There are a few sayings about a third effort when the first two fail — third time lucky, third time’s the charm.

Chris Hardie

Some believe “third time lucky” comes from John “Babbacombe” Lee, an English sailor who was convicted of murder in 1885 and was sentenced to hang. All three attempts failed. His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, and he was later freed.

Years before, Alexander Hislop in his 1862 book, “The Proverbs of Scotland,” wrote, “The third time’s lucky.”

I’m trying to summon all the luck and charm I can because our third crop of hay is cut and we need some dry small square bales. It’s our last chance of the year for putting aside forage for the sheep.

Our first cutting of hay was made into large round bales to feed our Scottish Highland cattle. Most of them were dry but a few were wrapped in plastic to be converted into silage bales.

Our second cutting of hay was an unmitigated disaster, because more than 10 inches of rain turned a bountiful and beautiful crop into worthless black slime. I was able to harvest about 100 bales of hay that was not raked before all the rain, but it’s pretty tough stuff. And the sheep have already expressed their displeasure at the prospect of dining on the hay, letting it sit in their feeders. Perhaps their opinions may change when the temperature drops to below zero.

We should already be finished with the third cutting. The latest weekly crop report said 89 percent of Wisconsin’s farmers reported third crop was complete; 28 percent had already cut fourth crop.

But when Mother Nature decides her water spigots should be turned on as frequently as a golf-course sprinkler system, the basic premise of making dry hay becomes impossible. Even Nostradamus would fail at predicting our weather this summer, although I believe I found a reference in one of his more obscure quatrains.

“In the sky there will be perpetual clouds

“Which will blot out the sun

“A great wetness will fall upon the land,

“Madness will descend upon hobby farmers.

“In the land of the coulees a farmer

“Will weep and gnash his teeth

“After facing water and fire

“He will be forced to buy hay.”

As of this writing, our hay was cut three days ago when the forecast called for no rain in the foreseeable future. The first day began with heavy fog and mist, leaving dew on the grass past 1 p.m. But we did have some sunshine.

However rain chances on day two suddenly appeared and the morning began with fog and drizzle. The lowest humidity level was 63 percent and later in the day that 20 percent rain chance turned into 100 percent after a brief downpour left a third-of-an-inch in the rain gauge.

This morning the temperature is 47 degrees with fog, mist and 100 percent humidity. I’m not a scientist, but in order for hay to lose moisture the environment needs to have the ability to absorb. That’s impossible when the ground and the air are wet.

I’ll keep trying, but the days are shorter and fall is just around the corner.

The baler is fixed, and even the tractor that started on fire during my second crop attempt is ready for action — minus a hood. I’ll be sure to be sufficiently hydrated if I use that tractor this time around.

Fool me thrice?

I have no shame.

Former La Crosse Tribune editor Chris Hardie and his wife, Sherry, raise sheep and cattle on his great-grandparents’ Jackson County farm.

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