The Real Time Canine II

After spending 2 years writing the Real Time Canine, the adventure continues with The Real Time Canine II. Read along as I look for just the right puppy to continue the experience. After false starts with Tim and Jed, I am currently training young Tam, and Spot, which are both off to a strong start. Please visit the RTC II to read about training sessions as they occur.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

While the Sun Shines

I've heard it said that all you have to do to grow alfalfa is water and stand back. From what I've seen this summer, that's true, but not quite that easy. First you have to have the water rights, then you have to move the side roll sprinklers at least twice a day, depending on how efficient you want to be.

Before I left for the Nicomodes Trial in July, I was practicing on a soon-to-be first cut alfalfa field. When I came back a week later, it was too tall. That's what plowing, plowing, plowing, fresh planting, fish fertilizer, and water will do for you. You should have seen it. It grew tall, thick, lush, green, fragrant, and then it flowered. I found it hard to look away.

A couple days ago ranch manager, Max, drove down the lane with the swather, a great mantis-like apparatus that mows hay, and I knew summer was drawing to a close. It took Max almost an entire day to mow the alfalfa field, and every bit of another to mow the meadow. He cut the high meadow, and the homestead, (nursery field,) a week ago. There is alfalfa curing everywhere, and the smell is heavenly.

Finished Product
Alfalfa must cure, or dry with a certain moisture content before it can be baled. Depending on the weather curing can take no time at all, or weeks. It's another matter altogether if Mother Nature brings rain. You can either use an instrument to determine readiness for baling, or years of experience, like Max does.

Next comes the baler, picking up loose hay to compress it into bales of a pre-determined size. In this case a small size, because around here it's mostly women who handle them. This is high-quality, leafy, green stuff by the time it makes it into the hay barn. Completely unlike the stemmy, dry, 4th and 5th cuttings we pay exorbitant prices for in Cali.

Last comes the stacker. This handy piece of machinery scoops up bales in rapid succession, stacking them neatly on the platform to be pushed off in sections that become those huge, tidy stacks you see surrounded by barbed wire fencing to keep the deer out. It's an efficient process, but it takes hours of monotonous labor, and timing is everything. Knowledge and experience as well, because sometimes you have to add a step called raking if the hay is green on the bottom, or gets wet. That extra step adds cost, so, with hope it's unnecessary.

Hay is curing, days and nights are warm and dry, but early morning has a crisp in the air. I can smell fall, and it smells like freshly cut alfalfa. With just 3 weeks left until the Finals, I'm wondering about home, my thoughts propelled by late summer rituals. The sprinklers are still turning here on the ranch, but now they're watering the landscaping.

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