Silage

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Late silage is a bastard job. Gone are the fine barometric subtleties of haymaking in June. Now is the time for distracted contractors and ham-fisted hurry. The grass is thick and heavy like a fold of sodden fabric, but the goodness is waning and soon the wads of growth will dissolve into juicy soup. We have to act in spite of the grey days and frosting dawns; this stuff is the fuel to power the project and we are doomed without it.

The field is mowed but there is little scent of fallen grass. Instead there are muddy gales of diesel and sweat beneath low clouds and the first few migrant geese. We have moved beyond the hope of dryness, and now it’s just a race to the bottom; a last minute smash and grab against the elements. We don’t turn the crop too often because that would bring up muck and scar the field. Instead we dance around the edges and ladle the green broth into plastic bags with heavy machines.

I should be glad of this second cut. There was a time in June when I wondered how I would feed my beasts this winter. Now I have sufficient volume if not quality, and I am rocked back on my heels at the memory of my former sanctimony. I used to rail against silage and commercial grass production, but now I depend upon it. I can roll back some shreds of this work to improve the world for curlews and wild birds, but I begin to see that you cannot look objectively at this industry until your own neck has been on the line.

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