Growing up on a farm I grew to love the fragrance of fresh cut alfalfa hay. In contrast to the smell of a freshly mown lawn, hay has a bold, musky odor that permeates the surrounding air. It's a mixture of alfalfa blooms and pungent cut and crushed leaves and stalks. It instantly takes me back to younger years when I rode along with my dad as he baled or when I was old enough to help out by stacking the rack or driving the tractor and baler, or unloading into the barn.
It takes a lot of things to go right in order to get a crop of hay - from the preparation of the land, to the seeding, germination and growth, to winter over till spring, then grow again with plentiful rains, then a stretch of dry weather for several days so the hay can be cut and conditioned, raked into windrows then baled. (Usually the hottest days of the year.) Then the physical labor begins as the small rectangular bales are spit out of the baler, one by one, onto a waiting hay wagon where they are stacked, bale upon bale till the wagon is full. The heavy green bales then move to the final resting area in a barn where again they are stacked and stored for feeding the animals when no grass is green in the pastures.
I remember the feelings of that intense summer sun, and the hay baler's rash - located on any bare arms or legs and created by the sharp cut ends of alfalfa and an occasional prickly thistle or sharp pointy sand burr. I remember the unquenchable thirst when your body is overheated and screaming for a cool breeze or a rest in the shade. Still there was that wonderful feeling of accomplishment when the barn was full, and the confident knowledge that a store house of food for the animals was ready.
When I watch the sheep in the winter, as they frantically pick the individual leaves and stems from the flake of hay, it's easy to see how thankful they are for all the summer's hard work that put those bales from the farm field into the barn on the hottest day of the year.
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up" (Galatians 6:9 NIV).