Where miscommunication gets you on the farm

by Katie on June 2, 2011

In a heap of a mess, that’s where.

And that’s exactly where I was this past Saturday. In a heap of a mess.

Just before 6am, Brandon gave me a little ring on the telephone. He wanted me to finish up the last bit of baling we had to do, so he could start picking all the bales up into stacks, and I could get to hauling them quicker. And, of course, in true Brandon and Katie fashion, just to keep things spiced up, we had already started irrigation water on the side of the field that was baled the night before, and it was quickly catching up to where we were working.

Being the good little farm wife I am (read:  half-owner with vested interest), I retrieved a mug of coffee and some pants and met him at the baler.

He showed me a couple things to watch for, since it was only the third time I had baled, and off I went, plugging along. With just one border left to bale, he called to send me to the hay field right across from our house. We call this whole place “Eaton’s,” as that is the last name of our landlord there. It consists of nine alfalfa borders and two borders of fenced-in pasture we sometimes bale, sometimes move cows into. One border of alfalfa and the pasture remained in the field.

So, he calls, right, and says the following, “Hey, you really need to go over to Eaton’s and bale that up. It has good moisture right now. So go on over to Eaton’s, get it in the bale while it has good moisture, then head back over here to finish up.”

And I did exactly that.

I pulled into the Eaton field, baled up the alfalfa in no time, then chugged my little baler into the pasture. The pasture was really heavy, with the hay raked into four windrows, rather than two like the alfalfa. I had to creep along to feed it into the baler. As I started up my third windrow, Brandon called again. No big deal, he sometimes calls just to tell me which direction the wind is blowing when we’re both on a tractor.

Enjoying my job, I answer happily with a cheerful, “Yeeeess, Dear?”

“Where are you?”

Still thinking this is just a chatty call, but faintly noticing something in his tone, I offer up a playful and excited, “Balin’, Baby!”

Still?! Did you stop? What is taking so long?”

“Well, I finished the alfalfa a while ago, but the hay is really heavy in this pasture, so I’m having to go really slow–”


“Yeah, I’m starting my third pass in the pasture.”

“Katie! What are you doing?! That stuff is green as a gourd! How much did you do? I said to bale the alfalfa!”

“Oooohhh. Well, you just kept saying to ‘Go bale Eaton’s,’ so I thought you meant the whole thing. I only finished two windrows. …Ohhh…Uh-oh…I just looked at some of the bales too, and they’re missing the middle string…”

“Like, how many are missing the string, Katie?”

“Well, all of  ’em that I can see from here. The alfalfa bales are fine, though.”

…And that conversation eventually ended. With me confused, Brandon frustrated, and the baler needing a little fix.

Brandon was waiting for me as I pulled back into the other field to finish up the last border, then run up and down where the bales had already been picked up, trying to pick up big clumps of hay the wind had blown, the rakes had missed, etc. He fixed my strings so the blue one in the middle would actually work. I think I avoided eye contact the whole time.

Now, if you’re familiar with a baler, you know that roughly two bales are held inside until the next one being made gets pushed out far enough to knock the preceding bale(s) out. So, there I was, in a field of alfalfa we were planning to put on a semi to some big, fancy outfit in Texas, with some weedy, oat/bermuda/alfalfa/any forage willing to grow in May mix we were going to feed to our own cows, still in my baler.

We pulled out as much as we could so as not to contaminate the fancy alfalfa and upset any Texans. That left a big ol’ pile of oat straw-looking stuff in the field that I would eventually have to pick up again.

I made my way through the field, made the last border of real bales, then started zig-zagging around picking up all the extra hay the baler didn’t get the first time. About halfway through, I reach the border where we had dumped all the oat hay out. Brandon was on the other end, picking up his last row of bales. I get another phone call.

“Hey, I want you to pick up this oat stuff fast,” he said.

“Okay, you got it,” I replied, and beat cheeks, full throttle, to get down there to it before I even messed with picking up anything else in that border. I chugged through it, made a second round to make sure I got it all, since it wasn’t really in a straight-enough line for the baler.

When I was well past it, with a half-oat bale somewhere in my baler, Brandon called. Again.

“What did you just do?”

“Picked up the oat stuff, just like you asked.”

“Just like I asked? I called you right before you picked it up to make sure you got it last.”

Last, as in, rhymes with fast. Which is what I had heard. I just couldn’t help it or hold it in. I busted out in a full belly laugh right there in the middle of the field.

“What?” he asked, still confused.

“I thought you said FAST when you called. Not LAST.”

I think I caught a slight little chuckle out of him before he hung up.

And that concluded our morning of miscommunication.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Brandon shake his head so many times before 8am.


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