The Mowing Season

Sep 14, 2017 | 1 comment

Pitching Hay, 1914

In the early nineteen hundreds when my grandfather and a number of others raised cattle here at the north end of the peninsula, they also raised as much feed as they could.  Papa grew beets right across the road in what is now the churchyard — rows and rows of them that my mother remembered weeding all summer long for a penny a row.  And he grew hay.  Meadows of it!

The property involved in Papa’s dairy farm, according to my Uncle Edwin, consisted of several interrelated elements that were scattered over about six hundred acres in an unconventional configuration.  There were other properties of a different kind, chiefly marshland and a wooded hillside to the south that overlooked the bay.  The land as a whole was principally of three types:

  • The bay-front property, mostly meadow with some smaller wooded areas
  • The “town” property, for nearby grazing, for two of the barns and for a garden
  • The marsh, an extensive area of swamp and other low ground, heavily wooded or otherwise overgrown with shrubbery but providing succulent grazing for the cattle.

Meadow Mowing In Progress 2017

The meadow land along the bay was mostly given over to raising hay that, depending upon the weather, was harvested and put in the haymows of the barns (there were two – the ‘little barn’ across from the house, and the ‘big barn’ a bit south of town) sometime before school started.  Helping tramp hay was one of the big events of summer for the younger children.  Not so much for the older ones, as fourteen-year-old Medora wrote in her diary in August 1914:

We didn’t wash this morning as Papa wanted to have us tramp hay.  I did my kitchen work, then read a while.  We put in five loads of hay.  Marvin Bowen helped Sue and I tramp.  The children (Ed, Willard and Mona) were just a nuisance.  The whole Gilbert tribe came to help the last load.  In between loads I read and wrote letters. 

For the years since there were cattle in town, the meadows between bay and the houses on Territory Road have been tended in various way.  My Great Uncle Cecil used to burn his, much to the consternation of the Ocean Park Fire Department.  Nowadays, Nyel has ‘inherited’ the task of coordinating homeowners and a ‘mowing man’ about the time summer winds down.  Last year and this, Mr. Jim Kurtz has been the man of the hour – actually hours and hours.

Jim Kurtz – The Mowing Man

I’m always happy to see the meadows being mowed.  It restores our bay view and reassures us that the gorse and scotch broom and alders that pop up each summer will not get a permanent foothold.  The meadows will restore themselves once again come spring, giving protection to the nesting birds and field mice and other little creatures of Oysterville and the cycle will continue to tie the past and present together in our ever-changing world.

1 Comment

  1. Cindi Bartels

    Thanks for reminding us that to every thing there is a season. Nature runs her course and she is in control, not us. This was a beautiful description of seasonal life.


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