Haystacks and thunderstorms

Day 9: 26 July 2004

Monday. I sleep well. Too well. My alarm goes off and sleep on through, waking eventually at five to six. Washing and dressing fast, thinking that I am the last one, I stumble out into the yard to get the tractor to the worksite to discover that it is the same for everyone else. A little later than scheduled we leave for the worksite, on a bright still morning, amongst a trailer load of volunteers who are still quiet and subdued with sleep.

Today, there is a reduced party on scything, for our cut hay must be raked in, stacked and gathered. I join in with the ranks of rakes and pitchforks, gathering the hay down from the furthest sides of the orchard to the central track. Working with Imre, we build a fine haystack some twelve feet high in time for breakfast.

After breakfast (which include peaches too!) I sap rake for pitchfork with Zoë and begin work on my own haystack. Not quite as refined and elegant as Imre’s, and with some slight structural difficulties that need to be overcome, it is still good. And after a water break at 10 o’clock I join Claire on the trailer to stamp down the hay as it is loaded.

Claire swaps with Louise and we are on top of the tractor for the rest of the morning. Laughing in the hay and trampling it down, it gets increasingly hard to see where tractor ends and orchard (and some nine feet of drop) begins. Our next water break is spent in the most relaxing of spots – on a bed of hay.

By the end of the morning we have loaded most of our four days of cutting, and all that remains is to secure it with ropes and then for Louise and myself to meet and greet our compatriots as they clamber aboard. We set off back to the village, encountering a whole new level of higher branches to avoid from the overhanging trees.

Back in the village we stop in the square; work being done for today although four volunteers are required to unload the hay into the barn. This job falls willingly to Martin, Leonie, Louise and myself, although in the end there are more of us enjoying the best of fun.

Martin and I are on the trailer pitch forking the hay down to Leonie and Louise on the floor, spreading it out and restacking it in the bar. Attila stands on the crossbeam overseeing the events. Not that it is particularly arduous we stop midway for the changing of the guard. Martin and I are replaced by Louise and Imre in the trailer. At the end, Attila dives off his beam into the hay.

And so lunch, with little time even to wash. The Palóc soup, haricot soup and pancakes (three each!) filled with quince jam is a welcome end to the day’s work. As we finish lunch, it begins ever so slightly to rain. I shower and change out of my sticky, hay-filled and dusty clothes, to sit out on the veranda to read book. Shakira comes for a cuddle and I record her purr onto my iRiver – a remix/bootleg album in the making I wonder…?

Thunder begins to rumble around, and a penetrating flash of lightning and an instantaneous crack of thunder signals the start of sustained and rain. We gather on the veranda and watch the rain come down.

At the beginning of the week we had two unstable stools to sit on outside. Over the days it has increased to chairs and stable wooden stools and cushions to sit on. The diary writers write their entries, Helen works through her crossword book (her colouring book as she calls it), and Zoë reads.

A repeat of the walk to the oak tree is put off due to the rain. And so our little party of assiduous workers each engaged in our own activities, yet each sharing it with the other’s continues on. At 5 o’clock, the rain eases. Feeling like a change, Helen and Attila, Steven and Ewan, Martin and Francoise, and Jessica and I help Attila to move some display boards from the office up to the museum for the festival on Wednesday.

Half an hour later, we eat an early dinner of Potato Casserole, finished with egg and paprika. A little after 6 o’clock we go up the village past the church to the demonstration on honey cake making. After instruction into the technique of decorating, and the history (going back some 2000 years) of it we have a go ourselves. First making one with seeds, lentils and coloured icing – not for eating, and then one, or more, with white icing for eating.

At the end of the evening we retire to the drinking/gaming hall for peppermint tea, watermelon, and a card games – most often the variously called shithead/shitface/donkey or Asni. At one minute to 12 I retire o bed for fear of turning into a pumpkin.

The rain comes down…

Day Ten: The slaughter of Wendy…