which the farmers gather and move these mammoth bales continually animates the landscape and gives all of us a boost of energy. As we travel around there is not one corner that we pass through but where the horizon is dotted with round balls. The funny thing is that, in this hilly region, these rolled giants seem to be poised on the edge of a good long tumble down the slopes and into the streams and gullies.
But not all of the fields are for hay. In many other fields, flowing down other hills, and climbing to other ridge tops we are dazzled by the king of color: gold! These dry, sunny days are bringing on the wheat harvest. Cutting the tawny colored wheat reveals the gold straw stalks. Rolling the straw into bales concentrates the color.
There is something magical and special about this color of gold. It is a color that transports me back to an even younger age of childhood. Five, six years old. Tucked in for a bedtime story. How many times I asked to hear the story of Rumpelstiltskin and the princess that must turn straw into gold and the little imp that did just that for her. Here in a land of castles, towers and fortified farms it seemes quite possible that Rumpelstiltskin is still at work spinning straw into glorious gold.