Kalona Cooks: The sun's shining and it’s 90 degrees in the shade - it must be hay-making time

Posted 7/22/99

My friend Tina needed a little help unloading a couple loads of hay the other day so Cody and I we…

By Mary Marek

My friend Tina needed a little help unloading a couple loads of hay the other …

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Kalona Cooks: The sun's shining and it’s 90 degrees in the shade - it must be hay-making time


My friend Tina needed a little help unloading a couple loads of hay the other day so Cody and I we…

By Mary Marek

My friend Tina needed a little help unloading a couple loads of hay the other day so Cody and I went over to lend her a hand. On the way, we picked up Cody’s friend, Ryan, and took him along, too. When it comes to making hay, you can never have too much help.

Actually, I didn’t go along to really ‘do’ anything. I was just acting as chauffeur for Cody and Ryan. I’ve unloaded all the hay racks and stacked all the hay bales I ever intend to. I had fun watching, though, and I took a few pictures, just for the fun of it.

Things sure have changed since I was a kid. When I was growing up, hay-making was men’s work. A woman’s participation was usually limited to baking treats to bring out to the men to enjoy between loads of hay.

As I got older and learned how to drive a tractor, I was assigned to ‘pull the fork’ while Dad and the other menfolk and boyfolk did the actual physical labor. If I hadn’t been born before my brother, I probably wouldn’t have been given even that menial chore. Back in the ‘50s, labor was divided pretty specifically into ‘men’s work’ and ‘women’s work’. Making hay was definitely ‘men’s work’.

Women (or girls, as the case may be) were supposed to cook and clean and tend the garden and the chickens. We were supposed to sew and mend and wash the dishes. We were supposed to grow up to get married and have babies.

Only men (or boys) got to do the really ‘fun stuff’ like driving tractors.

Since Mom and Dad had two girls before their long-awaited-for son arrived, my sister and I got to do some of the ‘fun stuff’. Since I was the oldest, I got to do more ‘fun stuff’ than Pat did. She got stuck with more of the ‘woman’s work’. That’s probably why she’s a better cook than I am. She started sooner.

When Pat and I were in our teens and our baby brother, Bob, was just a little brat (he’s still a brat - only bigger), we were promoted from fork-pullers to hay-stackers. This was ‘fun stuff’ indeed.

We got to spend hot summer afternoons sweating in stuffy hay mows stacking itchy bales of hay for endless hours. Gosh, that was ‘fun’! Almost makes washing clothes and having babies seem like a vacation.

Anyway, times have changed. It’s still somewhat unusual to find a woman in a hay mow, but that’s only because most hay is baled in giant round or square bales and isn’t stored in hay mows anymore. Chances are good, though, that you’ll find a woman on the tractor that’s moving those big bales around.

I guess there were a couple of reasons why our hay-unloading at Tina’s place was a little unusual. For one thing, the hay was baled in little square, old-fashioned bales, and, for another, half the haying crew consisted of girls, I mean women. (There was a third unusual aspect to the operation - the gloves Tina and her girls were wearing were mittens. I’ve never worn mittens to unload hay; but then I’ve never much cared for mittens, period. Tina says they make it easier to grab the twine and her fingers stay cooler. Whatever.)

Besides Cody and Ryan, Tina’s haying crew was her daughter, Dorothy, and niece, Carrie, two lovely young ladies, I mean women, who could throw the bales off the rack a lot faster than the two boys, I mean young men, could stack them.

When they unloaded the first load, Cody and Ryan had worked in the hay mow, stacking the bales as the girls loaded them on an elevator that carried them into the mow. The boys kept yelling at the girls to slow down.

Tina decided she wanted the second load stacked right inside the door, on the floor of the barn. This time, the boys volunteered to work on the rack, tossing the bales down to the girls, who would carry them into the barn and stack them. I think the boys thought they could ‘bury’ the girls in hay bales, thus proving their superiority in the hay-stacking contest.

It didn’t work. Dorothy and Carrie never got more than a bale or two behind. It was a joy to behold.

I have to admit to a certain childish streak that enjoys seeing a girl (or woman) out-doing a man (or boy) in what has traditionally been a ‘man’s job’.

But I enjoy even more watching a man (or boy) do jobs that have traditionally been considered ‘woman’s work’. Nothing warms my heart more than watching a man wash dishes or change a dirty diaper.

Sad it is, though, that even in these enlightened days, you’re still more likely to see a women unloading hay than you are to see a man washing dishes. I’m not saying it never happens - it just doesn’t happen often enough.

Even so, things sure have changed since I was a kid. For one thing, Dorothy and Carrie both looked a lot better sweaty and full of hay chaff than I ever did, even at their young age.

And, for another thing, hay bales seem to be a lot heavier than they used to be. I wonder why that is.


This week’s recipes

Corn Chowder

1 (3” cube) salt pork, diced

1 c. finely chopped onion

3 c. peeled, diced potatoes

1/4 c. diced celery

3 c. water

2 c. corn kernels

3 c. milk

3 tbls. butter

Salt & pepper to taste

Cook the salt pork in a 6 qt. dutch oven until the fat has melted and slightly browned. Pour off all fat except 2 tablespoonfuls, add the onion and saute until translucent. Add the potatoes, celery and water. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender. Add the corn and milk and cook 10 minutes. Add the butter and seasonings just before serving.

Serves 8-10

Iowa Corn Pudding

1 can (15 oz.) whole kernel corn, drained

1 can (15 oz.) cream-style corn

4 eggs, slightly beaten

1/3 c. sugar

2 tbls. cornstarch

1 tsp. seasoned salt

1/2 tsp. dry mustard

1 tsp. instant onion powder

Salt & pepper to taste

1 1/3 c. milk

1/4 c. melted butter

8 squares soda crackers, crushed

1/4 c. grated cheddar cheese

1/8 c. melted butter

Mix both cans of corn with the eggs. Combine dry ingredients and stir into corn mixture. Add milk and butter. Place in a large, greased casserole dish. Sprinkle crackers, cheese and butter over top. Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour in a 375 deg. oven. Test for doneness by inserting knife in center; if knife comes out clean, pudding is done.

Serves 8.