Travellers' Impressions
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Gathering the Hay

We were in the Vosges region of North East France. Our unusual and empty hotel gave us a wonderful view of the town of La Bresse and the surrounding hills. We sat out on our balcony overlooking the valley after a delicious evening meal. It was an interesting spot as the area had often been fought over. There were several war memorials in our view. We were most aware of the events at the end of the second World War when the Germans fought long and hard to retain this area as part of Germany. The French resistance led the advancing American troops across the hills opposite and fought with them inch by inch to force the German retreat to the Moselle. We could see part of the road they took across the top of the hills opposite.

But on this night the only activity opposite was that on one of the farms. You could tell that the farmer was determined to gather his hay in that night and store it in his barn. There were three tractors working as we sat to watch. The hay had been cut and the action that night was rolling and binding, then moving the modern round bales up to the barn. They worked together. Two of the tractors were making the bales and then picking them up and climbing up the hill with them in their jaws to load them on a trailer to take to the barn.La Bresse

As the sun set, one trailer load of bales was driven off to the barn. Two of the fields had been completed. It was almost dark, and the farmer's wife and children had been out to monitor progress and probably to call him in to his supper. But he persisted and with lights blazing carried on for and hour of so to complete the hay making in the third field. He did work hard and it looked quite lonely work - so different from the pitchfork and haywain with the whole family moving hay from the field by their house to the hayloft, which we had seen further down the valley in the afternoon. Both approaches involved the whole family and got the job done. The modern method certainly got more done in the time, but the old fashioned approach looked like much more fun. Both made you wonder about what life was like in the summer of 1945 when the Americans were driving the Germans out of this valley. Did they gather the hay in that year too? I expect so.

Jane Grenfell

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