Hay, hey, Hay!

Well the it’s in the barn now.  Although I should probably say it’s going into the animals now.  Michelle over at The Collie Farm Blog mentioned that she is into her winter hay.  Seems crazy for the PNW, and I had hoped to have our goats on pasture till it got too wet for traffic, but alas, I am early on in my mob stocking and rotational grazing, so it looks like I am done grazing for the year (unless we get some rain, and then sun, enough for the grass to put on some decent second (or third) growth…)  All that means is that I am getting a jump on seeing how long it takes our girls to go through the hay that I cut this summer.

After getting an American style scythe from my dad, I decided that instead of putting off an early morning work out so I could garden I would integrate.  The first morning I was able to mow for about 15 minutes, and I was done.  By the end of the season, I was up to several hours (and dropped about #20).  I’m not going to go into any kind of tutorial here, there are much better one’s on youtube, and I have lots to learn.  I had our hay loft about 80% full, packed as best as I could, and it smelled great!  The goats seem to like it as well, as our milker has increased her output, and they all are yelling for it in the morning.  Typical kids.

Here is the second field I cut this summer, I started in the orchard, where we had chicken tractors run last year (that was some green grass).

 

If properly cut, the grass should lay in a nice row on the left, and you should leave ‘railroad tracks’ from shuffling your feet.

 

Here is what the field looked like before I started swinging.

 

These were the only tools I used (and a tarp to carry the dry hay).  It was some of the best time on the farm.  Early morning, just before the sun was up, while the grass was still wet with dew (yes it is easier to cut when it’s wet).  The birds were an absolute racket of beautiful noise, the bugs just starting to buzz about, and the grass cool underfoot (I did go bohemian and cut some barefoot, just to try it, but we have too many thistles for that to be SOP).  I’d cut from two to six swaths, and then spread it to dry in the sun.  In the afternoon I would turn it, and then try to get out before the dew to pull it into windrows for the night.  Spread the next morning, and by the following afternoon I had several hundred pounds of hay to put up, with no fuel, from our own fields.  Depending on how it goes this winter, I may be begging Santa for a nice Austrian scythe for Christmas…  (Full disclosure/I’m no fool- I have about #1800 of local organic hay up in a neighbors barn, thanks to an awesome local organic dairy farmer)

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3 thoughts on “Hay, hey, Hay!

  1. Michelle Canfield

    Wow, I am impressed, that sounds like a lot of work! I have often thought about our forefathers doing this, as our old barn had a cut-out in the loft, where I think a ramp allowed them to drive a hay wagon in and unload loose hay for storage. It’s amazing to think how much labor went into feeding animals for the winter back then, and how precious hay would have been (and how horrible that barn fires were common!).

    Reply
    1. adalynfarm Post author

      The cut out in your old barn was probably for a Johnson Fork, I would bet there was or is a track along the ridgepole that it used to run on. There was an article in an old Small Farmers Journal that showed how they work, grapples, that would be lowered into the full hay wagon, and then grab the hay, a team would pull the rope up, and then it would hit a release, and travel down the track to the far end of the hayloft, where someone would pull on a release cord, dropping the load of hay. I think my dad said he saw one used once. Lots of work even with horses!

      It was a lot of work, and I’m going to have to work out the metrics and see if it really makes sense. Although putting something up, and losing weight may make it worth while. (As of this morning, the goats are about 2/3 of the way through the hay I cut and put up, but I had no illusions that it would keep them through the winter, and I will sleep a little easier knowing the fire risk in the barn is lower)

      Reply

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