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Tuesday, June 21, 2022 1 comment

Wrong Solstice for a bonfire

With the stingy rainfall, and temps well past 90°F lately[1], maybe creeping into triple digits south of Sector 706, you would think it’s summer.

Well, as of today, it is. Top of the year to y’all!

I guess between Memorial Day and Independence Day in the US, we kind of leave the solstice unmarked. On Termag, they call it High Summer, and it’s a week-long holiday. Sorcerers who can and desire travel to Queensport to the annual Gathering of the Conclave for two weeks of business, learning, hanging with old acquaintances (not to mention the occasional Conclave Romance), and cramming their apprentices’ heads full of knowledge.

But I digress. The wife calls this “hay baling season,” and is living the highest honor a farmer has (out standing in her field). Machinery makes this a much less labor-intensive undertaking than in the past, but all that machinery is complex and still needs eyes and hands on it[2]. Modern hay balers in particular are a lot more complex than you might expect (the manual is nearly an inch thick, and not large type). And, you need a tractor to pull it. And a cutter. And a rake (a/k/a “fluffer,” since it fluffs the hay into neat rows so the baler can pick it up). And maybe a truck and trailer to haul the hay to its resting place. And another tractor with a hay fork, to pick up the bales[3] and put them in the barn until they’re needed come winter.

So… to this afternoon. The wife was out standing in her field, when she saw smoke from the direction of another farm, about a mile away. “Not too smart,” she remarked, “it’s too hot and dry to be burning brush.”

This evening, she got a call from one of her helpers. “They were baling at _____’s,” he said, “and their baler caught fire. It torched the tractor, and half the field, too.” Yipe!

The wife points out that hay is exothermic (or “goes through a heat,” as she puts it) as it drys. It’s the main reason she repeatedly tells her helpers to not leave a partial roll in the baler. Her speculation: the people at the other place left a partial roll in the baler overnight, letting it get nice and hot, then that + the heat of the day + friction + the new hay being scooped into the baler = spontaneous combustion, and things got a bit hotter than anyone wanted. Or it could have been a baler malfunction, who knows? I doubt anyone will do a post-mortem to find out.

So think about the farmers, this time of year. Some have lost cattle, others are dealing with fires, and the rest are dealing with all the crap (literal and metaphorical) they have to encounter. Every day is Monday on a farm… and it’s nowhere near August yet.

Since that DALL-E mini thing is all the rage right now, I’ll leave you with its impressions of “hay baler on fire.” [4]

[1] I think Sector 706 is getting the good end of climate change, so far. Despite the current hot weather, we’ve been not nearly as hot as many surrounding regions… not to mention out west.

[2] So the wife has about three helpers. I joke about her hanging out with sweaty men, but she’s sweating just as much.

[3] Round bales are nearly 6 feet (about 1.5m) diameter, and about 4 feet (1.2m) wide. The only way you’re going to move those by hand is if you can roll them downhill.

[4] The top-center image has a vague resemblance to our baler.


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