Making and stacking hay.
Around these holy intermissions, we watched the classic, secular narrative unfold. After the early morning scything, the flattened grass and flowers were left for several hours until the dew had left them. Then the tedders, women with rakes and men with forks, came to turn and toss the half-dried hay into loose windrows. By the end of the first day, if the air had been warm enough, these rows were consolidated into waist-high mounds. Damper weather or a denser crop, rich in broad-leafed herbs, would limit the rate of the mounding or the size of the mounds. Where the incipient hay was especially heavy, it was hung on the stakes and racks, raised from the moist ground, protected from the next night’s dew and shaped to shed unexpected showers. Drying strategies varied, in their details, from valley to valley, village to village, and meadow to meadow, according to subtle custom and conditions. When the hay was dry enough, the mounds were poled towards a platform made of logs and twigs, the imminent stack’s protective foundation, surrounding a tall pole, its supportive spine. The stacks took two or three hours to build.
The Făt Family of Daneşti.
We watched the Făt family build one of theirs on a hillside between their village of Daneşti and Ana’s Şurdeşti. Grandpa Vicentiu whom we’d seen working with his scythe earlier in the week, used a wooden fork to lift large clumps of still green plants meshed together by their hours in the rows and mounds, onto the staddle until the growing stack was shoulder high.
Then Grandma Olga climbed on top with a fork which she used to guide successive blocks of hay into their appointed places, dexterously maintaining her own balance and that of the symmetrical pile, stamping it into a consistent density, more compressed than the component forkfuls thrust up to her.
Vicentiu kept her busy and was himself kept busy by his daughters, Măriuca and Florica, repeatedly poling mounds to the base of the stack, and raking together residual mounds of the strands that were left. His grandsons, Andrei and Razvan, dressed in identical red and blue shirts with the “19” and “ Messi” on their backs, also helped, though with less consistent energy.
After a couple of hours, when the stack was about ten feet tall, Vicentiu was joined in his heavy lifting by his son, Gheorghe, coming from his day job as a driving instructor, but evidently a strong and skillful user of the long furcoi, the best tool for lifting hay up to his mother, who by then was using a traditional rake to shape the dome as it began to taper in towards the central pole. When the stack had reached the furcoi’s limit and there was barely room for Olga to stand and stamp, Gheorghe lifted a large bundle of inferior hay, which had been left standing too long to maintain its sappy nutritive potential but long enough to create a straw-like texture, perfect for a rough, thatch-like roof. When this had been packed meticulously so that the stems sloped downwards, Vicentiu wove a tight wreath the size of a crown.