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A Harobed and a pandemic

Progressive Forage Editor Lynn Jaynes Published on 01 February 2021

My husband decided to buy a used Harobed (as we call them, and no, that’s not misspelled, although many use the spelling “harrow bed” erroneously; the machine was invented in the late 1950s by Gordon Grey, who named it by spelling his daughter Deborah’s name backward, so the story goes; for those in other parts of the haying world, I’m referring to a stacker … but I digress).

Our sons, my husband reasoned, would certainly find the Harobed useful, and grandchildren could operate it for summer employment. So sure, that seemed simple enough. And then my husband said something that complicated everything, which was, “Do you know how much new tires on those things are?”

Well, I do now. Too much.

I asked a farmer one time what he would do if he had $5,000 to spend unencumbered on his farm, and he replied he didn’t know – that wouldn’t even cover the cost of a repair bill anymore. When (I wondered) did farming become so complicated that $5,000 was no help at all? What steps did we go through as an industry from subsistence farming to today’s billion-dollar debts? It’s inexplicable – but maybe Harobed tires had something to do with it.

Organizational theorist Karl Weick says, “People often go through at least three stages when they deal with the inexplicable: superficial simplicity, confused complexity and profound simplicity.”

His theory certainly bears out through the pandemic mess. I originally thought (as perhaps did some of you), “It’s just the flu, what’s all the fuss about?” Weick says our first reaction to events is to develop dangerous oversimplification, to the point of being not just wrong but flat-out destructive.

Then Weick says we become flooded with information and its accompanying confusion, for which we then develop excessively complex ideas and solutions. Remember when the masks were going to save us? Then social distancing, handwashing and sanitizers, then warmer weather, stay-at-home orders, shelter-in-place, the virus lives on surfaces – wait, maybe not; flip the switch to online meetings and education, work from home, vaccinate once – no, twice, but it might work for only three months – but not for all strains, and there might be more strains. The list goes on and on, and many professionals began contradicting each other. This mess only seems to lend strength to Weick’s explanation of the second step – confused complexity.

Weick then says through the complexity, some people develop the ability to identify the simplicity – what really matters. I don’t think we’re there yet with the pandemic.

As for the Harobed, I think I’ll just skip the “mired in complications” phase because it won’t end, you know – it’s not just a tire here, a hydraulic hose or chain there. It’ll go on and on and on. So I’ll just shoot straight through to the third phase in this situation: ultimate simplicity. I’ll gift you with the benefit of that profound simplicity, to wit: It’s not about the tires, or debt, or repair bills; it’s really about keeping the husband busy.

And that’s my simple clarity for the day.  end mark

Lynn Jaynes
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